Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and I can’t help but ponder the different ways people celebrate their moms. Some would say their relationships with their mothers are complicated, but they still love them all the same. Others sing praises of their moms, saying they were the best. Some fight anger and resentment towards their mothers while some have no relationship and that void is deep and painful. We all approach this holiday that is meant to celebrate the efforts and love of our mothers in different ways based on the condition of our relationship. Forgiveness is a key component that is required in all healthy relationships, but many find this especially challenging in their relationships with their moms.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning or forgetting the hurtful actions, but rather, it’s a process of letting go of the negative emotions and moving forward toward healing and rebuilding the relationship.
I have been fortunate that my kids always told me how great a mom I was. I loved hearing their affirmations, especially on the days when I didn’t feel so great. No matter how great a mother may be, we are all human and make mistakes and therefore, we can be the source of unintentional hurt and disappointment.
There are two instances that have stuck with me when my daughter felt ashamed of my behavior and it created strife. One time I shouted out in the middle of Walgreens, asking if she had found the tampons. She was young and getting used to all of the changes with puberty and felt embarrassed and betrayed by my insensitivity. The other time was when I bought educational books on sexual abuse for Valentine’s Day. She felt my gift was the most unloving thing a mother could give. She had carried that resentment for years, and it broke my heart when I discovered the pain that I had caused her. It was especially difficult to hear because in those moments my intentions were to be helpful, and the result was the opposite.
Letting go of anger and resentment
Growing up, I had a complicated relationship with my mother. I adored her and loved her beyond words could describe. While I loved her, I also was disappointed in her for not being able to protect me from my father’s abuse. At times, I fought anger and resentment towards my mother. I know that she loved us, but my expectations of her were high. As a child, I thought she could have done better.
Despite my critical nature towards her parenting, my mother was an amazing person. She did so much for my sister and I and our family. So much effort was given to make our lives as comfortable as she could. She provided for us, cooked our meals, helped us with our homework, and even helped us chase our dreams. But when it came to protecting us from harm, she simply fell short of my expectations. I know that she did her best, but at times, it felt like that wasn’t enough. It’s hard to reconcile with the fact that parents aren’t perfect.
My mother would always tell me, “I’m really trying my best.” And even though I felt guilty for my critical nature towards her, I couldn’t help but doubt her words. Looking back now, I realize that she was telling the truth. I believe that she did the best she could given her circumstances.
Motherhood is more complicated than we can imagine. It’s not just about loving and nurturing your child, but also about protecting them and keeping them safe. It’s a delicate balance that not all mothers can achieve. But I’m grateful for my mother nonetheless.
I’ve learned to come to terms with the fact that no parents are perfect. They have their flaws, their mistakes, and their shortcomings. But what’s important is that they love us and try their best to make our lives better. And that, in the end, is all that matters.
Steps to forgiving
Forgiveness can be a sticky word for many. It can come with a lot of baggage. Sorting through the meaning of forgiveness can be complicated and different depending on each person. For me, forgiveness is letting go of the hurts, disappointments, and shortcomings of another person in order to live a more free life. The purpose of forgiveness is to release the painful experience and the person from my own mental hold.
I have asked my children for forgiveness for hurtful situations that I have put them through. In the same way, I also try to practice forgiving my own mother for the ways that she has hurt me. Although she is no longer with me, the power of forgiveness goes deeper than being able to talk to the person about it. The hardest work is actually within.
Acknowledge and accept your feelings
There is no denying that the relationship with our mother is one of the most significant, complex, and sometimes tumultuous connections we will ever have in our lives. It is normal to experience a range of emotions when it comes to your mother. Feeling love and gratitude, and also frustration, anger, and even resentment towards your mother at times is to be expected. Acknowledging and accepting these feelings can be challenging.
It can be tough to confront the fact that you may feel hurt or disappointed by your mother’s actions or words, or come to terms with the fact that your relationship may not have been as harmonious as you would have hoped. However, opening ourselves up to these emotions and allowing ourselves to feel them fully is an important step toward healing and moving forward. It can be a difficult journey, but ultimately, it is one that can help us to develop a healthier, more authentic relationship with our mothers and ourselves.
Identify sources of negative thoughts and behaviors stemming from childhood experiences
Our childhood experiences have a profound effect on who we are as adults, including our thoughts and behaviors. When it comes to negative thoughts and behaviors that stem from our relationships with our mothers, it is important to examine them. Childhood experiences with your mom can have a lasting impact, and it’s important to identify the sources of any negativity you may be carrying with you. Perhaps your mom was overly critical or dismissive of your feelings, causing you to doubt yourself or feel unworthy. Or maybe she was controlling or manipulative, leaving you feeling powerless or anxious. Whatever the case may be, acknowledging and understanding these sources can be the first step toward healing and making room for forgiveness.
Make a conscious effort to separate emotions from actions – learn to forgive without condoning or forgetting
Forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply is never an easy task, especially when that person is a close family member such as a mother. It can be tempting to hold onto our anger and resentment, but doing so only leads to emotional pain and a strained relationship. To truly forgive someone, we must learn to separate our emotions from our actions. This means acknowledging our feelings and addressing them in a healthy way, while at the same time choosing to act with kindness and compassion towards the person who hurt us. Forgiveness does not mean condoning or forgetting the hurtful actions, but rather, it’s a process of letting go of the negative emotions and moving forward toward healing and rebuilding the relationship. It takes a conscious effort, but it’s worth it in the end.
Reflect on positive lessons learned from your mom
There’s always good to be found in the bad, even when the bad seems overshadowing. Growing up, my mom was always a source of comfort and warmth. She exuded that love and it showed in everything she put her hand to. From cooking, decorating, laughing, and dancing, she inspired me to live a life full of love. She listened to us so intently and took joy in the smallest things that we did. She taught me the importance of depth and care in relationships, something that I continue to carry into my relationships. As I reflect on these lessons, I realize that they have shaped me into the person I am today, and I am forever grateful for my mom’s love and tenderness. This act of reminding myself of my mom’s positive impact on my life helps me to see the bigger picture of who she was.
Talk openly to your mom about your relationship and what needs to change
If your mom is still living to speak with her, take advantage of it regardless of your relationship. I’m grateful that I took these opportunities while my mom was still alive. The older I got, the more open and honest these conversations became. It can be tough to bring up sensitive topics, and more often than not, communication breaks down. However, it’s essential to have open and honest communication with your mom to build a healthy relationship and work through areas that need healing. Addressing what’s bothering you opens the door to working together to make positive changes.
A heartfelt conversation might be all that’s needed to get things back on track and strengthen the bond between you and your mom. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and try to be as honest and calm as possible. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but opening up and expressing your feelings can lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding relationship with your mom.
Set acceptable boundaries
As we grow up, our relationship with our parents inevitably changes. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate this new dynamic, especially with our moms. It’s important to set boundaries over what is acceptable in your relationship with your mom in order to maintain a healthy and respectful connection. This can mean having honest conversations about what you need from each other, setting clear boundaries around topics that trigger conflict, or even creating intentional space in the relationship to reset and recharge. Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your own well-being and establish healthy boundaries with your mom. By doing so, you’re setting a strong and healthy foundation for your relationship as adults.
Learning to forgive my mom for her mistakes and shortcomings has been a process, but a process well worth going through. It has allowed me to release my expectations of her in order to love her for who she was. My mother wasn’t perfect, but she was an invaluable guide, comforter, and strength in my life who I will be eternally grateful for.
For more related reading, please check out these articles: