mothering from the ER

I was in pain. A walking candidate for the emotional ER.

It was a season of such raw anguish that I didn’t know if I’d ever be the same again.

It felt like I was crawling over broken glass during this particular stretch of my mothering journey. Every effort, every attempt to move forward only seemed to inflict more excruciating pain.

This wasn’t the first time I had sustained deep wounds. I mourned the loss of my mother — first to mental illness, then to cancer. The diagnosis of my son with cystic fibrosis. The loss of of our home and sense of security to Hurricane Charley.

But those wounds were out of my control. I could have done nothing to prevent them.

What made this season so acutely heartwrenching to me was that I believed I should have seen it coming. And I knew in my heart that my own personal failings had — at least in part — led to my current undoing. I was experiencing the natural consequences. And I was not alone. I was watching them play out in one of the precious ones God had entrusted to me.

There’s something particularly painful about seeing things you should have done with stunning clarity — when the most appropriate opportunity for that action has passed.

We all experience seasons of emotional woundedness. Our unique struggle may be related to our children, a difficult marriage, the loss of a loved one or some other traumatic event. The source of the heartache doesn’t change this fundamental fact about mothering: We’ve got to do it. Every day. Every moment. When our hearts are breaking. When our world is crumbling. When life seems unbearable. We’ve been given the amazing responsibility of breathing life-giving stability and instruction into our children.

Here are a few principles that helped me mother from my emotional hospital bed:

Pray and Stay in the Word. When we’re hurting, our impulse can be to flee from God. We may be angry. Or ashamed. We may not even know what to pray. But keeping in communication with God is vital. I had no strength. I clung to the  promises of His Word when everything seemed dark, frightening and confusing.

Stick to routines. Eat dinner together. Go to church. Get kids ready for school. Even if it feels like we are just going through the motions, our kids gain strength and stability from these routines. And so do we.

Take mental health days. Several times during this season, I’d take the kids to school, then go back to bed. Then, I’d tackle life again the next day. I wouldn’t do it often. The temptation to stay there would have been too great. But much-needed days of rest can give us the physical and mental energy to climb our mountain again.

Focus on the short term. Often, in our seasons of struggle, we can’t see an ending. We can begin to believe that perhaps there is no ending. That can be profoundly depressing. I began to pray this prayer, “God, help me take each moment as it comes and give me Your wisdom and courage to face it.”

One day, we slowly realize that the pain is easing. We begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Our healing rarely comes overnight — but it does eventually come.

When you’ve been “discharged” from your season of suffering, start treating others in pain. This dark season, as well as other mothering struggles have led me to reach out to moms with a deep, driving passion and empathy — through moms groups, Bible Studies, through this blog and in one-on-one coffee sessions with hurting mamas.

When we allow Him to do so, God can help us find the purpose in our pain and the redemption in our recovery. 

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  • {Melinda} Ilse, somehow I missed this comment until just now … thank you so much for your sweet words and super encouraging comment! And for sharing our blog with your FB group. Much appreciated. Can’t wait to check out your blog!

  • What great writing. I think this is what I was feeling last week and honestly, still now. I am experiencing the loss or changes in friendships and emotionally feel so raw. I’m a little sad that I gave up my mental health day. 🙁

    • {Melinda} I’m sad that you gave it up, too. 🙁 I hope you’ll make it happen soon. It’s amazing what even 24 hours away does for your perspective. And it doesn’t just benefit you — but the whole family because you’re better able to respond to them and handle challenges as they come up. As you know, I am praying for you, AnnMarie. You are on my heart often. Even positive changes are often painful, but you WILL come out better on the other side.

  • This post came a perfect time for me. I’ve been struggling emotionally with many things in my life and yesterday it came crashing down. Today I made steps to just hold and snuggle with our son and just breathe. To just lay my worries and scares at God’s feet and trust that He will see us through this rough time. Thank you for the comfort that you’ve given me as well.

    • {Melinda} You’re welcome, Jennifer. I am so sorry you are having a rough time. I find the more I bring my fears to Jesus, the more peace I have — even if my cirumstances haven’t changed and even if I dont have any assurance if/when it will. It’s so hard, though. For me, it’s a constant process of saying “I CHOOSE to trust You.” I will be praying for you, Jennifer, and your sweet family.

  • Absolutely been there and your advice is so sound. I honestly think the thing that helped me the most was to focus on the short term. Without that, I was completely and totally overwhelmed.
    And you hit it SO PERFECTLY…one day you wake up and you realize that it’s a little bit better…and that is the beginning of your healing.

    Beautiful post!! –Lisa

    • {Melinda} That was key for me too, Lisa. I couldn’t think past that day, sometimes not post that moment or that choice I had to make. When I began to project any further than that, it felt like the walls were closing in on me. And then slowly — just when we think we can take anymore — the darkness begins to lift.

    • {Melinda} Thanks, Paloma. Life is just hard sometimes. If we don’t know there’s purpose in the pain, it would be unbearable.

  • {Melinda} You are so welcome, Peg. I am sorry you are going through a painful time. Saying a prayer for you right now.

  • thanks for this. I’m in that mode ride now and I too feel so responsible for the pain and stress on the kids for things outside of my control.

    lovely writing.

  • Oh how I love this post!! I believe EVERY. SINGLE. MOM. has been through dark seasons and needs this inspiring and helpful post. I’ve written about my letting go when in the darkness…
    And while dancing in the light- I wrote this…

    I think both supplement your beautiful post well!! My favorite quote:
    “When we allow Him to do so, God can help us find the purpose in our pain and the redemption in our recovery.”

    SHARING immediately!!!!

    • {Melinda} Thanks so much for sharing, Chris! I will read the posts you suggested. I’m sure I’ll be blessed as I am by everything you write. 🙂 Dark seasons are so painful, but are what have grown me closer to God than anything else.


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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