Joe and I have often shared how holidays can be complicated for him. Just when the rest of the world is celebrating, he has that reminder that he missed out. That he wasn’t worthy. All the happy memories and the sappy commercials are a foreign concept.
For some reason, the Christmas holidays aren’t the hardest for him, although he still struggles with them. For Joe, the holiday that seems to hit him the hardest is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day may not be nearly as intense or all-encompassing as the Christmas holidays. But it’s still there, even when he doesn’t want to see it, the Mother’s Day celebration seems to be everywhere. It’s in the air.
The most traumatic abuse and neglect he sustained as a child and an adolescent was at the hands of his mothers. (He was adopted at age 10, he has biological, adoptive and foster mothers, you can hear his whole story here.) He suffered severe neglect as a young child, and then the times his mother was there, it was more abuse. Yet as a child, something inside of him just wanted his mother to love him, to care for him, to rescue him from his suffering. Even though she was the one causing it.
Some of his deepest wounds he carries are from the neglect and abuse he sustained as a teenager. Perhaps that was more traumatic because he was older, and those memories are more vivid. That and, it just rubbed salt into his childhood wounds: I am unlovable, no one cares about me, I am worthless. It must be me.
So when Mother’s Day rolls around, and all you hear about it how amazing moms are, and how we just need to thank them for everything they do, the dissonance is loud. He didn’t get to receive that kind of love. Perhaps, he begins to feel, that I truly must be worthless if not even my mother, any of my mothers, loved me. The one who was supposed to protect and nurture me, hurt me in unfathomable ways.
Over the years of our marriage, we had to walk through these things together. We began to understand that he often had very PTSD-like responses this time of year. Everywhere he looks was another reminder of what was stolen from him, namely, his childhood. His sense of safety. His sense that people would look out for him. Then, he had to ask God the hard questions. Why did you not give me a mom who would love me? Why did you even create me at all? Why did I have to go through so much suffering?
So Mother’s Day is complicated. But that’s not to say, there is no hope. With God’s love as our anchor, there is healing.
Recognize what has been lost and how it has affected you.
This has taken Joe decades to do. If you are struggling with the effects of abuse at the hand of a parent, please talk to a professional counselor or someone you can trust. if your spouse is unaware of these hurts, they need to be clued into those conversations. Just because it happened a long time ago doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. Those wounds matter, and they matter to God. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free: be honest with yourself and your spouse about what you experienced. (We talked about our healing journey in Episode 14 and Episode 15) Talk about the feelings that you have and what triggers them. Don’t rush this step.
Joe and I talked about forgiveness a few episodes ago. Once you have acknowledged what has been done to you, you can begin the process of forgiving. This process will look different for everyone. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. in Joe’s case, a relationship with his abusers would not be healthy or safe for him. But, he wishes no suffering upon them for their sins against him. He free from bitterness.
Let God’s Love be the Loudest Voice.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17
We are big advocates of being loving parents and building strong families. But, the love of family will still fail us at some point in our lives. No matter how much a parent loves, they will never be able to give us the love we can only get from God. God’s love is unfailing. Unfailing!
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39
We need to let what God says about us be the loudest voice in our lives. Not what our mothers say about us, not what our fathers say about us. Not even what we say about us. Even if you have had good things spoken over you, we need believe what God says about us first. That’s the only firm foundation.
You are not alone.
God is always with you. He has not left you as orphans. Jesus is our friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Also, there is help and community for you too. Find a professional or support group to walk beside you as you heal. We always heal better in relationships.
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.Psalm 27:10
We’ve heard our pastor say, “Our greatest hurts are caused in relationship. But our greatest healing is also in relationship.” We’ve seen that to be true in Joe’s life, over and over. Although his mothers have done irreparable damage to his llfe, he also found immense healing in relationship with God and others. Every year, it gets a little better. He may not be 100% healed until we get to heaven, but until then there is always hope.