When Mom Breaks Your Heart: Learning How to Heal

Recently, I asked a question on social media regarding women and where they seek wisdom.

The responses varied. However, one particular theme, from an astounding number of women, caught my attention.

“I didn’t really have a mom. She was not there for me; I would never look to her for anything,” was a frequent reaction.

Wow! I didn’t see that coming.

No wonder so many of the women who come to me for life coach are hurting so deeply. They have a big “Mommy Wound.” And it is running soul deep.

So I dug a little deeper. I asked them how the lack of a mother, or a negative relationship with their mom, has affected them. Here were the common responses.

  • My mother left my dad when I was young. I could never figure out why or where she went. I longed and cried for her so many times. I believed she would reappear one day, and I dreamed of that moment. My dad remarried and my stepmom tried to be a mom for me, but I resisted her love. I didn’t want her. I wanted my mom. I started cutting myself as a teen. It helped me to feel something—anything, but numb. As an adult I still have a lot of trouble trusting people, especially women.
  • My mom is an alcoholic. She didn’t parent me, I had to parent her. Many days I came home from school to find her on the floor passed out. I can still remember the rush of panic just before I pushed the door open. I feared that one day I’d come home, and she would be dead.
  • Our home was in constant turmoil. My mom had a serious issue with rage and anger. She would hit my sister and I all the while screaming that we were stupid idiots who ruined her life. Dad was working most of the time. I think he knew that she beat us, but he looked the other way. He didn’t want to make her mad. We learned how to hide the bruises so no one would know. I felt my mother hated me. And that caused me to hate myself.
  • My stepfather sexually abused me. I told my mother and she called me a liar and a whore. I left the house at 17 to escape the brutality. My physical wounds from him were horrible. But the emotional devastation of having a mom who didn’t believe me, and didn’t protect me, have haunted me for most of my life.
  • My mother was mentally ill. One day she was the perfect mother, the next day she was almost catatonic. We never knew which mom would be there when we got home from school. I tried to care for her the best I could. My dad would just get angry with her which didn’t help. My brother and I pretty much raised ourselves.

After reading the responses I thought to myself, “Mother’s Day must be so hard for these women.”

So I asked them how they have coped with having a mom who has caused such pain.

• “I don’t think of her at all. I refuse to dig into the mommy stuff that is beneath the surface. I know it’s there, but I don’t want to focus on it.”

• I started drinking at 15 to numb the pain. It has been my “go to” answer for a long time. I’d like to stop, and I have tried a few times, but it never lasts for very long.

• I didn’t think my mother’s actions had affected my life very much. That was until I had a baby myself.

Suddenly, I was so angry at her for not being there for me. I needed my mom’s help.

And for the first time I thought of her when she had me. I wondered “Did she love me as much as I love this child.” I decided that I wanted to be a good mom for my child. So I feel it has had a positive outcome.

• I finally hit a wall a few years ago. I was depressed, anxious and so stressed out that I went to see a doctor. He put me on medication that takes the edge off. I wouldn’t say I’m completely healed, but I am better at coping with life and my Mother than Iused to be.

• I just wanted to be loved. I felt my mother hated me. And that loneliness led me into sexual relationships with men that were very destructive. I was like a magnet for them. Even though they were abusive to me, I wanted to rescue them from their own misery. After almost losing my kids because one of these men hit my child, I decided to get help. I now attend a support group called www.CelebrateRecovery.com They taught me how to recognize toxic people, and why it’s not my job to heal others. I’m becoming much stronger, and it’s having a positive effect on my kids too.

• I came by my healing very unexpectedly. I went to a therapist for my failing marriage. She asked questions about my childhood and before I knew it I was blubbering all over the place. I work very hard not to cry so it was shocking to me. Although I was humiliated over my emotional outburst, I couldnt stop. It was like a faucet turning on and I began blurting out all the shame, fear, loss and self-hatred that was buried inside of me. As I realized the hidden trauma it was cathartic and horrible at the same time. I felt like someone had taken a scalpel and ripped my heart open. And the pain that was bottled up inside of me suddenly spilled out onto the floor, bleeding everywhere. Over several months, and step-by-step she taught me what was happening.

I grew to comprehend that what my mother’s cruelty had done to my heart, mind, soul and emotions.

My healing wasn’t quick or easy. It was deliberate, tenacious and exhausting. Many times, I wanted to give up. But a momentary weightlessness, a slight buoyancy, would overcome me for a few moments each time I dared to face the pain. And each time I tackled another trauma a sense of freedom would produce a sigh of relief. And those moments grew until I was living in them. After that season I can now tell when the wound is resurfacing. And the difference is that I control it—rather than it controlling me.

Forgiveness played a huge role in my healing. My mother has never acknowledged or admitted the pain she caused. But someone else did. I went to Jesus, and He showed me that He saw and sees all of my hurt. He taught me how to forgive my mother and how to lay my heavy hurt at the foot of His cross.

I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean excusing or ignoring what she did and that what she did was vile and wrong.

Forgiveness is letting go of the revenge, anger, fear and shame that her actions created. And giving them, and her, over to God.

This has freed me to love my mother and accept her as she is. That doesn’t mean I trust her, or that I spend a lot of time with her. I now understand that my mother can not be trusted with my whole heart, she isnt capable to treat it tenderly. I’ve set healthy, loving boundaries to protect myself when I’m around her. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven her. This is one of the most valuable lessons Jesus has given me.

I’ve accepted that she is never going to be the mother I want or desire.

We will never have the fun, loving, close mother-daughter relationship that some of my friends have with their mom. I have grieved the death of that dream.

Forgiveness also taught me that it’s is not my job to heal, cure, or fix anyone else. That’s God’s job.

And I know with all of my heart that if Jesus can heal me of all the fears, shame, destruction, pain and anger that I had in my heart, and taught me how to be at peace with my Mother, He can teach anyone.

I don’t know if this has helped you to understand, heal or forgive your mom. I pray that it has. I’ve listed a few resources that I feel are a great place to start.

Know this: There is no wound so deep that God cannot heal. It’s his specialty.  And Jesus knows what it feels like to be rejected, betrayed, unloved, shamed, beaten, and abandoned by those who are supposed to love you.

Let Him teach you how to overcome. If you have never done this before, here’s a prayer to get you started.

“Dear Jesus, this is all new to me. But I need help. Please help me. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I know there has got to be a way to heal. So I’m taking this step towards you. Forgive me for the things I have done wrong that hurt others. And teach me who you are. I don’t want religion, but I do want to know you. Help me to trust you. Amen.

Resources:

Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamans

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick

Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

Copyright © 2020 Laura Petherbridge All rights reserved.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of “When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce,” “The Smart Stepmom,” co-authored with Ron Deal, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, and Quiet Moments For the Stepmom Soul.