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Need help in dealing with feelings of hatred for my mother for the pain and hurt she's inflicted on me and my sisters while we were growing up....

Tagged as: Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (29 October 2011) 15 Answers - (Newest, 27 March 2019)
A female United Kingdom age , *luegem writes:

We hear so much in the media about child abuse but we grew up in the 60's when such things were taboo. I am writing this on behalf of my two sisters and myself, we are all in our 50's. When we were growing up we were all abused by our mother, not sexually, but sufered severe beatings almost daily. Our crimes were sometimes no crime at all, simply our mother was in 'one of her moods'. She was very clever at covering up this abuse, we were always treated very differently in public. My sister once had to go to hospital with a deep gash in her head, the result of being hit so hard she bashed her head on the corner of a cupboard. We were all told that if asked, it was an accident. Emotionally, we were shown no love at all, not even knowing a mother's hug or show of affection by words. We also remember being hungry a lot of the time whilst our mother hid hoards of food for herself. We all made bad marriages several times over, often marrying abusive men, although now we are all in fairly good relationships with decent men, although not totally understanding because they all had good childhoods. Our relationship with our mother has been strained, we never mention our childhood to her and she seems to have forgotten it and pretends to be a normal mother. However, the reason I am writing for advice is that my mother is now 85 and seems to want us to be more loving towards her and visit more often etc. None of us feels any real love for her although we try and do practical things to help. My younger sister seems to have suffered the worse, with a lifetime of low self esteem, depression, anxiety etc, although we have all had counselling. My sister's husband thinks we should all have a meeting with our mother and bring everything out into the open otherwise things will fester to our graves. I have reservations whether this will do any good, but on the other hand it may be good for us all including Mother who even at 85 is very fit, active and mentally alert. For myself I try to block it out of my mind until I see her and sometimes I cannot bear to look at her hands as all I can see is them coming at my with anger. I sometimes look at her and feel a kind of hatred but I never show it to her. I have also social problems especially with relationships, personal and in work. Any advice would be appreciated, sorry this is so long.

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A female reader, janniepeg Canada + , writes (27 March 2019):

janniepeg agony auntTotally understand if you have conflicting feelings of not wanting anything to do with her, contrasting to feelings of wanting to be a daughter and to be there for her last moments. Dying patients can seem they are ignoring you but when they are between life and death, they are in a different dimension. Her previous form of an abusive mother is gone. I would not say forgive her because a life time of abuse is not so easy to forgive. You can be saying it for yourself but you won't actually feel a genuine forgiveness unless you have achieved a sense of well being in your life. The only loving thing to do is to wish her peace in going to the other side, and that she will be surrounded by warmth and unconditional love. It is not too late to go there. Even if she refuses visitors. Just stand outside of the room and give her a prayer silently.

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A female reader, Bluegem United Kingdom +, writes (27 March 2019):

Bluegem is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Bluegem agony auntHi, I am the OP of this question from way back in 2011. My sisters and I are all in our mid to late 60s now and none of us are in good physical health having suffered cancer, heart problems, chronic pain and a host of other problems. My mother is now 92 and dying in hospital. Two and a half years ago she was given days to live after a complication following surgery for bowel cancer. Yet here she is, still alive, still complaining and controlling our lives. We pray that she will be taken not only for our own sakes but for hers as well. She has no life apart from lying in a hospital bed waiting to die. Two of us are in regular 'carers counselling'. Our mother may be very frail but she still manages to frighten us. We keep up regular visiting and phone the ward each morning. Sometimes when we approach her bed she wails 'Oh no I said NO VISITORS'! But if we don't go for a week or so she tells people that her own family never visit. And people believe her because she can play the part of a lovely little old lady. Our lives are in limbo, its like living under a cloud. When she goes I think I will be finally free to live my life in peace. My only regret is that I never wrote her a letter telling her that I forgive her for all that she did to me, I know I could write it now but she can't read as her eyes are failing and she can be totally deaf when it suits. My advice to anyone in a similar situation is write down your feelings in a letter and give it to your mother/father whilst they are still mentally alert. They may choose to ignore it or call you a liar but you will be able to go on knowing that you have spoken out, vented your feelings to the perpetrator instead of carrying it around inside you which causes all kinds of health problems. Counselling does help but only a bit. Thanks for reading and my heart goes out to all other adults (and I'm sure there are many) who are in this situation. Bluegem.

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A female reader, Abella United States +, writes (6 November 2011):

Abella agony auntSorry for my delay in answering your post. I had it on my Watch list, and then missed answering:

I thoroughly agree with another poster on a similar question that the three of you collaborate with each other to create a book. Though there are so many nuances and aspects of this abuse that perhaps you could add in a fourth collaborator, namely a therapist. What a terrible legacy of mean experiences your mother has inflicted on all of you.

You Mother presided over a dysfunctional family because of her own issues that she imposed on all of you. Cruel in the extreme. And you are still coping with the fall out.

It was not a normal family experience but you all know that. A family impaired to the point that children would constantly be in a state of fear, watching out not to offend or do the "wrong" thing. And I bet it took almost nothing to set your mother off again against you all or one of you or two of you, depending on how she was feeling.

The feeling that your opinions did not count. That your ideas were of no value. That no one but your Mother decided what would happen when and where or not happen, as per her mood at the time.

Your mother failed to give you the support and care and nurturing that you should have received. And yet expected you to meet her unattainable standards of perfection. You just could not win, which ever way you turned.

If you had been brought up in a Functional family then it would have been OK to make mistakes. OK to not be perfect all of the time. You would receive genuine appreciation and compliments, where warranted. And be forgiven and supported and loved where and when warranted.

And at all times you would know you were SAFE. Very safe to be yourself and still know you were always LOVED. You would have been treated with respect. Though there would have been reasonable rules that any parent would be happy to explain why and what and when and where. That is their job, as a parent.

I use a game called "logical conclusion" in those circumstances when someone does not want to make their bed or tidy up their room etc. and we discuss how the world if everyone decided to not do those same things. It is calm, It is respectful. No yelling. And in the end some negotiation results in success. or occasionally more negotiations :(

There are no rules on who can become a parent nor when. But it would seem that your Mother was not fully equipped to be a mother. And she was not up to the task. You suffered as a result. That is not fair. But sometimes life is not fair and we have to go on, with support from outside of our family, to ensure that we exist on a level playing field.

After my father died, as a teenager, I would be left to look after the home and a younger sibling because my mother was chasing the latest boyfriend (interstate too - and he was married). No thanks of course. What my mother demanded one had to do. Arguing back was futile. My mother was very controlling. And unable to stay away from alcohol and a series of boyfriends (almost all married at the time, but not to her)

Because of the abuse of alcohol life was unpredictable at times. Bills would not be paid and we would be told to not open the door and hide as children as another bill collecter was at the door. More than once I thought we would be homeless. It was so unfair to put a child through that. I promise made when sober would be complerely forgotten hours later.

I gave up listening to and gave up believing promises.

I am so lucky that neighbors were wonderful and showed me covert support (my mother was very jealous of my visits to the neighbors). Those visits to my neighbors becamse my female role models on how a "real mother" behaves. And for that I am very greatful to those lovely ladies who were neighbors. And an Aunt who was wonderful and her husband.

Though my own family remained an unspoken topic when I did visit them. They would have heard the swearing and the things smashed, and the Police visits. I appreciated how respectful the neighbors were to my discomfort

My mother constantly criticized me. And was absolutely threatened when I went on to complete more education. So she rubbished me to all and sundry. I regard her criticism as her problem. I was none of the things she alleged.

So I grew up thinking, earlier, that i could do nothing right. Now I know that is a lie. And i worked hard to overcome these things. I know there are some key indicators I still need to work on.

I know I like receiving a thank you. I love giving than you notes too.

There are some other legacies I am still working on. I really feel very apologetic if my home is not tidy, tidy, tidy (it never is)

And I do find it hard to ask for what would benefit me, but I feel it is selfish of me to ask.

There are a few other aspects that I am still working on.

And i like being busy. At home, at work. Whereever I am. My least liked holiday (and I would not go) would be one where I had to do nothing and was only able to sit watching the sunset doing nothing for hours. I am working on this shortcoming on my part. I wonder if this is a legacy from my childhood?

However I have overcome most of the pain of the family I grew up with.

yes I have had two sets of counselling to get through all my feelings and my guilt at walking away. But if I had stayed I think they would have destroyed me.

And I have some wonderful good close friends who have made a big difference in my life, As well as my own wonderful family who mean everything to me. And some good friends who have discovered me in more recent years. All of whom I appreciate very much. And tell them so regularly.

My suggestions is to never be afraid to seek support and counselling when required.

Value who you are and give yourselves permission to be you. All of you can be different and yet all be correct. There is never just ONE correct way - there are many ways.

Make time for you and never feel guilty about it.

Do say NO where ever it is required and never feel guilty about it.

Ask every time, "Is this GOOD for ME?" If not? Then do not do it.

Surround yourself with people who value and support you. And say good bye to those who can only offer criticism

I gave my Mother a chance to change. She rebuffed that effort and ridiculed me. My Aunt felt divided loyalty. She knew how difficult her sister had always been and yet preferred to sit on the fence. I accepted that. She has that right too. But some support might have been nice.

And I was particularly lucky to meet my future mother in law (best MiL in the world) when i was 19 and she became my best supporter.

And I have read widely to help me grow and cope with life before I was 19. Here is a useful list of resources:

Forward, S. (1989). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York: Bantam Books.

Gravitz, H.L. and Bowden, J.L. (1985). Guide to recovery: A book for adult children of alcoholics. Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications.

Beattie, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. New York: Harper and Row.

Gil, E. (1983) Outgrowing the pain: A book for and about adults abused as children. San Francisco: Launch Press.

Bass, E. and Davis, L. (1988). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse. New York: Harper & Row.

Understanding Different Grieving Patterns in Your Family

By Marty Tousley, RN, MS, CS, CT

You can also consider changing the way your family reacts to things. .

The following may help you:

http://www.dearcupid.org/question/tunnel-vision-positive-thinking---used-to.html

I wish you every success in the future as you all support each other during yoru healing journeys.

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A female reader, Amethyst  United Kingdom +, writes (4 November 2011):

 Amethyst  agony aunt

Episodes of My childhood – Unloved & Abused By My Mother

This is my story...I am the eldest sister of Bluegem  & whiteopal  who have both recently posted letters on Dear Cupid, & I endorse everything they say about the verbal & physical abuse we suffered when growing up.

This is only a little of the horror that was my earlier life, which I felt I had to share after my sisters' courage in requesting help on this site.

I'm afraid I've made this rather long & disjointed, but I'm still feeling angry & upset today at the memories as they come flooding back....so I will just talk about incidences as they come into my head:

A particular incident happened one Mothering Sunday when we were young, & I had taken my sister to pick primroses from nearby woodland to make a posy to give to my mother. I thought this would please her....she was never pleased at anything I did, but I never stopped trying! (How could any mother not be pleased with a gift from her children?) Unfortunately we got our shoes wet and as I was the eldest, 'I should have known better' and was promised the biggest hiding of my life...(she always 'promised' me hidings before actually giving, as though the anticipation gave her some perverse pleasure) This time my mother grabbed the back of my hair & repeatedly banged my head into a cupboard door causing a deep gash. I had to go to hospital as the bleeding wouldn't stop. I'd shut myself in the toilet & used the pages of my favourite children's book to try & mop up the blood....I knew if I made a mess, I would get yet another beating. I had been given strict instructions not to tell anyone how this injury happened...my mother didn't even come to the hospital with me and it was a three mile walk! I still frequently get bad headaches in this area of my head today.

The violence was awful, I never knew when the next beating was coming...or in most cases, why. I just remember her face turning red & angry with hatred....(I often used to wonder how such a normally attractive woman could look so ugly at these times) She'd shake me so hard, & thrash me with a leather buckle belt until sometimes I'd 'play dead' hoping she'd leave me alone. Once I remember her actually stepping over me as I lay on our tiled floor. When I knew she was coming at me, I'd put my hands over my head....I often did this later in life if someone innocently lifted their hand........I think it must have been through habit. A friend laughed once, but cried when I told her why I did this.

She also would frequently say 'just wait until your father comes home' and would make we wait in our bedroom. I would lie there terrified, but I have no idea why as Dad never laid a finger on me....he'd just say 'what's going on here then?' and tell me to go, but not to let my mother know that he hadn't punished me.

My father kept a low profile...he wasn't exactly loving, but he never laid a hand on me, someone once told me he didn't care enough to bother, but when I think about it now, I believe he was afraid of what my mother would do if he showed me any affection. The one good thing he had to say about me was when one morning we were sitting at the breakfast table, he walked behind my chair & lifted my thick & very long, heavy hair (my only redeeming feature) & commented 'this child has nice hair'. When I returned home from school at the end of that day, my mother plaited my hair, cut the plait as short as she could leaving my hair spiky & uneven, & made me hold it aloft like a trophy so she could take a photo ......As I was already wearing round glasses with wires around my ears & teeth braces, I wasn't exactly a beauty, but I HATED HER FOR THAT!.....& STILL DO!

She'd also frequently say to me 'You're such a plain child' Well I was! She MADE me plain & seemed to delight in it.

My father always adored my one sister......she was blonde & pretty, and she went to Grammar School, which I didn't. He was so proud of her. I'd failed my 11+ but was given the opportunity to re-sit 12 months later as I had done well in my first year in Secondary School. I waited in the headmaster's office for my mother's telephone call to confirm I could sit the exam, but she didn't ring, and when I got home that evening & asked why not, she said she didn't want me to go to Grammar School. She said she'd rather I did well in Secondary School than scrape along the bottom in the Grammar School. I was gutted as I so wanted the best education I could possibly have.......I was bright & would never have 'scraped' along....I had big ideas for myself!....& would have done well. Dad was always disappointed in me......my lack of education being his main disappointment. I could never understand why he didn't seem to have any input into the decision making of my education.

We girls were constantly hungry (I don't really know why as my mother always seemed able to buy the best food for herself & Dad) and she always had one of us collect every Sunday 4 x quarters of her favourite sweets from Candy Shop in town, which she'd hide once she'd weighed them to check they were all there. I remember incurring her wrath when I'd been asked to pick up a loaf of bread on my way home from school......three miles is a long way when you are small & hungry.....and by the time I got home the crust was hollow as I'd picked out all of the bread from the inside! Often I had to wear second-hand clothes. To the age of 11, I had to wear my older male cousins clothes, including a full Rupert the Bear outfit to school.......I was teased unmercifully & bullied frequently. From age of 12, I worked evenings after school and all day Saturdays, so was able to buy my own clothes, shoes, and toiletries. I also made some of my clothes & my closest friend would give me her cast offs, but at least they were up to date & I no longer had to feel humiliated!

My mother never did come to any of my school functions, not even prize-giving days....except for the prize-giving in my final year. My uncle, her brother, had come to stay & couldn't understand that she'd no intention of attending, & he nagged her until I think he made her feel guilty......as 'he was coming anyway'. I was bright & had done well, collecting end of year prizes for 5 subjects. No sooner had I returned to my seat after receiving a prize, then I was called again. Probably for the first time in my life, I felt very proud.......Mother was heard to tell someone later 'I never knew she had it in her!'.........If she'd only bothered to find out! She was always putting me down, calling me 'stupid' (she actually MADE me feel stupid & unworthy). I now know that I was far from stupid!

I suppose I was always trying to win my mother's affection/approval, but never did. Of course, you can't buy love. I often think of the time when I'd saved hard for the huge Christmas gift box of Cussons in Boots window, it (I thought) was very plush & beautiful with wrapped bars of soap, bottles of lotions etc & it smelled wonderful.....all nestled in orange satin with a huge satin bow. I'd asked the shop to put it away for me whilst I paid a little off each Saturday. Finally I'd paid the final instalment and took it home to gift wrap. On Christmas morning I could barely contain my excitement knowing that my mother had to be pleased with my lovely gift to her. She finally opened it and looked in disgust at the contents, then hurled it across the room to me angrily, muttering 'Cussons, Cussons', she knows I don't like Cussons'! My sisters also still remember this today.....I guess it really got to us all.

She had many love affairs with various neighbours.....even the postman! (I actually walked in on them cuddling when I was 9 years old).....it was the one & only time she ever called e 'pet', the only word of endearment I ever heard from her! These affairs caused problems for myself & sisters as some of our friends were the children of those neighbours, and they knew what was going on. We'd cower under our bedcovers at night trying to shut out the noise of the rows between my mother & father.

Her most recent act of malice was when my father died & left me some money in his Will. She told me that his intention had been to cut me out of his will, but he'd not got around to it before he died, and that she was to have a share in it (they'd already been divorced 25 years & no financial settlement was due to her) Even now I often cry at this as I'll never know for sure whether or not Dad was considering leaving me out.....I couldn't see why as he'd always seemed to treat us all pretty much the same.

Shortly after Dad's death, I put the money he left me towards a house for my mother to live in. She has been there seven years now & could be there another ten easily. I don't think I will ever be able to make peace with my mother, but I feel I have done my bit in being as good a daughter to her as I was able, it's very difficult to be the best possible daughter to a mother who treated me as nothing but a punchbag....& something to be looked down on.

I am now 61 but I still feel there is a battered, bruised & very sad little girl inside me. Four years ago, I went for a course of hypnotherapy with a well-known local lady. In the final session she took me back into my early childhood, where I saw a little girl holding hands with her Daddy & I wept as I recognised her & saw just how pretty she was...she was not plain at all!.....and her Daddy obviously loved her. I awoke from my trance with tears streaming down my face, and told my therapist what I'd seen, and that I thought the little girl was me at around the age of four. She confirmed that I was that little girl, and that I should acknowledge her, & love & cuddle her. Sometimes I wrap my arms around myself now & think of that little 4 year old, & I think it helps.

I think it's time I mentioned my brother.......Dad's much longed-for son who was born when I was 10 yrs old. I adored him....& still do. My mother idolised him....she still does..........he could do nothing wrong in her eyes & wanted for nothing.......the best clothes, good food, & the best education, but unfortunately, he & Dad were far from close. I think it's because my mother used to dress him up in girls' clothes when he was small & used to call him by a girl's name. My father had wanted a son he could share his favourite sports with, but my brother was not at all interested in 'boys' games. Dad felt he'd gained another daughter & was bitterly disappointed.

When my brother came out in his twenties, that was the final straw as far as my father was concerned. He found it difficult to acknowledge he even had a son.......& would never talk about the fact he was gay.........Dad was very much a 'man's man' & he was was terrified his friends would find out. He'd always thought my brother was a 'poof' & blamed my Mother.

My mother is 85 years old, and most people think of her as a very sweet old lady. She goes to Church every Sunday & helps with local charities, but I feel she still looks at me as though she would love to give me a good slap (her anger is never very far from the surface) and is still frequently putting me down to this day. This is why I only visit her rarely, & make it as short a stay as possible. She says I should spend more time with her & help her with the gardening etc, but I just can't. I have to pluck up courage as it is, & often talk myself out of going.

If anyone out there has any advice for me, I'd be extremely grateful.

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A female reader, whiteopal United Kingdom +, writes (1 November 2011):

We sisters need help in dealing with child abuse.

I am the younger sister of Blugem and I would like to say that everything she said is true about our mother. She was a very cunning and wicked woman who was insanely jealous of her three daughters. After one of my beatings, my father came home from work and told me to stop making that awful noise as I was sobbing. As I could not stop I was sent to my freezing cold bedroom with it's unforgetably cold lino on the floor. I heard a mouse in the room and excitedly befriended him because I knew that he could never hurt me. I called him Joey and whenever I got sent to my room I would talk to Joey through the skirtain board. One morning, when I was about seven, I came down to the usual bowl of porridge and it was mothers birthday. She demanded to know where her present was. As I didn't have money nor access to shops at such a young age, mother yelled at me to not bother coming home after school unless I'd got her something. My sister Blugem was with me at the time. I had to steal money from another pupil at school. When I arrived home 'walking three miles' I was terrified that the gift would be wrong as it always was. Mother made us walk to town on Sundays to get her bags of sweets. When we got home she counted and weighed them to make sure we hadn't had any. Then she hid them. Dad used to buy her chocolates but she always through them back in his face. My eldest sister was so generous and giving and all she wanted was to please mother so she once bought some lovely soaps for her birthday but they also got thrown back in her face.Mother was never supportive as she has never been to an open evening at school or was she ever at a sports day. She left my dad in 1978, moved away and remarried. Dad always lived on his own since. Then in 2003 he died leaving his money to us girls. Mother was livid demanding it was obscene to leave us money. She said we should all give her £5,000 of the inheritance, even labelling things that she should have from his house. At the age of 52 I rang the NSPCC telling them that my mother was due to visit me that day and after locking the doors I was nursing a glass of wine as I hid in a cupboard. Why am I still terrified of her?? Whiteopal

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A female reader, Bluegem United Kingdom +, writes (30 October 2011):

Bluegem is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Bluegem agony auntFirstly, thank you everyone who took the trouble to read my letter and reply. Some very different advise but all excellent food for thought. From the ones that suffered as we did, you have my heartfelt sympathy. No-one can really know how your childhood affects you as an adult. Some are good at using their past in a postive way and become good at helping others, thereby turning their experience into something positive. For myself, I never had the confidence to do anything as I can still hear the echo of my mother's words putting me down, telling my I'm stupid, worthless etc, etc. To the advice on sending her a cheque each month, I would add that she is quite well off and doesn't need financial help - I could cope with that. It's the pretence of having any kind of love for her and calling her 'mum' that is so hard. Sometimes, I just want to give her a good slap and say 'there you are, take that you old cow, see how it feels to be on the receiving end', and then I feel bad for having these thoughts. As the anonymous female says in her reply, it would be good to have some online discussion forums, I think it would help a lot of people. Again thank you all for your advice and sharing your own experiences.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (30 October 2011):

an abuser doesn't deserve positive things from others that they didn't earn, no matter how old they have become. simply growing old and weak doesn't erase everything that they did which was morally wrong.

as her daughters you can still fulfill your filial duties by supporting her financially - send her a check every month, pay for her bills and for a professional caregiver if she needs one. But you do not owe her a relationship just because you are blood related and she's now elderly.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (29 October 2011):

I think your sister's husband's idea is very good. I wouldn't do it with any expectations from your mom, but I think you need to do it for yourselves and your sanity.

My father beat my older siblings. My mother finally threatened to leave him due to his anger issues shortly after I was born and he did change. But it makes me angry as I have watched my brother and sister get older and have similar anger issues. More than that, it makes me angry much it has impacted my relationship to them; they resent me for not being beaten.

Neither of my older siblings have a real relationship with my father. I've tried talking to my parents about it, but they say that they forgive their parents, why can't we do the same? And they avoid the hypocrisy of what they are suggesting.

How can she reasonably expect you to love and care in an emotionally involved way just because she's old and vulnerable, if she never demonstrated those qualities to you as a mother when you were young and vulnerable? I do think you need to get this off your chest and I'll think you'll feel better when you do.

My condolences for what you're going through.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (29 October 2011):

I suffered from years of emotional and psychological abuse by my mother, as did my elder sister, who has been in and out of mental health hospitals since the age of 17 (she's now 46).

Our mother was like yours in the sense that she never showed love, nothing was good enough, the criticisms were constant and deeply wounding and mind-bending - for example, I had very few clothes when I was growing up as a teenager and one evening I had frantically washed my only "nice" blouse and was trying to dry it quickly at the electric fire.

My mother was sitting right next to it. I left the room for a few minutes and came back to find my blouse burned and ruined. I cried, secretly, because I was heartbroken - it was the only nice thing that I had, and I had ruined it by accident.

I feared my mother seeing me cry, but she did and she said to me, nastily "you WANTED to burn it".

If I ever dared complain about something that she had said or done she called me a "Liar".

I was constantly told I was selfish. For years and years I did not understand why she was so horrible and so charming to the outside world. people assumed that because she seemed warm and open and energetic, that she must be a very loving woman towards her family. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

But in a cruel twist, my mother behaved totally differently towards my younger sister (10 years younger), giving her all the cuddles, love, adoration and "rights" that we were totally denied.

I often think that my mother did this deliberately, after I cut myself off from her and my father, to "prove" to other people that anything that I said or did that reflected badly on her was not her fault and that she was, indeed, a loving mother.

My younger sister subsequently emulated my mother's psychological abuse, including turning people against me after I moved away from the area I grew up in, totally trusting my mother's opinion of me and my elder sister and causing me enormous pain in the same way as my mother. My elder sister is simply too mentally ill to be able to think about what has happened to her, so I can't talk to her about our "shared experiences".

My mother died nine years ago. When she died I was traumatised because I knew that there was never going to be a chance for our relationship to ever change. I did start speaking to her again after my father died, but I did so only because by this time I had a daughter and I wanted her to at least minimally know her grandmother.

In your situation, I would suggest that you are at least able to take some comfort in the fact that you and your sisters are all able to understand one another and what you have been through; at least you are not "alone" in this sense.

As to whether you should confront your mother. I can't answer for you, but I would suggest that you think the following through: You are not an abuser, but your mother clearly was.

You want to effectively "put a stop" to your abuse and memories of it, by returning to her all of the bad behaviour that she gave out to you.

But at the same time, you are possibly still longing and waiting, somewhere in the back of your mind, for your mother to miraculously realise what she has done and beg forgiveness and start to really love you as you felt a mother should.

Because you still want this, you maybe cannot bear the idea that she will reject you, finally and once and for all, if you confront her with the reality of what she did - this is what you are fearing, I think, along with also the fear of hurting her (because you, after all, are not the abusive person).

I have not resolved how I feel about my mother, or what she did. As time goes by, I am able to recognise qualities that she had that, in her, I found horrible and abusive but that, somehow, I feel I have inherited and "made good" or as good as I can.

I don't mean this egotistically. What I am saying is that my mother for example was very self-centred and would simply spend much of her time walking - she rarely sat still at all - and this meant that we were neglected a lot.

Now, I know to go for a walk to help to soothe my mind and take away stress, but I will often take my daughter with me and we go on a normal to fairly long walk once in a while, not every single day for hours and hours like my mother did. This is the kind of thing that I mean.

Maybe, just maybe, it will help you to look at the charactersistics and qualities that your Mum has/had and to "turn them good" for yourself and your sisters. This is a different kind of way of confronting what she was, and of turning it around into something good. No therapist told me this and I don't know if it will work for you. But I feel it is starting to work for me, in small ways.

I really wish you well, and I wish that I could help more, but it is a very difficult issue and one that society largely either ignores or sensationalises - it really would help I think if there were more forums and discussions online about this kind of thing.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway + , writes (29 October 2011):

chigirl agony auntMy personal experience, my brother cut all contact with our father some 3 years ago. My father still calls me and asks over and over and over and over and over and over and... you get the point. He asks an endless amount of times, WHY WHY WHY did my brother cut him out, what did he do, what was so horrible...

And I have to give him the answers over and over. But it's too draining. These days when he asks I say I don't want to talk about it. I refuse to talk about it. He's been told why. He knows why. But he can't accept it. And it's done us no good to tell him why.

His children have pulled away from him, and he knows why. We've told him why. I've spoken to him about how he needs to behave, what it is he does wrong, how he hurts us, but he refuses to see that it's bad. He sticks to his story and refuses to see anything wrong. And now I'm stuck with him ask this question over and over and over and over.

I don't blame my brother for cutting contact, and my father KNOWS why. But my father is a lost cause. He's alienated his entire family, and yet he refuses to see that HE is the problem, even when directly told.

I've had my go at him, not with a therapist (I suspect he'd simply refuse to go), but in private, and it doesn't matter how many times he is told. I've tried for years now. That's why I don't see a point in trying any more. When a person refuses to understand then.. well, what's the point. Let them be and move on.

I'm surprised something came out of So Very Confused's session with her parents, I can't imagine that'd ever work with my father.

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A female reader, So_Very_Confused United States +, writes (29 October 2011):

So_Very_Confused agony auntHi there. I remember confronting my parents in a therapy session about the abuse my father heaped on me in front of my mother, or the time she drove me to the hospital and made me lie and told me "don't tell them daddy did this or they will take daddy away from us" I was 12 and I did what I was told.

confronting my parents in therapy about this was very very helpful for us.... i screamed, dad was made to remember the abuse (he doesn't always recall doing it)... mom was made to confront her co-dependent enabler ways and I got to tell them how they hurt me and disappointed me and made me what I am today.

Thankfully that was 20 some years ago. My mother died 16 years ago and we were able to make peace before her death.

I am not saying make your peace with your mother FOR HER... oh no... but do it for yourselves...

I know everyone else is saying stay away but having been the child that confronted the parents and it helped me towards healing myself I can't say enough about it....

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A reader, anonymous, writes (29 October 2011):

This will seem harsh. But your Mother made her decisions a long time ago. She has never apologized, and it is unlikely that she will own up or admit what she did to you.

Your mother abused you physically, emotionally and socially. She was devious and sly and she KNEW she as doing the wrong thing. When anyone tells you to Keep something secret then you KNOW they KNOW it is the wrong thing.

So your Mother has NO remorse at all.

In this instance I do not think you owe your mother a thing.

Of course you are not tarred with the same brush.

You will not let her starve. You wil ensure she gets care if she needs it.

But I would suggest you get her care through the NHS, whatever it is that she needs.

But I could not be a hypocrite in this situation.

Normally one can consider that we owe our Mothers a debt for bringing us into this world. But your Mother well and truly cashed out all that good will a long time ago.

Your Mother has absolutely no right to now expect you to tell her what a wonderful mother she was. Because she was a callous cruel abusive cow.

I would suggest that you do not meet her. But instead that you each write her a letter and then read it out aloud while someone films each of you and make it into a DVD.

Then when she is sitting up in her chair with the rug over her legs the DVD can be played to her over and over again. As each of her children pour out their hearts and read out all the pain they suffered. Once she has watched the DVD a few times she will not be able to forget the pain she inflicted.

AND she will not be able to say that she never hears from her children. If she wants to hear from her children she can play the DVD explaining how much she hurt her children.

This way you get to tell her and she gets to listen. But you do not have to be there to listen to her lies, explanations and justifications.

No excuses left for your Mother. She should have been charged with Neglect and Abuse and lost her children back when she was at her worst.

Now she can make do with a DVD instead of you in person.

It is only the very least condemnation that she deserves for what she put your through.

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A female reader, xTheAlmightyDuckx United Kingdom +, writes (29 October 2011):

xTheAlmightyDuckx agony auntShe hit your sister so hard that she smacked her head on the counter and had to go to hospital? And she calls herself a mother?

It is disgusting what she did to you when you were younger, not just physically but mentally as well. The cuts and bruises can heal in time but the mental things can take a life time to dissapear.

You and your sisters have resentment towards her and i can see why, i think if my mother treated me like that especially when i was a child i wouldn't even be able to look at her.

Any as to advice on what to do about your mother. I am the sort of person who finds it hard to hold in my feelings and not say what i think.

If she had damaged my life that much due to passed abuse i would have an intervention with my whole family and my mother too and i would tell her just how she had affected my life.

However not everyone is like me and if you do not want to say anything then don't but if you feel its eating you up inside to the point where you think about it almost everyday then you need to get it out in the open as peace of mind is one thing that people find hard to live without.

As they say the way to get rid of your fears is to look them in the eyes and tackle them head on.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway + , writes (29 October 2011):

chigirl agony auntIt wasn't long to read at all.

I don't think it'd serve much of a purpose to bring this up with your mother. She knows what she did. And you shouldn't feel guilted to seeing her more often, or show love towards her. If she asks why, then be honest with her and tell her. But I don't see a point in sitting down with her to talk it over. What would come out of that? It's too late for her to get treatment for whatever anger management problems she has. And it was a long time since she could hurt you.

Instead I suggest you keep up sporadic contact with her, help with the practical things and keep contact to a minimum, or to a level that you yourself are comfortable with. Also bring someone along with you when you meet her instead of going alone. Being with someone else is comforting and they will be able to provide support.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (29 October 2011):

Hello,

I have had a very similar past as you and your sisters. I am also your age. While my sister and I didn't have any physical abuse, we sure suffered emotional abuse. My mom was very negative towards us. Nothing was ever good enough. She started out a normal mother with picnics and good times but by the time we were 3 or 4, our parenting changed. She was consumed with herself, sat in her room smoking, drinking soda and reading, either for school or for pleasure.

I can't recall the number of times I wished she just come and play barbies with us or play a board game. We became her errand kids, refilling sodas (that never had the right amount of ice), making toast (yes, at 6 years old-that never had the jelly spread out correctly) or any other thing she needed. We were told so many times to keep it down, etc.

She got divorced when I was 15 and that was a good turning point for her because my father was abusive to her (but he was very good to us-making dinners, taking us to events, etc).

But my mom got remarried and we were once again parenting was put on a back burner. Her husband died a few years ago and she is lonely and now wants us to come around and take care of her. It's not that I don't love her and we will take care of her but we feel she didn't earn it. She can take care of herself at this point but she doesn't.

Today she is a bit younger than your mom and what just floors me is that she and I have a very different remembrance of my childhood. She thinks she was a perfect mother. And yes, my self esteem suffered. I married poorly and divorced after 22 years. I don't want anyone in my life until I can choose wisely.

The reason I am writing this to you is to tell you that I tried to have the kind of intervention you talked about and what happened is that my mother started crying. She knows she wasn't perfect but what I now understand is that she did the best she could. Her father was emotionally distant to her to the point where he told her it was a good thing she was smart so she could support herself as no man would think she was beautiful. Her mother wasn't supportive of her at all, focusing on her perfect boys.

My mom spent most of her high school years living at a friends home.

Her first marriage was a disaster with physical abuse, cheating on his part, etc.

As you are, your mother is a product of her environment too. Deep down inside, she remembers who she was and I am sure she is ashamed. To bring it up right now would do no good for her. It will hurt her and you will not be able to fix the hurt after that. For you and your sisters, realize that your mother did the best she could. Obviously she didn't have the coping skills or support necessary to be a good mother.

I hope you and your sisters can get past this. My sister (who is worse off than I am) still struggles. I am doing better.

My mom now realizes she wasn't perfect and maybe telling her did some good. When she sees mom's who are not perfect she always says "she's doing the best she can."

All the best.

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