May 4, 2020 at 10:41 am #353032
My mother passed away in November 2019 from medical reasons at the age of 56. Being of Indian descent but grown up outside of India, I have always had trouble being on good terms with parents. I don’t know if it was simply a generational gap or also cultural differences between us and although I hate to admit it, but I do think my parents favoured me lesser, being a daughter, over my younger brother.
She passed away in a hospital with me beside her. We were not expecting her to die on the day she did so it came as a shock to us. I have been trying to distract myself at work but its hard because I work in a hospital where small things remind me of her.
Having been in a complicated relationship with mother, mainly suffering emotional abuse (she was fighting her battles being married to a far more conservative family than her) and at times, physical abuse. We always had a hot and cold relationship. But we didn’t get a chance to reconcile and I am now left with profound guilt as well feelings of anger that she just left without making things right with me.
I am unable to sleep and find myself eating excessively to somehow fill an unfillable void.
I don’t speak to dad as I blame him for the deep-rooted patriachy he’s always had towards me.
How do I forgive her and myself and start living again?
NBMay 4, 2020 at 1:40 pm #353114
I am sorry that you are suffering and hope you feel better soon.
Do I understand correctly: your mother emotionally and physically abused you but it is you who are feeling “profound guilt” for.. ?
I ask, but I too was abused by my mother and yet I felt terribly guilty. I believed that I caused her to get upset and abuse me.
If you would like to, please tell me more about the ways she abused you, and about your guilt and about your anger. If you do, I will read and reply further.
anitaMay 4, 2020 at 10:54 pm #353248
Thank you for your words.
Looking back at when I was growing up, I cannot remmeber times that I did not upset my mother and the consequent silent treatment or hitting that came from her. As I child, I never knew what upset my mother, what triggered her to dislike me. I usually tried to band-aid it up with a quick apology in the form of doing chores, crying for her apology or making sorry-cards for her. When I reflect on this, it was coming from a place where I yearned for validation from her.
As I grew up, I feel like I upset her intentionally with words to get attention. And then the cycle of silent treatment and my apology started yet again. Neither of us acknowledged this as a repetitive behaviour or enquired why either of us were doing this. I always just felt I was never good enough (compared to my brother) and that pushed me to always try and excel at school and whatever else. Then I would get burnt out and take it out on her and it all starts again…
I don’t think my mother ever liked me as a person. My mother is from a more conservative upbringing where there is a distinction between males and females but I have grown up to be assertive and opinionated..and this understandably didn’t sit well with her core values.
To answer your question, I feel guilty because now I am left with never having been a good daughter although I am aware that her validation would not heal any wounds anyway. I feel guilty because I didn’t know any better to break this cycle of abuse. I feel guilty that I was not empathetic enough towards her to see what was prompting her behaviour. This guilt is not allowing me to process my grief towards her. I also feel guilty that I have anger towards her for destroying my childhood by denying me the validation that children need to grow and consequently I have trust issues and never think I am enough.
This is made worse by what people see on the outside. I am a successful medical professional, satisfied by my purpose in life, married to a great husband and seem to enjoy my life. But at the end of the day, I cry tirelessly because I don’t know if I ever figured her out. If I actually just made mothering me very difficult that all she could do was dislike me.
I know how much worse others have it. And that also adds to my guilt..as if I am too priviledged to feel so strongly about something that is in the past and cannot technically hurt me anymore. I am not someone who is subjected to abuse every day like my others do.
I was handling this duality in my life fine until she passed away and these unexpected feelings of guilt and anger have come up.
Sorry if that seemed like a rant anita.
How does your mother’s behaviour towards you make you feel guilty? I am hoping to feel like I am not the only one and that it is ok to give it the value it deserves.
NBMay 5, 2020 at 11:19 am #353354
You are welcome.
“As a child, I never knew what upset my mother, what triggered her to dislike me”- you didn’t do anything that upset your mother and cause her to dislike you. I know this because a child desperately needs her mother’s approval and love, so if there was something that you did to cause her to dislike you, you would have stopped doing it very quickly.
You know how people around you like or dislike other people that they don’t even know, just by the way they look, or by their voice? I imagine that’s why she didn’t like you, something you couldn’t change, being a female is one of the things she didn’t like and which you couldn’t change.
“I cannot remember times that I did not upset my mother and the consequent silent treatment or hitting”- the cause was not you upsetting her, the cause of her upset was her own thoughts.
“As I grew up, I feel like I upset her intentionally with words to get attention”- I don’t think so. A child never intends to incur her parents’ anger. What happens is that the child/ teenager gets angry at the parent (the natural result of being abused by the parent), and then feeling like a bad daughter for feeling that anger.
* Did your mother accuse you of trying to hurt her intentionally with words?
“I always just felt I was never good enough.. and that pushed me to always try and excel at school”- if you were motivated to “upset her intentionally” you would not have excelled in school. You worked hard at school so to make her feel good, to make her love you.
“I feel guilty because now I am left with never having been a good daughter”- you were not a bad daughter; she was a bad mother.
“I feel guilty because I didn’t know any better to break this cycle of abuse”- she was the adult, you were the child; she was the perpetrator, you were her victim. Your relationship with her was never between two equals, even when you became an adult. So that “cycle of abuse” was hers alone, you had no part in it.
*** Your anger at her did not equal you abusing her, it was a natural consequence of her abusing you.
“I feel guilty that I was not empathetic enough towards her to see what was prompting her behavior”- children are always most empathetic to their mothers. Mothers are too often not empathetic toward their children. If your mother was empathetic to you, she would have noticed how miserable you were as a child, and she would have changed her behavior (no more silent treatments and no more hitting to start with), so to make you feel better!
“.. to see what was prompting her behavior”- you saw what was prompting her behavior, you wrote it yourself: “I don’t think my mother ever liked me”. Children see/ perceive accurately, and hitting and silent treatments by themselves are clear indications of not liking a person.
“I also feel guilty that I have anger towards her for destroying my childhood”- people get angry at others on the road for inconsiderate driving, for a moment in time. It is quite understandable to feel anger for having a childhood destroyed!
“that also adds to my guilt.. as if I am too privileged to feel so strongly about something that is in the past and cannot technically hurt me anymore”- well, you were not privileged enough to have a mother who loved you- oh what a privilege that would have been!
And technically it still hurts because technically your brain is the same brain you had as a child (as you know, we shed our skin not our brain), and the hurt is still there, re-activated from time to time.
“How does your mother’s behavior towards you make you feel guilty?”- made me feel guilty, not anymore. The behaviors that made me feel guilty: expressing her misery in dramatic ways, telling me I made her miserable, that other mothers had good daughter and how unlucky she was for having .. me, telling me that I intentionally said things to hurt her, that I wanted to hurt her.
Post again anytime, NB.
May 5, 2020 at 6:29 pm #353466
- This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by anita.
Thank you for so much insight into what I wrote. I appreciate your time.
What you said about how your mother’s behaviour made you feel guilty is exactly what I was facing. My mother used to often remark that I was a “problem child” compared to my brother. In hindsight, I feel that I was more expressive than my more introverted brother.
How you described expressing her misery in dramatic ways is what I would call my mother too. I don’t know at what point I started to see becoming angry, yelling and creating drama was normal. Admittedly, I have carried onto become all those things myself. Its funny that I almost became her the past few years.
Now that she’s gone after battling a lengthy illness, I am having trouble dealing with grief. Sometimes I feel overtly sad missing the few glimpses of maternal love I experienced from her and at other times, when I am angry remembering her, I feel guilty for not grieving for her properly. What was the point in being angry with her now?
Over the last year when she became very ill, I began to see a softer side of her. Yet, I couldn’t find myself letting her in and always having my guard up. She used to say that I don’t like her anymore and I wasn’t sure if I did. I was torn between loving her as a mother unconditionally (she did work to provide me with financial security) and liking her as a person after the regular drama she put me through.
It is interesting how you bring up the comparison your mother made with other daughters, that was a regular feature in my relationship with my mother too. I always felt I was doing something wrong, never good enough and that she was “stuck” with me unfortunately.
The culture I come from also has an enormous pressure of being a good, valuable component of a family. My role in my family got reduced to being dramatic and emotional. I think it may have been due to a childhood of not being heard or validated.
Grief can be so complicated.
NBMay 5, 2020 at 7:02 pm #353470
We have a similar experience. I struggled for years with love for her and anger and guilt and that intense distress often in her presence and shame and cringing at her touch…it was a nightmare, really, for me. And all along I was focused on her, feeling empathy for her and none for me, feeling and believing I was worthless and undeserving. My mother is still alive but I ended all contact with her seven years ago.
This is the biggest piece of clarity that made it possible for me to exit that nightmare (a nightmare that wasn’t over when I ended contact with her): I finally understood that I loved her from the beginning and all along, but she didn’t love me back.
Those “glimpses of maternal love” on the part of my mother were moment of genuine affection, but in many abusive situations, within families, in prisons, in past concentration camps, people who were terribly cruel to other people, were also, from time to time, affectionate with those same other people.
When I thoroughly understood that I did love her intensely all along (no matter how angry I was at her for so long), and that she didn’t love me back not because I wasn’t lovable, (or because I didn’t love her), I was finally able to exit that decades long nightmare.
May 10, 2020 at 3:46 am #354262
- This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by anita.
“And all along I was focused on her, feeling empathy for her and none for me, feeling and believing I was worthless and undeserving.” – I thought about what you said over the weekend.. its uncanny how your words echo what I went through and feeling now.
I used to hate making her angry. After a big fight, when we used to go into our respective rooms, I used to come back and knock on her door to see if there was any chance of a reconciliation before we slept. I did this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the feeling of sadness that I hurt her. I cannot remember even once when she responded positively to that, sometimes, not even opening the door.
It was such an awful cycle of sadness and guilt. With her gone, I don’t miss that but as you said, I focused so much on her, trying to empathise with her, that I now feel empty, with no where to focus except my mind telling me that I probably wasn’t upto her standards.May 10, 2020 at 6:54 am #354274
“my mind telling me that I probably wasn’t up to her standards”-
– it wasn’t about standards, as in you not being smart enough, or a good student, etc. I think that she was angry at her adult family members: adults in her original family and in her husband’s family (“she was fighting her battles being married to a far more conservative family than her”). She held a lot of that anger inside her. She felt that she couldn’t express her anger and frustration at them for fear of some sort of retaliation, so she did what many abusive mothers do: express and inflict her anger and misery (“expressing her misery in dramatic ways”) at her child. A child does not retaliate and adults witnessing such abuse don’t interfere (They feel that a mother owns her children to do with what she pleases, and they may feel relieved that .. they are not the recipients of her anger).
“I used to hate making her angry”- it felt to you like you were making her angry, but it wasn’t true: she picked on something you said or did, or something you didn’t say, or didn’t do as an excuse to express and inflict her anger and frustration at you, and in so doing to relieve herself of her distress and feel better as a result.
What came first, what came second: First she was angry and frustrated at other people; Second she chose you to use you as a recipient of her anger and frustration, to punish you so to relieve herself from her distress and feel better for it.
“After a big fight, when we used to go into our respective rooms, I used to come back and knock on her door to see if there was any chance of a reconciliation before we slept.. I cannot remember even once when she responded positively.. sometimes, not even opening the door”-
– I imagine that after each one of you went to your respective rooms, she never knocked on your door to see if there was any chance of reconciliation.
What came first and what came second: First she picked on you so to express and inflict her anger on you. Second, you felt angry for being picked on unfairly, wanting to protect yourself from false accusations, arguing back. When an innocent person gets victimized, the victim automatically feels anger. Even though you were confused, thinking that you caused her anger, part of you knew very well that her anger at you was unfair, that you were indeed victimized, so automatically, you felt angry back at her.
In your original post you wrote: “we didn’t get a chance to reconcile and I am now left with profound guilt as well feelings of anger that she just left without making things right with me”-
– at 56, the time of her death, she had behind her 2 or 3 decades of getting angry at you so to relieve herself from anger and frustration- she used you (aka abused you) for that purpose, and she did that repeatedly, year after year. After fights, when you knocked on her door “to see if there was any chance of a reconciliation“, she wasn’t interested because she was still angry and she wanted you punished, she wanted you to suffer.
It is difficult to think of one’s own mother wanting her child to suffer, but this is what my mother wanted for me every time she was angry at me, and that’s what your mother wanted for you, every time she was angry at you. And she didn’t bother, at the end of her life, to tell you that this is what she did. It was easier for her to not bother.
In summary: you served a purpose in your mother’s life: you provided her with emotional relief repeatedly. You didn’t volunteer to do that, she helped herself to you in this regard. She fed you, clothed you.. and used you. You owed her nothing and you owe her nothing: she already took from you all that she chose to take, which was her way to feel better again and again, and yet again.
June 17, 2020 at 9:38 am #358794MacheleParticipant
- This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by anita.
I have a client who is going through something similar and one of the things that has really helped her is 1) let it be okay that you’re going through a tough time. Sometimes the resistance to what is going on creates worse experiences than the original problem 2) Write letters to your mother through journaling, say the things you wished you could have said and would like to say now, do this regularly as a way to connect with her soul and spirit. 2) Write letters to your past self from before your mother passed, and connect with that version of you, console her and help her heal as well.
Best of luck to you.