Mothers and Healing

I always have mixed feelings on Mother’s Day each year although this year, to be honest, I’ve hardly thought about it.

As a child, I always tried to do something special for my Mother on that day.  I don’t remember anything I did being well received though. There was something wrong with the card or the gift, or I handed it to her at the wrong time or did the wrong thing.  Pretty much the same as any other day, really.

As a teenager and young adult, I often sat in church on Mother’s Day wondering why there was no acknowledgement of the many of us who didn’t have warm and tingly feelings about our mother. Not everyone’s mother bakes apple pie, or hugs them when they need comforting, or plans parties for them or praises them or…………well, you know!  Somehow that was rarely ever talked about though.  The idea of a mother being abusive, until very recently, was something no one wanted to contemplate or understand.  Somehow, if you were or had been in that situation and talked about it, what was reflected back to you was that there was something really wrong with either the story you were telling or with you. Because, of course, everyone knew that mothers love their children.

In today’s world we know and even talk about the fact that not all mothers do a good job of mothering. Some do a terrible job and inflict a tremendous amount of damage on their child.  Some of us have grown up and carried what often seems like a handicap with us throughout our life.  Many of us have found healing and continue to find ways to heal our life.  One such vision of healing I shared here over a year ago in a post called “The Flu & Inner Healing”.  (If you click on the link it will open up to that post for you to read).

As a mother myself I have struggled at times to understand that the person I was and am every day impacts my children.  I have had my moments of doubt, of anguish and even of wondering if I ever should have become a mother.  As my children were growing up I felt that the greatest gift I could give them was the knowing that “no matter what, my mom loves me”.  I felt that the knowledge of their mother’s love for them would be one of the bedrocks for them to build their own life upon.

Those of us who grow up without a mother’s love have many things to sort out and process as we go along.  We have to learn that the fact that our mother did not love us does not mean that we are unlovable human beings.  If we have children, we have to find examples, other than our own mother, of how to be a good mom.  We have to find a way to ease the ache within our hearts that being told hateful things by our mother creates in us.  We have so much healing to do that, at times, it can seem overwhelming.  And throughout that healing process, many of us also have to find a way to relate to this mother who is present in our life and yet did and does nothing to nurture us.

And all of the above comes from thinking and processing over many years.  Now, let me speak to you from my heart because, it is in the heart that we find wisdom and from the heart that healing happens.

Each of us is a precious human being.  I know that I am, I know that each one of my children is and I know that my mother was.  The greatest revelation of my life has been the acceptance that we are, each one, on our own journey.  So that, although my mother’s behaviour had severe impact on me, especially as a child, it wasn’t so much about me as it was about her.  I am who I am because of the choices I have made, sometimes knowingly, sometimes willfully, and many times as a response to the sheer necessity of surviving.  I am not the woman I am today because of who my mother was.  I am the woman I am today because of the healing I have sought to bring about and because of which fork in the road I chose to take.  There is no going back, there is only movement forward and we each have to find our own path, our own way.  As I learn to honour my own journey, I also am able to release others from any expectations I have of the part they should play or should have played.  It does no good to ask “who would I be if I’d had a different start in life?” or to think “I wish my mother was like that”.  I have my own path to walk and it is not yours and may not resemble yours in any way.  Just as your path is for you and you alone to walk.  I believe, with all my heart, that it is when we can honour our own path and honour each others’ path that we are able to free our self and every other from the bondage of “look what happened”.

Denying our journey, ranting against it, wishing it was other than it is, envying others for theirs – all these things lead to a sickness of the soul.  Knowing, believing, actualizing that we, by our choices, have the power and the means to be the person we choose to be is the most freeing, the most healing approach I know. It ain’t easy but it sure is worthwhile.

It’s how I’ve come from being that sad, abandoned, beaten, abused child to the woman who walks in beauty.

67 thoughts on “Mothers and Healing”

  1. “Denying our journey, ranting against it, wishing it was other than it is, envying others for theirs – all these things lead to a sickness of the soul.” Amen sister. The more I *genuinely* acknowledge and accept my personal path – flaws, mistakes, and all – the happier, more peaceful, and more genuinely equanimous I become. Not to mention more “me”! :)

  2. After almost two weeks of being offline due a broken computer, here I am, a week late in reading this, but I am so glad this was one of those times I painstakingly started working my way backwards through the hundreds of emails that stacked up over these past two weeks.

    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a very long time. You’ve given every person a gentle space of acknowledgement, and kept our eyes focused on finding what part of our lives we can embrace in order to walk in beauty.

    So powerfully written, and thank you for sharing this. Gloriously done. Wow.

    1. I’ve come back to this again today, because I’m simply blown away by all the beauty you’ve shared in this post. Would you mind if I printed out the post and sent it to my sister? I think you’ve said this in a way that might help her hear your words better than I could ever hope to reach across the miles and connect with her. Beautiful.

        1. I wish I could direct her to your website, (and, of course I will include the web address), but in order to get her to read it, I know my most likely chance for success is to print it out and mail it to her. This particular sister carries a lot of resentment towards me because I found a way to let go of much of the pain from suffering physical abuse from my mother. My sister points anger at me often, and especially chastises me for taking care of my mom during the last six years of her life. She may not yet be capable of understanding or hearing your words, but perhaps if they come from someone outside of me, she will be more receptive.

          It is her belief that I am behaving as a doormat if I release the anguish and am able to genuinely care for my mother, and she is constantly upset with me because I am still grieving my mother’s death.

          As much as I’ve tried to explain the why and how of my love for my mom, my sister finds it easier to point her anger towards me. In some way she believes that my ‘release from the pain’ is false, and that I’m just lying to myself. Still being victimized. And that makes her angry, towards me.

          It’s complicated. Always is. My hope is that your words (which were constructed so eloquently) might help explain about moving on, and letting go.

          thank you for providing permission to print it out and mail it to her. much appreciated.

          I realize with my sister we may still have a very long way to go before she can reach any sort of understanding, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying. I would love it if she could hear your words.

          1. you might also print out “the flu and healing” post. the link to it is in the body of this one. We each have our own way of dealing with abuse, that’s for sure. Each person’s journey must be honoured for what it is – their journey. Blessings to you.

  3. Bonne Courage for sharing it, its not Mothers Day here but I was asked whether knowing that it is in my birth country had made me think of my mother who passed away some years ago – and I realised I hadn’t thought of her at all, I had been thinking of what a wonderful gift it is to be a mother and how much my children constantly amaze me by how giving they are of their love and voicing their feelings to me and I had sent a short message to my birth mother who is still alive, because I realised that she missed out on the gift that I have in a daughter, that unconditional love. But my mother was always disparaging of Mother’s Day, saying she didn’t believe in it, so we were never encouraged to embrace it and I said to my friend, I wanted to do something that was going to be happily received, so was thinking only of where to direct that positive expression. I may never have realised I had not had those thoughts (non-thoughts) if she hadn’t asked me that question, it’s a little sad, but honest.

    Bravo Joss.

  4. Oh my word, I always get so angry in church on Mothering Sunday. I have told so many vicars off for standing in the pulpit spouting off about ‘the perfect family’. Thank goodness they don’t make a church service for Father’s Day, or I’d go ballistic.

  5. I was not nurtured by my Mother and always craved love, nurturing and nourishing, while not believing I could ever have what I desired the most. I was also not given an image of God as a child of a nurturing, Loving Mother either. After much pain and emotional suffering and trying to get the illusive Love in all the wrong places, Heavenly Mother opened my eyes and placed her warm, gentle, loving mantle on my head and caressed my heart. The invisible Spiritual Mother gave me the love I craved and made it possible for me to love others with Her unconditional Love. The sky began to reveal love letters and signs and wonders to me. The clouds, wind, birds, trees, sun, moon and stars began to communicate love and caring messages of encouragement to me. Nature healed me and allowed me to return to God and the incarnated Divine Christ Love that I now see in every atom and person on earth. I am thankful that before my Mom died she awakened and transformed in love. I will always cherish the lengthy phone conversation I had with her where I shared from my heart my true self and she listened and I could feel the love and acceptance and nurturing I always craved. It was wordless and powerful, beyond space, beyond time and I was healed. I pray that my children can receive today the wordless message from my heart that I love them unconditionally and see them for the beautiful expression of Love and Beauty that they are. I pray that they can see past the mistakes I made and be healed and whole. May we all love, cherish, nurture and nourish each other today and always. There is only Love and we are all that!

    1. Your beautiful healing came on so many levels. The Divine is like that, isn’t she? She fills us with love and nurtures us to wholeness of life and heart. We then, in turn, can open up to nurture and nourish others. Blessed be.

      1. Yes, so beautiful and available for all. She is One who is Love itself and can Mother us to wholeness and the remembrance of who we really are. All we have to do is say yes and be willing for Divine Love to enter our body and transmute all that is not Love. In the fullness of being that Love, it flows in and through us as the fragrance of Spirit and our world can transform before our very eyes!

  6. Words fail teas fall you wrote my life today. A friend wrote to me today that her inner child is giving her inner mother wild daises. May our inner children receive the healing balm they need. Your post on this day did just that. I can’t go on with a brave face that I had the mother I needed. Thank you for your courage blessed be.I guess i found my words.

  7. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. For the longest time all we are, say, and do, directly affect our children. Happy Mother’s Day to you. I’m so happy you have encountered beauty along your journey and that you are willing to share it with others.

  8. Life is hard. Some relationships nurture us . . . providing needed sustenance. Others chip away at our foundations.

    Here’s to rising from the ashes of the past to walk in beauty. _/!\_

  9. Came over from Christine’s tweet and so glad I did. I, too, think about all of those who do not have the sugary sweet memory of mothers on this day as well as those who dread Father’s Day for the same reason. I had wonderful examples in my parents but know that not everyone has that and try to be sensitive to all who associate pain with the celebration of days like this. Too often we focus on the perfect relationship and in reality that is probably in the minority, right? Your post was so well written and it is obvious that you have worked through a great deal to get to the place that you are today. Thank you for sharing. Going to pass it on because I know some folks who could really benefit from this! Thank you for your honesty and your insight!

      1. Well we all have areas of sensitivity, that is for sure! And I know personally of many who want to be moms and can’t medically or who, like you, have had less than ideal childhoods and it breaks my heart. Thanks for sharing from YOUR heart today. I imagine it was not the easiest post to write.

          1. Exactly!!!! Isn’t it funny how sometimes what “you” think is not a the perfect post ends up being the one that gets the most attention and touches many people? In my case it is that way a lot and the one that “I” think is fabulous falls on deaf ears…..

  10. Oh Joss, this is one of the most incredible posts I’ve ever read. There’s something here for everyone. I’m going to tweet a link to it when I get back home with my computer. I’m using my iPhone right now and some things are hard if not impossible for me to do on it.

    Thanks so much for bringing new meaning to “walking in beauty” for me.

    Have a beautiful day.

  11. Mother’s day in the UK is in March. Yesterday at my daughter’s wedding and sought out my Mother and looked after her. Have a peaceful day.

  12. I have a few students that deserve better mothers, so I know a little bit of how you feel. If anything, it reminds how important it is for me to make them feel special and cared for. :-)

  13. Joss,
    I read this post and all the comments. It was both sad and edifying. Like you say here … ‘we all have our loads’, but it does seem that many have [had] greater than others. You’ve done a fantastic job on your ‘path’. It’s saddening to see statements like «just neglected/abandoned»… One can only imagine what kind of impressions that leaves on a little kid..
    Mothers Day doesn’t evoke any special feelings for me .. I’m not concerned in either direction :)

    1. This year, for the first time. Mother’s Day is one that doesn’t evoke any special feelings for me, one way or the other. I think it’s because I’ve brought healing to the past and I’m feeling alive with who I am.

  14. I love what you said “I am not the woman I am today because of who my mother was”, because it so resonates with me and my relationship with my mother. I know she loved me but she never said it until she became very ill after a stroke. She would go rigid when I hugged her, yet I know she liked it, but she had never experienced it as a child. Her cold and austere upbringing had a huge impact on her life and I now understand that.
    My mother is so ill and barely hanging on to life but she shows her love now more than she has ever done.I don’t know how much longer I have her for, so we are making up for lost time with hugs and words!
    You certainly walk in beauty Joss!

  15. Mom told me a few times that she really wondered if she should have been a parent.

    I told mom, whose mother died when mom was 16, I felt she treated us more respect than many other parents I observed. I felt more like a newbie adult than a silly kid. Perhaps her lack of confidence as a mom led her to be “in partnership” with us. We could actually negotiate our curfews, for example.

    On the other hand, we never wanted to abuse her trust, either.

    I’ve observed people who feel they were not appropriately mothered/parented. They can become resentful over having to BE a loving, giving, thoughtful person to self-centered children. I never sensed that in my mom even though her chauvinistic father was a cold, demanding alcoholic.

    I’m amazed how some people, like you, rise above the ashes like a phoenix. Bravo!

  16. Joss – The pain of the past, heightened by Hallmark holidays and healed by choosing a road less traveled. Touching and tender and sad – but so redemptive!
    love and grace to you,
    Debbie

    1. it’s love and grace that makes the difference, for me, for our world. And it is there if we but reach out and allow ourselves to receive it. Thank you for your gracious words today.

  17. Oh, Joss….I’m so sorry that things were so difficult….how remarkable that you’ve had to courage and strength to work toward healing and now to be giving out so much warmth and love to others. I think we’re all mothering each other these days….nurturing, encouraging, offering strength…it can’t make up for what wasn’t there….but it can offer soothing and nurturing now…A few years ago, I changed a few of the words to Sinead O’Connor’s song… ” This is to mother you”… for myself…about the love that has been offered to me, in my adult life, by several very special people…what they offered to me…and what I try to now extend and offer to others….
    “This is to be with you
    To comfort you and get you through
    For when you need me I will do
    What your own mother couldn’t do…
    Which is to mother you…”
    Blessings to you Joss…I send my own love and comfort, encouragement and appreciation to you…and thank you for how you have offered those to me…you are “mothering” all of us beautifully…did you realize that you do that???

    1. What lovely words you’ve left here for me. That’s the beauty of it all, isn’t it, that we can reach out to another and mother each other and grace one anothers lives the way you’ve done right here.

  18. Your story resonates with my mom’s. She didn’t feel loved, cared for and nurtured by her own mother. My grandmother was a woman who had no idea how to feel, allow and receive love, although if you looked through the lens of the heart, you could see how much she craved it.

    When my grandmother passed away a few years back, the story of how my mom found out went the same as when my grandfather passed: my in-laws saw it in the paper and called me, I called my mom and by then the event was over. In the wake of my grandmother’s passing, I wrote a love note to my mother, letting her know that her mother had given her the greatest gift there is, which in turn has been passed down to us children. What my mother learned from her own relationship with her mother is how to love, how to be present for her children, how to be sure we always knew she was our mom, she cares and takes so much pride in who we are. I believe my mom learned how to do that because of her own upbringing – it made her even more aware of the mother SHE wanted to be. Perfect? No. But filled with love and gratitude for her children. THAT is my grandmother’s gift….the gift from her heart, the soul contract she made with my mother. I see the same in your story. The gift of love….out of not-so-great circumstances. Love is all-ways there. We have only to shift our perspective in order to see it.

    Thank you for allowing your loving nature to touch us all. Namaste’ to you, my sweet friend. Happy Mother’s day…xoxo

    1. So true Jackie, so wise and true. Love is there, sometimes buried and obscured and sometimes it takes a generation or two for it to surface. When we step out of fear, out of panic, we find love.

  19. Hi –
    Interesting reading your blog after my conflicted one about Mother’s Day, too. I was lucky – I wasn’t abused – I was just abandoned. My ex followed with more abandonment. I learned pretty quickly that if my life was going to be any fun at all, I needed to rely on myself to make it so. It’s not so much forgive and forget, but forgive and move on for me.
    Thinking of you and wishing you all sorts of success with your journey – internal and external!

    1. “just abandoned” or “just neglected” someone else said to me recently. So much sadness in our lives that becomes part of our journey and we let it , as you say, part of our moving on. We honour our self when we realize we need to move and do so.

  20. I have read what you write and every word breaks my heart. Good God what on earth have you been through to have to feel as you do. Tomorrow is Mothers Day and I wish you a happy day tomorrow and all the days of your life.
    Hugs
    Orania Hamilton

  21. Pretty sure mother’s day for me was ruined 14 years ago. I don’t need a specific day to show you I care about you, though. I do that every day, just about – and make a *point* to do it because I *do* care about you, not because Halmark and my calendar is reminding me to.

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