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To the motherless--Mother's Day, grief, and restoring our sanity.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step Two

Well, it's a rainy day here in Wichita, Kansas.
But my sadness has nothing to do with the gloomy grey of the somber skies.
It's the day after Mother's Day.
And yesterday was just a reminder of what some of us grieve throughout most of the rest of the year.

I will begin by recognizing that some reading this post may know my mother.  And the truth is, she is a beautiful woman in so many ways.  Our relationship problems are not 100% her fault.  I claim a lot of the blame.  But this post is about me and my own grief.  I believe my mother and I have tried time and again to make our relationship work but we always seem to get it wrong.

I remember feeling at a very young age that my mother did not like me.  I was so different from her--a lot like my dad whom she had divorced when I was an infant.  When I was a teenager, I heard her express this to friends on numerous occasions, "I love her.. I'll always love her.. I just don't like her."
It broke me.

I have met so many other women that share this story with me.  We loved our mothers.  We may still love our mothers.  But more often than not, as the years go by, it turns into grief.  We had hope that things would change.  We continue to hope year after year.  Grasping at hope when it seems slim. Holding hope when it tries to slip away.  Never wanting to let go.

We daughters can hold on to hope for a long time.  Hope that our mothers will be what we so desperately crave.  Hope that we will be loved deeply and unconditionally.
We become pillars of perfection--shaping ourselves into whatever will make mother happy.
Or we become exactly whatever mother would loathe--just to spite her.
Or we become the ultimate caretaker--mothering mother.

Of course, the Bible speaks to this.  It call it hope deferred.
Speaking from my own personal experience, my heart was sick for a long time.  I went through a dark period of distrusting most women in my life.  I lived behind emotional walls.  My dreams were filled with rage toward my mother.  Hope turned into rage.  And after rage, I became numb.

As a clinician, I believe that the mother-wound is the most tragic of all wounds.  It holds the deepest and most severe consequences emotionally, mentally, physically (chronic illness), and spiritually.
So how can we begin to heal?
I'm here admitting to you that I am 38 years old, a mental health clinician, and I still do not feel fully healed.  I'm not sure that that ever happens.  I do not believe that time "heals all wounds."  It just is.
However, I also must recognize that after the Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick, it also says, a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

What does a child need from her mother?  What is she longing for?
Cindi McMenamin wrote a three part series on how mothers can inspire their daughters.  She stated seven things that a daughter needs from her mother:

1.  She needs to know that she is your priority.
2.  She needs to know she is accepted.
3.  She needs to feel a connection with you.
4.  She needs a spiritual foundation.
5.  She needs to be allowed to fail.
6.  She needs you to be a woman of integrity.
7.  She needs your stability.

Ouch.  I'm almost 40 and I still long for those things.  The good news is that this longing can be fulfilled by others in our lives.  The mother-wound can become the mother-scar.  It's still there but the pain can decrease.  Or just come and go with longer periods of healing between episodes of grief.

Are there relationships in your life where someone treats you like a priority?  Where you feel unconditionally and fiercely accepted?
Does someone give you the freedom to fail?  I'll tell you, this one is key.  We all need someone that stays by our side in the darkest days.  When we mess everything up.  When we disappoint them and hurt them and wound them... and they stay.  Someone stable.

This is also Step Two in the Twelve Steps.  "We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."  When someone restores us to sanity, they simply do the actions listed above.  They sit by our bedside.  They make us a priority when we are at our lowest point.  They accept us when we are drunk with sorrow and poverty.  They allow us to fail but believe in our best.

This is our God.  And because of the Mother-wound, it is sometimes a struggle to believe that God is doing any or all of these things.  Am I a priority?  Am I accepted?  Am I loved in my failure?
But God doesn't change.  Even in my doubt and my unbelief, He/She is still there.
Wiping our brow when we are sick.
Rocking us, carrying us, singing over us.

A good mother.


  1. I love you Brittney. I am so glad that you are a positive female presence in my life when my own mother has been unwilling and unable to do that for me.

    I pray daily for her, the same way I do for other sick friends.


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