Mamas, Stronger Together – Guest Series: Expectant Grief

Mamas, Stronger Together – Guest Series: Christian mothers have such a strength when we let down our guard and get real with each other, stop comparing ourselves to other mothers, when we stop making motherhood a competition, and instead build each other up as fellow mothers! Over the next weeks, we will hear from various Christian mamas who are each brave, beautiful, and strong in sharing the messages God has placed on their hearts. Enjoy the below message of encouragement from Ash Whittemore.

Bye, Elliott!” I hear the chorus of little voices echo across the playground as we gather our water bottles and toss our snack wrappers into the trash can, heading back to the car after a morning at the park. It never fails that even though we show up at the playground or park or other public space not knowing a single soul present, my son leaves with an entire fan club shouting their farewells and asking if he’ll be back. It’s something that I have grown accustomed to since my now almost teenage boy child was just a little guy. He just has that way about him: a natural leader, a friend to all.

I’d be lying to say I didn’t wish for that same ease of friendship as an adult. Back before the miles and schedules and traumas and transfers and adulting seem to get the best of us, making friendship a complicated puzzle to be solved.

I have caught myself more than once rolling my eyes at the Instagram posts and the mom blogs about community. You know the ones. The women all smiling, ranting about their amazing time together. “So refreshing. So life-giving. You just have to find your people!”

If someone would give me the coordinates to the nearest group of like-minded women who can be “my people”, I will type it into my GPS this very moment and show up in yoga pants, a baggy sweatshirt, and doughnuts for everyone. I desire it in the depths of my being. But it has not come easily in this season of life.

Truth be told, I’ve had those seasons. The ones that are rich with community and overflowing with relationships. I have leaned into the hard parts and been filled to the brim with laughter and the warm feelings of being with the people who “just get you”.

The struggle is this: in my thirty-six years of life, I’ve lived in four countries and three states, and I have the scattering of friendships to prove it. If it “takes a village” to raise a family, I have a village stretched across two continents. But as beautiful as that is, it’s less than ideal when life is just too much and my closest BFF is seven hundred miles to my north or 2,000 miles south.

Maybe you are more like me. Perhaps you’re a transplant to a city that is not your place of origin and you find yourself smack dab in the middle of people already well established in their circles. Or maybe you have deconstructed much of the belief system you were raised in, so what once felt like “home” now feels more like salt to a healing wound. Or maybe you are in a different season of life than most women your age or your family’s needs and rhythms are hard to incorporate into the circles of more typical families. Or perhaps you have signed up for the events and the sports and put yourself out there, only to come up empty handed each time.

What do we do then, throw up our hands (like I’m often tempted to do) and just assume that we aren’t meant for community or deep friendships?

I asked my counselor these same questions and you know what she told me, “You’re not alone”.

She speaks to many women echoing these same feelings of loneliness and longing. Women who, like me and maybe you, ascribe to the belief that we are indeed “meant for community and connection”. It’s not that we don’t believe it. It’s that we live in a time and culture in which those things are on the screens in our hands but rarely on our doorsteps and couches, making it feel like we are always reaching but never quite grasping.

I wish I had the formula,” she said to me. “But I think it’s important to know that it is okay to grieve the loss of what you thought friendships would look like at this stage of life.”

Ugh. More grieving? I feel like the last three years of my life have been nothing but grieving: what I thought my life would look like, the relationships that have faded, the dreams that have been deferred. And now grieving the loneliness that greets me each day, so far removed from the people I feel most connected to?

Yes, that.

We can grieve instead of pretending it doesn’t hurt or that everything is fine.

As ugly as grief can be, I have discovered the alternative is uglier. The cynicism. The faux independence. The anger.

That eye roll I mentioned earlier at the sight of something I long for but can’t seem to attain? It’s a red flag that I need to take care of my heart. Because friendship ebbs and flows for most of us. Social media would have you believe that everyone else has it but you. Maybe some of them do and we can be thankful on their behalf.

But for the rest of us, we can lean into the seasons of loneliness, knowing that they are seasons after all. Keeping our hearts open to the possibility of friendships is crucial. If we allow our hearts to become cynical or critical or bitter, when we finally do have a chance to connect with like-minded women, will we see it as such? Or will we be so cold and disillusioned that we miss out on the richness that could be ours?

As I reflect on the friendships I do have, many of them happened “by chance”. In a coffee shop, through a mutual friend, studying something that interests me, just living life. And the key was my heart was receptive, not yet calloused by the losses.

Like my counselor, I don’t have a formula. But I can say you aren’t alone in the struggle. Grieve that empty part of you and wait expectantly for it to be filled back up one day. In the meantime, text your family and friends that live too far for a spontaneous coffee date. Plan those vacays and getaways together. Take the road trips this summer that you’ve put off and download the Marco Polo app to chat while you drive to the grocery store. Say yes to the play dates and keep going to the events. Is it the perfect way to friendship? No. But if we are honest there is no “perfect way”.

Friendship looks different than it did when we were kids, playing tag on the playground and connecting so seamlessly. But don’t be discouraged. Grieve the losses you’ve experienced, but hold onto hope that friendship can often catch us by surprise if our hearts remain open.

Ash Whittemore is a writer, poet, and recovering people pleaser. She, her husband, and their three children lived in the Amazon region of Brazil and Colombia for several years. While they no longer live there full-time, they continue to serve as part of the leadership of The Amazon Network, an organization they founded in 2013. In her free time, she can be found triaging the needs of her garden, houseplants, and chickens. She can be found on Instagram @ash.whittemore

2 thoughts on “Mamas, Stronger Together – Guest Series: Expectant Grief

  1. “If we allow our hearts to become cynical or critical or bitter, when we finally do have a chance to connect with like-minded women, will we see it as such?” AMEN! Cynicism closes the door on its own healing.
    Friendships “by chance” – I’ve had some friendships begin with sitting next to someone on a plane and talking nonstop for the whole 2-3 hours of the flight. With my faith, I don’t see it as “chance,” and I suspect you don’t, either.
    The piece I’m posting today deals with personal relationships and the wounds and healing that come from them. Being part of a church family has been vital to my emotional health.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Joy. Have a blessed weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Annie! I just read your lovely post. I love how God brings friendships together in his way and time. Your church sounds like a healthy demonstration of Jesus in the community! I do especially think it is important how God develops friendships across various age ranges. One of my good friends is my mom’s age, and we met singing on worship team together. Blessings to you!


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