“Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace.” ~L.N. Tolstoy
Mama is dying.
Slowly disintegrating into an unknown existence. First her mind, now also her body.
All she remembers is her name.
And me, her daughter.
Sometimes I wish she were already dead to save her from pain and feeling embarrassed. She would be horrified by her looks, the wicked games of the dying brain, and the damn dependency on the others.
I know Mama too well.
She has suffered enough to pay for more than one generation of abusive women in our family.
She is just an old (sorry, Mama), fragile woman who wants peace. I wish I could give it to her.
But there are times I want her to carry on a bit longer, for me.
Because I’ve just found her—the loving Mama I wanted her to be all my life.
Her love broke through the debris of dementia and the concrete of the walls Mama surrounded her soul with to hide from the agony of her own upbringing. Like a flower brakes through the asphalt, cracking it with its gentle power.
Unexpectedly and strong.
I always loved her but …
Forgiving? No Way.
How could I forgive her after all she’d done?
To me and to my dad.
Hidden deep beneath anxiety and depression, fake faces of “happy” me, anger exploded to the surface by the sound of the word “forgiveness”. Erupting like a volcano in the middle of the night, extirpating kindness with a burning rage.
Mama and I were like two planets melted into one another, co-dependent and unable to separate.
Though deep inside I wanted to become free. When I reached out for help, things slowly began to alter.
And Mama stayed in her orbit, chastising me for being disloyal.
She was who she was, and she was never keen on change.
Don’t ask a blind person to appreciate the Mona Lisa.
But I went into my own orbit. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t a part of her anymore.
I was ME.
Separating myself from Mama emotionally helped me to deal with her anger, jealousy, and hunger for attention.
“What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?” ~ Louisa May Alcott
I went to other people for a hug, love, and support, not expecting them from Mama anymore.
In time, the pain became lighter—still recognizable but barely burning. The old wounds started to heal.
Today, reading my letters to Mama reminds me of the rocky road with thickets and thorns that I walked to the end. And it was worth the trouble.
Here are three letters I want to share with you.
#1 Leave Me Alone
There’s something I need to tell you. And you’re not going to like it.
I should’ve said it long ago, but I was scared.
Yes, scared of your violent temper, toxic words, and hateful looks. Then it was too late for you to comprehend—the illness became too strong.
You saw yourself as a loving person, taking care of everything and everyone. A self-offering caretaker people should adore.
You took care, all right, of our physical needs. We had food on the table, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads.
But what about our feelings? We saw no understanding, no compassion, and no empathy from you.
We didn’t have the right to be ourselves, have our own feelings and thoughts. It was all about you. You were always right, even when you were obviously wrong. We had to comply and do whatever you said to have at least an illusion of peace.
Everything you gave came at a price. Helping meant owning. Ownership, obedience, and control. Your “love” was suffocating and dangerous. I can only imagine how Dad might have felt being in your power, ill and helpless.
I loved him so much, but I can’t feel the same about you.
By now I understand that you were screwed yourself. Unhappy and sick in your head. But I can’t be sympathetic, you’ve caused too much pain, misery, and heartache.
Jealous, envious, and hateful, you couldn’t stand happiness in others.
I’m nearly 54 and I still feel the profound pain of your rejection, criticism, and bullying. My guts still turn around in horror of your irrational reactions and brutality. Your hate-stricken face fills me with anxiety and depression. I feel stupid, ugly, and never good enough.
I can’t find peace. Why couldn’t you just love me?
Why did abusing people who loved you come so easy to you?
Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. You had a choice, and you chose to be that person you’ve become. You didn’t even love you.
I hate you for mistreating my dad and turning me into another monster.
You were closed to success, but I woke up, kicked back, and ran.
I worked hard to find myself and to keep away from your poisonous tentacles.
And I forgot nothing.
I wish you to find peace and happiness someday, if there’s another life for us somewhere. But I don’t want to meet you again. Not even in the afterlife.
And don’t you dare torture my father again.
#2 Forgiven, Not Forgotten
GG tells me that you asked for my forgiveness.
Mama, I know your memories are teasing you.
But don’t worry.
Let the past be the past; we can’t change it. You did what you thought was the best. I’m not to judge you.
In spite of hard times, I’m grateful for many things. I am who I’m today because of you, too. An independent, successful woman, capable of taking care of myself and other people. Someone who can heal and grow. Feel others’ pain and their happiness. Be compassionate and forgiving.
Mama, you succeeded as a parent.
PS: And thank you for forgiving me for not always being kind to you.
#3 I Love You, Mama
I’m coming to visit you next week. I can’t wait!
I want you to remember that I love you.
Hang in there.
Thinking of you.
Lots of hugs and millions of kisses. (Have I wiped a hole in your cheeks?!)
Your loving daughter, I.
Whom Do You See in a Mirror?
Mama didn’t know how to love.
I had to find the real me then learn to trust myself and see the world with my own eyes. From that place, I could see Mama as another human being: faulty and suffering, longing for love. Just like myself.
When I stopped trying to change Mama, she did it herself. Just when I thought it wasn’t possible at all.
Your mother might never change, but YOU CAN.
I want you to look in a mirror and see the real you, not a shadow of your Mom.
Do you want that, too?
Take responsibility for your life.
Irina Bengtson is a daughter of a narcissistic mother, clinical psychologist and a founder of www.LoveGrowBeHappy.com. She combines her professional knowledge with healing experience to help other daughters of narcissistic, hurtful mothers break free from their dysfunctional relationships. She’s a creator of the online course: The Ultimate Guide to De-Stressing And Enjoying Life Now.
Image courtesy of Lina Trochez.