For many, Mother’s Day is a time to honor and express our love for our moms. For those who were fortunate enough to have good mothers, it is a time to share wonderful memories and give thanks. Sadly, many folks did not have good or even adequate mothers. For people whose mothers abused, neglected or abandoned them, this holiday is often a dreaded and painful occasion.
Rather than dwelling on the negative or trying to avoid the bad memories, it is possible to reclaim the day and reframe it as an opportunity to rethink and recast the meaning of your painful experiences. Above all, Mother’s Day can be a time to remember that it is not too late to get the love you missed. Even if you didn’t experience nurturing love as a child you can still find it in your adult life.
Here are some thoughts for those for whom this day is difficult:
- Realize that Mother’s day is not just about your own mother. It is about the importance of motherhood. Discover and appreciate the deeper and more profound meaning of motherhood which is not tied to any one person. In addition to being a special day for individuals, it is also an important symbol which expresses the universal human need for emotional and physical nurturing and kindness. Therefore, if your mom didn’t provide what you needed, think about and be thankful for others who loved, accepted and supported you. Likewise, just because you didn’t have a great mom doesn’t mean that you still can’t find the love you need.
- Stop Blaming Yourself . It was not your fault that you didn’t get the loving that you were entitled to. Your mom had her own issues which prevented her from being the mom you needed. You neither caused nor deserved the poor treatment you received. You were just a kid.
- Have Realistic Expectations: Accept the mothering you got and stop hoping (like Charlie Brown that Lucy will someday actually hold the football for him to kick) that your mom will someday miraculously change.
- Recognize and Asses the Enduring Emotional Damage. Once you work through your grief and accept that you weren’t adequately nurtured, you can think about the specific ways you were hurt. The effects of bad mothering are not limited to painful memories in the past . They also can negatively distort how we think about ourselves and impair our ability to give and receive love. Here are some common areas that are affected by inadequate , absent or abusive mothering. Self-image and Self Esteem , Understanding and Empathy for Others, Trust and giving and accepting Affection.
- Realize that you are not permanently Ruined. No matter how bad it was , it is not too late to find love and affirmation and get what you need. Emotional wounds can heal and you can grow and get beyond the trauma of the past.
- Commit to Personal Change and Growth. Once you understand the work that needs to be done , identify what is holding you back, you need to develop a plan for change. Many times the problem is the attitudes you hold about yourself and how people that surround you treat you. Change is always hard and healing wounds from childhood is especially difficult. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time. Likewise, if it feels like it is just too much, don’t be afraid to get professional help.
Mother’s Day means many different things depending on each person’s individual situation. As a symbol, however, Mother’s Day affirms and expresses the importance of unconditional love no matter what our age. The bottom line for all of these suggestions is: Don’t Waste your time being around people who don’t love you. Emotionally and physically detach from the toxic people who reinforce negative and self-defeating old patterns. Look around you and be open to developing new friends and support networks. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to experience love and acceptance or to give it.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 5 13 2018