Mother’s Day for the Motherless Mother

As Mother’s Day approaches, my heart is especially sensitive to my friends for whom this holiday will be hard. I have friends who will be standing by gravesites this Mother’s Day. I also have friends whose moms haven’t been a part of their lives in many years. And those who have challenging relationships with their moms who try to navigate Mother’s Day with grace but some necessary distance.

No matter the circumstances, I wanted a post that could help those feeling the sting of a mother’s absence.

My friend, Lisa-Jo, knows this delicate struggle in deep ways. And from her own pain, she pens these words for us…

My mom used to dance in the mornings.


A happy, shameless jig in her PJs right out there in the driveway as my dad drove us off to school. She’d dance and wave and grin and I could feel the love well up from my toes to my nose. It spilled out of me – this being someone’s daughter. Loved. Cherished. Celebrated.

She’s been dead now 21 years to the day since I turned 18.

Time passes and with it go the birthdays, love stories, anniversaries, new babies, first steps, preschool orientations, international moves, new jobs, hair color changes. And each milestone is a mile more in the road that we don’t walk together.

I am the motherless daughter.


And three continents and three kids later I have grown up into the motherless mother.

Of two sons. And a daughter.


Everything I can’t remember about my mother I see reflected in my daughter’s eyes. I am terrified by how much I love her. How does a mother bear it? The good-bye. Twenty years. Twenty years. It hurts to type it.

Twenty years ago I sat in a pew and sang the last words my mother left for us:

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well, with my soul.’”

One week after I’d turned eighteen. I’m thirty-nine today. And I’m still singing it, Mom. I’m singing it still, and I still believe every hard, awful word to be true. That we can sing though the heavens crash open and the world comes pouring down around us. We can raise our eyes and our voices to the hills, where our help comes from, and sing. Even when all that comes out is a whisper.

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well, with my soul.’”


So many of us make the journey to motherhood without a mom. Whether she’s absent because she chose to leave or because she was emotionally unavailable or because she died like mine did, we all have to make sense of what that means for our own mothering.

I am the motherless mother.

If you are too, can I take your hand?

Can I stroke the hair back from your forehead and just be here with you? Can I whisper, “I know” and let you cry if you need to? Can I just sit a while beside you as you shout the hard questions?

I believe God can take it.

I believe He invites it.

…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26.

Go ahead and groan child. Let the part of you that never got to grow up with a mom, never got to bear down with her as you bore down in labor, never got to introduce her to your own babies — let that part of you weep if she needs to. You are beautiful and loved and not a single tear falls to the ground uncherished by the Father God who holds us both.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
~Psalm 56:8

You are your mother’s daughter, created in your Father God’s image. And nothing can break that.

We’re in this together. Every step of the way. And you are braver than you know, for all the ways you mother.

{Click here to see the video if you’re reading in an email.}

So let us celebrate quiet together. Whisper into the comments what you miss, what you loved, what you wish she might have done different, what you wish you’d said, what you wish she knew about her grand babies, what makes you your mother’s daughter.

And today I will stop, remember, and rejoice with you, my brave, beautiful, utterly beloved sister!

Happy nearly Mother’s Day,


Photo credits: Mallory MacDonald

surprised-by-motherhood Lisa-Jo’s new book, Surprised by Motherhood, is her story of rediscovering her own mom through her kids and the Jesus who saved the best till last.

Click here to read the first three chapters for free.

Click here to order a copy for a special mother in your life.

Three Book and Tea Set GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY: In celebration of mothers everywhere, we’re giving away 3 copies of Lisa-Jo’s book — Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom AND three sets of Daily Grace Teacups and Teapots. If you are a mother, have a mother, or know a mother this book is for you. Just leave a comment to be entered. (Please note: this giveaway is only open to US residents.)



  1. Christine First says

    I lost my Mom eight years ago from Leaukemia, and I just miss her. I miss sharing all the ups and downs of life. The every day things. Being able to pick up the phone, and bear my soul to someone who would always listen. That was my mom. For her I miss that she only got to meet one of her Great Grandchildren. She loved young children, and she would have loved on them I know. I regret not appreciating her, like I would now if given the chance. Telling her how much I love her, and how grateful I am for the sacrifices she made for me. How thankful I am that I had a Christian mother who made sure that we were in church every Sunday, and that Jesus had first place in our home. My sister, brother, and I came to accept Jesus because of the example she set for us. What greater thing can a mother do for her children, than to see that they come to know the Lord. I am lucky! Lucky that I will get to see mom again someday in Heaven.

  2. Anna says

    Gone 4 years ago. I was 28. I wish I could hold her hand again, sit and talk in the yard as we watch the kids run around and play, go thrift store shopping, call when I’m having a bad day, ask parenting advice…it’s tough being a motherless daughter. Perhaps Today!

  3. Tyesha Ceasar says

    I really needed to tag this today this is my fourth Mother’s Day without my angel. My mom suddenly died on Christmas Eve 2010. I miss her terribly everyday to the point that the pain is almost too much to bear. I have even thought about taking my own life but then I thought about my babies and the pain that would put them through. I couldn’t imagine leaving them with the pain that I have to endure. No one truly understands what it means to lose your mom. It’s a club that no one wants to join. This article was refreshing and touched me deeply Thank you for your words.

  4. Tyesha Ceasar says

    I really needed to read this today this is my fourth Mother’s Day without my angel. My mom suddenly died on Christmas Eve 2010. I miss her terribly everyday to the point that the pain is almost too much to bear. I have even thought about taking my own life but then I thought about my babies and the pain that would put them through. I couldn’t imagine leaving them with the pain that I have to endure. No one truly understands what it means to lose your mom. It’s a club that no one wants to join. This article was refreshing and touched me deeply Thank you for your words.

  5. Shefalie says

    My mother left me in the hospital……never held…….not welcomed into the world…….but I miss having a mother……miss knowing her…….miss her knowing me………my foster mother died many moons ago……I miss her…….she did the best she could with what she could……..I miss her……..both have missed so much in my life……and who I have grown to be…….and who my son is………he misses not having a grandmother in his life………being a mother is not easy……..I don,t know how many bottles I have filled with my tears………I. Miss having a mother……your article sent echoes down the corridors of my mind and heart……..thank you. Shefalie

  6. Cindy Beatty says

    I am so blessed to still have my mom at 90. I lost my only child in 2012. God is faithful! Thanks for sharing such beautiful words!

  7. Rachel says

    I grew up in a home with a very distant mother (where hugging was considered too much affection and I only ever remember dad coming in to say goodnight). When I left for college and then took a job after graduation, I moved to a different state and almost ceased to be a part of my family (not my choice). I rarely hear from my mother. When we do talk she likes to let me know what’s wrong with my life (I work for a church, and apparently I had “so much more potential”).
    Almost 5 years ago I miscarried my only child. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, sad that I didn’t have the chance to be the kind of mother to my child that I always wanted. I know that one day I will be, but for now this day is hard.
    I consider myself a motherless child and a mother who lost her child. But I remind myself daily that God is good and that He has a plan for my life, and I place my hope in His unfailing love. In the meantime, He has blessed me immeasurably with older women in my life who walk alongside me to fill the shoes of “mom” and who set an example of a “godly mother” for me to follow when I do have children. He is good…all the time.
    Thank you for your post, and for the reminder to sing through the storms of life. Indeed, “it is well, it is well with my soul.”

  8. Debra Bicker says

    Beautifully communicated for all mothers to contemplate and reflect upon. I’m sure we all can name someone that fits into each situation. Thank you for sharing part of your personal journey! I say, amen! It is well with my soul!

  9. Hilary says

    I lost my mom when I was 19. I’ll be 26 in a couple weeks. This Mother’s Day I have found it hard to choose joy and thankfulness for the women in my life whom I’ve met through church and who have spoken truth and encouragement into my life and am instead heartbroken. I crave to hear her voice, feel her embrace. But I mostly miss the gleam in her eye, her zeal for life. The love she had for me, I was the apple of her eye and she was always so proud. I could do no wrong. And I’m presented with the fear of my wedding day, my first child and other milestones because who will be there to tell me and truly believe in their heart that I am a beautiful bride or a fabulous mother. I am not going to get those moments. I won’t get the hand me downs, the heirlooms, the unannounced visits that drive people crazy. It’s absolutely painful to think about.

  10. says

    I lost my Mom a week ago today and it is all still very raw. I am not sure how I am going to get through all of this without her but know that she is at peace and with her parents and her Father in Heaven is comforting. It is hard to celebrate Mother’s Day, as I am a mom of three, without being able to celebrate it with her too.

  11. says

    Thank you so much for this post!! Although I am soooooo blessed with 2 beautiful inside and out adult daughters (and even some beautiful grandchildren) I find Mother’s Day to be such a bittersweet (and sad) holiday for me. My mother died 20 years ago when I turned 39. But even before then, since when I was a 5 year old, my mother developed a mental illness and with it so much of her was taken from us. So therefore, even in this adult body, I still grieve over the loss of her which happened even before her death. Through it all, she somehow still seemed to keep inside of her a beautiful heart that would show itself in between the episodes. I choose to remember that about her. Today I would love to have known her longer before her illness took over. I would love to sit in the kitchen and talk with her about the little things in this life that are hard and hear her give me some of her heart advice. I am so thankful for the sisters she gave me. We are best friends and we understand so well what so many women yearn for in the missing of their mothers. My heart goes out to each of you with hugs and love.

  12. Felicia Humphery says

    God Bless you so much for this!!! I just miss everything about my mom her beautiful smile and unconditional love. I know she would love how caring and outgoing her granddaughter is with others.

  13. Christal H. says

    My mom no longer speaks to me. I suffered greatly at the hands of my stepfather, and she could not bear to hear the truth when I was left with no choice but to tell her. I wish she had not chosen him over me…. the rejection still hurts.

    • says

      I had the same thing happen. Then she turned around a took 2 of my children away. With a new husband who is not much better, maybe worse. I have pain daily and pray God brings my children home to me and there sister who was old enough to say she wanted me.
      God bless u
      (Some times it is so hard not to pray for her punishment.)

  14. Bridget scanlon says

    Thank you for this. It lets me know I’m not alone with being a motherless mother. You put into words as well as many posts have my feelings. I feel it is okay to share them. There is a sisterhood out there of people with the same experience. God bless you

  15. Kim says

    Your words ring so painfully true to me as tears flow from a heart long broken from a mom that I have desperately wanted and needed…she was sixteen when she had me, I was the second of the four that she bore. Her first, her mother raised as her own. I was the oldest of our family of three kids and the only daughter. She has never healed from so many losses in her life including her first daughter and both her parent’s by the time she was twenty. My sister and grandmother died in a tragic car accident that left my mother never the same. Losses through no fault of her own and losses that she seems to choice year after year. I don’t know if she will ever see or hear that I love her…living with my own loss challenges me everyday to reach out beyond it, to give even when I feel I have nothing to give; to love with an empty reservoir sometimes. I continue to pray for a miracle, but must continue to live fully by the grace of God. My mom was an unwed teenager and I in my forties with our adopted four-year-old son; our stories so, so different….Except for the grace of God, where would I be?

    Thank you for writing your story and taking time to read mine…Kim

  16. Bobbi says

    I am not yet a mother but this was a beautiful post. I lost my mom almost four years ago & every day I still miss her. She believed in me & believed that one day I will have my happily ever after. She believed that I would be the one to have her first grandson. I miss her so much & wish she were still here to tell me that I will have the desires of my heart in God’s timing. I have to remember the confidence she had & pray that she taught me how to have the same.

  17. Danita says

    This is a very hard day for me as I have not been married or had children of my own. My sister died in 1993. I already had her daughter living with me and her youngest son came to stay with me while she was in the hospital but she never came home. Loretta (my sister) and I were always close growing up as she was like a second mom being 10 years older than me. We had this pack that if anything happened to either of us the other would take and raise the others children. I loved these kids as my own but they are not. I’ve done for them just as I would have done for my own children but they are not. I’m missing the opportunity today to hear Happy Mother’s Day from my child…from someone besides a friend who knows some of this hurt inside me. I’m thankful for all the growth from this and these hurts…God’s love is wonderful.

  18. Karen Bowman says

    My Mom has been gone 14 yrs. I remember that first Mothers after she passed…I had run to the grocery store and walked passed the cards. The Mother’s day cards were all there and it hit me…I would not be buying one! Before I even fully understood what was happening, the tears began to flow. I hurried out with what I needed so no one would notice. I am happy to say that the years have helped heal the sharpness of losing my Mom. I miss her daily, and especially today..but I rejoice knowing I will see her someday in heaven. Until then I take what she taught me and pass it on to my children. They are all givers to others who need help just like my mother. Love and miss you.

  19. Kelli Thigpen says

    This is my 12th Mother’s Day without my mom who died of breast cancer at 59. She missed my 2 sons births as well as 8 other grandchildren. She would be over the moon with all of these kids. I hate that I won’t see her interact with them or tell them stories about me when I was young. It’s a crappy club to belong to – motherless mother.

  20. Debra says

    Lost my mom when I was 9 years old. A drunk driver ran into her lane and hit her head on. That was 1967. I am the youngest of five children. There have been so many times over the years that I wish my mom could have been here to share in my life… my marriage, my children and grandchildren. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I still miss her so much more than words can say.

  21. Jacky says

    She’s been gone for 21 years but today it’s hitting me hard. This made me cry again. But it feels okay to do that. Hoping to shake this soon.

  22. Alison says

    I am 6 months pregnant, and I lost my mom unexpectedly exactly a week ago. While we sat in the hospital waiting room for 6 days, for some reason I kept running through the lyrics of “It is Well With My Soul” in my head. At the time I couldn’t even explain it, and fought it because I didn’t feel ready to let go yet. I ultimately wasn’t ready even when we knew the time had come, but I knew that she was, and it wasn’t about me, or even my selfish desire for her to be around to meet her granddaughter. It was about letting her go home. I don’t think I could have found this at a better time. I honestly don’t know what else to say, but “thank you.”

  23. Kristen says

    I can only hope to become half the woman she was. Praise be to the Lord for the thread of grace that I can see shining through my entire life without her. God has been faithful to send others to fill in the gaps of being a motherless mother.

  24. Louise says

    My Mom passed away while I was in college so many years ago now. She never met any of her grand kids, but she would have loved them. I remember when my daughter was born I cried one entire day in the hospital, sad that my Mom was not there, that she wouldn’t be able to hold her grand daughter. Sad that my daughter wouldn’t know her grandmother. It is hard, to not have someone to call and ask questions when your child is colicky until all hours of the day and night. To not have someone tell you “you did that when you were little too.” I hear it from my in-laws, stuff our kids do that remind them of my husband…and I feel horrible for being jealous of it but it makes me sad, it hurts that I don’t have someone to tell me that. There have been so many times I wish I could call up and say “Hey Mom, how old was I when I…..”
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am in tears, but it was nice to read how I feel written by someone else. To know I’m not alone.

  25. Angela says

    This is beautifully written. It resonates with this single-mom who has such a broken relationship with my own mother. “And those who have challenging relationships with their moms who try to navigate Mother’s Day with grace but some necessary distance.” – this absolutely captures what my day felt like today. I’m glad I ran across this posting to end my day. Thank you for sharing.

  26. Kiffany Stollings says

    Thank you for this. I think of my mom everyday, but Mother’s Day brings her even closer. Her and I were the very best of friends up until the day she died. We celebrated Mother’s Day with her two years ago in the hospital and less than a month later (June 13, 2012) she was called home. It has been so hard not to have her here to share exciting events, such as my youngest son’s high school graduation or the day my husband was called to preach. I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call her whenever I am going through challenges or just to chat. I miss her terribly, but I know I will see her one day and that gives me comfort.

  27. Nichole says

    Thank you. My mom has always been struggling with her own issues and I’ve often thought the exact words you wrote….”I don’t have a Mom”. Picking out a Mother’s Day card is one of the hardest things to do because I have to find one that isn’t untruthful about how I feel. Sometimes I just wish I had a Mom to tell me everything is going to be alright. All I can do is try to be the kind of Mom I always wished (still wish) I had. I’ve learned to forgive and realize that she did the best she could, but it still just hurts. So, thank you for your words. And for understanding. That means more than anything. God Bless!

  28. Anita Smith says

    thank you for sharing! i lost my momma 21 years ago this December…and i feel the mother – hunger every day! those heart-strings are stretched so tight! LOL You are never ‘old enough’ to do without your momma! i will spend time today thinking about what makes me HER daughter….it is so obvious , but i want to mark them and write them down. she was such an amazing godly woman i hope the list is long ! I am comforted knowing she is in Heaven with some of my babies- she loved her grandbabies! i still try to live the mothering journey in ways that she would have- and better in the few areas she was so ‘human’ 🙂 Thank God we have the perfect example in HIM and we will have eternity with Him and them !

  29. says

    My Mom has been gone 11 years and of course I still miss her. All holidays are hard, but especially Mother’s Day. Breast cancer that metastasized is what took her. There are so many things I would like to share with her again. .. a cup of coffee, joking and laughing, giving her a hug, telling her I love her. But also her getting to spend time with her great grandbabies. Looking forward to seeing her again in Heaven.

  30. says

    I am heartbroken about watching my first born graduate from our homeschool without Mimi, my mom, being there. She would be so proud of both of us: Hannah Beth for doing so stinkin’ well and me for persevering in something she didn’t understand at first, but supported me anyway. I am most heartbroken that every milestone like this will be met by a woman my dad married a few years ago instead of my mama. It hurts so deep down that I swear it feels like a body part.
    Trusting God in grief is a beautiful way to find a deeper faith. I’m grateful He meets me there, but it still stinks.

  31. Alta says

    Thank You for yoyr post. Wish I would’ve read it yesterday. It was my 4th Mothers Day without my Mom alive. But more than I care to count without her. We never were very close. I’ve never had any children of my own. I just felt terribly lost and alone yesterday. Even though I was with my husband and his family.

  32. Cheryl says

    Beautifully written, thank you! I am still blessed to have my mother, although our relationship is strained.

  33. Motherless daughter says

    I have an estranged relationship with my mom. She put us in a lot of bad situations as children and my adult relationship with her was very toxic. Mother’s Day is very hard for be even though I adore my children and they make it very special. All I see on Facebook is like and share if you love your mother or if you have the best mom and it makes me wish I had the type of mother these people do. It can be depressing, but I have to remember how blessed my life is and let go of that pain.

  34. Marcella Mia Spurgeon says

    I to an a motherless daughter. Blessed & sad occasionally it gets the best of me. I really want to address the gal who wrote of being adopted & not touched as a newborn. I am a registered nurse in labor & delivery, et me be the first to tell you sweet sister in Christ. The nurses loved in you & cared for you until your foster family met you, each one of the adopted babies gets extra living from the labor nurse & nursery nurses. In fact I know this because I have had the privilege to hold many babies but these sweet babies have a special journey that The Lord places in a nurses arms. The other is our stillbirths. I have never get The Lord presence as much as when I held these 2 different types of babies.

  35. Cynthia Lowery says

    Mother… of all the jobs I’ve ever had… mothering my daughters has been my favorite! Love your web page… Have a wonderful day.

  36. Her says

    Thank you for this beautiful post. It shocked me, when we had our first baby and we were trying to juggle all the different doctors appointments for me and our babe, how many people would say “why can’t you just get your mother to take care of the baby?” Or “oh, just leave your baby with your mother”, like it was a foregone conclusion. My mother left my ailing father and cut me out of her life because I stayed behind to care for him. He is gone but she is alive and despite many attempts I made to reconcile will not see me or my children. Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day but I try to focus on the blessings of my two babies and believe that I’ve done all I can to honour all the relationships in my life, to the best of my ability.

  37. Linda Mullin says

    I just want to say I am so glad I came across the numerous books by authors of proverbs ministries. I laugh, I cry , I identify and I heal.

  38. Mattie V. Lancaster says

    I’m a mother without a mother, and now a grandmother of 5 three boys and two girls, it’s hard sometime to know what to do and what to say and most important what not to do or say. please keep me in your prayers thanks and keep up the wonderful work you do, and yes tea is my favorite it’s one of the things i share with my granddaughter. love you Lysa.

  39. Laura Martinez says

    Its during the hard times that I miss her most…… I would love to be able to hear her voice tell me its going to be ok or run to her and cry when every I have a bad day….. I feel so alone trying to get through life on my own and its so hard!