Punitive Damages of Denying My Mother Wounds

Denial is a river that ravaged my soul.  Denial punished me by keeping me from owning the truth and experiencing the freedom that truth brings.  The truth I needed to own was that I needed my mother, but she chose to abandon and abuse me instead of loving me.

For a long time, I drank deeply from those waters of denial in an attempt to numb the pain and to avoid the consequences of what others had done to me.  But that river turned increasingly bitterer the longer I lingered in it.  Denial only served me for a season, then the reason for staying dissipated.  Yet I remained in that bitter place.  Until one day, I had an epiphany of how this denial was keeping me from the very freedom that I craved and ached for.  Denial was a brutally punishing taskmaster. 

The root of the word punitive is found in the word punish.  Thus, punitive damages are damages awarded by a court to punish the defendant.  Denial carries with it damages that are punishing because anyone in denial is punishing themselves by not acknowledging the truth and not allowing themselves to receive the freedom that truth brings with it.

In my defense, I had no idea that my denial was punishing me.  Initially, denial was a coping skill that protected me from greater harm while my mother was abusing me.  But once I got free from her, I needed to let go of denial so I could heal.  I didn’t realize that until recently.  So, I kept denying the truth because I thought my denial was punishing her, not me.  Before I left her, she told me that she could care less and was unaffected by anything I did or said.  For many years, I didn’t want to accept what she said, so I continued to deny the truth that she hurt me, that I needed her and that I love her because she’s my mother even though she hurt me.

But a recent attack on my dignity brought to light the punitive damages of my denial.  I painfully began to let go of the choke-hold I had on denial.  I let myself experience the pain and grief of having a mother who is abusive.  That was no easy or simple thing to do.  Partly because early in my life, she reversed our roles so that I was her mother and she was my daughter.  My earliest memories are of her using me as her therapist by pouring out her emotional pain and devastation on me.  The belief that I am the mother and she is the daughter is deeply rooted in my psyche.  That wrong thinking needed to be removed, but it needed to be done gently so as not to cause more devastation.

The truth is that I needed my mother, that I am the daughter and that she is the mother.  Denying these truths kept me in a prison that I had no business being in.  It suffocated my need for attention and affection which prevented me from receiving the very things my soul so desperately needed.  It deceived me into believing that I was responsible for her abusive conduct and for not knowing how to protect myself from her.  My denial protected her from being held accountable for what she did.  It kept me from acknowledging the harm that she did to me which in turn kept me from being able to fully forgive her. 

If I couldn’t admit that she had harmed me, then what was there to forgive?

But she did harm me.  The effects of her abuse devastated my soul and fractured my mind.  I’m going through the process of acknowledging the specific effects of her harm because it helps me to process, release and forgive.  It’s time consuming, painful and wrecking me with grief.  But it’s necessary for me to get free and find peace.

Now that I’m getting free from denial and its punitive damages, I’m able to own some stronghold-shattering truths such as:

  • It’s not bad for me to need my mother.  This is a God-given need that is intended to bless us both and meet each of our needs for strong bonded relationship.

  • It’s not bad for me to be her daughter.  What my mother does and who she is does not define me.  My identity is in Christ, not in my mother.

  • It’s not bad for her to be my mother.  (Same truth as above.)

  • It’s not bad for me to have learned from my mother, even though what she chose to teach me is bad.  Daughters are wired to learn from their mothers.  That design is good even when mothers misuse that design to harm their children.

Here’s what I’ve been able to assimilate thus far:  I didn’t do anything bad simply by being her daughter.  I’m not bad because she’s my mother.  I am a daughter whose mother chose to abuse, neglect and reject her.  What my mother did to me doesn’t make me bad.  Her bad choices don’t stain me, limit me or define me.  I am who I am – separate and set apart from her.  I am a fully unique human being, valuable as a daughter and treasured by the Lord.

I am a daughter of the King of Heaven.  I am wholly and fully loved and accepted by God just as I am today.  I am delighted in and rejoiced over by my Father in Heaven every second of every day of my life.  He longs to hear my voice and see my face gazing up at Him.  He is ever-present in my life, deeply interested in everything I do and everything that happens to me, fully focused on my every word, fascinated by my heart and eternally in love with me.  That is who I am and Whose daughter I am.

Mother's Day 2019

To Mom on Mother’s Day 2019:

I needed you.  I needed your love.  I needed a mother who loved me.  I needed that. 

I needed a mother who cared about me, payed attention to me, acknowledged me, took an interest in me, delighted in who I am, enjoyed spending time with me and discovering who I am, taught me wisdom and discernment, infused in me a deep awareness of my intrinsic value, encouraged me to grow and learn and become who God created me to be, protected me and taught me to protect myself, showed me how to interact with others in an honest and loving way without sacrificing my dignity or honor, taught me to value, respect and honor myself, modeled modesty and self-love, and valued who she is.

  • I needed a mother who set boundaries and honored mine.

  • I needed a mother who listened to me and taught me that my voice is valuable, even when no one is honoring my voice.

  • I needed a mother who taught me the difference between good and evil, pure and perverse, dark and light.

  • I needed a mother who loves the Lord and showed me who He is through how she treated me and walked with Him.

  • I needed a mother who has integrity and practices what she demands of me.

  • I needed a mother who was a godly example for me to learn from and follow.

  • I needed a mother I could go to for advice and counsel, for wisdom and understanding.

  • I needed a mother who taught me the importance of getting wisdom and how to lean on the Lord for understanding.

  • I needed a mother who encouraged me to exercise my free will even when I would suffer consequences, who honored my free will and even celebrated it.

  • I needed a mother who gave of herself and did not take everything from me.

  • I needed a mother who knew who she is, her strengths and weaknesses, who accepts herself as she is and knows that she is in a process of becoming all that God created her to be. I needed a mother who likes herself.

  • I needed a mother who rejoiced in her humanity and eschewed perfectionism for the lie that it is.

  • I needed a mother who owned her mistakes and apologized for when she hurt me.

  • I needed a mother who saw me as a treasure, not a threat to her.

  • I needed a mother who bandaged me when I was hurt, even if she hated the sight of blood.

  • I needed a mother who helped me when I asked for help so that I would not become self-reliant, isolated or ashamed of needing help.

I needed so much from you.  But most of all, I needed your love.  I could probably have done without all the other stuff…if only you’d loved me.  Maybe if you’d loved me, then all the other stuff would have come easily and naturally. Then maybe you wouldn’t have seen me as a burden or inconvenience to you.

I’m so deeply hurt that you didn’t love me.  I am heartbroken beyond words.  I am only just now starting to let go of the shame I feel for knowing my mother doesn’t love me and rejects me as her daughter.  I am only now beginning to let go of your blame, that I was the reason why you didn’t love me. 

Once I admitted that I needed a mother and her love, then all the lies you built around me to keep me from coming anywhere near you or asking you for anything – those lies began crumbling down around me.  I began to breathe freely and easily.  The tightness around my chest, pressing in and crushing my lungs and heart, began to ease up.  I gulped in the fresh air that no longer had to be siphoned through a tiny straw.  Anxiety began to break off.  It’s not my fault that you never loved me.  It’s not bad or shameful that I needed your love and that I needed a mother. 

I was a child and I needed a mother.  I needed to be loved by my mother.  I needed that, and that’s OK.  It doesn’t make me weak or pathetic or objectionable or shameful to need my mother, especially as a child.

I needed you.  It hurts my heart so much that you rejected me. 

Today, I accept that I needed you.  I accept that you refused to give me love or be a mother to me.  I accept that your decision is not my fault nor my responsibility.  I accept these things.  I needed to accept these things, so that I could begin to grieve this loss, the loss of a mother’s love and care.

It’s been healing to cry and grieve and sob over my need for a mother’s love.  It’s also been painful beyond what I thought possible, but it’s letting out all the hurt that crusted over and encased my heart for too long.  It’s helping me to see that I am not bad.  I believed my whole life up until now that you didn’t love me because I was bad and didn’t do whatever you needed me to do to make you love me.  I thought if only I’d been smart enough to figure out how to please you, then you would have loved me. 

Now, I realize that love isn’t earned.  Love is a gift.  You alone were responsible for your love, not me.  Only you could decide whether to love me.  I had no power over you to make you love me or to earn your love.  The power to give me love was solely yours.  You withheld your love from me and told me it was my fault.  You blamed me for your decision to reject me.  I, as a child, not knowing any better, believed you and believed that I must be bad if my mother doesn’t love me.  I thought it must be my fault because I believed that adults and parents didn’t make mistakes.

I needed you.  I needed your acceptance. I needed your love.  I needed a mother. 

Now, I need to grieve the loss of these things.  I wish that weren’t so, but it is.  It’s what you chose.  I grieve what we could have had, the love we could have shared, the relationship we could have known, the conversations we could have had, the things we could have done together, the art we could have created together. 

Even though you don’t love me, I do love you.  I needed to let you know that.  I needed to tell you all this so that it doesn’t suffocate me anymore from being held in and denied.  I need you to know that I needed you and your love. 

I know now that God can fill the hole that you created by your rejection.  He can give me all the affection and attention that you were not able to give me.  He can be my mother and love me wholly and completely. 

I release you from this burden, from this debt, from this hurt you caused in my heart.  I forgive you for not loving me or being a mother to me.  I forgive you for rejecting me.  I forgive you for blaming me for your choice to reject me.  I forgive you for all the bad stuff that you did to me, too.  You wreaked a lot of havoc on my soul with your violence and wicked actions.  It’s cost me a lot more than you know, more than I could ever express in a letter.  The Lord knows what your harm cost me. 

I need you to know that I don’t hate you anymore.  I need you to know that I won’t expect anything from you that you are not able to give me.  I know that you have limitations. I accept that. 

I accept you as you are.  I acknowledge that you gave birth to me, named me, clothed me and gave me a place to sleep, fed me and sent me to school.  You did these things.  You could have chosen to have an abortion, give me up for adoption or throw me away in a dumpster.  You chose to keep me and do what you were able to do for me. 

And what does the one God seek?  Godly offspring. ~ Malachi 2:15

Mother, I can bring you no greater honor than to live my life for Christ, to become refined into His image and serve Him all the days of my life.  I do this for Him, for myself and for my bloodline – past, present and future.  May my life be a blessing over you!

I don’t really know what else to say.  I’m emptied right now from this expression of my heart. 

Your daughter and godly offspring,

Rebecca

Struggling in the Raw and Real of Relationship

You have no idea what I’ve been through.  And, I have no idea what you’ve been through.  But, I get what’s it like to be going through something, to struggle to try to keep it together and appear to be perfectly normal, to feel alone, ignored and misunderstood.

If we’re going to get through this life, then we need each other.  We need to be OK with needing help.  Going it alone is too hard and downright dangerous at times – sometimes like the suicidal kind of dangerous.  I’ve known too many people who’ve tried to go it alone and ended their journey on their own, prematurely and seemingly out of nowhere.  They impacted more lives with their suicide than they realized that they even knew.

We need to be real and honest about our struggles and our pain.  We need to find the people who get it, who know that life isn’t perfect.  We need to ask for help and let other people meet us in that place, other people who are willing to admit that they need help too. 

Honest, broken, raw, beautiful, messy, real people.  That’s who we are – behind the mask, way down deep, where probably and sadly no one else knows us.  That’s who we need to be in front of the people we can trust or hope to trust.  We need to be the authentic, beautiful messes that we actually are.  And we need to get comfortable with who we truly are.  That’s where confidence and relationship are born – out of the truest expression of who we are.

We need to know and be convinced that no one can take us away from ourselves or shame us into pretending to be someone else.  They can try with their vicious comments, their hateful condemnation, their fear of admitting that they are just like us – needy, broken and aching for authentic connection. But their attacks are as much against themselves as they are against us, because their attack is against their own needs for honesty, authenticity and community. 

We need each other, but make no mistake, we are not sufficient to sustain one another alone.  We need Jesus to cover us with His love and to meet each of us in ways that no person can.  We need each other, but we need Him more.  And we need more of Him each day. 

I am not your savior, and you are not mine.  We need to admit that even though we need each other, we are not perfect and cannot ever perfectly meet each other’s needs all the time.  We need to give each other grace for when we fall short or fail to be there.  We need to accept one another’s limitations.  We need to admit that our expectations are too great for any human being to fully meet.  The fullness of our needs and expectations can only be met in Jesus.  So, while we depend on one another, we need to hold fast to the One who is our Everything. 

Let go of fear.  Take hold of courage.  Reach out to someone.  Be vulnerable.  Be brave.  Don’t try to go through this life alone.  If the first person you reach out to doesn’t respond well, don’t give up.  Let your wounds heal and then give someone new a try.  Keep giving yourself opportunities to connect with someone who can meet you where you are and whom you can meet where they are.  Don’t let fear rob you of the good that God intends for you inside of community, inside of relationship, inside of being known and accepted, inside of belonging.

This post is as much for me as it is for anyone reading this.  I need to take chances on people, to let them see the real and imperfect me, to let them meet me where I am.  I want to give myself a chance to have honest, vulnerable and healthy relationships.  And I know that means that sometimes I will get hurt, even by people who are good most of the time.  It also means that I will mess up and hurt other people sometimes.

I pray for grace to be forgiving and merciful to myself and others for those moments when fear rears its ugly head and pushes love away.  I don’t want those moments to come, but I know they will.  So, I want to be prepared to push through the wreckage, reach for the other person and, if the other person is willing, to take hold of redemption together and find out where that path takes us.  We may have a long road to travel to rebuild trust, depending on the extent of the wreckage.  Even so, authentic relationship is a reward that is worth the effort, the mess and the risk. 

Love’s Freedom

Digging in digging down digging deep

to discover the undiscovered me

connecting with the person

who lives beneath and within

breathing air that is pure flowing spirit

who is attuned to move with the wind

 

Her face aglow with a peace

that sings in love’s freedom

leaps and cavorts in joy’s dance

upon her radiant countenance

 

She is not easily shaken

or shifted out of alignment

to the One who holds her

close to His heart

 

She lives in His rhythm

to the pulse therein

She moves to and fro

with His ebb and flow

She won’t leave His side

She has nowhere else to hide

but in His loving embrace

listening to His voice

gazing upon His face

sharing her heart

with the only One

who won’t tear it apart