This will be a shorter and more informal article as compared to our 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 tend to gain more recognition as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller ones often 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 that might be 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. Additionally, some moms may not have been the one to perpetrate violence, but they allowed the abuse to go on. They 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 medical or mental health treatment; or, they were 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 fight the powerful fight of setting appropriate boundaries between you. All the while, family or even strangers may be guilting or shaming you for not having a close and positive relationship to your mother. Most cannot fathom she might actually be an awful and/or unsafe person, unworthy of that connection. But you know. Your feelings are not only valid, they should be honored and respected; they are paramount. You do not have to minimize them, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over it’ and ‘just try to make up already’. As crazy as it sounds coming from a charity unearthed out of empathy and kindness, we want you to know you are never obligated to be kind and thoughtful to anyone who hurt you — not even if they’re your mother. It’s okay, and even admirable, to set that boundary and protect it firmly. It is neither rude nor selfish; it requires strength, clarity, and so much self-respect. It may also come with so a great deal of grief attached - having to mourn and say goodbye to what you’ve lost or was never there. Whatever the relationship with your mother looks like today - healed and vibrant, or scarred and hollow - we want you to know that parts of your heart that were hurt by her - whether big ways or small - they are on OUR hearts and minds this week.
Mothers' Day just brings such an awful, eerie 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 a result of healthy relationships, but instead tragedy and torment. Perhaps you were made a mother against your will or maybe you still are today but have had to hide that knowledge from everyone you know and love. Then, there are so many of you who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, which is inordinately traumatic on its own, even when you’re nestled in the most loving and safe of circumstances. We also know of the moms who have great kids, in a now wonderfully knit family, but who still wrestle this seemingly impossible task of raising healthy children when you’ve never seen an example of what that looks like. Laden throughout so many of these experiences is an abundance of heavy sadness, trauma, loss, shame, and fear. And yet, often what rings the loudest is the silence you feel you must keep, the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering. If there’s one small thing we can offer, we'd like for you to not feel so alone anymore. To know that someone’s taken your hand, acknowledged your aching, and has made sure you're anything but on your own in this. We are here. And so many survivors just like you are here right now, meeting you in their feelings, too. Together, we each carry a piece and make the load so much lighter.
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 in your world, it 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 are extending extra warmth and love your way. Just as we are to everyone who has their own deeply layered, extremely personal stories that you’re grappling with. We can count so many, many more ways in which this time is hard for folks and want each of you to feel the same 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 that there will be no shortage of difficult posts, commercials, and media content to drive that knife a little deeper. The open gushing of amazing relationships, the gut-wrenching in-memoriam posts, newborns-to-moms-to-grandmas montages on TV, condescending guilt-trip posts demanding you “Love your mom now!” “There is NOTHING that can’t be forgiven!” and "Family is everything!", throwback photos of heartwarming pregnancies and new babies — all this and more surrounded by countless graphics that your ad-blocker seems to not mind missing juuuuust this once. It’s enough to make sure this hurt doesn't leave your mind for even a moment. We know it can be a LOT. …especially when so much of the general public seems to have it nowhere on their radar that this time of year can be really brutal. So, even if we can’t make everyone else understand or be more thoughtful toward you, 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 toward all those in your life who may be hurting this day. So sending them a little extra support and friendship could make the all the difference. Truly. Just knowing that someone thought of them and wanted to take care of them through a simple gesture, it can be a very “mom thing to do" — one they'd been needing and missing. While it can’t fill the void entirely, 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, that’s absolutely wonderful and so highly encouraged by us. 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. (We even have a post that can help with that ;) Self Care 101!) 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 might not even be a holiday 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 in general growing up. They proooobably went awry the majority of the time or at least left you with your feelings hurt somewhere along the line. So, you have more than enough special holidays to make up for, so why not make this 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 that you are, all you've overcome, and all the love that exists in your heart.
We truly hope that you all make it through this weekend safely and with wellness. Please know that we are here and we are thinking of you this day and each of the many holidays like it. You are important to us. Respect what you need and what you feel as much as is safe to do so. And, to everyone else, we hope you spread the same thoughtfulness and support to a survivor this week. It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.
More posts that might be helpful:
✧ Father’s Day: A Message for Survivors
✧ Self-Care 101: 101 Grounding Technique
✧ Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
✧ Distraction 101: 101 Distraction Tools
✧ Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
✧ Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201: Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
✧ Imagery 101: Healing Pool and Healing Light
✧ Coping with Abusive/Toxic Family During the Holidays
❖ Article Index ❖