Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Difficult Work of Acceptance when it Comes to Abusive Mothers

I never considered myself slow to accept the curveballs that life often throws my way. I smiled through my recent bout with Pulmonary Embolism, I adjusted to this extended period of unemployment, and I walked away from His Side with a clear conscience.

Yet the more I find support and comfort in the presence of other adult children with a narcissistic/abusive parent, the more I continue to struggle with my membership in that group.

I can't pin this struggle on pride or embarrassment, which would seem like natural reactions to such a broken relationship with the one who is supposed to love me the most. As I dig deep to understand "why," I only find one nugget: By most accounts, the pattern I've experienced with my mother (who refuses to admit any wrongdoing) does not result in a path to reconciliation.

In effect, I lost my mother although she continues to walk this earth. This death of our relationship encompasses the death of my fantasy of what - and who - a mother should be to her adult daughter. Essentially, the death of this fantasy represents the death of my hope.

My ability to hope in the goodness of others remains important to me, yet I have to let it go when it comes to the larger-than-life presence called "mother."

I clearly remember the day, many years ago, she wanted to go to counseling with my father as she lamented over his possible denial that counseling was in order. As a young adult, I was elated over her willingness to start addressing our family problems. "If he won't go, you and I can still go and get help with our family issues.

I stood broken-hearted as her body language indicated that our relationship wasn't important enough for such a measure. Looking back, I believe she likely wanted a counselor to "whip him into shape." I doubt she wanted anything to do with taking any responsibility for her own actions.

So here I am, elated about my new freedom that comes with setting boundaries against anybody who desires to abuse me, yet surprisingly sad about accepting the death of a fantasy. There's nowhere but up from this bittersweet place...


Lovebabz said...

My dear Sister,

Now might be the time to carve out a DIFFERENT kind of relationship with your mother.

You don't need her to pack your lunches and kiss your boo-boos. You don't need her to show up for parent-teacher night at school.

What you might need is a different kind of connection... one rooted in the here and now. A relationship of women. I am not suggesting YOU kiss her ass. I am suggesting that you give yourself what you need.

I am suggesting that you design the kind of mother-daughter relationship you want AS A GROWN-ASS WOMAN.

The answers may not be to totally strike her from your life. It might be something that requires a re-defined meaning of who you can be in relationship to her.

Give yourself what you need. If having your mother in your life is what you need (own that...its OK), define that, set boundaries and be in love with it.

You already know that your mother is NEVER going to be the fantasy Mother. However you can still have a with care, concern and love. Give that to yourself. Allow your living--breathing Mother the space to exist with the knowledge that she will not be able to give you what you need.

That whatever you need... you have to give to yourself...without judgement. Without judgement to you or to your mother. Otherwise you will be forever in search of the illusive mother that does not exist ANYWHERE!

Big Mark 243 said...

I am glad that you are on the road to peace in regards to this important relationship in your life. As a cat who often thinks of the relationships that my three daughters will have with their Mother's, I can only add that the best relationships ALWAYS do what is best for their child REGARDLESS of any other circumstance.

Take care and it has been my experience that even with bittersweet tasting things, it is the sweetness that last and eventually over powers the bitterness!!

Her Side said...

Hey LoveBabz!

The woman-to-woman relationship I desire with my mother isn't a possibility - at least not in the foreseeable future. Her inability to recognize me as an adult instead of a child-like extension of herself leaves me exhausted. Her escalation of minor issues (like using the train to send my 18-yo son to see his father when the weather was treacherous and a 2 hour drive on icy roads wasn't safe for all) always leave me wounded and wondering why she needs to exercise so much control over my day-to-day decisions. I find this unhealthy and really wish she'd find something to make her happy that doesn't involve my compliance with her orders. She resorts to yelling and blaming when I make a decision that doesn't match her own desires. She speaks very ill of me to my children when I'm not around. In what universe is that okay? I no longer feel obligated to reach-out to her, because she can't even grasp the basics of respect.

In other words, I am not free to design the relationship I would like to have with her which leaves me satisfied with the VERY distant one we have now. In spite of the moments of sadness, the relief is like sweet tea on a hot summer's day! :-)

Her Side said...

Mark! I'm loving that idea... it's the sweetness that lasts when things are bittersweet.

Betsy said...

Mothers get old (hopefully, mine did not) We change, we are not as strong as we used to be when we were raising you, we worry more, we get angry because we are not needed or wanted. We still love your daughters with all of our hearts but sometimes do not know how to show it and instead bring on your wrath. Weather it is passive aggressive, ignoring, estrangement or raging, it is all the same, hurtful and not solving the problem.

I was estranged from my mother by her death when I was 18 years old. I never knew my grandmother who died before I was born. I could only dream of how wonderful it would have been to have had a loving grandmother as a child and to have had a mother in my life as an adult. I grieved for the loss of a grandmother for myself and my children. I saw my mother with her first grandchild and the love and joy was overwhelming albeit brief because of her untimely death. I wanted so badly to end this loss of mother and grandmother in my family history.
Now my daughter has cut me off from her life and my grandchildren. She has chosen her father over me. Her father was abusive to me and my son but I left when my daughter was only three for fear of her abuse. I spent my life protecting her from him.
He ignored us all for most of the time after the divorce but after his third divorce he started to lure my 25 year old daughter in with excessive charm and lies about me. I unfortunately tried to tell her the truth and she did not want to hear it. I also got angy at the manipulation I was getting from her through him.
Now she has cut me off and taken away the grandchildren. She says I was a wonderful mother when she was growing up but I have gotten more and more abusive over the last 15 years…the exact time when she rejected me for her father.
Yes, I resent her father, not because of the past but because he is the same as he always was, a manipulative psychopath and I am afraid of him for myself, my children and my grandchildren. The abuse I have taken from her over this has brought back my PTSD symptoms from my childhood and marriage to her father. Yet she blames me and has cut me off from herself and her children. I see no choice but to let her and our precious grandchildren go.
All I asked of her was to not force me into the same weekends or holidays as her father but she will not. My therapist says she will not choose between us but I say she has made her choice by not accepting my one boundary. Then she says I will not accept her boundaries which have never been stated and I can only assume mean doing whatever she wants when she wants it. She is rude, disrespectful, full of her father's lies and angry with me all of the time.
Her anger is suppressed and passive aggressive and mine is honest and straight forward. So she accuses me of abuse and has estranged herself and her children from us. Me and the step father who raised her as his own and loves her as his own.
I feel that I am on both sides of the fence having lost my mother and now my daughter I simply cannot accept that estrangement is the solution. How can hurts and problems ever be resolved by silence?

Her Side said...

My God, Betsy. Your story broke my heart. I read one source recently (I don't remember the link) that indicated how estrangement tends to get passed down (even when mothers try hard not to repeat the mistakes that led to estrangement from their own mother).

My first thought was: Your ex-husband told his "story" first, which may have led to your daughter accepting his perversion of the truth.

Without much info, I can only say how much I hope and pray there's a reconciliation in your future. I can't imagine the pain of parenting with your whole heart just to be rejected as that beloved child becomes an adult.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you stick around to offer input of further topics on relationships and estrangement.