I hope that you can help. The relationship that I have had with my mother has been strained for the last several years. So much so, that we barely talk to one another. Despite this, I have always endeavoured to ensure that I communicated my love to her throughout this period of time. I sent birthday cards and Christmas cards each and every year, I greeted her with a big hug on the occasional event in which we did meet. My efforts however, were never reciprocated by her.
My mother is seriously ill and I am struggling with my feelings at the moment. I have a lot of anger and pain inside, as to the fact that we have drifted apart over the years. I have a lot of resentment towards her, for reasons I shall not disclose. Certain family members are telling me I should forgive my mother for her past actions, particularly due to her ill health. Other people are telling me that I should have forgiven her a long time ago.
I know it is the wise thing to do, to forgive. But to extend forgiveness feels too difficult a task, even under these circumstances.
Is there anything that you can suggest as to how I conduct myself in this situation?
I am sorry to hear of your mother’s condition and as to your pain.
Feelings of pain and grief, resentment, anger or fear will haunt each of us who are attached to the past. It reads as though your emotional attachment to your mother has remained strong, in spite of your estrangement. Indeed, one of the big themes often explored in psychotherapy is the following question: ‘‘How is your past affecting your life today?’’. Given your mother’s illness, it seems as though all of your unresolved feelings have come flooding back to you. This is entirely normal. It may well be that therapy is required when you feel ready, in order to tackle some of these issues.
Anger and resentment are uncomfortable emotions. When we are unable to fully express emotions such as this, it is a human tendency to attempt to block them from our thoughts, in attempt to side-step the pain. If only this was a working strategy for the long term! Unfortunately, such attempts to mask our uncomfortable emotions only last for the short term. Our hidden emotions have a way of presenting themselves in a manner in which we feel to be beyond our control.
Generally speaking, unresolved feelings can be highly damaging to both our physical and mental health. Anger issues, stress, anxiety and depression are common occurrences for people that have inhibited deep emotions over time. Much research has been conducted as to the studies of cancer, heart attacks, insomnia and diabetes, not to mention other physical ailments and conditions that are linked to our suppressed emotions. Perhaps the fact that your feelings have arisen for you now in such a way, it may be time for you to address them once and for all. The therapeutic process can be a tremendous support to you during this period. Counselling sessions will allow you the opportunity to express yourself in a non-judgemental and confidential environment.
You are right in as much as you are limited to what you are able to do in this scenario. Maintaining your respect and communicating your love is perhaps all that you can do. It sounds as though up to now you have conducted yourself beautifully. Continue to do so. If you cannot express forgiveness, I would suggest that telling your mother that you love her should be your priority with regard to her. Exploring your unresolved feelings should be your priority to yourself moving forwards. Have courage and remember, the perspectives of others are just that, perspectives. Often, these perspectives are skewed by people that have no clue as to the truth of the matter, therefore they are entirely irrelevant. Their judgment is uninformed and inappropriate.
Forgiveness is not an easy task and it is important that you are guided by your own intuition in this matter. Only you and your mother know what lies at the heart of your relationship and as to the truth of what has happened over the years. Only you can decide whether you wish to extend forgiveness to your mother, in addition to your love.
Best wishes to you Ethan,
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