For some of us, Mother’s Day is hard. I’ve been blessed with a loving husband and four beautiful children but it’s hard not to think about my prenatal losses and toxic family relationships. If it were up to me, I’d be happy just to take off to the beach for the day and avoid church, restaurants and Facebook where it’s entirely too easy for me to start thinking that I’m the only person who deals with sadness and loss.
For those of us living with dysfunctional, toxic relationships with our mothers the advertisements reminding us to “remember” Mother’s Day leave us with heaviness. People who haven’t experienced this type of difficulty (well, trauma) don’t understand and often admonish us to honor them and forgive them. And that’s true. We can’t let bitterness destroy us. However some survivors of toxic homes are suffering from bad memories and possibly living with PTSD. To continue a relationship that is still toxic and abusive is destructive.
Every survivor of abuse has to decide for themselves how much contact they can stand. Some have chosen to continue the relationship, while others have limited contact with heavily enforced boundaries and still others have gone no contact. It’s important to remember that estrangement isn’t an overnight decision for anyone. It generally comes after years of trying to reconcile only to be on the receiving end of abusive behavior again and again.
Here are some ways that I’ve learned to cope with Mother’s Day.
*I’ve learned to accept what has happened. Nothing can change the past. but I can choose to be a different kind of parent and there has been healing in that journey for me. In parenting my children, somehow, I learned how to parent myself.
*There is always something to be grateful for. Think of a few of them and take some time to reflect on them. Enjoy who is with you today – whether it be your spouse, your children or your pets. If you are by yourself, treat yourself to a fun movie or make some time for creativity.
*Be good to yourself – If Mother’s Day is hard for you, it’s okay to stay away from places that are triggering, whether it’s a family gathering or even going to church. Make a different plan. It’s really okay. Maybe an “at home” day is what you need. Otherwise, go to the beach, a park or anyplace that helps you to get out of your head and relax. Go out to eat or pick up some great take out to enjoy at home.
*Acknowledge the positive women that God has put in your life. In His love and wisdom, I’ve been blessed with many encouraging older women since I started my walk with him years ago.
*If you send cards, make use of the blank ones – for those with toxic relationships with their mothers, it is excruciatingly painful looking through the happy display of Mother’s Day cards and wondering why things turned out the way that they did for you.
*Stay off Facebook. In fact, consider a digital break. Like other holidays, sometimes seeing all the happy pictures and outings that everyone else seems to have (I know, my perception) but it can be overwhelming.
For adult survivors of abuse, whether it be emotional, mental or physical, Mother’s Day is hard. If you have a person in your life who has chosen limited or no contact with their mother, show them understanding and grace. It’s hard enough to experience and process the extreme hurt and pain that comes from growing up in such an environment, and then to be judged for taking decisive action to protect yourself just compounds the hurt.
Here’s some additional reading…and remember, you’re not alone.