What do the countries of Fiji, Bonaire, Germany and the United States along with more than eighty other countries have in common during the month of May? During this month, all usual activities will be suspended for a day as people everywhere honor Mom – it’s Mother’s Day. Restaurants are already booked, greeting cards and
“I Love You” balloons have been out for weeks, and elementary schoolteachers are busy helping their students create heartfelt gifts for their mothers.
Celebrations and festivals surrounding motherhood have existed since ancient times. However, it was Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, who first suggested an official day celebrating peace and motherhood as a reaction to witnessing the violence and grief of the Civil War. However, it was not until May 12, 1907 when Anna Jarvis, of West Virginia, decided to honor her deceased mother that the idea took root. By 1914, the holiday had officially been recognized and this year, on Sunday, May 12, 2013, most Americans will once again celebrate Mother’s Day.
But, what if you don’t have a mother? Or your mother is/was abusive, neglectful, uninvolved or incarcerated? For those of us in that situation, Mother’s Day can be a harsh reminder of what is missing in our lives. As the rest of the country celebrates with brunches, jewellery, and cards, those less fortunate, but no less deserving of a mother’s love and care, notice the void even more intensely.
Mothers are remembered in a variety of loving or benign ways: her cooking, her favorite flowers, her quirky habits or strange clothes. These recollections, whether embarrassing or a source of pride, pale in comparison to the memories of a mother who abused you, humiliated you, or abandoned you, either emotionally or physically. Perhaps she just “checked-out” of motherhood, leaving you to fend for yourself with no love and guidance when you most needed it, while other moms have had problems of their own and are now incarcerated. Unfortunately, for children in these situations help is only provided through the thoughtfulness and generosity of others, whether family or outsiders. Children do not have the adult means and emotions to heal themselves during those years. However, as they grow up, it is important for them to learn that healing is possible when given time, patience, and support. If there is a child in your life in this situation, please reach out to him or her and offer your love, help, and guidance.
So, how does one go about the healing process as an adult? First, recognize that a problem exists. It is important to accept the fact that your mother’s behavior was, or is not, about you. In many cases, abusive mothering persists well into a child’s adulthood, causing deep scars to remain long after their moms have passed away, with no resolution. Also critical to begin the healing process is the recognition that your mother’s abuse could have been a reaction to her own unmet emotional needs, or that she may simply be a manipulative or cruel person.
Next, it is vital to communicate this issue to those closest to you, either sympathetic family members, friends, or those in the community (pastors, counselors, or a teacher). Depending on the level of abandonment or abuse, talking things out with other people gives us a way to empty our minds of negative feelings. As with many other weighty issues, it is also very important in the healing process to seek professional help. Psychologists and family counselors are specially trained to not only listen, but also help one break through the barrier of pain to begin healing. Additionally, the most vital, yet most difficult part of this is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean a wholesale acceptance of the abuser’s behavior, nor does it mean total reconciliation. It is quite possible this will never happen. However, it does mean letting go of negative feelings, letting them escape the confines of the mind so they can no longer eat away at self-esteem and perpetuate the cycle of hate. In what may seem like a contradiction of everything else so far, you must remember that healing is a process, often a long one, and it takes strength, dedication, and perseverance to reach the other side. Whether you are healing yourself or helping someone else do so, it is important to realize the virtue of patience.
Finally, in what can be the most frustrating lesson of all, you can only heal yourself. Just as you reached your destination of healing through your own initiative and determination, others must do the same for themselves. To all mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day!SHARE THIS