Wait. Is that even possible? Healing when you have an unloving mother? Yes. Totally. You just need the right people around you.
No doubt about it – abuse or physical or emotional neglect at the hands of the woman who birthed you (or at the hands of the woman you identified as your mother) is like a knife through the heart.
It hurts in a different way that no other abuse or neglect ever could.
Human biology and societal values tell us that mothers should want to protect, nurture, support and care for us… at all costs. But what if they don’t?
Sadly, it’s not uncommon.
Many of my clients come for support with this very issue. After years of internal struggle which often include depression, anxiety, self-hate, self-harm, failed relationships and more… these women hit rock bottom. They are often nervous, full of self-doubt, angry at the world and feeling ‘ripped off.’ And rightly so.
Toxic families and all their dysfunction are still very much challenging issues to talk about, in society but particularly with a therapist because apparently ‘all families are perfect’ aren’t they? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Without doing a manual count I estimate that almost 70-80% of my client cases are connected with toxic, emotionally unavailable or unloving mothers, in some way shape or form. And this represents just my little therapeutic corner of the globe.
Toxic families, and in particular, toxic mothers, are everywhere.
So what if it’s you. What if you’ve got a toxic mother and your heart continues to break over and over? This article will give you some basic things to consider as you heal.
Before I go on I think it’s important here that I state clearly that no mother is perfect and no child is perfect. But there is a fine line between an imperfect mother and an abusive, neglectful, destructive mother.
Ok… things to think about;
Feel the feels
The most important step on any healing journey is to acknowledge and sit with your pain. Deny your feelings and you’re on the 9:01 express train to nowhere. Kind of like a dam wall… if the water isn’t consistently and safely released the damn wall breaks and a flood ensues. Feelings are messengers sent to us in order to make us attend to our own needs. Denying them only makes them come back stronger and more destructive.
Know and believe that it was always about them, not you
This one will speak to you in different ways depending on your unique set of circumstances. Was your mother selfish? Controlling? Just plain nasty? Remember these behaviours are a reflection of her and who she is rather than a reflection of anything being wrong with you. You can bet your last dollar that these toxic, unloving behaviours would have been on display regardless of the child she had. Whatever the story, try not to internalise it and look for fault in yourself.
‘Mother’ versus ‘mothering’
When it comes to being a ‘mother’ (job title) versus ‘mothering’ (verb or doing word)… there is a monumental difference. Any woman can become a mother and take on that job title. Does that mean she will successfully fulfil the role? No. ‘Mothering’ is skills based and sometimes people just don’t have the skills, or the interest, to do it well. Mothering takes work. Dedication. Commitment. Selflessness and a stack of self-awareness and reflection.
Maybe your mother never wanted to become a mother? Maybe your mother found it all too hard? Maybe your mother had no good role models to look up to? And maybe, there’s a whole lot more to it. Each case is different but know that it was never about there being anything ‘wrong’ with you.
Remember they can’t give what they don’t have
This one can be a hard pill to swallow but honestly, it can also be a huge eye opener. Maybe you needed love, but your mother didn’t love herself first so had nothing to give you. Maybe you needed a listening ear but your mother had poor communication skills and no empathy. Maybe your mother just wasn’t caring and gentle like you. We all have our own unique perspective on what a mother ‘should’ look like or ‘should’ do but ultimately, if they don’t have it they can’t provide it.
Look for healthy role models
I know, it’s hard, but if you feel an empty void in your heart it can be a good idea to surround yourself with positive, uplifting, kind and empathetic women who can step in and give you the next best thing to a mother’s love. There are plenty of women who would love to be your support person. Your cheerleader and your go-to on the rough days. Heal your heart by seeking comfort in other women who step up and remind you that healthy people do exist.
Leave her suitcase of ‘stuff’ behind and walk on
Whatever negativity and unwanted stuff she threw in the ‘suitcase’ that is your life… DUMP IT. It’s not yours to carry. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t deserve it. You don’t need it and you DON’T have to suffer forever because of it. Believe that you deserve love. Take action like you deserve love and give yourself love, always.
Remember it’s ok to stay, or go
No matter what the outsiders say remain committed to your rights on this journey. You have the right to hold onto the toxic relationship, because she’s your mum. You also have the right to cut ties and ‘save’ yourself, if you feel that is necessary to heal and live the life you are entitled to have. Of course letting go can be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make, and it can be made even harder by ill-informed members of society who feel you ‘owe’ your mother something or that you should stick around and cop more abuse simply because of your connection as mother and child. You are not responsible for your mother, remember that.
So there you have it.. Healing From An Unloving Mother: Where To Start?
I hope this article warms your heart, even if just a little. Talking through your strong emotions with a qualified therapist can make all the difference to the quality of your life so why not be brave and reach out? It may be the first day of the rest of your life. My services are available to women Australia wide.
In the meantime you may also like to check out these articles;
Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!