Mothers’ Day when someone is missing

Jovina James shares her broken heart and her hope of healing

A mother of three shares why each Mothers’ Day “pierces her heart like a sword.”

There is a heart condition called Takatsubo’s Syndrome, which is also known as the Broken Heart Syndrome. Resembling the presentation of a severe heart attack, the main causative event for the cardiac damage is usually a supremely stressful event in one’s life. Often, a sudden death of a family member will precipitate the symptoms of chest pain, breathlessness, and collapse. Although the Broken Heart Syndrome usually improves with time, there is no known medical therapy to help the recovery, which makes me wonder: how does one mend a broken heart?

My heart is a broken one. Milestones are difficult for me. I had never really understood people who say they find Christmas difficult, until my first Christmas after my eight-month-old son Theodore died. It was a very difficult day for me – something I never thought I would say about Christmas Day. I remember constantly wishing he were there, laughing, enjoying the madness and busyness of the day.

Milestones creep up on me and linger like a cold fog.

I recall being unable to engage in conversation, feeling like I could barely taste the food on my plate. That Christmas Day was a very difficult day.

Since then, I have learnt that other milestones creep up on me and linger like a cold fog, blurring the joy of the sunniest days. There is Christmas, and then there are birthdays, and even the day my baby daughter became forever older than my Theodore. These are the days when I wonder what he would be like – how he would experience this day. To wonder what would make him laugh, and what would make him throw an irrational tantrum!

Mothers’ Day is another one of those milestones. It is a beautiful day to celebrate the gift of motherhood – yet how can I properly celebrate when one of the fruits of my labour is starkly absent? My first Mothers’ Day after Theodore died was the first one where I received a handmade gift from my older son, and yet looking at it, all I could think was “I will never have anything like this from my beautiful Theodore.”

It is a strange – and perhaps inexplicable – paradox, to enjoy and adore one’s living children, while in the same moment longing to hold my absent child in my arms.

The mother of Jesus, when she presented her son to the Temple in Jerusalem, was told by Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart (Luke 2:35). While I do not think I can compare my suffering to hers, I feel like that sword has also carved out part of my heart, because my heart does indeed feel broken.

How can we mend a broken heart? Only with the healer of all wounds – Jesus.

Any mother knows that her heart is always wherever her children are – and part of mine is no longer living day to day with me.

Instead, part of my heart resides with my son in the place that is my rightful home, heaven. So, instead of my broken heart being a fatal wound for me, it is actually my reminder of who I am. It is the most constant method I have of recalling Jesus to mind and asking him to bring me home to him and to my son, in his perfect time.

This has been no fatal wound but a strangely healing one. Because it leads me to Jesus.

Which mother among us has not had some sort of heart-piercing experience? Very few, I believe. Any hurt our children feel, we feel even more. Their pain is our pain. So, this Mothers’ Day, let us ask ourselves – how can we mend a broken heart? Only with the healer of all wounds – Jesus.

Jovina James has three children including Teddy, who passed away. She works part-time as a GP on the Gold Coast.