Updated: May 11
My client started Mother's Day 2020 off just like this, and my heart hurt for him. It could've easily been a result of Covid19 and how he couldn't be with his mother, or just that he was so broke he struggled to get his mother a card at the local Walgreens, instead it was due to his CPTSD he's suffered since the age of seven. You see, so many want to be with their mothers, want to be accepted, nurtured...feel one last hug. They can't, and it's not always due to death.
"Mother's Day makes me want to run! I'm tired of trying so hard. The "little me" needs her so bad, the adult me tries to pretend we are alright. I buy her a gift every year knowing she'll just re-gift it out. All I wanted was to be loved."
- J.L., 39 years
Today is Mothers’ Day. This can be a most difficult day for survivors of CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) especially if it began in childhood from a disorganized attachment we formed with a mother figure or caregiver.
Other holidays tend to be seen as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller, family member type holidays can trigger survivors of CPTSD and leave many silently relapsing at home from their happy mind regulation. (PLEASE check in with them, you could balance their entire life with one text!)
I, as a survivor, want to take the time to acknowledge you here in my blog post. I, Dezi Golden, a die-hard Heal-Others-Junkee, want to let you know YOU ARE SEEN, and you're not alone. You are thought of this day...and all days. CPTSD sufferers know your hurting heart.
Mother’s Day is typically thought of with all kinds of loving, selfless mommy-ing out there. Social media posts will be non-stop, family photos that trigger will abound Monday morning, and guilt and shame will be seen in the eyes of those with hang-overs from those still blaming their parenting for all that's wrong in the world (whoa, did I just actually write that?) Lol...
In many cultures, men are still seen as the abusers in families, erroneously so. Anyone can be an abuser, just like anyone can be a bully if they so choose. I mean look at all that can go wrong with just the right amount of self-loathing and not enough nurturing. The only way to change it is to start within right? Yes mothers, aunties, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, foster moms, sister-wives - can all be equally as abusive. Sadly, many don't even know they are...because it's how they were raised and they process the same going forward. Additionally, some moms may not have been the one to perpetrate violence, but they allowed the dysfunction to go on BECAUSE IT WAS FAMILIAR. They fostered an environment that made it possible (I'm gonna be honest, I'm guilty here) they were neglectful to their kids by putting up with addiction or revolving partners; turned a blind eye to their children’s quiet suffering, possibly even ignoring medical or mental health treatment needed; or, they were so unpredictable their affections that their children were left confused and conflicted.
In adulthood, many of us are trying to navigate a world without Mom, or setting appropriate boundaries so that CPTSD can be healed...and for Mom's as well. The tough part of us finally growing our "healthy selfish" so we can become regulated within our minds, are family or even strangers guilting or shaming us for not having the positive and intimate relationship we're supposed to with our mother. Most can't understand she might actually be abusive or awful and/or an unsafe person, because of how she was traumatized. (yes, I'm aware we all don't ask for trauma but we're definitely responsible for cleaning up the mess) But guess what? Your feelings are valid, they should be honored and respected; they are the most important because you have to deal with them every moment. You do not have to minimize your emotions, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over it’ and ‘just get along already’.
As odd as it sounds, formed out of intense empathy and kindness, I want you to know you are never obligated to be kind and thoughtful to anyone who's hurt you — not even if they’re your mother. That just starts a whole other kind of dis-alignment. It’s okay, and even admirable to many, to set boundaries. It is neither rude nor selfish; it requires self-respect, strength, and clarity of self-love. It comes with a great amount of grief attached - having to mourn and say goodbye to expectations lost or that were never there.
Whatever the relationship with your mother looks like today - healed and vibrant, or scarred and hollow - we want you to know that parts of your heart that were hurt by her - whether big ways or small - they are on OUR hearts and minds this week.
"Mother's Day has always left me feeling non-human and left out. My mother was an awful woman. I mis-carried my entire life because of her hurtful words in my head. It's a horrible day for me." - Gina R., 42 yrs
A painful reality for many trauma survivors is that many of you ARE mothers...and not always as a result of wanting to be. Perhaps you were made a mother do to immaturity, against your will or a feeling of reproductive obligation. Then, there are so many who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, which is disproportionately traumatic on its own, even when you’re in the most loving and safe of circumstances.
There are the moms who have great kids, but still struggle to raise healthy children because "healthy" was not modeled or encouraged. Throughout so many of these experiences is an abundance of heavy fear, sadness, trauma, loss, and shame. And yet, often what is the most apparent is the silence you feel you must keep, the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering.
"Mother's Day has always left me feeling non-human and left out. My mother was an awful woman. I miscarried my entire life because of her hurtful words in my head. It's a horrible day for me."
Know that others take your hand, acknowledge your aching, and want you to feel anything but on your own in this. So many survivors just like you are here, today, meeting you in your feelings, too.
These aren't the only reasons survivors may be aching this Sunday morning. Many of you have lost your mothers. That kind of sadness cannot be expressed in words. And if she wasn’t a safe person for you, this grief becomes increasingly difficult until you regulate it.
For most of you, your mom was a light in all the hurting. She was/is your everything...the only one who saw you and heard you unconditionally, did everything to keep you safe, and always fought for you. To lose her in your world, it is absolutely soul-shattering. I extend extra warmth and love your way. You are important, and so is every last drop of your sadness, anger or grief. Whatever is on your heart today, I know that there will be no shortage of difficult reminders to drive that knife a little deeper. It can be a lot…especially when so many aren't thinking of your pain.
To supporters, friends, and family members out there:
Perhaps this little post helped to remind you that these holidays can actually be some of the hardest for your loved one. So sending them a little extra support and friendship could make all the difference today. Truly. Just knowing that someone thought of them and wanted to take care of them through a simple gesture, one they'd been needing and missing. While it can’t fill the emptiness entirely, it can help - and just a little help is ENOUGH.
"I can imagine no greater heroism than motherhood, especially if you had to mother yourself..."
- Dezi Golden, Intimacy Life Coach
Finally….If you are hurting, I want to encourage you to do something different. Honor yourself. The way you feel it should have all been. The way it would be if you weren't taught to go external to have your needs met by others. Your family of origin is not what makes a family, so if you can spend it with the family you’ve created for yourself, or within yourself, that’s absolutely wonderful! Help others do the same. Make it a YOU memory. You deserve it. It's a day to appreciate all that you are, all you've overcome, and all the love that you store in your heart.
I truly hope that you can make this day magical, no matter the circumstances. You are important. And, to everyone else, I hope you spread thoughtfulness and support to a CPTSD survivor this week. It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.