Home > abandonment, acceptance, ambivalance, anger, boundaries, forgiveness, needs, pain, Uncategorized > How do you protect yourself from the hurt?

How do you protect yourself from the hurt?

Greetings all, sorry I know I have been completely absent as of late. I am still working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. Should be done in about two weeks which will be nice as I am missing having a life. But I am also very much struggling with being hurt and thought writing might help, so I am going to sneak in a post despite my schedule.

As some of you may remember, my brother died in August and at that time my aunt told my mother about an incident that happened with my father (I think before I was born) that no one had ever told my mother (see Enraged, Working Through and Sitting for all the gory details). Oddly enough, I was certain that my mother would not contact me about this. So was BN. Everyone else was convinced it would change my mother but I knew better. Things were already strained between us because of how my mother behaved when my MIL died five years ago.

She totally ignored it, despite knowing how badly it affected my family. I had been keeping my distance due to stuff I was hitting in therapy, but had called at Thanksgiving to explain what was going on because I didn’t feel like it was fair to just cut her off. I had also called her Christmas day to say hello and we had chatted for 45 minutes. So although I was not in regular contact with her, I had also made it clear that I was not abandoning the relationship. Two weeks later we lost my mother-in-law after a three-day death watch in the hospital. My husband, my two children and both of my brother in-laws were devastated, so despite my own grief, I had to hold it together. I was making all of the out-of-town phone calls to let people know what was going on, in between being at the hospital, making meals, making sure the kids were ok, etc. My one sister, with whom I am close, also knew and loved my MIL, so I had called her to let her know what was going on. She let me know that she would let my mom know, which was a relief as it was one less person I had to call.

Long story short, my mother never called, never sent flowers, never even sent a card. I was trying to rationalize it away as her trying not to intrude since I had been keeping my distance but then it hit me that she was ignoring her son-in-law of 22 years, who had never been anything but good to her, and her two granddaughters, who were devastated. My MIL had lived with us the last five years of her life and was an integral part of our family. There was no normal to return to, and every way you looked, there was something to remind you afresh of your grief. That’s when I got really furious. It’s one thing to hurt me, but quite another to hurt my children and my husband.

I didn’t talk to my mother for almost a year I was so angry. I was also acutely aware that confronting her about this would change nothing. I knew her well enough to know that not only would she not acknowledge having done anything wrong, it would be turned into her being angry at me for not contacting her. ‘Cause that’s how it works right? It’s the responsibility of the grieving person to reach out, right? This was rendered even more cruel by remembering that when my stepfather had died a few years before, I dropped everything to go to my mother’s and help with the funeral luncheon (most of which I also paid for) and my husband, whose work schedule wouldn’t allow him to get away, sent two dozen roses.) I couldn’t stand my stepfather, but I knew my mother had lost her husband, so I went.

I eventually got back in touch with my mother but the only conversation we have EVER had about my MIL’s death was my mother asking me what we were going to do with her in-law apartment (which is part of my home.) So I will freely confess that this has been festering for a while. And when the incident with my aunt happened, it burst forth with renewed fury.

I had a session a while back where I talked to BN about my mother and talked about going out for my stepfather’s funeral, and then when my MIL died nothing. Then, when my brother died, despite still being fairly distant, I immediately called my mother. At a minimum, I had compassion on her as a mother losing her first-born. But she hears that from my aunt and nothing. I was complaining about how unfair it was and how angry I was about it and how I needed to do something about it. BN looked at me and said “you want your mother to at least treat you with basic compassion and care as another human being and she’s not going to, she’s not capable of it.” I needed to hear it put so starkly.

So ever since, I have been coming to grips with the fact that my mother is who she is, and no matter what I want, or how badly I want her to be different, it ain’t going to happen. I have also been seriously sitting on the fence of whether I even wanted a relationship with her anymore. I kept going to call her and realizing I was still very angry. So Thanksgiving and Christmas passed without a phone call (I did send gifts at Christmas and I have never missed at least sending a card on Mother’s Day and her birthday). My mother quite firmly believes a phone works only in one direction: you calling her, so I pretty much control the level of contact we have.

I spoke to my sister recently and found out that my mother is very angry with me for abandoning her (evidently she’s angry at me for cutting her off after she couldn’t be bothered to call me after she talked to my aunt and gotten outside confirmation of my father’s behavior that she has not believed me about these 20 years. What kind of selfish monster am I?!) That if I don’t want to be her daughter then she doesn’t want to be my mother. The last time I talked to my sister, she told me that we are both very dug in. When I pushed back at her, she readily admitted that mom is like a seven-year old. Which leaves me, again, as the only adult in the relationship. Nothing new there, except I am sick to death of it. I read somewhere (forgive me, I can’t remember where) that being too enmeshed or completely estranged in significant relationships is not ideal as it causes too much intensity. I feel like this is true with my mom. I am also aware that my mother did a lot after my father left to take care of us, and I do have some affectionate memories of her. I am also acutely aware that a lot of my strength and backbone come from her. I do believe that she loves me in as much as she is capable of loving.

My birthday was last Friday and as expected, Mom totally ignored it. I was prepared enough for this to happen that I called BN on Thursday to connect with someone I know sees me clearly. I’m on a bit of a break from therapy so I’ve only seen him once in the past two months. It helped to connect with him. So when I didn’t hear from my mother, I decided enough was enough, she’s not going to change and this standoff was going to last until I made the first move. I decided that although I knew it wouldn’t affect her, I needed to speak about my anger to clear the air, then move past it. So I called and got her answering machine. I left a message that I thought it would be good if we talked and could she call (this was mid-morning on Saturday) and I haven’t heard back. Which as much as I don’t want it to, hurts. I really, really wish she didn’t matter so much. Knowing what she is going to do ahead of time doesn’t protect me from the hurt. There’s no getting around the fact that she’s my mother.

But I am acutely aware of the many people who do love and value me (a fact highly evident on my birthday :)) which brings more comfort than I can say. I could never treat my girls this way, so its hard to understand. The truth is, that my mom would be a lot easier to deal with if she weren’t my mom. I’d have a lot more compassion for everything she’s been through, and how damaged she is from it, if I could stop wanting the fact that I’m her daughter to be more important then whatever happened to her. I honestly feel like I am not being fair or compassionate enough (not to mention discounting all the very real sacrifices she made when dad abandoned us) but … she’s my mom. But I’m also 52, so I think its time to let this go.

Whether we have any kind of relationship going forward is up to her. I am going to call the next two Saturdays and if she has not responded by the third phone call I am going to tell her that I am willing to talk, but obviously she isn’t ready to, so, if and when she is, then she needs to call me.

Lord forgive me, but at times I am just hoping she’ll continue to ignore me so I can walk away with a clean conscience. Ambivalence, thy name is AG. I’m not sure what I want her to do. In the meantime, I emailed BN to ask to schedule a session (although where I am going to fit it in I have no idea). But mom ignoring me is hitting harder than I expected, so I thought it best to be prepared. I am trying to find some way to recognize who and what my mother is and her limitations but be able to have a relationship with her without getting so hurt. So far, it eludes me.

UPDATE: I called my mom again today, Sunday, eight days after the last message and again got her answering machine. I left a message saying I had called last weekend but had not heard back and that I woud really like to talk to her. I have recieved no reply. I see BN tomorrow morning and am looking forward to it as there is a lot to work and think through. I have very much appreciated everyone’s input, both here in the comments and by email, as it has provided me with such comfort, insight and food for thought. Thank you all who took the time to write. I will see how I feel after talking with BN tomorrow, but if I do not hear back from my mother, next weekend will be my third and final message in which I will make it clear that of she intends this relationship to go on, she’s going to need to contact me. Three calls is as far as I can bend right now.

I will try and post about my session tomorrow if I can find the time. We’re down to the wire and things are quite crazy. 🙂

  1. March 19, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Oh, AG, Mother issues are just brutal. You have my heart felt support on this. And right now you have a lot more courage than I do!

    I am the one not talking to my mom, because I can’t deal with the internal conflict between needing to confront her and being terrified to confront her. I am already feeling so fragile that dealing with anything other than a supportive response from her just threatens to crush me. And she doesn’t react harshly, but she tends to not deal with what I say. Usually, if it is too painful for her, it is as if I say nothing. And getting no reaction always sends me into a tailspin. Over 20 years, I have never gotten a clear indication from her that she believes me that the abuse happened. She also doesn’t come right out and absolutely say that it didn’t happen either, but that is the subtle message.

    So I really admire you for saying “enough is enough” and clearly stating where you are. I hope that I can get to that point myself before I’m a grandmother.


    • March 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Thanks Cat, brutal is a good word for it. BN and I have done a lot of work around the fact that I do not need validation from my mother in order for the truth (both of what happened to me and the work I have done to heal from it) to be the truth. I matter and I have value no matter how my mother chooses to treat me. The lack is in her ability to give not in me. But it can be seriously difficult to hang onto those understandings. I can really fight the feelings that if she does not recognize my experience that it is not valid. The upside of recognizing that I am not going to get that from her, is that it frees me up from needing it (I still want it, I just know that I do not need it). And trust me its not so much courage as it is weariness. 🙂


  2. GreenEyes
    March 19, 2013 at 5:17 am

    AG there’s a lot I could say here. But a few things really strike me. Firstly you know your mom is angry and feels abandoned and you calling and leaving her a message asking her to call does put her in a position where she can feel powerful and use that to hurt you to relieve her own hurt feelings and pride.
    I also think you’re protecting your mom a bit. Yes she’s had a hard life, she cared for you when your dad left and modelled strength. But she didn’t protect you from your fathers abuse or your brothers abuse. That is a massive, massive failure that caused damage and pain that has taken you most of your adult life to recover from. She should have noticed and protected you. And given she “ignored” this while it was going on before her very eyes, no wonder feeling ignored in the present is setting you off so much.
    I hope this doesn’t sound harsh. Both of my parents were abusive, cruel and narcissistic but both passed away long before I had any understanding of the impact of their treatment. Most of the time im grateful i never had to confront them about it. Only now I’m developing a healthy hatred of them. It would have been my dads birthday this week and its my mums death anniversary the week after Easter. And the tears I cry will not be for them it will be because I lost so much because I never really had parents.
    Hugs to you xxxx


    • March 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Thank you so much for your fierce protection of me; it means a lot. I completely understand what you are saying about me giving power to my mother that she can use to hurt me. But this is about me doing what I think is the right thing and being the person I choose to be. My husband has been really supportive and we have been having long talks about this. I am extremely clear that nothing I choose to do or not do is going to change my mother or make her behave differently; I have no control over that. But I do have control over how I choose to handle it. This is an important relationship to me. I am not happy about that, but that doesn’t change it. There is no getting around the fact that your mother is significant to you. So while I am clear that I do not owe my mother anything, I also don’t want to walk away from something this important without knowing I gave it my best shot. I am doing what I am doing, calling her and attempting to talk, so that my conscience is clear and I know I did the right thing according to my own values and morals. I am working very hard to have clarity about the boundaries. The only reason I am even going to tell her about my anger is that I deserve to be able to speak it. I know she will not hear me.

      And no it didn’t sound harsh, its the truth. My mother didn’t protect me, it was a significant failing on her part. But my mother wasn’t abusive, or cruel, she just wasn’t present. So its not all that clear cut. I went through this with my father too. The struggle to allow myself to recognize the evil and the damage that my parents did but also understand that I have good things from them and despite all of it, can still love them. This is what makes it so damn hard. If she was a complete shit, I could just walk away. As it is, I may do so, but only after I have satisfied myself.

      And please trust me that I understand the grief being for yourself. You deserve it. And you’re right so do I, there are real wrongs here and I have every right to be angry. I guess its just that in the end, I want to just be able to let it go and not carry this grief and anger any longer. Took me a seriously long time to get here and I’m still not quite sure how its going to turn out.


      • GreenEyes
        March 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm

        AG you need to make decisions that feel right for you. fmily relationships can be very complex but ending them id a big step. i did so with my bother but went through. Lot of steps before i reched a place where i could see the choices that lay before me and decided accordingly. I’m glad you don’t expect your mom to understand or accept your legitimate anger or change. i hope she realises how lucky she is that you havent shut her out of your life completely. There’s a saying that with parenting there are errors of comission and errors of omission, and sometimes its the latter that does more damage. I very much admire your desire to let go of your grief and anger. And happy belated birthday xxx


        • March 24, 2013 at 10:27 pm

          Thanks for the birthday wishes GE 🙂 And I really appreciated you sharing your experience. I am defintiely considering cutting off the relationship but I think at the base I am struggling to even allow myself to understand what I want. And I agree about sins of omission. I have had a much harder time with my mother’s failure to protect me than with my father’s abuse. She was the “good” parent so it was even more painful to see her clearly. I think I have been so angry that I still dont feel like I see her clearly. My parents have provided a graduate degree in ambivalance. xx AG


  3. March 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Hello AG, you raise a number of very pertinent points about family life and what can happen. Family life is very complex as are the dynamics and how functional a family are or not.
    What complicates matters further are the aspects of sexual abuse and the role of the non-abusing parent. Children within any family have the right to be protected and this did not happen in your case and there is a lot of sadness and anger. I use the word sadness deliberately as I believe that under the anger is all the sadness.

    Believe it or not your mother appears to be functioning in a very angry mode and perhaps there is lots of sadness in her life too. An example might be her failure to protect you and denial is often used as a defence mechanism to face the enormity of what happened within your family. This was a choice she made in marrying your father.

    Your own mother possibly did feel very threatened by your relationship with your MIL, but was unable to express this.
    She may also have felt threatened by the closeness of the relationship you had. Then viewed her contemporary as being more able to parent than what she was capable of.
    Now that your mother has no children as such she is feeling alone and desperate for the care and there is something around role reversal.

    Children regardless of age will always strive to gain parental approval, care and affection.
    Underneath all your anger and sadness this is what I think you are after.

    A question you may wish to consider is how your own mother was parented and was this “good enough”.
    having spoken about the situation in respect of your mother; this is not to deny you of your strong feelings of hurt and abondonment.

    Abandonment also appears to be something your mother can equally identify with.

    I alos think that you will need to consider her age and perhaps it is late in the day for her to answer your questions.

    Perhaps she will be quite naive in her understanding.

    These are only some of my thoughts that come to mind having read your blog.

    I hope this has been helpful. Thanks Josie


    • March 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you, I think you raised a lot of important thoughts about the situation. I am aware that there is sadness alongside the anger and I am working to let it in. I have also recognized that one of us has to step back and work on hearing the other one. I think what makes this so hard is that you are correct, by my mother’s age there is a role reversal that kicks in, but what hurts (and angers) is that this ISN’T a reversal, its the continuation of a life long pattern where my mothers feelings and needs and perceptions must always outweigh mine.

      As a mother I do understand how painful it probably is for my mother to be on the other end of this but at the same time I see her responsibility in this. I am sure that my close relationship with my MIL was difficult for my mother but she never thought to forge a similar relationship with me, just to deny me finding it elsewhere is she didn’t have to feel bad. (Sorry, I really am hurting very deeply, but there is a lot of anger). I really do struggle to understand because I would never do to my children what she is doing to me.

      I really appreciate your thoughtful response and looking at the whole situation from a more detached perspective, it helps to step back and see these things. ~AG


      • March 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm

        Hello AG, thanks for your reply. A few more comments that I would like to make.
        I do understand your anger and you have every right to feel this. You initimated that your own mother has placed her own needs first and it is highly unlikely that she will give you enough consideration. Some people are very selfish and this would appear to describe your mother. The likelihood of her changing is very limited, given age and current circumstances.
        Yet you are desperate for her approval and recognition of you being her daughter and perhaps putting your needs first.
        I am sorry to say this AG but it looks highly unlikely that this is going to happen. Any positives from your mother will come from your own instigations.
        What is alos hurting you is due to the comparing and contrastin of your motherhood to that of your mother. This I think sets you up to become even more angry. You are nothing like your own mother when it comes to your children and putting their needs first. you have learned this albeit through a bitter experience of your own parenting.
        Perhaps one question you still need to consider is the quality of your mother’s parenting and whether she has ever had the ability to be a “good enough” parent.
        I am trying to be sensitive to your circumstances and also trying not to judge your mother. There is nothing worse than outsiders being over critical; this is your mother and you still have a need for acceptance from her.
        Take care and look after yourself.
        Thanks Josie


        • March 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

          Hi Josie,
          You’re not telling me anything I am not already painfully aware of. 🙂 But if you read my latest post, I think I was dragging this all out again to divert attention off myself. If I wanted that plan to be successful I really need to find a much less competent therapist! I am well aware that I will get neither recognition or approval from my mother and have made strong inroads at learning to live without either. It has been clearer than ever this go round that this is about my mother’s lacks and not something being inherently wrong with me. (Don’t mean I’m perfect, just that I deserved better than I got). And even the fact that I am able to recognize such a wide range of feelings about the whole thing is a good indicator for someone whose feelings used to be frozen solid. I appreciate you writing again though, as I thought a lot of what you had to say was dead on. ~AG


          • March 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm

            Thanks for responding again AG. I am glad that you are managing your situation and your new blog suggests this was really about you and not your mother.
            Sometimes though we need to go through that process before we see light at the end of the tunnel.
            Enjoy your easter break and take care of you and yours.
            Thanks Josie


  4. iz
    March 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    To answer your original question, I don’t think you do and don’t think you have to. You and I know full well there will always be pain and grief in life. In terms of this relationship, your mom does not have the skills to give you what you want, need, and deserve. That could change in the future – if she wanted it. Notwithstanding that though, her lack of skills just is. So, as things stand, if you stay you will experience painful moments and if you go you will experience painful moments; if she responds or doesn’t – more painful moments. There’s no way around it; all you control is how you relate to that pain. From my experience in dealing with similar (essentially the exact same) issues, I (1) never found the necessary compassion for her until I found the necessary compassion for myself and (2) found that compassion for myself through being acutely aware of the physical, mental, and emotional ramifications of the physical, mental, and emotional pain. And I do mean on a moment by moment basis for a long, long time. Feeling the awful stress in my body – the muscle aches, the stomach aches, the feeling like there was a giant hole in the center of my body that she was pouring salt into with every single word. For me, freedom was found by tapping into that pain. As I did, I found myself naturally giving compassion to myself; I wanted to both experience and soothe that pain – protect those parts of myself that were hurting and simultaneously give them a voice. My focus on that physical pain was the portal into what was going on underneath. And then all of a sudden it hit me – my mom feels these same pains. Probably even more so. Her actions, beliefs, and values prove that she is in significant pain on a day to day basis – probably more so then she even knows. And then – regardless of everything that happened to me – I cried for her. Because she’s just a person. An insanely messed up person who is walking through this life in so much incredible pain and who is wasting her life in 1000 ways because of it. How sad. Tragic. Horrifying. Compassion for that limited existence she has as a life doesn’t negate for a second what happened in the past or the pain it caused me. And it doesn’t negate my own very strong grief for not having better. But it has allowed me to watch her from enough of a distance with compassion. I still protect myself. I have strict rules around contact that are not bendable. It took a long extinction burst but she learned those rules (and I was prepared throughout to walk away if she didn’t). And now we can co-exist in limited but more frequent contexts – her in her pain but following the rules, me in my compassion watching the grief in both me and my mom. Allowing that to surface and just be means the rest of my life is mostly untainted by the experience or relationship. For that I am truly grateful as there has been no change in my life that has been more significant in terms of healing.


    • March 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Thank you so much, I think what you arre describing is what I am struggling to learn, just not sure if I’m there yet. BN has taught me so much about stepping back and being non-defensive and seeking first to understand than to be undrstood. I do have this sense of my mother and I both trying so hard to be heard that we cannot listen. But its hard to let go of the anger and the thirst for justice and just meet her as another human being needing, and deserving grace and compassion the same way I do. It is a painful process recognizing our parents humanity and need for care especially when on some level I believe I am at the bitter end of the struggle to get her to be the ideal mom I could turn to and depend on.

      You also made me think about where I was trying to get to. For the longest time in therapy I thought the goal was reaching a place of perfect safety where I would never be hurt or in pain again, but eventually I learned that safety was learning that I could face and experience pain and hurt but could handle feeling that way and moving through it, knowing how to turn to others to help get me through. I think I have been doing the same thng with my mom. Hunting for the place to stand where she will never hurt me again, but it doesn’t exist. True healing will be accepting that if I wish to continue a relationship with her, I will be hurt but that it will not destroy me. I hope someday to get to where you are. Thank you very much for writing this. xx AG


  5. Little Blond Girl
    March 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    First of all, Happy Birthday AG!
    I don’t think I can be much help here, I’m dealing with the same thing, well sort of. I can go weeks without speaking to my parents – it’s usually my responsibility – unless of course they need something and then I hear from them.I try my best to manage my expectations, to be aware of my goals when I ask for something from them, reach out, want something. Every now and then they surprise me, and I let my guard down and get hurt again. Even sometimes when I’m sure that I know what my motives are, my goals, my expectations are low, I end up getting hurt – it sneaks up on you sometimes. Despite what has happened, for better or for worse, we love our parents. It’s what makes it so complicated and hard. If we didn’t love them and want their love and acceptance and just plain acknowledgment, it would be so much easier to walk away, to leave the relationship. But it just isn’t that easy or simple. You need to do what you need to do in order for YOU to feel okay with how you handled it, with the efforts you made. Because you need to look back and have no regrets for how you behaved. You are right, you can’t control anyone else, just you and your behaviour…
    Hang in there…


    • March 24, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks for the birthday wishes. 🙂 Thanks for understanding, I could have written what you wrote, you described the difficulty and complexities of the situation really well. I am very much struggling to stand in a place with clear boundaries where I take responsibility for my own actions and make my choices based on who I want to be. But its much simpler to say than to do. That’s the crux of the matter, how do you stop wanting love, acceptance and acknowledgement from your parents? I am struggling to let go enough to actually recognize its a lost cause so I can begin to learn how to live with it. Thanks for the encouragment and the space you offer in which I can make my own choices. It means more than you can know. xx AG


  6. March 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Hi AG,

    I identified with so much in your post. In my family, my mother was the main perpetrator and my father did nothing to protect me (as well as perpetrate his own abuse but not quite to the same destructive, evil level as my mother). Much of what you described were dynamics I had with my mother before I ended things with her. In order for me to end things with her it came to a “knock-down, drag-out” fight on the phone followed up with an email from me stating I would have no further contact with her for the time being so I could process the pain of what had happened. That was over a year ago. I have not contacted her and I have never received a phone call, email or birthday card from her since. My mother has not contacted me at all to find out how her grandson is. It’s as if I never existed (except for being on her “emergency call list” for her needs, not mine.)

    In the past, my mother often acted as a martyr and blamed me for not calling her when she, in fact, was the one who had hurled insults and blame at me. My mother has never taken responsibility for her behavior or abuse or neglect of me.

    I believe you are much further on in your healing than me so I may not be of the greatest help because I am still processing a lot of rage and grief from how my parents treated me (I have no love for either of my parents right now and can’t even conceive of loving them again) but your comments about your mother made me want to respond. I hear so much of myself in your words about struggling to have a relationship with your mother but I eventually gave up. In my case, it was too hurtful for me and my mother is mentally ill so I have no hope that she will change.

    When I read your words it took me back to a year ago, before I realized I could no longer have a relationship with my mother, when I would agonize over wanting to believe she wasn’t “all that bad” and to have compassion for her. In my case, my T wanted me to move out of denial which was a defense mechanism for me. The only way for me to process the feelings of pain and hurt that were a result of my abuse was to really see my mother for who she was and to take myself back from her. It was very hard and I kept seeking more from her, trying to get some type of mother/daughter connection, until it just was no longer possible. Severing my relationship with her marked, for me, a milestone in my healing and I finally was able to walk a new path to clarity and freedom but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

    I hope you can find some peace soon with your relationship with your mother. I realize now how profound and strong that bond is and how difficult and painful it is to come to terms with it when it is dysfunctional. For me, realizing I never really had a “mother” is the most profound loss I have ever experienced to date.

    Good luck with this difficult and busy time in your life.


    • March 24, 2013 at 11:28 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I do think part of the problem is that on some level I am struggling to see my worth, and to see my struggle (and success) in heaing as legitimate if my mother will not recognize it. (BN’s been working on this with me for a long time). This really hit me:

      …was to really see my mother for who she was and to take myself back from her.

      That’s it exactly, I’m trying to take myself back from her but hoping I won’t have to completely sever the relationship to do so. But I will if I have to, I have worked too long and too hard to find myself to give it away, even to my mother. And therein lies a deep hurt and loss, it was my mother’s job to help me find out who I was, I shoud not have to struggle against her in order to do so. I am sorry that you understand this so well, but appreciate you sharing from that understanding. xx AG


      • dpblusee
        March 25, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Hi AG,

        When I severed my relationship with my mother it just happened due to our argument. I did not have the chance to give it forethought or think it through, so while I had spent years trying to decide if I should make this terrible choice to sever ties with her, the choice was, in a sense, made for me.

        After it happened, I had the clarity to realize that it had been something I had wanted to do for years but I had been too afraid. I had always been seeking permission from someone else to tell me it was okay. Now, I wished I had done it years ago. I would have been better off and healed faster not being around her toxic energy.

        My T told me, when I said I needed to have compassion for the people in my life who had abused me, that “I wasn’t there yet.” I had to experience the depth of my pain first. I find that having compassion for these people before I am ready diffuses my process and takes away from validating my experience. That is what I mean when I say I had to “see my mother for who she really was.” I could not heal by continuing to be in denial about how bad the abuse was and having compassion for her was a type of denial. He says there will be time for that later, if and when I am able. Personally, I am not to the point yet where I am compassionate and I am okay with that because I know that means I have more to go in my healing.

        Good luck with your appointment. I hope it goes well.


        • March 26, 2013 at 10:10 pm

          I, like you, may not be getting to make this choice, since my mother has evidently decided to cut me off. Probably wouldn’t do much for her to realize that my overwhelming response is relief. Now I can stay away with a clear conscience. What you said, both about wanting someone to tell you it was okay and recognizing that you are not yet in a place where you can have compassion really resonated (BN said something very similar about not being there yet). I am glad you understand this so well, but not happy for the reason you do. Thank you. ~AG


  7. March 20, 2013 at 1:15 am

    I really identified with this: “I’d have a lot more compassion for everything she’s been through, and how damaged she is from it, if I could stop wanting the fact that I’m her daughter to be more important then whatever happened to her” I think I was made to take care of my mother, be there to listen to her, support her, instead of her ever doing that for me. And now I feel like I’m throwing a tantrum all the time, like, where is she, why isn’t she here for me!? I don’t care what she went through anymore, she should’ve been my mother. I’ve cut her out of my life, which what you wrote about being too enmeshed or too estranged creates too much intensity is something i’m going to think about. I just don’t think I can include her in my life, when all she does is hurt me.


    • March 24, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      I hear a lot of echoes of my own struggle in what your saying. It’s like I have gotten tired of trying to understand and be forgiving. I just have spent some time letting it be bout me, and my anger and hurt. My mother did a lot of thnings right but she also did a lot wrong. And I totally get you describing it as feeling like its a tantrum. What I strruggle with is my trying to see another side of this and find compassion really my freely made choice now or just the conditoned reflex that care and understanding MUST flow towards my mother. One thing I am clear about, I would never criticze someone else for their choice to leave or stay, I get how complex this can be. Thanks for writing, it helped to know you understood. ~ AG


  8. Ann
    March 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I haven’t had time to read the comments, but your blog today hit home. I understand your dilemma of trying to set clear boundaries, yet show some level of respect or honor towards a parent. My parents are in their 80’s and my husband and I moved closer to their home to help out. I am having to continue to reassess my expectations about our relationship. They have always lived in their own fantasy, with me as the oldest being the protector of younger siblings. My dad was abusive and mom in denial, to the point of believing some of his abuse made us better adults. However your situation plays out, I pray you find peace and continued support from loved ones. I think as parents get older they become more fearful and refuse to acknowledge their own bad behavior. I have found some peace in knowing I am a more intentional parent who respects my son’s thoughts and feelings. The reward comes in breaking the cycle with your kids. Much love, Ann


    • March 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Thank you for your kindness and compassion. I am sorry for what you have been through with your parents. And I very much appreciate the prayers. I do take comfort in knowing that I am breaking the cycle with my children. My daughters are 20 and soon to be 22 and I am close with both. We’ve had our share of head-banging but at the end of the day I have an authentic relationship with both of them which I am grateful for beyond words. And my husband has been an absolute rock through this and incredibly supportive. As have people here. I am truly, deeply blessed in the people I have in my life now. Part of my frustration at my mother’s lack looming so large. I’ll get there. 🙂 love, AG


  9. March 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Hi All,
    I want to respond to your comments more thoughtfully later as things were too crazy today to allow me the time or energy to do them justice, but I do want to say now thank you to everyone for your wonderful input. I have read all of the comments and found them very helpful and very much appreciate people sharing their experiences and viewpoints. It means more than I can say. I promise I’ll be back soon. xx AG


  10. Ms. Sharkey
    March 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    “The truth is, that my mom would be a lot easier to deal with if she weren’t my mom. I’d have a lot more compassion for everything she’s been through, and how damaged she is from it, if I could stop wanting the fact that I’m her daughter to be more important then whatever happened to her. I honestly feel like I am not being fair or compassionate enough”

    I’m right there with you, and boy, is it a hard place to be. The more time I spend in therapy, the more I realize that my parents had a lot of their own damaged and baggage, and part of me feels sorry for them….and another part of me is resisting that fiercely. Part of me keeps coming back to the fact that I was just a child, small and vulnerable and impressionable, and they were the adults. Shouldn’t they have acted like it? Wasn’t it their responsibility to do the work they needed to do to make sure that they didn’t shame and abuse me? Sometimes the sheer unfairness of it all is overwhelming.

    And yet, I also understand why want to salvage something, why you don’t want to walk away for good. Because she’s a part of you, and leaving her behind might well feel like you’re rejecting a part of yourself.

    (I’ve changed my login info, because it occurred to me that on the very slim chance that my parents googled my email address, it might lead them here. So, Ms. Sharkey it is)


  11. March 24, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Ms. Starkey,
    Everything you said really resonated with me, both sides, the anger over what we did not get, yet the recognition that they are an important part of us. And for the record, yes, they should have acted like you were small and vulnerable and impressionable, it is a real injury and you have a right to your feelings about it. I really get what you said about some part of you fiercely resisting having pity on them. It’s as if we reach a point where we say “Enough, this is going to be about me for once, the understanding needs to flow in my direction.” I may be getting a faint glimmer that I’ve done that long enough, but we’ll see. Thank you. xx AG


  12. Lana
    January 16, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    i feel y’all and pain . wow hate, anguish, need for self recognition.. why :/ My mother was and probably is a narcassist and has borderline personality however not ever did I have a mother daughter relationship and I learned to accept her strange ways.. with my brothers she was different, perhaps she couldnt relate to a female or maybe was jealous? Who knows, all I know is that it was sporadic and chaotic her motherly ways, and although she says she had great parents the best father the best mother.. I think otherwise, I think low self esteem and feeling the odd one out in 10 kids changes ppl as well and not being the most pretty or feeling unpretty perhaps.

    Either way I read some of the posts and thought the original person whos story ppl are commenting on was in her 30’s or something… Im probably wrong and why want the love from someone ? its so foreign and weird.. I find it weird hugging my own mother, I dont feel the love, from time to time I will say an I love you verbally but I dont evn feel the need or want for motherly affection and I run from it and hence my mother doesnt try so hard at it knowing Im choose not to be affectionate with her till my 5 yr old tells me to hug grandma also whn I hug him.. strange. Because of it I couldnt get past my own mother in law and she was a beast to reckon with considering she only looked at her son and daughtrs best interest pretending to care for her daughter in law when really she didnt and complained about me which didnt help. Its hard being affectionate physically to a woman in the mother role when u arent with ur own and faking it is HELLA hard.. i cant imagine how ppl get along with their MIL but not their mother.. maybe they were better women whok nows.. however my MIL had her own physicallly abusive husband and a broken cheekbone etc who knows how she raised her kids with lots of help but you’d think she’d be more compassionate and less intrusive and controlling which is how my own mother was, control control.

    Wish you luck, its a crazy struggle to want approval as an adult. I dont look for my parents approval and besides their older now and set in their ways from 1940s or the 50s era.. whos going to change someone that had a tough life , tough marriage and then couldnt be the best that we needed.
    I feel for y’all. I studied psychology however never seen a therapist even though i’d like to ,,,, jus to see all the damage within myself. self esteem is hard to build up
    when the foundation was rocky to begin with and growing a backbone hwen all ur life you havent seen enuf ppl with a backbone makes u also make the wrong choices that are hard to shake and you let ppl walk all over you in the name of ‘being nice and thinking good will come out of it’….

    good luck to ya’ll


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