5 Ways to Heal the Hurt From an Emotionally Absent Mother

Updated on March 25, 2018
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After struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I'm now dedicated to becoming a stronger person who lives life to the fullest.

Coming to the Realization that You Have an Emotionally Absent Mother

When we become parents ourselves, most of us feel a deep connection to our own moms and dads. We feel a tremendous gratitude for all they did for us. We have a new-found appreciation for the patience, effort, and loving care it took to 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, parenthood makes us realize that we missed out on something crucial during our childhoods—the profound emotional bond between mother and child.

An emotionally absent mother may be physically present but dismissive of her children's feelings.
An emotionally absent mother may be physically present but dismissive of her children's feelings. | Source

When My Son Was Diagnosed With Autism, I Could No Longer Deny I Had an Emotionally Absent Mother

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.

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"

Once You Realize You Have an Emotionally Absent Mother It's Time to Take Proactive Steps to Heal

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, which helped me to understand my childhood and not just block it from my mind. I read it at a snail's pace—needing to thoroughly digest one page at a time, ponder its content, and journal about it. It made me incredibly sad at times, and I often needed to put it down for days or even weeks. When finally finished, I set these five goals for myself that proved immensely helpful on my road to healing and forgiveness:

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 for this period when she mothered me.

Find a mother figure—your mother-in-law, your friend, your neighbor, anyone who nurtures your soul. My son's occupational therapist played that role for a few years, and I'm forever grateful to her.
Find a mother figure—your mother-in-law, your friend, your neighbor, anyone who nurtures your soul. My son's occupational therapist played that role for a few years, and I'm forever grateful to her. | Source

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.

Now I don't let that malicious voice 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." It feels good to finally have someone looking out for me.

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. But when I started to look at how my mom's childhood related to my own, the puzzle pieces started to fit and a clear, cohesive image appeared. This is when 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. But they chose 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.

My mother was emotionally absent because her mom was an alcoholic. Understanding that made it easier to forgive.
My mother was emotionally absent because her mom was an alcoholic. Understanding that made it easier to forgive. | Source

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.

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.

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

This Is the Book That Began My Healing

The Emotionally Absent Mother: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect
The Emotionally Absent Mother: 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.

 

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers

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      • letstalkabouteduc profile image
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        McKenna Meyers 2 weeks 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!

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        Marjorie 2 weeks 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 5 weeks 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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        hellodaughter 5 weeks 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 6 weeks 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.

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        Valerie Anne 6 weeks 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 6 weeks 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.

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        hellodaughter 6 weeks 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 2 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.

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        Brana8806 2 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 2 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.

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        PepperRed 2 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 2 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.

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        Karli 2 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 2 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.

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        2 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 image
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        McKenna Meyers 3 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.

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        Amel 3 months ago

        so grateful to you. Thank you

        Amen from Tunisia

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        McKenna Meyers 3 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!

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        Stefanie Anson 3 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.

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        McKenna Meyers 4 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!

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        Hazel 4 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!

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        McKenna Meyers 6 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.

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        6 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

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        McKenna Meyers 14 months 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.

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        14 months 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.

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        Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

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

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        Tina Medić 19 months ago from Croatia

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

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