5 Ways for Daughters to Heal From an Emotionally Absent Mother

Updated on July 17, 2019
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Ms. Meyers battled sadness, took anti-depressants, and sought therapy. Relief came when realizing her mom had been emotionally absent.

Once you realize you grew up with an emotionally absent mother, you can begin to heal.
Once you realize you grew up with an emotionally absent mother, you can begin to heal. | Source

Realizing You Had an Emotionally Absent Mother Allows the Healing to Begin

When we have children of our own, most of us feel a deep connection to our own moms. We feel tremendous gratitude for all they did for us. We have a new-found appreciation for the patience, effort, and loving care it took to nurse us, potty train us, help us with our math homework, guide us through the awkward preteen years, and let us make our own stupid mistakes as young adults. But, for others of us, motherhood makes us realize that we missed out on something crucial during our childhoods—the profound emotional bond between mom and daughter.

An emotionally absent mother is not fully present and especially not to the emotional life of the child. She may be depressed, stretched too thin and exhausted, or perhaps a bit numb. Many of these mothers were severely undermothered themselves and have no idea what a close parent-child relationship looks like. They are doing the outer things they think a mother should do, but have no clue how very big the job of mothering is.

— Jasmin Lee Cori, author of "The Emotionally Absent Mother"

Emotionally Absent Mothers Can Be Dismissive of Our Feelings

When my husband and I were going through the long and painful process of getting our 3-year-old son diagnosed with autism, I started to have flashbacks of my growing-up years. Up until that point, I had placed those dreadful days in a dark corner of the closet and moved on with my life. But my mother's lack of compassion and understanding about my son stirred up unpleasant memories from the past.

Not only was she not sympathizing with the heartache I was going through—mom to mom—but she was actually downright hostile and dismissive of my feelings. She couldn't relate on any level to the intense hurt I was experiencing. More than any other time in my life I needed a mommy, but she steadfastly refused to act like one...or, perhaps, she just didn't have it in her and never had.

Emotionally Absent Mothers Ignore Our Inner World

Overwhelmed by my son's diagnosis and a new baby, I didn't have time or money to attend therapy. Thank goodness, my friend told me about Jasmin Lee Cori's The Emotionally Absent Mother. This book led me to reflect upon my childhood instead of just blocking it from my mind like I had been doing. I read it at a snail's pace—needing to thoroughly digest one page at a time, ponder its content, and journal about it.

Cori explains that many daughters of emotionally absent mothers spend their childhood trying to win their mom's love and approval instead of focusing on themselves. As a result, they grow up not knowing who they are, what they want from life, and what they enjoy doing. They might feel empty, alone, and without a purpose, which leads to anxiety and depression. This perfectly described my own situation.

Every page of Cori's book spoke to my experiences growing up with a mother who did all the outward behaviors of a good mom—cooking our meals, cleaning the house, driving us to school—but did nothing to care for our inner universe—responding to our emotions, empathizing with our struggles, and comforting us when we were blue. I often needed to put the book down for days or even weeks because it made me so emotional. When I finally finished reading and absorbing it, I set five goals for myself that proved immensely helpful on my road to understanding, healing, and forgiving.

1. Find a Mother Figure

We wound ourselves when we limit the search for a mommy to just one person—our biological mothers. The mother archetype is a universal one, depicting someone who's nurturing, caring, unselfish, and emotionally open. If our own mothers don't fulfill that role, it's essential we find someone who does—female or male, older or younger, a person who'll be there for the long haul or just for the immediate situation.

My son's occupational therapist, Nora, became my maternal figure. Although she wasn't much older than I was, she was the wiser and more experienced one who gently guided me through the autism maze. Because her teenage son had Asperger's, she spoke not only from a professional perspective but from a personal one and always with genuine kindness and concern.

While her primary job was to help my son, she never left me out of the equation. She made sure I was taking good care of myself—going to a support group for parents of children on the spectrum and having fun with my husband and baby. She reminded me to enjoy my son as a wonderful, unique kid and not just one with autism. I'm no longer in touch with Nora but remain grateful that she mothered me during this difficult period.

Find a mother figure who cares about your emotional well-being.
Find a mother figure who cares about your emotional well-being. | Source

A Word of Caution About Finding a Mother Figure:

In my search to find a mother figure, I had a number of missteps. As Julie Floods writes in her article, Why We Repeatedly Choose the Wrong Relationships, "people tend to be drawn to the familiar" and go toward the devil they know. I kept trying to form friendships with women who were closed off like my mother. I was trying to win them over and change them just like I had done with my mom as a child. Once I identified this pattern, I was able to stop it and start pursuing friends who were emotionally available and desiring of an open, honest, and reciprocal relationship.

2. Mother Yourself

I didn't treat myself well, and it was catching up to me. I didn't eat right, make time for exercise, spend time with friends, or have hobbies. I didn't feel like I deserved good treatment—not from others and not from myself. I knew changing that belief was central to improving my life.

In elementary school I was the rag-a-muffin girl whose hair needed a good brushing. In middle school I was the one with the frumpy wardrobe who needed someone to teach her about style. In high school I was the pimply teen who needed to visit a dermatologist. I never had anyone mentor me, advocate for me, champion me, be my cheerleader, or mother me. I finally decided to do all those things for myself.

Today, I don't let malicious voices in my head tear me down until I can barely function. I'm kind and gentle to myself, making time for activities that bring me peace and joy. I talk to myself like a mother talks to a child: "You've worked long enough. You're tired now and need to sleep...You need to slow down and eat a healthy meal. Nothing is more important than that." I begin many mornings by writing a note to myself from my ideal imaginary mother. She tells me how much she loves me, how proud she is of what I've accomplished, and encourages me to treat myself well throughout the day.

I remember hearing Iyanla Vanzant, the life coach and television personality, tell women to put themselves first and to "keep your cup full!" I had heard nothing of the sort while growing up but found out quickly how right Vanzant was. It's empowering to finally have someone looking out for me...especially when it's me. I no longer feel so completely drained. I look forward to every day and have so much more to offer.

3. Examine and Forgive

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But, for those of us with painful pasts, it's often difficult to re-visit our traumatic times. When I started to look at how my mom's childhood related to my own, though, the puzzle pieces started to fit and a clear, cohesive image appeared. I realized that not only did I need to forgive my mother, but that she deserved my forgiveness.

My grandparents conceived my mother to save their unhappy marriage. When their first daughter died, they contemplated divorce. They ultimately chose, however, to have another child, my mother, in the hopes of saving their union. It didn't work. My grandmother began to drink, eventually dying from cirrhosis of the liver. My mom got sent away to boarding school. She never had a mother figure in her life again and never experienced what it was like to live in a family until she had kids of her own.

It's no wonder she couldn't emotionally connect to her own children. She was still preoccupied with the suffering of her own childhood (and still is today, well into her 70s). When talking with my mom, I quickly realized she saw her mom's alcoholism as an act of rejection. She commented, “she choose booze over me.” My mom never took the time to learn about alcohol addiction, to attend an Al-Anon meeting, or to find answers in therapy. She didn't have a mother. She didn't mother herself. So how could she mother her children? With that insight, it was easy to forgive.

4. If You're a Parent, Make Your Home Child-Centered.

According to Jasmin Lee Cori, many children who grew up with emotionally absent mothers didn't have “child-centered” homes. She says, “These parents didn’t supervise kids, they didn’t talk to their kids, they didn’t touch their kids, and they weren’t there when their kids came to them for help.”

In my family, our mother always had more important things to do than mothering. Her career (ironically, as an elementary school teacher) was always put ahead of us kids. We'd sit at the dinner table, and she'd tell story after story about the students in her class but never asked about our days.

As a parent, I've made a conscious effort to create a child-centered home with my sons' activities taking priority over my own. I don't burden them with adult issues like my mother did with me. She confided in me all her marital problems, work struggles, and financial concerns. I would never think of doing that with my own kids.

Dr. Jonice Webb Offers a Hopeful Message for Those Who Grew Up With Emotionally Absent Mothers

5. Let Yourself Feel Everything

As a child, my mother denied my feelings again and again. If I said, “I feel sad,” she would then tell me why that couldn't possibly be true. Because she had an alcoholic mother who had died, she thought my life was perfect, and I had no right to feel anything but sheer contentment. That's when I started to stuff my emotions with food. As an adult, I concealed them with anti-depressants, leading to a robotic existence.

Dr. Jonice Webb, author of Running on Empty, says mothers who discount a daughter's emotions during childhood are creating enormous problems for her in adulthood. The daughter thinks: My feelings don't matter so I must not matter. She learns at an impressionable age to bottle up her emotions. Then, as an adult, she cannot tap into those feelings when she needs them. Dr. Webb writes, "When your emotions are blocked off, your body feels it. Something vital is missing. You sense this deeply, and it does not feel good...You are emotionally numb."

After getting off anti-depressants, I decided to feel every emotion for the first time in my life. It was scary because I thought my husband and kids would turn their backs on me. I thought they would tell me that my feelings were wrong just like my mom had, but they didn't. They accepted them and, therefore, accepted me.

I also started writing down my feelings and experiences as the daughter of an emotionally absent mother. Through the process of putting pen to paper, I made sense of what happened to me and how it shaped my life. Writing things down helped me organize my thoughts. I realized that I didn't always need other people to understand my history and validate my emotions; I could find peace just by putting the words on the page and that discovery was truly transformative.

To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.

— Andrei Lankov

Did you have an emotionally absent mother?

If so, what helped you to heal?

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This Is the Book That Began My Healing

The Emotionally Absent Mother, Updated and Expanded Second Edition: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect
The Emotionally Absent Mother, Updated and Expanded Second Edition: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect

This book got me started on my journey toward healing. It took me a long time to finish it because it was overwhelming. I'd read a couple of passages and then walk away, needing time to think, journal, and cry. I saw my story here and it felt good to know I wasn't alone. I'm currently in the process of re-reading this book, wanting to understand more.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • Do you have any more book recommendations? I finished the one mentioned in your article, and I need to read more on the subject as part of my healing process.

    After I read "The Emotionally Absent Mother," I was eager to move forward like you probably are. I didn't want to get stuck in the victim role, constantly re-hashing my childhood. I had spent enough time doing that, so I read books that helped me make my life better in the here and now. I read Jasmin Lee Cori's follow-up, "The Emotionally Absent Mother: A Guide to Self-Healing and Getting the Love You Missed," and "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" by Dr. Karyl McBride.

    Both books helped me understand how growing up with an emotionally distant mom shaped my childhood, causing me so much shame and self-doubt. I had blamed myself for my terrible childhood, thinking I was a failure as a kid and teen. These books helped me realize that I was not to blame, and I could finally start to nurture and love that wounded little girl inside of me. I began taking good care of myself for the first time in my life: losing weight, exercising, and eating well. Before that, I just didn't like myself enough to bother.

  • My mom was emotionally absent, and I didn't want to be like her when I became a mom. I've done really well with my kids, but I get frustrated dealing with their emotions. How can I do better?

    It's understandable that you, the daughter of an emotionally absent mother, would struggle to deal with your children's feelings despite your best intentions. Growing up without a role model to show you how to do things correctly, you're left to your own devices. When you were a child, your emotional world was not attended to, and now you may perceive your children's intense feelings as scary and threatening. You may wrongly interpret their anger or sadness as saying: “Mom, you're doing a lousy job and I'm unhappy about it.”

    It's so wonderful, though, that you recognize your weakness in this area and want to improve. Now you need to cut yourself some slack and become more methodical in your approach. I, too, found myself reacting without patience and empathy when my sons were expressing their emotions. Sometimes it was simply because I was tired but other times it was because of the emotional neglect I experienced as a kid.

    I found myself wanting to fix my children's problems and move forward as quickly as possible with no emotional messiness. That was my legacy as the daughter of an emotionally absent mother. Therefore, I decided to become more deliberate, slow down, and follow these three critical steps:

    1. Let them have their feelings.

    Feelings are neither good nor bad; they are. Help your children identify their feelings and name them (sad, frustrated, angry). Help them figure out why they're having these feelings (I'm angry because I lost at Monopoly...I'm frustrated because we didn't have pizza for dinner...I'm sad because I didn't get invited to the birthday party). Be their guide as they explore their feelings. Let them cry if they need to cry. Don't try to suppress their emotions. Help them find ways to deal with their feelings in a constructive way: punching a pillow, going outside, waling the dog, exercising, talking to a friend, writing in a journal, taking a bath, etc.

    2. Don't get defensive.

    Keep in mind that their feelings are their own. Get your ego out of the equation and don't make it about you. Step back from the situation. Don't take their strong emotions as a condemnation of your mothering. This is about them getting to know more about their emotions and themselves. It's normal, natural, and healthy.

    3. Listen and don't try to fix things.

    What one of the biggest complaints wives have about their husbands is that they immediately jump into solving the problem rather than listening and empathizing. As daughters of emotionally absent mothers, we can be guilty of this as well. We're uncomfortable with the raw emotions. We want them to go away and everything to return to normal. When we do this, however, we give our kids the wrong message. We communicate that feelings are undesirable, so it's best to bottle them up inside and then suffer all the negative physical and emotional consequences of doing so. As a daughter of emotionally absent mothers, this is the last message we want to pass along to our kids!

    Our moms didn't listen to us when we were children and didn't pick up on our feelings. There was no emotional bond. Now it's our opportunity to do better with our kids and not pass the emotional neglect to the next generation. It may not come naturally to us, but we can do it because we're aware and highly motivated.

  • I want to start by thanking you for sharing your story. I felt I was reading about myself and it's nice to know i'm not crazy. I'd like to know if you had any trouble when you first had your child. I am scared of becoming a mom for fear of being a bad one. Did you have other resources to share on that aspect of your experience?

    You're so fortunate to be aware of this now while contemplating motherhood. As I said in my article, I didn't know I was the daughter of an emotionally absent mother until after having my son and struggling through his autism diagnosis. If I had known sooner, I would have saved myself so much heartache and frustration. I never would have expected my mom to act any differently than she always had in emotionally rife situations--cold, angry, and detached--and I would have moved away from her long before starting a family of my own.

    Don't think for one minute that your mother will act differently as a grandmother to your kids than she did as a mother to you. I was hoping my mom would connect to my sons on an emotional level and be a special someone in their lives: giving them hugs and kisses, playing board games with them, taking them to the park, talking with them, doing cooking and art projects with them. But, it was insane of me to think that because she had never done those things with my siblings and me. Hope springs eternal, though, and I wanted so badly to have a second chance with her through my sons. People are consistent, though, and my mom acted as a grandmother just as she had as a parent. I didn't want to go through that pain again so I distanced myself from her (emotionally and geographically). Without a doubt, it was the best decision for me, my marriage, and my kids.

    I'm so glad I sheltered my sons from my mom because they haven't been damaged by her. That just see her as a passive-aggressive old lady. My two nieces, though, are now young adults and grew up with their grandmother near them. They have no bond with her and hate how she nitpicks their appearance—their hair color, their clothes, their skin, their weight—just as she had done to me and their mom while growing up. Unlike me and my sister, though, they fight back and don't let her crush their spirit!

    I think you would be an awesome mom if you deal with these issues before becoming pregnant. Without a doubt, parenting has been a challenge for me because of my son's autism but also because of my childhood. Yet, being a mother has given me a chance to build the family of my dreams in which there's a lot of fun, laughter, and camaraderie.

    "Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect" by Jonice Webb helped me realize why I was feeling so tired and drained as a parent. I thought it was only because I was doing too much as a mom, wife, and teacher (which was true), but it was also caused by being the daughter of an emotionally absent mother. Understanding that allowed me to bring more joy and vitality into my life through meditating, volunteering, exercising, having hobbies, and allowing myself downtime. Now I always have things to look forward to that keep me living in the present and not dwelling on the past. My life is a lot more fun now than it has ever been.

    Good luck to you on that life-altering decision. It's a big one!

  • My 15-year-old (step)daughter finally got to move in with us. Her mother has been plain cruel. Along with therapy, are there any books you think a mature 15-year-old could read and benefit from?

    First, let me commend you for being so sensitive and compassionate about your stepdaughter's situation. Her therapist would be a much better source for book recommendations than I would. The books I recommend to daughters of emotionally absent mothers are for adult women and explore heavy-duty themes that aren't appropriate for teens. When I read those books, they wiped me out emotionally.

    I would suggest, though, that you consider family therapy as you make this big transition. It would be valuable for all of you to have a skilled facilitator in the room as you maneuver this new living arrangement. When a teen is in therapy by herself, she gets the message that she's alone in dealing with these issues. Family therapy gives her the support she needs and shows her how powerful the group dynamic is.

    I would imagine that you, her father, and other siblings need support in this new arrangement as well. Discussing these issues now can prevent problems in the future. If her mother would come into the therapy as well, it could be extremely beneficial. Even if the two of them can no longer live together, perhaps they could salvage something of their mother-daughter bond.

    My 17-year-old niece recently read “Express Yourself: A Teen Girl's Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are” by Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist. Her mother (my sister) was the daughter of an emotionally absent mother, so my niece is coping with that legacy. She was struggling with depression and anxiety and was cutting herself. Like her mother and me when we were teens, she had bottled up her feelings and didn't have the skills to articulate her thoughts. She said this book (along with therapy) helped her find her voice and get some much-needed relief from her emotional pain.

  • You described my mother, no cuddling or bonding so I didn't know myself. I tried hard to nurture my girls, yet how can I know myself now at 60?

    I'm 53 and struggle with that as well. It astonishes me to this day how little insight I have about myself due to my childhood with an emotionally absent mother. Because our moms ignored or discounted our inner world while we were growing up, we didn't get the feedback we needed to know ourselves. In many instances, this led us to make wildly inappropriate choices for our lives.

    My mother, for instance, wanted a popular, outgoing child so she insisted I was an extrovert. Despite my feelings, behaviors, opinions, and preferences that strongly indicated I was an introvert, she told me again and again that I was gregarious. For many years, I tried desperately to be just that but, not surprisingly, wound up failing miserably and feeling like a fraud. I worked hard to became a teacher, which proved to be a horrible fit since introverts get drained by interacting with people all day. It felt like everyone around me knew who they were and what they should be doing with their lives, but I didn't have a clue.

    The emotional invalidation we received from our mothers still impacts us today. We were told at a young age that our feelings didn't matter, that they were bad, and that they were a bother to our moms. When our feelings got discounted, we got discounted. We learned that it wasn't safe to share our inner world so we numbed ourselves (perhaps, with food, drugs, or alcohol). We put on a suit of armor each day so we were protected from being hurt and rejected.

    To get to know ourselves now, we must finally embrace our inner world that's been neglected for too long. By celebrating our feelings, we validate ourselves. I write in a journal every day about my emotions with absolutely no self-censorship. I accept they're neither good nor bad; they just are. I let myself feel my feelings throughout the day and no longer squelch them.

    By getting in touch with my inner world, I know myself better and I'm more powerful than ever. I'm no longer the confused little girl who got discounted every time she voiced an emotion to her mother. I'm able to figure out what brings me joy and pursue it with a new-found passion. I like myself now and enjoy spending time alone. I don't need to be so busy like I once did. You may want to read my article on this topic called “50 Ways for Daughters of Emotionally Absent Mothers to Nurture Themselves Each and Every Day.” https://remedygrove.com/wellness/50-Ways-for-Daugh...

    You deserve this special time to get to know yourself. Embrace your feelings and the rest will come. Enjoy this journey of self-discovery!

© 2016 McKenna Meyers


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    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      10 months ago from Bend, OR

      Gabby, I feel your anguish and I'm worried about you. Do you need to speak with a counselor about your sadness? If you open up to someone, you'll find relief. Please get the support you need if you continue to feel so hopeless.

      For decades, I struggled with depression and anxiety and never knew why. I saw therapists and took anti-depressants but felt so sad and alone. When I stumbled upon a book about emotionally absent mothers, I finally found the answers to a lifetime of emptiness. My mom did all the external things that good moms do—making our meals, driving us to school, taking us to the doctor and dentist. She, however, never connected with our inner world. Growing up that way, I always felt flat, lifeless, and barely had enough energy to make it through each day. I slept a lot.

      It's still a daily struggle for me to connect with my emotions and not be robotic. I have found many things to do, though, that make it better and give me life: meditating, exercising, praying, writing in my journal, spending time with my dog, and being in nature.

      Gabby, I don't know if you'll ever find someone to love you. I do know, though, that you can have a beautiful life even if you don't. You can find contentment in your work, your hobbies, your friendships, and in helping others.

      Keep persevering, Gabby, and get the help you need. Take care!

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      Gosh, it could have been me writing this -- down to the mom who's an elementary school teacher and sits on the table to talk alllll about her students, including how they write letters and notes to her saying that they wish she was their mom or something (as if me pretty much obliterating myself for her affection wasn't wishing she was my mom or something)... At least you have a partner, kids, because honestly no one has ever wanted me. I am eternally single, and I don't think there's a point in living this life anymore. I just keep going on because I still feel some hope -- which never really materializes in me actually finding someone or being loved... I hate it so much.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      11 months ago from Bend, OR

      Tiffany, I'm glad you no longer feel alone. That's how I felt after reading “The Emotionally Absent Mother.” I was amazed how each page spoke to my experiences growing up with a mom who neglected my inner world. It helped so much in understanding the adult I became. I was numb for so many years, but now I've opened myself up to all kinds of emotions and it feels great. I had always been overweight. Once I got in touch with my feelings and learned to express them, I no longer needed to stuff myself with food. We can definitely use our past to launch us forward, not stay stuck. Best to you!

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      I am so relieved to have found this site and hear your stories. I relate to these feelings deeply and am grateful for finally - not feeling alone.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      15 months ago from Bend, OR

      One of my favorites quotes is: "Don't hog your journey. It's not just for you" so I'm so glad my thoughts and experiences helped you. When I read Jasmin Lee Cori's book, I saw myself on every page and it was such a relief to know I wasn't alone as the daughter of an emotionally absent mother.

      I had been trying to be "strong" for so long, but that strength only meant that I was closed off, unfeeling, and cold. I hated who I had become. Now I feel everything so intensely and I love it. Writing has been immensely helpful in helping me deal with my emotions in a way that makes sense and moves me forward.

      As daughters of emotionally absent mothers, we have every right to feel sad about it, but we also have every right to have a beautiful life now. I hope you have that and I wish you well.

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      In reading about your life I felt as if i was reading about myself. I've learned so much simply from reading the article. Thank you so much for sharing your life.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      16 months ago from Bend, OR

      Marjorie, first let me congratulate you. You sound like you're in a really healthy place in your life and with your mother. By asking how to show her love, you show great maturity on your journey toward understanding, forgiving, and healing. Maybe, you should write that book!

      With my own mother, I show love and concern with "compassionate listening." I listened to a Buddhist monk and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, talk to Oprah about it on "Super Soul Sunday," and it made a huge impression on me. Compassionate listening is a supreme act of kindness as you let go of your ego and needs and let the speaker vent. You listen with little or no interruptions.

      This is the gift I give my mother. I leave all the hurt and pain in the past, and I just let her talk. I no longer reach back in our history to try to fix things but just live in the here and now. I give her a call when I feel in the right frame of mind--patient, calm, and relaxed. She seems to really appreciate it. A year ago, I couldn't do this, but now I'm in a better place, too. Best of everything to you, Marjorie!

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Hi! I'm seeing alot about the book and realizing so MUCH about why I am the way I am and identifying that my mother is the way she is. I'm wondering if you know of any resources that would help me with LOVING her and how she might accept it.

      As an adult now, I'm fine if she wants to not be engaged. I have a great extended family and in-laws, so I'm done getting my feelings her by her absence. But as long as she is still here, I do want to continue to show her love. She may never accept it, I think part of her trauma and absence is that she does not feel deserving of our love due to things of the past. And I can't talk to her or make a thing about it or I'll just get more awkward obligatory phone calls. But I do still want to show her love. Is there a "how to love an emotionally absent mother anyway" guide? Does this book discussed cover that?

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      17 months ago from Bend, OR

      Yes, hellodaughter, you should read the book. It was painful for me to do so, but I'm glad I did. Now, I know I'm not alone in my experiences and that's comforting. I wrote in my journal while reading the book, and it was cathartic. I purged a lot of my pent-up sadness, anger, and resentment. Putting my thoughts on paper helped me understand them in a cognitive way (not just emotional) and helped me make sense of what happened to me, find peace, and move forward. It was messy at first but well worth it. You deserve it, hellodaughter, and I'm cheering you on from here!

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      17 months ago

      I guess it's time for me to actually read a so called "self-help" book. My husband lovingly tells me it's time to "let it go". Yes, it is. But to be so conditioned from childhood that you don't deserve to be heard that you hesitate to attempt real conversations, expecting to be ignored or interrupted, it's hard to simply let it go. I need to learrn "letting go" tools and I need to somehow find real friendships in my tiny, tiny town.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      17 months ago from Bend, OR

      You're welcome, Valerie Anne. I'm glad you found it useful. I believe that expression "an unexamined life is not worth living." Our childhoods affect so much of who we are today. But, I also think we need to always keep moving forward and making ourselves stronger and better. It's too easy to live in the past and make ourselves victims. I wish you the best.

    • profile image

      Valerie Anne 

      17 months ago

      Thank you so much. I am a Christian and I have coped with quite a lot, essentially being grown up first and feeling that lack in the middle!

      It was not unkind parents but the result of their war trauma and they were very northern, Its your own fault, rather than, well we did not instruct you on that issue!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      17 months ago from Bend, OR

      hellodaughter, I love the idea of a matchmaking website for daughters of emotionally absent mothers. I think you should pitch that idea to "Shark Tank." Quite seriously, I think you'd be surprised at how many of us would join.

      We daughters of emotionally absent mothers have so much in common that it never ceases to amaze me. My mother, too, always interrupted me when I was a kid and still does. That certainly contributed to my low self-esteem. I shut down, thinking no one wanted to hear my thoughts and feelings. I still struggle with that now all these decades later but am getting better. I feel like I'm finally finding my voice in my fifties.

      While we may never find a mother substitute at this point in our lives, there are those who enter our lives and briefly play that role. When I'm connecting with you now, I feel you're mothering me. When I read Jasmin Lee Cori's book, I felt the same.

      Good luck with your visit. Twelve days is a long time! Take care of yourself.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      I'm 12 days into my annual "visit with mom" and once again I haven't finished one sentence without being interrupted. This has been my whole life and why I've always felt that no one wants to hear one thing I have to say and why I feel no one could possibly care about what I'm going through so I've learned to keep things to myself and deal with them alone. As the visit goes on my exhaustion increases and my chronic physical pain gets worse. It makes me sad that in order to have what feels like a mother I need to go out and find myself a mother figure, but when I saw that in your article I realized that is what I need. Of course, at age 57, and well practiced in thinking no one would want that role I have to figure out how to find someone to fill it. It's good to know that I'm not the only one out here that feels messed up even though I was never beaten or molested in childhood. Thank goodness for my dad. My dad made me feel loved, heard and honored. Thank you for writing this. I'll get the book and start the search for my new mom. I wish there was a match making website for daughters like us looking for that mom they need when they realize that they need something that they didn't get.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      18 months ago from Bend, OR

      Brana, my heart goes out to you. As much as we love parenting our children, it can make us terribly sad at times, knowing we missed out on that love and attention. When I pick up my son from his activities at high school, I can't help but cry at times, remembering what a difficult period that was in my life when I suffered from depression and had nobody to help me. I'm thrilled that my son is having so much fun at high school, but I feel sad for the teenage me who suffered through it.

      I'm glad you're thinking about these issues and working through them. I fell into a terrible depression when my son got diagnosed with autism and was put on anti-depressants. I was like a zombie for much of my sons' growing up years. I now think a lot of that sadness stemmed from my childhood and my emotionally absent mother, not so much from my son's diagnosis.

      Even though it's hard (almost impossible) to have time to nurture yourself when you have three young children, please take the time to do this. When you take care of yourself, you're being a positive role model for them. Take time to exercise, meditate, and write in a journal. Keep expressing your feelings and don't keep them bottled up inside of you.

      I'm a lot older than you are and I still want a mommy very much and always will. That's normal and not childish. Perhaps, you won't find one person to serve in that role but many. It may be a combination of friends, neighbors, teachers -- anyone who shares kindness, wisdom, and a helping hand.

      You may also want to consider seeing a cognitive therapist. In a short amount of time, she could give you concrete ways to think differently about your situation and move forward. Cognitive therapy is very goal-oriented.

      I wish you the very best. I know you will make a beautiful life for your daughters. Take care of yourself.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      I'm glad I found this article.I wasnt born in the best of families. When I was 8 years old, my mother passed. She wasnt necessarily a good mom and the memories I do have of her werent good. But she left us with our grandmother who was also her mother. Her mother was a narcissist in it's truest form. We were never allowed to talk about our mother or speak of her. Ofcourse we never were allowed to grieve her either. I say "we" because I have two sisters as well. We grew up very abused and very lonely. I will be 30 in a few months and I now have a husband and 3 children of my own. Daughters ironically...

      When reading this article, I get so sad. Because I want a mom. I just feel so bad saying that and I know it sounds childish. But I really wish I had a mom. Over the years I have met 2 different women whom I looked up to as maternal figures, and each of them in a way has pushed me away. I just have a void in me. I never had an aunt or anyone to help fill that void. And I feel like it's made me a mess in the process... I just wish I knew how to move forward and make peace so that I can be the best mom possible to my daughters.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      18 months ago from Bend, OR

      PepperRed, it sounds like you and the high school girl with endometriosis were destined to meet and learn from each other. Although it triggered a painful memory for you, it was probably something you needed to re-visit, figure out, get clarity, and find some peace.

      Through the years, I've spoken with many women who had emotionally absent mothers while growing up. It's amazing how many of them have a story to tell about their periods--about how their mom didn't explain what it was, didn't sympathize with their cramps and moods, and didn't connect with them in the normal way women bond over this topic. My own mom never told me anything about menstrual cycles. After mine started, I hated it so much. I began dieting and exercising to such an extent that my period stopped for many years. I hated how my body was changing and that was my way to stop it.

      Your mom may not want to spend time alone with you because she's aware that she lacks emotional intelligence. You're wanting an intimacy that she's unable to give. My mother is like that so, when we're together, we stay on "safe" topics, usually having the same conversation again and again. I get nothing out of you, but she seems fine with it.

      It sounds like you're a real asset at the high school and they're lucky to have you. As a former teacher, I know there are so many issues kids are dealing with that have nothing to do with academics. It's easy to become callous about that, but you are not. Best of everything to you on your journey.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Thank you for this article... something came up recently that made me reflect on my childhood and wonder why I was feeling upset and hurt...

      I recently started a new job as a teaching assistant in a high school: I love my job and am building some good relationships with the children I help (struggling with school work, special needs, disabilities etc). There’s one girl I can’t get out of my mind - she was in agony in her lesson, in tears and asking to leave the room to go to the bathroom. I escorted her out of the room, where she told me she has endometriosis. My heart broke for this poor girl, as I do too. I helped her as best I could at the time and liaised with other staff who were fully aware of the students condition, passing on some suggestions for mum to mention to the girls doctor.

      There is help and support for this girl, but I can’t help but feel so emotional about when I was in her shoes as a young girl, suffering horrendously painful periods, blacking out and missing several days of school/college/university.

      But at the time, I didn’t know what I was suffering from. My mother told me that periods are ‘meant to hurt’ if I ever complained. I learned about periods from an out of date book she gave me and she never spoke about them: I certainly couldn’t approach her about them, therefore I carried on believing that what I suffered was ‘normal’, so I shut up and put up. It was my lovely stepdad that would collect me from school and make up hot water bottles to help ease the pain.

      I know I can’t change the past, but I can’t help but wish that she had taken me more seriously, got me the help that I so desperately needed at the time... I can’t help but wonder if she was more emotionally available I could’ve said exactly how I felt each month..?

      Even as an adult, she’s keen to help in practical ways (offers to do bits of shopping when I can’t [which I rarely accept], mind the house when I’m away [which I do accept]) and will spend time with me in a group setting, but any suggestions to actually spend time with her alone are ignored: if I ever bring it up, she just passes it off saying she thought I’d be too busy or makes an excuse.

      I think I know deep down I just have to accept that overall, the way she treats me is miles better than her mother treated her, so I should get over this...

      ...maybe once I’m feeling less hormonal though...

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      18 months ago from Bend, OR

      Karli, I wish I could give you a hug right now and take away all the pain you're feeling. What you wrote is so raw and real. Even though you've made sense of the situation in your head, it still hurts in your heart. I'm much older than you but still long for a loving mom and probably will until the day I die. It sounds like your mother was overwhelmed with life and saw you as the stronger, more competent one so she turned her attention to the others. While that was a compliment to you, it didn't feel that way because you still needed her to listen to you and understand you.

      Fortunately, you have another chance in life to create a family and do things differently. It sounds like you're already looking forward to that. You'll make a life less frenetic than your mother's so you have time to slow down, listen to your child, and validate her feelings.

      As a daughter of an emotionally absent mother, you are part of our sisterhood. We don't want to embrace victimhood but move forward in life, nurturing ourselves and the ones we love. It took me too long in my journey to love myself and take care of myself. But I'm finally doing it now. Writing about my experiences like you did here has helped me immensely. I also keep a gratitude journal and write down 5 things each day for which I'm thankful. This keeps me positive because I'm prone to depression. I also do a lot of exercise and that lifts my spirit.

      I wish you the best out of life, Karli. Remember, you are the architect of your life now. I'm sure you'll build something beautiful. Take care.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      All I have to say is thank you for this.

      When I was little, I loved my mommy and she loved me. When I was sad she would pick me up and cuddle me and everything was better. My parents divorced when I was 7 and my father moved away to Ohio and we for the most part have no relationship. Birthday cards here and there and maybe a visit every few years. But that was a loss for me, because my biological father never tried to be around. It was about 7th or 8th grade when my mom started to disappear on me. Not physically, but emotionally. We would constantly butt heads and get into easy arguments that ended up with me feeling shamed. I have an older sister, an older brother, a younger sister and a younger brother. I was always smack in middle. My older sister, had a lot of anger problems where she would fight with my mom constantly to no end. So my mom was always involved with her issues and trying to get her to cooperate and go to school but she ended up dropping out anyway. Today, they are best friends because my sister had children. Then, my younger brother has mild cerebral palsy so she was always busy with him trying to get him in physical therapy and this and that she always babied him and now he is 19 and has never had a job in his life and isn’t forced to pay rent after graduation like I was. My mom forced me to get a job the week after I turned 16 to pay my phone bill and the day after I graduated college the rent demand started. My baby sister was really only a toddler when I was going through my puberty days she was about (2-3years) so of course my mom was running around with my little sister for doctors appointments and this and that. She always did try hard for them or us....but it was just that, whenever I was in need of help she would always be too distracted to listen to me. I would constantly feel like I was being pushed aside to deal with later. Always put on the back burner. She was a good mother in the sense of my siblings and keeping us all fed. She also remarried to a man who I consider my dad because he raised me since I was 7. I love him, and I know he loves me. He just always let my mom have the control. And he wasn’t a very emotional type of person you could comfortably vent to especially with girl issues.——anyway, my mother was emotionally absent through my preteen and teenage years, even still now—I am 24. And I know a lot of people had it worse than me. But I feel things so deeply. And for years I have carried this resentment in me because of how she would never take the time to listen and love me. She was always busy with trying to pay the bills on time and verbally telling me house we might lose the house this month and Thisbe and that. I believe that should not be something you tell your children to scare them. She was just always making sure my siblings were alright. But never did she ever notice my sadness or ask why. I would come home from school every day (as I didn’t have many friends-only two) I would drop my backPack and go straight upstairs to my room to listen to depressing music and draw/write in a journal, because that’s the only way I could vent without critism. Not leaving my room unless I was thirsty or had to use the restroom. She never would come up and ask to hang out, or go for a walk or to talk. She just never noticed I was gone. Eventually I began spending night after night at my friends house because my mom didn’t care if I slept out on school nights. My friend was sad a lot too and so was I. I hate to think about this but I used to find release in cutting, scratching or pinching my skin. I would obviously hide it by wearing lots of bracelets. Eventually my friends mom found out and told my mom. My mom reacted in a way that I would have least expected. I was afraid. She didn’t ask me if I wanted to go see someone for help, she never asked why I did this. All she said was “if you don’t knock this shit off then I’m going to take you to the mental hospital.” I was really broken. And I never went to get help. I just told her I’d stop and so she swept it under the carpet and we never talked about it again.

      I guess the point is is that my mom was there for me when I was little and that is important she did that. But in this time it is crucial to be an ear and shoulder for your child who is transitioning into a young woman or man. That is truly the most stressful time for a person. Giving up their childhood and going into a different kind of journey is a scary thing to do alone. The brain of a teenager is just as delicate as a child’s because it is in the midst of transitioning.

      My mom wasn’t an alcoholic, and she wasn’t a drug addict. She just wasn’t there for all of her kids. She left me in the dark, while guiding my siblings to the light. I know some people may think that I’m a brat for feeling like I didn’t get “attention”. But it is truly damaging and I wish I could relive those days and try to change it more.....the feelings that sprout at a young and confusing age such as 15 can carry and haunt you into adulthood, like it did me. My emotional stress towards my mother still exists. She never calls me. And I never call her. I’m the only one of my siblings who is in college (for dental hygiene). I thought she’d be proud. But yet she never asks me how school is. When I see her she talk my ears off without letting me talk. And when I do get the chance to talk she’s quick to change the subject to something more interesting to her like “her kids at school” she is an aid at an elementary school.

      I guess everyone’s experience is different. Mine is just opposite because the emotional stress and trauma came from my early preteen-teenage and into adulthood (still now). And it kills me because I see my other friends being best friends with their mothers. It is hard because I compare my mother to other mothers I meet and then I feel guilty about it. And no matter what, even when I do find someone so motherly and loving towards me (like my boyfriends mother in law I’ve known for 8 years) my body finds it agonizing because I remember my mommy from so long ago who would coddle me and whisper that things are okay. But to have that mother you remember morph into someone so different is absolutely tragic and it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. She isn’t a horrible mother because shes proved so much with my siblings. It was just me who she couldn’t share it with. But I am happy and grateful for my siblings, to have had the chance to her heart. I guess she just thought I was ok without her. I also find that having this tough and awkward relationship with my mom has taught me exactly how I want to treat my daughter or son in the future. I never for a second was my kid to suffer in silence. I want him or her to know that I am here no matter what it is I will open my ears and my heart and I will embrace them with all the love that I had lost. And I will try my best to fill all of their gaps that I never had the chance to fill my own.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      18 months ago from Bend, OR

      You're certainly not alone, H, and my mother used to say the same thing to me that your mother said to you. In reality, though, I have two wonderful teenage sons who treat me with tremendous love and respect. I was very conscious of wanting to parent differently than my mother and I did. It was challenging because I didn't have a role model--just knew what I didn't want to do.

      It took me a long time to get over the sadness I had about my mother, and I still get sad every now and then but it passes quickly. Dealing with the reality of the situation has brought me great peace. Reading about emotionally absent mothers has helped, too, but I've also needed to move forward with my life and find gratitude in all that I have. You are part of the sisterhood, H, and I wish you the very best.

    • profile image

      18 months ago

      Thank you for this post, it is insightful, compassionate, and provides clear strategies for healing. It is inspiring to know someone has struggled with the same thing as me but has found her way to a better place. And makes me hopeful that I can be a good mother in the future (my mother has always told me that because I treat her badly, my fate is having children that will treat me badly). There is a profound sadness that comes with these types of relationships with mothers, that my friends don’t understand, but here I have found people who have experienced that sadness, and in some way, it justifies my sadness instead of making it feel like an overreaction.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      19 months ago from Bend, OR

      Best to you, Amel. Being the daughters of emotionally absent mothers is a sisterhood. I cheer for all of us to recover from that hurt and find joy. When I accepted the reality of my mother, I was finally able to experience peace.

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      so grateful to you. Thank you

      Amen from Tunisia

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      19 months ago from Bend, OR

      I'm so happy for you and your kids, Stefanie. I know how difficult it is to parent well as the daughter of an emotionally absent mom. You have the desire to do it differently but not necessarily the skills. I think blogging is a brilliant way for you to help others and yourself. Best to you!

    • Stefanie Anson profile image

      Stefanie Anson 

      19 months ago from Ireland

      Interesting and thought-provoking. Despite my own mother being emotionally aloof, and somewhat 'love-neglectful', I used my experiences to become a better mother myself. I would rather die than let my amazing kids feel the way she makes me feel. I'm sure I overcompensate, and that probably means I haven't completely dealt with the issue. I am not ready to build bridges with her yet but I am working on it. I am also using my experiences to blog so I might somehow help someone else.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      20 months ago from Bend, OR

      If this gave you comfort and inspiration to seek help, Hazel, I feel very honored. You sound highly motivated so I think a good therapist could help you in a relatively short amount of time. I wish I had stuck with talk therapy instead of switching to anti-depressants. Those are not a long-term solution because they don't help you get to the root of the problem. I can relate to what you wrote about reliving your childhood pain through your kids. My younger son started high school this year and I often pick him up from his activities. During my high school years, I suffered from depression and anxiety, but my parents never got me help. When I'm in the school's parking lot, I feel so sad for all the needless suffering I endured. I wish I could just feel happiness for the fun times my son is having at high school now. I wish you the very best on your journey. Good for you for taking care of yourself and your daughters and for ending the cycle!

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      Thank you!

      Both my parents are and have always been emotionally detached and I have two amazing daughters that I love deeply but I relive my childhood pain through every stage of their lives. I was bulimic for a number of years and now I struggle with alcohol. This is not something you grow out of but something that can continue to damage you and everyone around you. This has helped me realize that I need help and lots of it.

      My Mother lost her Dad in a terribly traumatic way at a very vulnerable age and my father had extremely selfish parents. The cycle must stop though!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      22 months ago from Bend, OR

      J, it's so good to hear from you again. Congratulations on your successful treatment and good luck with your scans this week. I'm glad you had good friends to help you get through that trying period. When we have an emotionally absent mother, it's so important to have friends who we can turn to in difficult times. I'm sorry your parents weren't supportive about the cancer but not surprised. When I was a teenager, I suffered from severe depression and anxiety and my mother never took me to a doctor. I look back on that now as the mother of two teenage sons and am horrified. But, she was too focused on her own life to see my pain let alone deal with the situation. As I wrote in my article, she denied my son had autism. That made me nuts at the time, but now I see that's her pattern. We're always going to feel the pain of having this kind of mom, but it challenges us every day to take better care of ourselves because we so deserve it and need it. There's so much heartbreak in the world, but there's also so much beauty. The greatest gift I give myself these days is time. Just before writing this, I spent 10 minutes watching two gorgeous birds fly from branch to branch in the tree outside my window. I'm also taking time to meditate, read, and paint. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers, J, as we continue to reach for the light.

    • profile image

      22 months ago

      Arrived back here, 7 months later still seeking tips and advice on self kindness and care.

      Thank you for this. I have finished active treatment for cancer and have routine scans this week. Scanxiety. My parents in their typical form pretends cancer never happened.

      I lived alone and took care of myself with a strong support network of friends and my husband working in another country as I chose to return to my home country for treatment.

      Thank you for this post, it means so much ❤️

      Love and lights xx

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      2 years ago from Bend, OR

      J, I wish I could give you a hug for all you're dealing with and reassure you that you're doing the right thing. I'm sorry about your breast cancer and hope you're doing well. Like you, it was a health crisis that forced me to change my relationship with my mother. For the first time in my life, I started to treat myself with compassion and tenderness, instead of loathing. I now start each day by writing a letter to myself from my ideal mother figure who I named "Mona." Mona writes loving things to me, encourages my endeavors, and forgives my faults. This gets my day going in a positive way and gives me a bit of the mothering I missed. Limit contact. Stay strong and take good care of yourself, J.

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      Thank you for sharing. I am working through my issues, i have been in therapy for over ten years and i think worked too hard on trying to fix myself instead of feeling, and its only when I got diagnosed with breast cancer last October that open the jar of darkness.

      I realised my cruel emotionally absent mother would never change. She told me i deserved cancer and that it was my karma to suffer.

      I am trying to accept and forgive for my own sanity and health. I found keeping contact to a minimum has been the safest most secure way I have found to deal with it.

      But being in an Asian family, permanent severence doesn't really work for me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautiful reflections and introspection. I have no common ground with you on this, but I loved your honesty in sharing.

    • Christine Dickens profile image

      Kristina Penava 

      2 years ago from Croatia

      Great job on this article, enjoyed every second of it !


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