Healing Your Relationship with Your Mother As An Adult

Mother’s Day has been a bittersweet holiday for most of my life. I’m thrilled to receive the handmade cards and garden bouquets from my own children, but when it comes to celebrating the woman who gave me life, that has rarely been a Hallmark moment.

“Becoming a mother is like nothing else in this life. It’s terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.”

My mother and I have struggled to love one another since I was about 8 years old. Anger, alcoholism, rejection, and a whole lot of teenage angst created a devastating wedge between us that led to a complete estrangement once I turned 18. We have since been able to lessen the gap but we are certainly still a work in progress. I’d like to share with you some lessons I’ve learned, some tactics I’ve tried, and some prayers I’ve prayed that have been instrumental in our mother-daughter healing journey.

Remind yourself that it all began with love

You were created by a loving God. Your very existence is because he chose to breathe life into you for his purpose. Don’t fixate on your genealogy. God uses humans to make humans, but not all of us are skilled at cultivating good humans. Things can get messy. God adopts us as his own and promises to never leave us, never scream at us, never hurt us. He gives us a place where we are fully known, fully accepted, and loved unconditionally. Discovering this love is exactly where the healing begins. 

Parenting demands grace

Because of my childhood, I was a rage-filled bomb by my 20s. I was angry at everything, including God. I was self-centered, totally opinionated, bull-headed and oblivious to anyone else’s problems. My own existence was paramount. I saw myself as a victim. I had been hurt and no one else’s pain mattered to me. What my husband ever saw in that train wreck version of myself still baffles me to this day.

“You were created by a loving God. Your very existence is because he chose to breathe life into you for his purpose.”

My mother’s 20s were just as tumultuous. She too was navigating her own emotions of abuse, betrayal, loss, and anger. This was probably not the most ideal time for her to marry and have children. By the age of 26, she had become a widow and single mother of 2. It was a scary time for her. How would she make a living and provide for her babies? Would she find time to mourn and process her loss? Who would want her with 2 small kids in tow? Her circumstances led to both good and bad decisions. But I have come to realize that she did the best she could with what she had at the time. We are all enrolled in the “learn as you go’ program.” Unfortunately, the familial damage we experience usually goes back generations. There are so many broken hearts, but it only takes one soft heart to offer grace and break the cycle.

Healing needs hope

My mom and I have gotten into some gnarly arguments. We are both passionate, convicted, strong-willed women. I am not especially proud of where we came from but I am proud of how far we have come. We still have a long way to go, but I am finally hopeful we will get there. For the longest time, I was complacent. After so much pain, I became numb. I stopped fighting because I stopped caring. That’s a dangerous place to be. Complacency steals our hope. It removes our options. It stunts our growth. One of my favorite pastors once told me, “The key to healthy reconciliation is to keep moving. Move closer or move apart. Just keep moving.” Hope tells us the peace will come as long as we keep moving toward it.

Invite Jesus into the battle

I used to get a knot in my stomach every time I got a call from my mother. I knew she’d bring up the past and open up old wounds. I’d follow up with accusations and anger. By the end, the only thing we would have accomplished was adding more bricks into the wall between us. But then I started praying before I’d answer her calls. I’d say “Jesus, stand between us.” I’d literally picture him standing between us as we spoke. Slowly, things began to change in both of us. And eventually, we were able to make it past the past. We were able to start moving again.

Becoming a mother is like nothing else in this life. It’s terrifying and beautiful all at the same time. In an instant, you are given these tiny versions of yourself that you must raise and nurture without instruction for 18 or more years. Sometimes we get it right and other times we end the day praying the therapy bill is covered by insurance. Just know that the same struggles we have, our parents had too. My own 14-year-old daughter currently sits in front of me with an iPhone, black nail polish, and that oh-so-familiar scowl preparing for our next debate. But with a little love, grace, hope, and Jesus, she and I will break the cycle and thrive.

Here’s to all the moms out there who work so hard every day, doing the hardest and most important job in the world. We celebrate you. Happy Mother’s Day!