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.
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.
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.
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 really disagree with you on this one, Barb
Maybe my "understand" and your " forgive" are part of a two step process. I would find it difficult to forgive an abusive parent who was doing ongoing harm to me. I think perhaps the first step in forgiving parents like this is to understand that they couldn't really do any better than they did.
I find that SOME folks are quick to tell others to "forgive and forget" when the self knowledge that comes from understanding grants us the power to change our point of view, helps us move past bitterness in a deeper way than a facile "I forgive you" does. Your forgiveness is clearly NOT facile or unthoughtful.
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 agree that forgiveness is not a quick, easy thing to do. For some situations, it is an ongoing process. And I don’t believe that forgiveness means we continue to put ourselves in harms way.
I had to distance and detach myself from the people involved as much as possible. Then I had to become willing to forgive. This is an important spiritual concept. I knew my Christian beliefs required me to forgive, and I knew it was important for my spiritual, mental, and physical health, but it was beyond my human capabilities to do so. I needed divine help. I remember first asking God for the willingness to be willing to forgive (that’s how bad it was!). Somehow I understand that my will was something separate from my thoughts and feelings and could be alligned to God’s will. A practical step that I took to bring me freedom was to pray for the people who had hurt me. The things I wanted for myself, I prayed for them. Believe me, this was no one-time deal. I spent years working toward forgiveness, but I was willing because I was tired of living in bondage. I wanted to be free.
As to how to forgive someone who has died, the same willingness could be asked for. I don’t believe in prayers for the dead, but I believe the action would still work at this point because it would benefit you. You cannot pray for someone (even dead) and remain angry with them for long. As you re-experience a memory that caused you pain and anger, pray for them. At first, I wasn’t even sure what to pray for. What would I want for myself that I could pray that the other person would receive? I had to really get in touch with myself on that one as I didn’t even know what I wanted! Mostly I prayed for peace, and comfort, and assurance of God’s love. I also prayed, and still do, for the ability to love, because unlike the original poster, I didn’t love many people. You asked for some new answer to be able to forgive. Become willing and let God create the forgiveness within you.
Maybe this is a radical take, but....who are you really "giving" your forgiveness to? Your mom is not here. She can't accept your forgiveness. The only place your forgiveness will live is in your mind. And 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 forgave them, so therefore they were forgivable things, according to your values and standards. And if they are forgivable things according to your values and standards, then they are acceptable things according to your values and standards.
So I would say again, why are you doing that? Why would you go against your own values and standards to basically own what she did to you....to put the responsibility of absolving her for her sins on your shoulders? And for what? Do you think it will give you peace? I hate to be the one to tell you, but peace is a thing that only comes with time and distance....which is why you can't rush forgiveness, if it's ever going to come.
If I were a religious person - which I'm not, but I was once - I would probably say "forgiveness" is god's domain, not the province of mere mortals. And who are any of us to usurp the role of god as supreme judge of all things.
What you are is "stuck." And getting yourself unstuck obviously isn't happening by way of forgiving. So you can keep beating your head against this wall, or you can start looking around for other ways to unstick yourself, so you can move forward through your grief and the rest of your life. And maybe down the road you will be able to forgive, if that's what you want to do. But you can't push it or it will only be false forgiveness anyway.
I think you can find the humanity in someone, which I think is what you're talking about when you talk about compassion? Without having to forgive them, which is a form of absolution.
I'm not sure people who are abused are always capable of giving absolution to their abusers, to be honest. Because they have already been so broken down by the abuser to accept the treatment they've been given, then in some cases, forgiveness is just an extension of being broken down by the abuser.
On the subject of forgiveness what I think I remember was that we are to forgive 70x7. That because it’s very difficult to forgive. We have to do it over and over. Which ties in nicely with many times we bury the hatchet BUT we leave the handle up so we can grab it easily.
A good lesson I heard once in a Unity Church asked the question. Are we bitter or better. It basically taught that we are choosing to be one or the other. You can’t be both. Set your intention to be better.
But my favorite is the Cherokee grandfather talking with his grandson.
The grandfather told grandson that he was troubled. “Why” asked the grandson.
The grandfather told him “ I have two wolves in my heart that are fighting. One wants revenge and the other asks for forgiveness “
“Which one will win, Grandfather” asked the grandson.
“The one I feed” said the grandfather. “The wolf I feed.”
You said you have gotten counselling, I too had a problem with forgiveness for a long time. I began reading my bible and learned the following:
If I do not forgive, I will not be forgiven by God.
If Christ died so that I can be forgiven, who do I think I am
to withhold forgivess
Vengeance is God's not ours
To truly love, keeps no record of wrong
Forgiveness is difficult, but with God's help it is do able, and when it is done, it frees you from that burden.
Best wishes to you in this ordeal and may God help you see how you can forgive.
((((Hugs))) I understand. The cumulative damage of being "raised" by a narcissistic parent is horrific. At least you had the sense to establish boundaries with your mom, which is more than I can say for myself. Good for you!
In my opinion, forgiveness can't be forced. It sort of "evolves." Learning to establish boundaries, I began to fully understand how sick Mom is. I see her now as an object of pity. What a miserable excuse for a human being! I wouldn't be my mother for the world!
Of course you're angry! She damaged and destroyed precious relationships. Her controlling nature and constant criticism eroded your self esteem. She robbed you of your childhood. It was always about her needs, her wishes, her desires, but never yours.
Look at it this way: she's gone. Don't allow her memory to hurt you! Anger is like poison. It not only hurts you but those who love you. Normally I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but this year I did; promising myself I'd no longer allow Mom to steal my happiness or peace of mind, not one more day or minute! She's taken enough already; she'll get no more! Just because Mom is miserable doesn't mean I have to be. From now on I turn my thoughts and actions toward things that give me joy and surround myself with people who are kind, constructive, and uplifting.
The net effect has been forgiveness. I'm not saying I never feel anger. Once in awhile I do, but it's nothing like the rage I used to feel. It's like healing from an injury. The pain I used to drag around like a ball and chain is gone.
You've already taken the first step by deciding you want to be free of the anger. It doesn't happen overnight; it's a process. But you're worth it!
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.
Dori - you are equating forgiveness with absolution. They are not the same thing.
Taken from a Catholic site-wwtn.com/v/experts/showmessage
To forgive is to forget, to ignore any offense given, to consider a sore matter closed -it is between one person and another. Absolution is far greater. It is a divine process in which the eternal guilt of our serious sins is forever wiped away by no less than God Himself
Forgiveness does not imply condoning or absolution. I am not in a position to absolve anyone of anything. Forgiveness is for me, to let go of the anger, revenge, resentment, bitterness. As someone put it, "to let go of my right to hurt you for hurting me." That benefits me. It releases negative emotions. That does not in any way change the responsibility of the abuser for what they did - spiritually, morally or legally. Forgiveness does not take that away. Nor does it mean I should forget and go back for more.
In my case, I still see my mother as "guilty" of the abuse, and I don't condone abuse. I still take steps to protect myself, but, partly because I have taken protective steps and distanced myself, I can now have some compassion for her as a very troubled person who had great challenges living with her mental illness, and who also, on rare occasions allowed love to show. I am not owning her abuse, nor finding it acceptable in any way, but I am releasing the negative emotions that the abuse triggered in me. as that is better for me. And, as other have said, it is a process.
Time for another coffee. 😊 ☕
My deepest sympathies and condolences. I am sorry for your loss. I know none of us have perfect relationships with our parents. And dealing with a parent who's personality is the complete opposite of our own is very hard.
It is only natural to feel resentment and anger after everything you have done. People say forgiveness is not for the other person but for you. About releasing the expectation that things could be different.
I think deep down we all want our parents to say "I love you. I am proud of you. Thank you for helping me." And sometimes we just don't get that. It is really hard to come to terms with.
Take your time and keep talking it out. Asking these questions is part of your grief journey.
Thinking of you.
The OP says that from her sixteenth to her eighteenth birthday, her mother "held it over her head" that the OP would be moving out on her eighteenth birthday. So she complains both that her mother maintained this constant threat during formative years, and that her mother gave her two weeks in which to make a "frantic effort" to find somewhere else to live. Well, constant background threat or short notice, neither terribly maternal I agree. But she can't have it both ways.
We then have thirty years of constant demands for attention and stubborn refusal to consider structured professional support. Thirty years and still no boundaries, no strategies?
We then have one therapist after another, none helpful, and finally an appeal to us for a solution that nobody has yet thought of. Since when, the OP has not come back. Seems we didn't help either.
She never could make her mother different from what she really was, and she never will be able to change what has happened. The only possible solution must lie in herself, and how she responds to her world. Would it be surprising if what she's looking for is certainty and security, from someone or something who is *supposed* to provide it? But her reality is that she has to stop wishing people had been as they ought to have been, and create her own certainties instead. I suspect she's always been looking in the wrong places.
A friend of mine of the Satsang faith told me that by continuing to care for her during all these years of abuse is wiping out bad karma that I may have had from a past life. (interesting) He told me to look upon her patiently and see the improvement in me! Does this help when she's belittling me? Not right then, but later, away from her venom, I can see that I am learning patience.
Another friend told me that when I go to bed say the Lord's prayer and focus on the "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" passage. After that, to put your own life in perspective, list to yourself those persons and things for which you are grateful. You mother may or may not be among them...and that is OK. For me, this has helped me most. I sleep better after a prayer and this self-reminder of the good things in my life.
Forgive yourself first....
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.
There are some people that IMO don't deserve forgiveness and IMO a person that mentally abuses their child does not deserve forgivess.
Our society loves to invalidate a person's feelings by pushing forgiveness.
Focus on yourself and be good to you, you did more for your mom than she deserved, this shows you have a good heart.