Ashley Muse is a recent graduate from American University’s School of International Service, where she earned a master’s degree in U.S. foreign policy and national security. She is also an alumni of the Philos Leadership Institute 2017 program and currently serves as President of the Philos chapter in Washington, DC.
For many, Mother’s Day no longer means the same thing it once did. Feelings of gratitude have turned to grief. Celebration is replaced with isolation.
For those who’ve lost a mother, today is difficult. And as if our grief isn’t difficult enough, soon social media will be filled with friends posting pictures of their mothers and sappy messages of appreciation. I’m not discouraging that, by the way. In fact, I love when I see people praising their mothers. Don’t ever stop loving on her, spoiling her, and supporting her. But it still stings for the motherless, and if you have a friend who has suffered the loss of their own beloved mom, don’t forget about them today. A simple text saying, “I’m thinking of you today. Love you,” is all it may take.
Big holidays, in general, are often a trigger for those in bereavement and can easily serve as a catalyst for the revival of anxiety and depression. Dealing with the loss of a loved one sometimes also means simultaneously struggling with the loss of the will to live, too. Initially, people go into survival mode during/directly after crises. This happened to me right after my mom died. I was back at school within two weeks, writing papers and taking my final exams. Not because I wasn’t affected by the trauma, but because I was. And I was fighting to survive. Psychology experts call the normal state of the brain learning mode. This is when we’re observing the world around us, taking in information and processing and extracting from it. After experiencing trauma, the brain shifts into survival mode and instead of responding positively to stimuli, the brain responds negatively. If left unchecked, the brain can stay in survival mode long after the traumatic event, and this has far-reaching consequences.
For me, that consequence was a developed apathy for life. Before grief, I had never once felt overwhelmed by the life before me. Of course, I went through difficult seasons and I was always eager to reunite with Jesus in Heaven, but I was content with life, too. That changed after my mom died and I struggled with finding motivation to continue living. I was not suicidal; I never thought of actually ending my life, but I just hated living. Even if I pictured the most perfect life I could possibly live in the future, I was completely disinterested. It wasn’t worth the inevitable pain. Even Job couldn’t make sense of all his pain and cried out, “I give up; I am tired of living.” (Job 7:16).
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