This will be a shorter and more informal article as compared to our other more informational and instructional posts - but that doesn’t make it any less significant. This weekend is Mothers’ Day. And we know that this can be a very difficult day for survivors of complex, often childhood, trauma. The larger holidays often gain more recognition as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller ones tend to go unnoticed and leave too many silently struggling in their homes. We want to take the time to acknowledge this. To let you know that we see you. ..that you’re thought of. ..that we’re sitting with each heavy reason behind your hurting heart. And? That you are absolutely not alone.
Mother’s Day is typically thought of with all kinds of warm, flowery, loving imagery - complete with elaborate social media posts, beaming family photos, and tributes to the all the selfless mothers out there. But, for many people, it’s not really all that warm. And for others, it’s downright excruciating. In the world of childhood trauma, survivors' mothers may have been the primary source of their suffering. Erroneously, familial abuse is often assumed to be the fault of the men in a family. But women - yes mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and cousins - can all be equally as awful and abusive. Other moms may not have perpetrated the violence, but allowed the abuse to go on, fostered an environment that made it possible in the first place; were neglectful, lost in addiction or revolving parters; turned a blind eye to their child’s obvious suffering, possibly even denying them necessary treatment; or were just so hot and cold with their affections that the child was left absolutely confused and conflicted about what kind of mom they even have. Now in adulthood, many of you are trying to navigate a world without her, or set appropriate boundaries, and have been relentlessly guilted and shamed by family/strangers for not loving or being close to your mom. Most just cannot fathom that she might actually be an awful or unsafe person unworthy of that connection. But you know. Your feelings are not only valid, but should be honored and respected. You don’t have to minimize them, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over them’ and ‘just try to be nice to her already’. As crazy as it sounds coming from a charity rooted in and birthed from empathy and kindness, we want you to know that you are never obligated to be nice to anyone who hurt you. Not even if they’re your mother. It’s okay, and even admirable, to keep that boundary. No doubt that trying to maintain even a small amount of distance comes with so much grief attached - having to say goodbye to and mourn what you never had. We are so saddened by this for each of you and are sending our utmost compassion. Whatever kind of relationship you keep with your mother today, we want you to know that the hurt parts of your heart that were damaged by her - in big ways or small - they're on OUR hearts and minds this week.
Mothers' Day just brings such an awful feeling. I never know which version of my mother I’m going to get on that day.
- Jenn, Survivor
Another painful reality for many trauma survivors is that some of YOU are mothers. ...and not always as the result of a healthy situation, but instead tragedy and torment. Perhaps you were made a mother against your will, or still are one but have had to hide that fact from everyone you know and love. Then there are so many of you who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, and that is traumatic all on its own, even in the most loving and safe of circumstances. And then there are the moms of healthy kids, in wonderfully knit families, who are still left wrestling the seemingly impossible task of raising children when you yourself were NEVER given a good example or taught how. Laden throughout so many of these experiences is just an abundance of sadness, heaviness, trauma, loss, shame, and fear. Yet, too often, what rings the loudest is the silence you feel you must keep - and the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering - especially in times like this. If there’s anything we can offer you, we'd like to see you not feel so alone anymore. To know that someone’s taken your hand, acknowledged your aching, and is letting you know you're anything but on your own in this. We are here. And so many survivors just like you are meeting you here in their feelings, too. And together, we each carry a piece and make the load so much lighter to bear.
I’m a mom, but my own family doesn’t even know. Mothers' Day is “my day” but I have to spend it hiding; hurting.
- Rachael, 29
These are hardly the only reasons survivors may be aching this holiday. Many of you have lost your mothers. That kind of sadness cannot be described in words. If she wasn’t a safe person to you, this grief becomes wildly complicated. But for tons of you, your mom was your bright spot in all the hurting. She was your everything. ...the only one who saw you and heard you, did everything to keep you safe, and always fought for you. To lose something so special and so rare as that in your world, is absolutely soul-shattering. Your pain reverberates through just about anyone who’s lost “their safe person” - or has even paused to imagine what life without them might be like. We’re extending extra warmth and love your way. Just as we are to all those with their own deeply layered and extremely personal stories to struggle against. We can count so many, many more and want each of you to feel this extension of validation and warmth. You are important, and so is every last drop of your sadness, anger or grief.
Mothers' Day has always flooded me with a sense of being left out or not human. My mother was an awful woman, but she's gone now. I also cannot have children of my own - because of trauma. It's just a loaded day.
- LC, survivor
Whatever is on your heart, we know there will be no shortage of difficult posts, commercials, and media content to just drive that knife a little deeper. The open gushing of amazing relationships; the gut-wrenching in-memoriam posts; newborn-babies-to-grandmas montages on TV, condescending guilt-tripping posts to “Love your mom now!” “There is NOTHING that can’t be forgiven!” and "Family is everything!", throwback photos of heartwarming pregnancies and newborn babies, all surrounded by tons of graphics your ad-blocker doesn't seem to mind missing juuuuust to make sure it doesn't leave your mind for even a moment. We know it can be a LOT. …especially when so much of the general public still manages to have it nowhere on their radar that this time can be really brutal. So, even if we can’t make everyone else understand or be more thoughtful, we want to at least be that place for you. And,
To supporters, friends, and general citizens out there: Perhaps this little post helped to remind even you that these “smaller, insignificant-to-many” holidays can actually be the some of hardest. Definitely don’t contain your own expressions of love to the moms in your life; it just never hurts to be conscientious and thoughtful of all those in your life who may be hurting this day. So sending a little extra support and friendship their way could make the all the difference, truly. Just knowing that someone thought about them and wanted to take care of them, even in gesture, can be a very “mom thing to do" that they'd been needing and missing. It can’t fill the void entirely, but it can help a little - and a little’s enough.
Mothers’ Day to me means... trying SO hard. Little me just longs to make her happy. Adult me tries to pretend we’re something we aren't. I still give her gifts with the hope she'll love me - or even just believe me.
-- EM, 38
Finally…. If you are hurting, if you are dreading this day, fearing this day, hating this day, or just trying to just avoid it at all costs: We want to encourage you to do something different. Your family of origin is not what makes a family, so if you can spend it with the family you’ve created for yourself, absolutely wonderful. We can't encourage that enough. But, we also see great value in making this a “you” holiday. “My Day”, not "Mothers’ Day". Take care of yourself. Do all sorts of things that you love, and practice more self-care than you have in a long time. Honor yourself. Take time to consider all the ways in which you are special, respectable, selfless, caring and important. Treat, love and appreciate yourself. Sure, it may be a different holiday entirely, and not intended for 'you', but we can pretty much guarantee that you didn’t get NEARLY enough of these kinds of days, nor very many positive, safe holidays growing up. They proooobably went awry or at least left your feelings hurt somewhere along the line. You have more than enough special holidays to make up for, so why not make this day one of them? Take it. Make it one for YOU. You deserve it. And, hey, it sure beats a weekend of pain and dread. Every time you see an ad or post, you can pause to check in with yourself, remembering "Aw, that's right, this is My Day!" and do something nice for you. This is YOUR day. It’s a day for honoring YOU. It's a day to appreciate all you are, all you've overcome, and all the love in your heart.
We truly hope that you all make it through this weekend safely and with wellness. Please know that we are thinking of you this day and on each of the many other holidays like it. You are important to us. We hope that you consider your needs and feelings equally as important as we do. And, to everyone else, we hope you share the same thoughtfulness and support to a survivor this week. It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.