I was recently reflecting as I often do on the special connection between mother and child. Psychologist calls this unique bond attachment. My reflection wasn’t just about the bond per se but rather about the things that often hinder this tie and the path necessary to heal the damage.
When the parent-child bond is damaged, it’s is called attachment injuries. It works much like any other physical injuries. I am particularly interested in the broken connection between mother and daughter.
However, because the wounds are not visible, it’s often ignored for a long time—some for a lifetime. Yet, when we consider the sometimes fractious relationship between mother and daughter and the implications for future generations, this wound needs urgent attention.
Many daughters wonder if there’s anything that can heal the damage sustained through lack of connection, blame and failure to take responsibility; which are typical of the hurt that daughter experienced at the hand of toxic mothers.
And still, more are stuck because the question for them is who is responsible for the wound. Some daughters would like the acknowledgement of emotional disconnection and the pain that caused. Because for many there is nothing more painful than a present but unavailable mother,
Several daughters are struggling with silence and lack of ownership. Some want resolution in the form of acknowledgement for the pain they endured. Some want an apology for wrongs done. But, this is where many get stuck. Because their pain often goes unrecognized, mothers refuse to accept responsibility and daughters are left in a place of pain they feel incapable of shifting.
Some use forgiveness as a tool to heal. However, forgiveness without addressing the wound doesn’t heal. Therefore, many battle years of bitterness, still stuck with, the question ” who is responsible for the pain”?
I have had the privilege of helping mothers and daughters build a bridge to the future. There’s nothing more courageous than a woman listening to the impact that her pain has caused and taking responsibility where it’s needed. The ability to take ownership despite the discomfort is healing for both.
It’s beautiful to experience both learning the process of giving and receiving forgiveness and working together to find the pieces that will construct the bridge to their future—one with boundaries and mutual respect.
I know that this takes a lot of personal work and determination to hear and validate others’ pain. I also know that not many people can do this; not many will make themselves see and be with the impact of their actions to that extent that they can extend grace. As a result, many mothers stay stuck in self-protection and miss out on the opportunity to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship with their daughters.
Self-protection sometimes looks like anger, blame, and guilt projected unto the daughter looking for answers and solutions to her pain. This lack of ownership can have the pair trapped in a cycle of blame, pain and hurt that can be destructive, where no one wins.
Every mother was a daughter, and they likely experience their mother-daughter wound. It’s even more crucial then that someone breaks the cycle of passing on pain.
Though this is true, it’s small comfort to the hurting daughter. When you are in pain, its little comfort to know that your hurt source also has wounds.
Some daughters are unwilling to accept their mother’s pain because they believe it will mean excusing their actions. But I think women must understand what happened before- not to ignore it or even forgive it but so that they can understand the places where generational patterns harm them.
Armed with this knowledge, they have tools to navigate their lives and relationships. Generational habits are deeply ingrained and so subtle that it can be easy to miss the places where said pattern is repeating in your life.
When daughters obtain an understanding of the impact of family history, it can be freeing. The knowledge of what happened in the family tree is liberating as it gives choices.
Because the probability is high that without healing the same pattern could repeat for you in some form in your relationship with your daughter.
So can the wound heal? And who should do the work of healing?
The short answer is both are responsible for their pain. When each person heals then the relationship heals. Some well-meaning people who help mothers and daughters have a vested interest in the relationship, and so they often want to speed the process up encouraging each to forgive and move on.
However, moving on might mean distance and no contact.
When a daughter is prepared to heal the impact of the mother wound, she will get to the place where she decides whether to make no-contact or stay in touch.
Some know that staying in contact will mean continued ignoring of their needs. Because the mother man isn’t changed, staying in touch could be re-traumatizing.
Tackle core beliefs
Be aware of the negative core beliefs that come from the damage experienced from the mother’s relationship. For example, a woman’s feelings of not ‘good enough’ can sometimes be traced back to a lack of love.
Often when a woman doesn’t receive love the message, she battles with is am I loveable. It will take healing for her to realize that her mother’s inability to love her has nothing to do with her worthiness. She must remember that adults unhealed pain has the potential to cause lasting harm to a child.
Nevertheless, this deficit has the power to destabilize a woman for a long time, leaving her wounded and grappling with thoughts of not being good enough. These thoughts will also influence beliefs and strategies that she used to guide her life.
That is why a woman has to become aware of the wound, and it’s potential to impact her life and relationships. That then has to be her responsibility, and she has the power to decide to heal or not heal.
Create distance without bitterness
Some struggle to create distance without bitterness. Wounded daughters sometimes use anger and hurt feelings as punishment only these are classed as toxic emotions and hurts only the person holding them.
If you would like to create distance without bitterness, get support to identify and implement clear boundaries to keep you safe.
To and answer the question. Healing requires personal responsibility, and it also enables you to release the perpetrator. The release doesn’t absolve them of responsibility, but it will free you to break the intergenerational pain cycle and find personal peace.