As Beth continued to heal, she knew that part of that journey required connecting with others.
She delayed this as long as she could, but there was no getting around it, she had to meet with her mother.
With this realisation came a whirlwind of complex emotions.
What would she say, how would she begin?
Hindsight, maturity and healing had enabled her to see her mother in a new light.
She was no longer angry because she was able to figure out some of what she thinks, maybe her mom’s story. There’s only one way to know the truth, and it was to speak with her.
Beth was not close to her mother, for a long time, she considered herself a daddy’s girl. Until she grew older and realised that to be daddy’s girl means almost hating her mom.
Those were turbulent years when it felt like she was competing with her mother for things she could not explain and wouldn’t understand.
She now knows that her mother could not give her what she never got.
When a woman is so focused on how to appease the abuser, she has little emotions to give her children.
Beth understood that now, but that understanding only came through growth.
Solving the mother puzzle
Beth learnt that her mother grew up in a Christian home.
She was one of three children. However, she remembered feeling alone and lonely. As the eldest, she felt overlooked and left out.
Grandmother was busy, and what little time she had left was given to her younger children.
Beth learnt that her grandfather didn’t have much of a role in the children’s lives. He was often away at work or too tired to connect.
Beth’s mother’s brother molested her and silence was a natural response.
No one she knew talked about sexual abuse. She was sure that her friend had a similar experience, but no one ever talks about sexual violence.
Mother shared that when she was 15, she experimented with disclosure, she was told not to lie and that what happens in the family stays in the family.
Uncle still visited, and Beth’s mom was never protected. She was relieved when it was time to leave for university; this was her chance to escape.
The similarities in their story were hard to ignore.
Beth shared her past and talked about the path to healing. She invited her mother to start her journey.
Solving the puzzle
The conversation with the mother was eye-opening, so much became clearer.
Beth had spent a long time being angry with her mother. However, healing taught her compassion not only for herself but for others.
Compassion enabled her to understand her mother’s actions in the broader context.
Her ability to give and receive forgiveness was crucial. She needed to forgive herself for hating her mother.
She needed to forgive her mother for not being able to love and connect with her.
Beth thought of all the wasted years but still, wonder about the here and now.
Would they be able to forge a relationship?
Was forgiveness enough to heal, and could they unlearn a lifetime of not communicating and suddenly become friends?
She would like more than anything to be able to be friends with her mother.
That would be awesome.
But she wasn’t naive enough to believe it would be easy.
Beth had recommitted her life to the Lord and experienced His power to help in these difficult situations, but she was not going to underestimate her mother’s lifetime of shutting down and pretending.
Mother was from a generation where they do not talk about things.
Her circle of friends all pretend things are great.
Would Beth be able to inspire her to change, grow and heal?
Could their healing relationship be the catalyst for her mother’s transformation?
She didn’t miss the fact that she and mother only connected over their broken past.
That realisation had the potential almost to undo a lot of her hard work. She fought hard against the lump that was trying to form in the pit of her stomach.
But she learnt to cry when it was needed and released the tears of frustration, anger, sadness and grief.
The tears were also partly mourning for what could have been.
She noticed the sadness, trying to embrace her.
The darkness was familiar, but Beth had learnt that the only way through the depression is to acknowledge that it was there. No more self-medicating, no more using unhealthy ways of coping.
So she permitted herself to sit with the darkness, cry, went for a walk and sat in silence as she considers the what if’s.
Beth sighed as she eats the last spoon of ice cream. Happy that tomorrow was Tuesday; her counsellor would help her make sense of it all.
Letting go to grow
The long night taught her that understanding and acceptance were not the same. She had spent a lifetime hating her mom; it was not possible to change after one conversation.
Though she understood she still has the problems of her unmet needs and what to do with the pain of those.
There are times when you are required to call on all the coping strategies you know to be able to get through.
The logjam of emotions was so intense she was sure they could destabilise her.
Beth used the session with her counsellor to talk and cry and sit in silence.
Reflection and feedback was a blessing.
There is nothing more freeing than permission. Validation gave Beth the freedom to be with the emotions and own them. That releases the guilt that kept her up most of the night as she battled with her struggles with forgiveness.
She wanted forgiveness to be swift and complete. Beth thought the conversation with mom would help achieve that. Instead, consumed with guilt and thoughts of not being good enough, she felt like a failure. Beth wondered if all Christians struggle. Should Christians struggle with forgiveness, shouldn’t it be automatic and complete?
The conversation with the counsellor helped her understand that her feelings were normal. She was happy to be able to work through them.
The battle raged and outlived the ice-cream, the movie and the prayer that she eventually forced out just as the sun began to make its way over the hill.
The memory of the long night and today’s session confirmed one thing. She had to confront her father. He was not without fault. He had to know the part he played in the relationship and love she never got from her mom.
Beth wondered whether he held the key to mom’s healing.
Age seemed to have mellowed him, but he has a lot to explain. She was under no illusion that this would be a simple task.
She had to find the best strategy and at the right time. But it had to be done.
This family had spent years pretending while generational cycles were passing on.
The legacy for the next generation must be different
No ever heals without causing some stir. Beth was willing to play her part.
She will mourn, talk, support, validate and do whatever she needed to do to heal.
Perhaps they could all heal together.