Healing the Relationship Between Black Mothers and Daughters
I believed that my relationship with my mother was one that was shatterproof. That was until I feel deep and dangerously in lust with the wrong man.
My mother saw the upcoming heartbreak from miles away, but I was 17 and my immaturity was in full control. She knew with everything in her that I was walking into a horror scene and that I was in no way prepared for what would be required of me to survive. I look back now and I can’t imagine how sad it must have been for her to have watched her daughter become engulfed in a man who was destroying everything we worked so hard to build.
My mom was wedged between a rock and a hard place and I put her there. She was forced to choose between expressing her discontent with my relationship and risk pushing my away, or watch someone break her daughter down and do nothing. This situation nearly destroyed our relationship. I eventually apologized to my mother for the way I rebelled and the damage I caused to our friendship. Naturally she forgave me.
There are several contributing factors that influence the breakdown in the connection between mothers and daughters.
Motherhood abruptly propels us into a state of emotional fragility. We constantly worry about our children and that deep level of concern can drive us to be extremely controlling. Taking a forceful approach with our daughters can prompt them to be distant. One of the most difficult things for a mother to do is relinquish control, but at some point, you must allow your child to carve out a place in this world without dictating their every move.
Maybe you couldn’t attend your child’s school activities or sporting events because you had to choose between putting food on the table or being your child’s cheerleader. Or maybe your absence was a result of personal battles that you were fighting and your emotional warfare prevented you from being able to be a mother to your children.
Do not be terrorized by your guilt. Occasionally, making amends with your child simply means saying, “I’m sorry.” We can rationalize and explain, but that doesn’t stop the hurt or fill the void. It’s important to acknowledge and validate your daughter’s feelings surrounding your absence without making excuses.
The use of verbal and physical abuse to reprimand our children is a practice that we have passed down through generations, despite clear proof that it is more burdensome than productive. Additionally, these behaviors contribute to the breakdown in trust between a mother and daughter.
Please consider that your mother’s ability to parent was greatly impacted by her personal experiences. If her life was full of turmoil, devastation and loss, there will be a limitation on how much she can teach you about happiness. You do not have to dismiss your emotions to tend to your mother’s, but your willingness to understand the factors that fueled her behavior can be the difference in reconstructing a healthy relationship with your mother or not.
Here’s are some important things to consider if you are looking to rebuild or establish a mother daughter relationship.
One of the largest barriers between mothers and daughter is broken communication. The inability to communicate can lead to screaming, offensive remarks, shutting down and blaming/shaming one another. Learning how to speak to one another in a constructive manner is fundamental for reframing mother-daughter relationships.
Restoring trust in any relationship is a task that requires mental and emotional labor. Reassembling the union between a mother and daughter is no different. Being hesitant to trust is natural. However, to produce the desired results, you both must be willing and intentional about starting this process with an open mind, heart and spirit.
Request support when necessary
The healing process is not always one that can be done alone. If you are in fact serious about working towards building a bond with your mother or daughter, but have no idea where to begin, seek outside help from an unbiased and professional third party.
Reparation is the goal
By no means am I suggesting that anyone who has experienced trauma, pain or hurt at the hands of their mother or child should just forget their experiences, forgive and move on. However, it is important to stay focused on why you are attempting to re-establish a relationship. When you are fixated on the end goal, you are more inclined to push through the potential hardships and emotional blocks to get there.
Realize your peace may come from letting go
Sadly, there are some mothers and/or daughters who will be laid to rest and still never reconcile their relationships. For those who have experienced entirely too much devastation surrounding their relationships with their mother or child, at some point, it’s wise to consider how you can make peace with your decision to sever ties completely. This is never an easy reality to accept, but your sanity and healing may require you to acknowledge that life is better without them. Coming to terms with that can be liberating.
Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work intimately with women from various segments of our community. Regardless of demographics, the strained relationship between mothers and daughters is a source of emotional devastation for entirely too many women and is an issue that warrants attention. I am fortunate to have such a remarkable mother, but I am also aware how rare my situation is.