Celebrating Mother's Day While Working Toward Forgiveness

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by Brandi M. Green (@b_mariegreen)

Two years ago, I sent my mother a mother’s day gift after years of sending her a card out of obligation. It was a first step in reconciling after many years of being estranged. We’d began talking every few months – albeit forced and about superficial topics – but still it was a start in moving our relationship in a better direction. I had no idea that that would be the last Mother’s Day gift that I would give her. My attempts of rebuilding our relationship were thwarted when she unexpectantly passed away that summer.

After her death I felt a range of emotions. As I cycled through the grief stages, I wondered if I even loved her, I was angry and I was sad about her death. I wondered if I could have done more to salvage the relationship even though I was tired of being the “bigger person.” However, I knew it would be easier for me to say: “My mother is deceased” as opposed to “My mother and I are estranged.”

As I navigated through my early 20s without her in my life, I quickly learned that being estranged from one’s mother is not acceptable in society. It’s more common for people to have “daddy issues” and be estranged from a father. The idea of the unbreakable mother’s bond with a child is perpetuated throughout society. Motherhood is often synonymous with [good] mothering and that is simply not always the case.

Just as a father can be unhealthy for the well being for a child, so can the mother and it is difficult for people to reconcile that fact. I eventually stopped telling people that I was estranged from my mother because besides looking at me like I had two heads they also unknowingly blamed me for the demise of our relationship. I could feel their stares and pending questions but they had no idea about the things I endured, but it was easier to blame me for “forfeiting” my mother’s love. I just stopped mentioning it altogether because it was easier that way.

Society views a mother’s love as constant, safe, unconditional, etc. I think those are wonderful words to describe motherhood that but what happens when that doesn’t necessarily match up with your reality? As long as I can remember, I’ve had “mommy issues.” I just never felt the unconditional love from my mother that some say is biologically innate and definitely not the kind that society demands. I could never be my “authentic self” around her and that felt odd even as a child. It was never a safe space, even in the times we would hang out together—I would be on guard. I question her love but I do believe she loved me in less of a conventional way and more in her own practical way that I explored in a recent blog post.

Since her death, I’ve struggled with forgiveness and how to memorialize the wonderful woman that she was with the same women who caused me a great deal of pain. I explored this in a poem that I wrote about the woman who caused these invisible scars that I carry is the same woman who played a huge role in the person I am today. Obviously, I’m still on my journey of forgiveness but I think celebrating the positive and seeing what she did do “right” is helpful in this process.

I remember her always saying that motherhood doesn’t come with instructions and she was doing the best she could. Perhaps, that was the case—she was doing the best she could in her capacity to love and nurture me. I don’t think I’ll get answers to a lot of questions that I have. That’s life and I get it but for right now I’m just deciding to focus on more of her positive aspects. I don’t absolve her of the responsibility for the pain she caused me, but I’m working on taking the lessons from it all and moving forward. That’s all I can do at this point since she is no longer here

I’ll always be her daughter: I light up a room like her, I dress to impress like her, I’m sassy like her, I received my values from her, etc. A lot of what makes me “me” are from her. Those are the things I’m choosing to celebrate.


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Brandi M. Green is a communications professional by day, writer by night.Her articles have appeared in Madame Noire, The Root and Clutch Magazine. When she isn’t busy writing, planning events, daydreaming, taking exercise classes or focusing on albinism outreach she is probably catching up on episodes from her favorite reality T.V. shows (her guilty pleasure.)

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