When Motherhood Feels Like It’s Just Too Much

Too often, motherhood feels like it is just too much. 

I asked the question I vigilantly try to avoid last night.

Almost against my will, I found myself asking the same thing, over and over again to myself, all night long.


When Motherhood Feels Like It's Just Too Much

My sixteen year old son lost one of his closest friends, and her little brother, to a drunk driver last week.

On Sunday, we along with many of his friends and teachers, attended her memorial service. No sixteen year old should have their first funeral be for a beautiful young friend his own age.

Because of her parents staggering vulnerability, faith, love and sheer determination to honor their only children well, this service was one of the most breathtaking events I have ever witnessed. It was raw and awful. It was connected and warm. It was too much to bear and it was strikingly beautiful, all at the same time.

There is nothing more powerful than the love and commitment of a community closing ranks to support one another. 
I feel grateful to have witnessed it, and even more so, to have my son witness and feel such powerful truth and love. His shock and grief was mirrored and reciprocated all around him. He knew he was not alone. It was the absolute worst. It was also a bittersweet blessing.

And it all felt like just too much.

There is nothing worse than knowing your child is in intense pain and not being able to help in any real way
Up until now, this has mostly been true for physical and mental health struggles for my boys.

This week brought a whole new kind of pain – deep loss and grief. I hate it and I know it is absolutely part of life. 


When Motherhood Feels Like It’s Just Too Much

And so, last night, I found myself lingering with the question I try not to ask.


Why his closest friend, the one who helps him when he’s anxious and stressed like no one else? 

Why this poor family? Why both of their children?

Why is a child who already struggles with social communication and understanding having to navigate funerals and grief counseling?


And then the questions come faster, loaded with bitterness and frustration.

Why do we have to do all the things, all the days, just to maintain basic health?

Why can’t we have the relative calm and normalcy of daily life?

Why do we have to spend our retirement savings and go into debt for quality, caring treatment?

Why am I the mom who is always a little afraid to go in when her child has slept late, worried he may have passed in the night from his chronic illness?


When Motherhood Feels Like It's Just Too Much

I can’t stand this question. 

I like questions I can answer, and this one? This side of heaven, this one has no real answer.

This morning, as I sip my coffee and try to shake off the feeling of it all just being too much, I need to stop with the “whys.” I want to focus instead on what I have learned over and over again is the only thing that makes a real difference.


Simply being present for my children as they struggle to navigate devastation and pain.

Being present when the meltdown comes and I am tempted to throw up my arms and hide in the bathroom.

Present as I remember to push back the overwhelm and instead pray for my son, for his friend, for her family. It means not worrying about all the things. It means focusing just on what needs to be done today, in this moment, to love well.

Presence allows me to take the next step, and then next, as we navigate what is seemingly too much to handle. It encourages me to lie down next to my sobbing son and whisper words of encouragement and love.

Presence reminds me of how grateful I am to be able to hug my children, clean up after them and cook yet another allergen-friendly meal. It shows me the gift, the life, that is right in front of me. 

Presence helps me to avoid the inevitable, “Why?” To take a deep breath, and do it all over again for another day.

It matters because it’s the only thing we can do when motherhood, when life, just feels like too much.

We show up, we pray, we persevere, we love, we live.

For more encouragement and support:

Why “This Too Shall Pass” Is Not Helpful For A Special Needs Mom

Love Is Always The Best Treatment Plan


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  1. Just want to say thanks for writing and being honest. It really helps another “special needs” mom to not feel alone..

  2. Jane Hartley says:

    Dear Shawna, I stagger at the depth of sadness your family has to face in yet another difficult chapter of your lives. My heart goes out to you and the family involved. Even though we don’t know the answers to our why’s, we know The-One-Who-Knows and have to keep holding on to Him. May He wrap you and your beautiful kiddo and a love blanket. xx Jane

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