Mother’s Day is the most celebrated Hallmark holiday. But for those of us with difficult moms, we feel the added stress of a mother wound.
I was often afraid of my mom. I frequently cried because of the painful words she’d sling at me. At night, I’d pull up my blankets and stay very quiet until she’d stop yelling at me. When she’d finally gone to sleep, I’d read until all the words that cut into me would fade and I’d fall asleep, pouring my heart to Jesus, asking Him to change things between us.
As I grew up and became a mom, I struggled to acknowledge how my difficult relationship with my mom wouldn’t change. I could never meet her expectations well enough, though I tried my best and prayed about it my whole life.
It’s an unspoken taboo to talk about having a difficult mom in Christian circles. We don’t want to be misjudged as unloving or unforgiving daughters. We’re afraid people won’t understand that even if we know Jesus loves us, we can despair and feel unloved.
But God knows our hurts and understands the complexities of human relationships. It’s important to know we’re not alone. There is hope for those of us with moms who struggle with their own brokenness. As children adopted into a new spiritual family, we can receive the guidance we long for from our loving Heavenly Father.
So, here are seven ways to heal from a toxic mom:
1. You don’t have to be ashamed.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)
We carry a tremendous amount of shame and guilt and think, “If only we did x, y, or z, our mothers would stop being angry, sad, or troubled.” But God created us and loves us, and we belong to Him. We are unconditionally His.
Our mothers also belong to God, and we are not responsible to fix our mother’s faults and brokenness. God is responsible for our mothers, not us.
2. You need to grieve your losses.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
Psalm 27:10 (NIV)
We need to accept the reality of our difficult moms and grieve the loss of our ideal mom, so we can grow into daughters of a loving Father. With God’s comfort and friends, we can let go of the mom we wish we had to gain wisdom and courage to relate to the mom we actually have.
3. Experience freedom with the truth.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 (NIV)
Trust God with the truth, even if it hurts. Surrender the burdens you were never meant to carry. You’re a beautiful daughter worthy to be loved, so begin to make different choices that are healthy for yourself, your spouse, your children, and break hurtful, old patterns. We can also stop becoming enablers for our moms, so they can face the truth with God, too.
4. Redefine motherhood, and receive mothering from your spiritual family.
Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers? . . .
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:33, 35 (NIV)
Jesus redefined family as God’s spiritual family. We have earthly families, but ultimately, we’re adopted by God into a new family of believers, fueled by love and grace, instead of a dysfunctional family, fueled by rules and expectations.
Seek out friendships and invest in new relationships with women of faith who are kind, good listeners and who encourage you to be who God created you to be.
5. Your forgiveness does not automatically mean reconciliation.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 (NIV)
Forgiving someone’s debt means no longer expecting it to be paid. Instead of waiting for the offending person to love us back or stop hurting us, we look to Jesus to restore what was lost to us.
But forgiveness does not mean trust is freely granted or automatically restored. Forgiveness doesn’t mean removing boundaries if the other person’s unhealthy actions cause you emotional or physical harm.
Forgiveness takes just one person, but reconciliation takes two. Reconciliation happens when both make amends to repair the trust that was broken, but sometimes it may not be possible — for a season or longer.
We can keep forgiving our mothers, even if reconciliation isn’t possible until changes are made. We can put our trust in God’s timetable instead of our own.
6. Establish boundaries.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 (NIV)
A relationship is two-way. As powerful as God is, He won’t force anyone into a loving relationship. God doesn’t want us to live another person’s life or allow others to control us.
Honoring our parents does not mean open borders to toxicity, fear, or intimidation to manipulate us into being fashioned in someone else’s image. Establish boundaries that are healthy for you.
7. Have hope, open up, and share.
There is a time for everything and a season . . . a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3 (NIV)
As I took these steps of faith with my own difficult mother, I began to open up and share. Writing my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace about that journey was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but through it, I began to heal. I prioritized soul care, taking better care of myself to hear God’s whispers of rest instead of the lies I grew up believing about myself.
Even if these don’t all apply to you, offer grace and understanding to support others walking through different seasons with their moms. For all of us, there is hope because God loves us and we are His beloved children.
How is God loving you through Mother’s Day?
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Trust God with the truth, even if it hurts. Surrender the burdens you were never meant to carry. -@thebonniegray: Click To Tweet