People hope they can always rely on their mothers for love and protection. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that not all mother-daughter relationships are healthy. It can be very difficult to overcome an abusive relationship with your mother. The wounds sustained in childhood can run deep. However, with determination and hard work, you can put the pain of your past behind you and move on to something better.
Recognize that your mother’s behavior is not about you. It is not uncommon for a child to blame herself for her mother’s bad acts. Perhaps, in a fit of temper, your mother told you that if you were smarter, better behaved or kinder, she wouldn’t “have” to abuse you. Blaming you for her dissatisfaction or unhappiness was manipulative and unfair. “An emotionally abusive mother is a mother who uses her son or daughter in an attempt to fill her own unmet emotional needs,” Eqi.org says. By accepting that you are not responsible for your mother’s behavior, you can let go of any guilt or sense of failure you have carried over the years because it was impossible to please her.
Tell the people you are close to about your experiences. Acknowledging the truth of the past and having the courage to talk about it openly is crucial to your healing process. As a child, shame or fear might have compelled you to keep the abuse a secret. Voicing your pain will help you let go of it. Hopefully, members of your family will be able to offer you support, but if your family is divided between you and your mother, turn to other people you trust instead, such as your friends, your partner or your pastor.
Seek professional help. With a therapist or as part of a support group, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss the abuse you suffered in a safe, accepting environment, with people who understand what you’ve been through. A network of support people will offer you the insight, encouragement and empathy you need as you work toward overcoming the pain of your past.
Work toward forgiving your mother. This is one of the most difficult aspects of overcoming an abusive relationship, but holding on to your anger will keep you from fully healing. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we ‘excuse’ offensive behavior; it doesn’t mean forgetting or even trusting the person who harmed us,” SelfGrowth.com says. Instead, think of forgiveness as a gift you are giving yourself. You are letting go of any negative or vengeful feelings because you don’t want to be trapped by your mother’s bitterness or pain.
Tips and Warnings
- Healing is a process; do not expect too much from yourself too soon.
- Your mother might not be willing to own up to her abusive behavior. Keep in mind that you cannot change anything about her; you can heal only yourself.
About this Author
Michelle Ernst has been writing since 2000. She published a critical essay in “Annual of the Association for Mormon Letters” in 2004. She also wrote two athletic grants that were funded on behalf of the Because We Care Foundation of Lehi, Utah. She holds a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Utah Valley University.