Mother’s Day ~ Celebrating when greeting cards don’t quite capture the reality of your relationship

Mother’s Day.  A time of celebrating the amazing woman who gave you life, nurtured and inspired you.  Your biggest supporter and fiercest defender.

Like many of my clients, I have spent much of my life grieving for that mother.  Not because she died, but because she never existed.

How do you celebrate your mother when she is no longer in your life, either by death or choice?

As a coach and former therapist, I have worked with countless women whose relationships with their mothers have been anything but the ideal depicted on greeting cards.

In these cases, Mother’s Day can be a day of disappointment, loss, and reminders of what you don’t have.

Family dysfunction can take on many forms.  In my work, some common themes are a mother who didn’t pay attention to the signs of abuse; dismissed her child’s (subtle or direct) cry for help; created an environment of neglect; and sometimes struggled with her own mental health issues.

There are times it is necessary to step back or end a relationship with your mother for the benefit of your own emotional health, well-being, and happiness.  While it is generally a very difficult decision, fraught with fear and guilt, sometimes it is necessary.

Finding a way to set boundaries and grieving the loss of a relationship you never really had is an important part of healing from childhood abuse and dysfunction.

In my case, I grieve the mother I never had, due to chronic depression leading to neglect and the one who died when I was 23.  I will never have the opportunity to have that relationship.

While you may never have that relationship with your mother, it is possible to experience nurturing relationships with people who inspire you and become your biggest supporter and fiercest defender.  You just have to allow yourself the time to grieve and be open to allowing those people in your life.

Is Mother’s Day a struggle for you?  Do you have difficulty finding a card that accurately represents your relationship?  If so, make time this Sunday for you.  Take some time to provide for yourself the nurturing, loving experience you deserve.

Comments 19

  1. Wow!! Thank you so much for your work. I just now stumbled upon it. I could have written much of it myself except that my mother molested me and helped one of my many step fathers to do the same. They sold inappropriate photos of me to the pedophile down the street. Ages 4-7. She has borderline personality disorder. We have no contact. This is only some of her ridiculous abuse. However I would not change any of it even if I could because like you it made me become a therapist and a better one. Thank you for all that you do for people. I am looking forward to reading more of your work.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Welcome to Courageous Journeys! 🙂 The mother wound is such a difficult wound to heal. I’m so glad you’ve been able to move through your own healing.

  2. I have a hard time knowing what is the appropriate thing to say about myself.Yet, I don’t want to put the entire focus on myself. so I waffle between saying too much or just being silent I want others to know it’s not just a ‘done deal’, but that I tend to have unusual reactions to things, as eveyone here does.

    I have been told ‘everyone has problems’. I know that . But it is not what I feel. Here in this place I feel as if I can be me, warts and all, without judgement. And, thanks to you Peggy, just let the rest of the world go on and I will work on myself, without a counselor (there are reasons for that).

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks so much for sharing, Pat. Struggling with the sense of isolation is so difficult. I’m glad you see this as a place you can be you. We woudn’t want anyone else 😉

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for commenting, Pat. While it is sad there are so many people who can relate to the reality of not having the mother they deserved, it is healing to know you are not alone. I’m sorry you’re mother wasn’t/isn’t what you deserve her to be.

  3. I have recently discovered you on Youtube and have pretty much watched all of your video posts on sexual abuse. I am 47 years old and I am a survivor (or am surviving) of sexual abuse. For me it was an aunt and I was very young, I think 4 but not older than 5. I say “surviving” because during the past 5 years since my father (who was my hero) passed away, I feel like I have suffered a relapse so to speak. That said, the past five years have been a gigantic struggle for me and it has lead me to repeat past behaviors which has basically turned my life upside down. I don’t if my marriage will survive the past five years and at times I wasn’t sure I would but I wanted to tell you that there is something about you and the way you tell your story that has given me hope. You mentioned the importance of feeling validated. I think for the first time, after watching your video posts, I truly feel validated and I feel like I understand myself better. And the shame… Gaining an understanding of myself, I feel like the shame is going away. I don’t usually comment on stuff like this, but I had to let you know. You are a courageous, bright, beautiful light. Thank you!!!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you, Vivian, for commenting and your very kind words. I’m so glad you made an exception to not commenting. 🙂 I am truly honored to have played a part in your sense of hope and validation. That has always been my primary goal in doing this work. Welcome to Courageous Journeys! If you’re interested in joining an amazing tribe of survivors, join us on Facebook.

  4. Thank you so much for this, Peggy. It’s perfect, and encourages us to show ourselves compassion rather than just feeling bitterness and not-fairness. You are so wise and have a wonderful way with words. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much for commenting and your kind words, Debbie. <3 I hope you make Sunday a beautiful day.

    1. Post
      Author
  5. Thank you for this very important post Peggy. I’m just now facing the fact that my mother was never THAT mother, and I’m 52. It’s difficult for me to feel (and properly direct) my deeply buried anger toward her now. I have, however been able to connect with a ‘family of choice’ who love me unconditionally. What you wrote really hit home for me. I think it’s time to begin grieving for the mother I never had, and to nurture myself. I love the part of taking time this Mother’s Day for myself. I’m going to do that. Thank you again!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you for commenting, Deborah, and sharing your experience. It’s so helpful to recognize we can create a “family of choice”. While we may never have the original family we deserve, we can still have a loving, supportive family. I’d love to hear how you end up taking time for you on Sunday :).

      Peggy

  6. Mothers Day is hard for me…
    I appreciate you sharing this and your past.. I know I felt alone and guilty about my negative feelings about Mother’s Day… Only made worse by my well meaning friends who tried to help me… But only made it worse… My father raped my mother that’s how I came to be… My mother hated me from that second that I was created… She let him rape me… And let other people rape me so she could get drugs…
    I am blessed to have a beautiful husband and daughter… Who don’t know the extent of what I have been through… They treat me like a queen … Mothers Day is bittersweet for me… I will grieve my inner child and her past of not having a mother… But will celebrate the Mom who I am

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much, Anita, for sharing your experience.

      I think so many of us tend to struggle with this in silence. We don’t want to “bring other people down” or have to justify our feelings or experience. I love your description of “bittersweet”. I think it perfectly describes how many of us feel.

      Peggy

      1. Post
        Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.