This can be a happy holiday. This can be an emotionally laden holiday.
When introducing this topic to the groups I facilitate at the Haven this past Friday, (a community-based women’s addiction and trauma residential and intensive outpatient treatment center) bodies began to shake, tears welled up in many eyes, and in others they flowed freely. Some of these tears were of pain and some of gratitude and joy. Grieving the mother they had or the mother they didn’t have, grieving the mother they wished they would have been. Grateful for the love and support they received and/or are continuing to receive.
I asked the women to take on the daughter role and identify a positive quality they have ever, at least once, exhibited in that role. (and that they may be exhibiting now that they are clean and sober)
“I am a loving daughter. I am a caring daughter. I am a dependable daughter. I am a fun daughter.” were just a few of the examples.
Then I asked the women to identify a positive quality of a significant woman who raised them, (could be biological mother, adoptive mother, grandmother, etc.) and a quality the wished this woman would have possessed.
“My mother is supportive and I wish she had the quality of listening without judging. My adoptive mother carried respect and taught me that. I wish she would have had the quality of unconditional love. My grandmother, who raised me, had never-ending faith. I wish she would have spoken about feelings and give me permission to do so as well.”
The women asked me to do something fun in the group because the topic of mothers and daughters was just too intense and overwhelming for them. The needed to laugh. Balancing the dark with light helped them process what they needed to.
For me, “I appreciate my mother for her quality of commitment to her children. I wish she would have had the quality of being more consistent in her nurturing.”
I have been told that the mother-child relationship is the strongest and most important relationship we will ever experience. Being a daughter and a mother, I can see why. I do not need to be an expert in attachment theory or interpersonal neurobiology. Literally being inside someone else’s body for nine months, symbiotic to develop and survive, has to be embedded in our genes, as well as our psyches. How that caregiver treats us and bonds with us, or not, significantly determines the nature of our relationships to come.
I am grateful to my mother for all she has taught me; the do’s and the don’ts. I have come to the place where I accept her as another woman on the planet, doing the absolute best she can with what she has. I can love her and have healthy boundaries with her. After all, isn’t that part of loving?
As a mother to my almost 24 year-old son, (is that really possible?) I am sure he can tell you a positive quality of mine as well as a quality he wish I had in this role.
That is why, one of my favorite sayings lately is, “If it isn’t one thing, it’s your mother!”
There is the full spectrum of adjectives for the mother role. Because this newsletter is focused on trauma and the healing of it, I did some research on mothers who sexual abuse/incest their children. You are probably not surprised that there is a cultural denial that this exists. Their is not a plethora of research about it either.