Mother's Day: Reflections on My Mother's Trauma

There's a shock with coming to terms that you're the spitting image of the woman who you spent your adulthood rejecting. When you wake up and take a good look in the mirror, to find that you're staring back at your mother. Same hair... same eyes... even the same birthmark on the collarbone. You were able to run from it when you were younger. Got away with dressing with clothes that wildly differed from her's. Dyed your hair blues and pinks. But then you age... and one day, you realize that you look just like your mother.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Through my adolescence, I swore to myself that I would never end up like her. The thought of her blood running through my veins was enough for me to cut her genetics out of my own skin. And yet, I find myself spouting the same hurtful words that she once told her own children. I end up in relationships that were just like her relationship with my father.

This Mother's Day could be spent rejecting my mother, again, as I do every year.

But as her own voices of insecurity echo through my mind, I remind myself that I am now my own person. A woman. I've spent enough years blaming her and hiding behind a post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. After a decade and a half of medications and therapies, my body has decided that it is time to forgive her.

Generational Trauma

It's not the years of bruises, starvation, or verbal aggressions that I forgive her for. My mother had a rough life, ridden with her own uncaring, abusive family. They either forgot her existence or remembered her only to drain her of every penny she had.

She married her high school sweetheart and fled her homeland to start an American life with him. She learned that people do not take kindly to non-English speaking immigrants. Her hands aged quickly, washing hair and painting nails, to receive below minimum wage under the table. She thought she was living the dream. She had no idea that her husband had a constant wandering eye. When she realized, she only blamed herself.

She believed she was worthless.

Ugly.

So she covered her face with make-up. Her body underwent surgeries. She took out credit cards and loans because maybe one day she would be enough.

He blamed her, calling her paranoid.

Bitch.

Jealous.

Shameful wife who did not know her place.

I remember her body crumbling as he struck her, his fist colliding with her carefully painted on cheeks. Tears would wash away the make-up she had tirelessly spent hours on. She apologized frantically and pleaded for him to keep her.

In her life, this was the only way anyone showed her love. She never had the blessing of tenderness, of kindness, or empathy.

And I forgive her for that.

Leaving it all behind

I forgive her for standing idly by, as her husband ran her world to the ground. A husband, who was a carrier of his own pain and burdens. I forgive her for never uttering the words, "I love you," to her children... not because she didn't love us, but because she didn't know what love was.

No one ever taught her.

As I stand in front of my mirror, staring at the face of a woman who looks just like my mother, I tenderly, and kindly, remind myself, that I am not her. I am not her, because I choose to break this terrible cycle of hurt. Though I've walked in her shoes, through my own abusive partners and pleading my own share of men to love me back, I've learned that I don't have to be my mother's daughter.

That the apple won't fall far from the tree, but it can be picked up and brought to a new place.

On this Mother's Day, I choose to look at myself in the mirror and see myself, no matter how closely I resemble her.

In the pain of childbirth, through all the gore and crying and screaming, my mother gave me the gift of life. With life, I am given the choice to continue down the endless tunnel of darkness and pain, that generations of women in my bloodline had lived and died through, or I could step into the light and pull others with me. I am offered the choice of bitterness and self-pity or tenderness and humility. I could spend another year flinching as I see happy mothers adoring their daughters, or choose to be at peace, knowing other women could feel a connection that I never did.

Though I may never speak with my mother again, I have washed my hands clean of my family's pain. What's in the past, must stay in the past. I will slip up and repeat behaviors as they were taught to me, but through the support of loved ones, therapy, and medication, I am confident that I won't pour my pain into the women that will come after me. My boundaries are set, strong, and I move forward.

I choose to spend this Mother's Day wishing my mother the best. May she one day take the step to getting the help she needs. I want her to meet someone who could learn to love her the way I am loved by someone special in my own life. And if she never does, I hope she learns to love herself as a strong, beautiful woman, who was dealt a shitty fortune in this life. I hope that her own Mother's Day, this one and future ones, becomes a reminder that she tried her best, with what she had and that she, too, could one day forgive herself.

-F