Welcome back Tribe Members! It's been a while since we had anyone guest post on the blog, but I am pleased to introduce you to someone new. This month's guest is Stephanie Jones, wife, Mama to a beautiful baby girl + awesome owner/blogger of Courage From Within! I love reading blog posts Stephanie writes, because she shares from her heart + her experience is one that is often overlooked. Her past is laced with the beauty of a painful past filled with resilience that makes her the strong courageous woman she is today! A while back we completed the relationship series, 20 Days to Better Relationships (the workbook is now available - click here) + one of the issues we addressed is relationships with absentee parents. I offered the perspective of a Therapist, but Stephanie is here to share her own personal story with an absentee parent...
My mother walked through the door reeking of alcohol. You never knew which "mom" you would get when she was under the influence. She seemed agitated and aggressive on this particular hot summer night. My brother, a friend and I quickly excused ourselves from her presence in order to minimize trouble.
However, not before long she called for me to meet her downstairs in the kitchen. She was upset that it was unclean and she directed her anger towards me. I remember her yelling, cursing and at one point hitting me in the face. Unfortunately, this type of abuse was not new to me, as she had done it several times before. Tears drenched both sides of my swelling face as I walked back upstairs to my room. I knew I could no longer live in such deplorable conditions.
My brother, friend and I decided to climb out of the bedroom window, onto the roof, and down a large tree until we reached the ground. As soon as we were free, we ran across the street to my neighbor's house, where I called the police to report the abuse. I was 8 years old at the time. 21 years later, I don't regret the decision. My siblings (twin brother and older sister) and I were removed from my mother's care and she lost full custody. We were placed in a group home, two foster homes, then eventually adopted by my biological grandparents.
My adolescent and early adult years were extremely hard because I felt deeply rejected by my mother. I suffered with low self-esteem and major behavioral problems as a result of the traumatic abuse. Our relationship was estranged. She resented me for calling the police on her and exposing the abuse. She made sure to show love towards my twin but not me in an attempt to "get even," doing things like purchasing a birthday gift for him, but nothing for me.
For many years, I suppressed my feelings towards my mother and refused to think about the abuse in order to cope. However, in college I took an interim course called "Life After Loss." The professor challenged the class to choose one relationship in life in which we'd suffered major loss. I chose the relationship with my mom. I couldn't wait to highlight all the ways she'd hurt me and how she deserved to lose her relationship with me. Little did I know, this class would be the beginning stages of learning to forgive my mother.
After spending two weeks of completing several journal entries, reading Healing Is A Choice by Stephen Arterburn and crying several tears, I sat down and wrote a letter to my mother. I wrote a few short paragraphs, identifying the key things I wanted to forgive her for. I also wrote about my hopes for our relationship, as well as, the ways her poor decisions negatively impacted my life. I felt brave, but those memories brought about emotions that seemed to drain the life out of me. I never mailed the letter to my mom because I felt the need to share the details of my letter with her face to face.
I did speak with her several months later during my summer break and offered her the gift of forgiveness-- not just to free myself, but to free her as well. I wanted her to know that despite her addiction, she was loved. I wanted her to know that she no longer had to carry guilt or shame. I wanted her to know that I was willing to work on reconciling our relationship. I no longer wanted to be a victim. I wanted to be her daughter, and perhaps letting go and forgiving my mother would allow us the opportunity to reconcile our relationship. This proved to be true. We started talking often and creating space to be apart of each other's lives. It was not forced. It was a genuine willingness to try again.
To this day, I continue to seek therapy around my relationship with my mother because I realize that trauma has layers. Once you get through one layer of forgiveness, there are more to peel back. I am glad to be on this journey of forgiveness, though it is difficult. I agree with the author of Healing Is A Choice: the benefits of forgiveness are too great to live without.
Have you ever experienced forgiving an abusive parent?
What benefits of forgiveness have you witnessed in your life?
What was your parent’s response after you offered forgiveness?
How do you set healthy boundaries for yourself when you let an abusive parent reappear in your life?
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