My mother was a narcissist all my life. I was never good enough. I was abused both mentally and physically. When I turned sixteen, she held over my head until I turned eighteen that I had to move out when I turned eighteen. Two weeks before my birthday, she reminded me of my moveout date, so I made a frantic look for a place to live. I move out on my birthday. Two months later I ran in to my mother at a store, and she asked me why I moved out. I told her, and her reply was, “I just wanted you to ask me to stay.” I didn’t talk to here for several years, until I got married and wanted my dad to give me away. Things had changed a bit, and we were amicable. Then my dad died two years after my wedding. I was crushed. For some reason, my mom didn’t seem affected by it at all. She just expected us kids to do all the things dad did for her. She was 50 years old! Why should we have to do her bidding? I sure wasn’t going to. After that I stopped calling and doing things for her. We did birthdays and Christmas, and “why don’t you call me!” Was her thing. She’d even play the game of “Did you just call me?” I’d say no.. then she say, “Well you should have!” Guilt trip after guilt trip. Well she got to be 80 and started falling once in awhile. Last Spring, she started falling at least once a month. Us kids started asking her about assisted living, or moving to a retirement home. No way she says. Well her fallings starts getting more often and one day she ends up with 15 stitches in her head. She then agrees to the retirement home. We get her all situated, but all she does is complain about it. Like she did with her house being too much to upkeep. She’s just not happy wherever she’s at. When she moved into the apt, I kept close tabs on her. Going over there at least once a week, and calling everyday. Last month I called and she didn’t pick up. I rushed over there, and sure enough, she had fallen and had been on the floor for 18 hours. We got her to the hospital to have her checked out, and I had to leave so my brother came to take her home. He helped her out of the car and one step out, she slipped and fell and broke her leg. Back to the hospital. She had surgery the next morning. Because of her being on the floor for so long, and the pain of the leg and not wanting to get up because of it, she developed pneumonia, and complications. She died 12 days later. I love my mom, because I love all people, and I don’t wish anyone ill will. My problem is this. I don’t know how to forgive her. It eats me up, more each day. I hate it. I’ve gone to counselor after counselor, looking for help, and I get nothing, but guilt. Maybe you have an answer I haven’t heard of yet. Thanks in advance.
I will not preach to you, but I will share something that my preacher shared. We should forgive, but we were given a brain so we do not have to forget and experience a bad experience a second time. This is how we gain wisdom. I also have a hard time forgiving.
What I would give you as advice is to try to forgive the bad experiences she put you through....not for her sake, but for YOUR SAKE. Sounds like you were there for her in the end, when it counts. The rest of your life is YOURS.....focus on you and your future. Please explore your world around you and find something that brings you joy. The past is over and tomorrow is yours for the taking. Blessings to you.
Might it be better to develop an attitude of "she was mentally ill and did the best she could, given her limitations"?
That would appear to me to be a more realistic way to proceed.
"Forgiveness" of the sort of abusive childhood you had is not necessarily a good thing. It robs you of the self understanding you need to develop emotionally healthy relationships.
First, you need to get some space for yourself. Make up your mind that you are just not going to allow yourself to think about it at all. Put a rubber band around your wrist...when you catch yourself thinking about the whole thing...stop. Snap the rubber band. Force yourself to think about something else.
I am willing to bet that if you do this for the next month, when you come back to this whole situation you will discover that it no longer has a massive impact on you. But, even so, still do not let yourself run it over and over in your mind.
Over the coming months you will discover that whole days pass without thinking About it at all....then whole weeks.
Just give yourself a break and space to get away from it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, she took enough from you (mentally, emotionally) and she doesn't need to rob you from any more happiness. So, try to forgive for yourself. If you're a believer, try to forgive to be right with God AND yourself, otherwise, forgive her for your own peace of mind. It's hard, I know.
1 ) In order to properly forgive, one must acknowledge and feel the depths of one's pain caused by the acts of the person who needs to be forgiven.
2) It is very difficult to forgive an abusive parent for the pain of ongoing abuse. and takes a lot of energy. I remember reading in the bible about forgiving 70x7 and clocked that up in one day and thought, "What now?"
3) My conclusion was to, as far as I could, remove myself from the abuse, to detach and to protect myself any way I could, and to keep forgiving, understanding, as you have written, that the person may not been able to behave any differently. However, it is very hard for a child to remove him/herself from an abusive parent.
(That brings up a whole other issue which is, to what extent are we able to choose our behaviours, how much do genetics, brain wiring and/or childhood trauma determine our behaviours? Of course, there is no definitive answer to that.)
4) I don't believe in forgetting, except in the case that there is true repentance/change on the part of the abuser. One needs one's memories for self protection. When there is true repentance, I have experienced that an improved relationship can be formed, and that the bad memories fade. It is a very rewarding experience. Unfortunately, it has never happened in my blood family.
4) To me, the quick "forgive and forget" is harmful. It encourages us to alienate ourselves from our feelings, and shows no empathy or understanding by the speaker for the one who has been hurt.
Perhaps we are not so far apart after all. Often the semantics have to be sorted out.
I really disagree with you on this one, Barb
Perhaps the problem is that you never had a chance to get any resolution with her. She died and left you with a boatload of feelings and no way to direct or discharge them. I know that's very hard to accept.
I had something a bit similar with my eldest sister, who died in 2016. The last few years of her life we had a very contentious relationship, rooted in conflicts over caregiving for my mother. Things got very ugly between us, and were never resolved before her death. I was tangled up in angry and hurt feelings for a long time. For me, the feelings gradually eased over time as my focus shifted to other aspects of my life. It helps to talk about it and get validation for your feelings if you can, but beyond that I think it's just a matter of time.
I totally agree with what Dorianne said: "If you forgive your mother, then basically, in your mind, you have made it acceptable for her to have done all the things she did to you." You are, in essence, consenting to your own abuse.
What happened for me after my sister died was that gradually, I simply removed my emotional energy from the conflicts I had had with her. I don't know that I would have been able to do that if she were still living. For one thing, she would never have stopped blaming and criticizing me, and in other ways making my life difficult. She would have made it impossible to welcome my mother's housemate/caregiver into our family, because she believed that the housemate had once spoken unflatteringly of her (in defense of me, actually). She would have blocked the sincere friendship between me and her husband, because she suspected there was more than friendship on both sides of that. To the last, she was constantly airing her suspicions and grievances about me with other family members, and trying to get them to take her side.
All this kept me tangled in rage and hurt and confusion during her lifetime. I don't have to keep those feelings alive now, in her absence. I've withdrawn my emotional energy from them. I did that even while she was still alive, but very sick. Compassion took over then, and I cared for her in the hospital as much as she would allow, and stood by her bedside holding her hand and talking to her as she died.
It's not forgiveness, really. It's choosing not to feed the angry feelings and instead invest that emotional energy in more uplifting, more worthwhile lines of thought.
The forgiveness piffle is perpetuated by the bible crowd. You've gone through enough. Don't let outside forces tell you how to feel or think. Funny you never hear them urging abusers to change their ways or compensate for their damages.
Go ahead and feel your anger and other feelings without guilt. With time and distance the negative feelings will recede and you will feel better.
See All Answers