Forgiveness and a Mother’s Day Hangover

What forgiveness cannot do.

Digital alarm clock with time 12:38 PM with pink flowers in the foreground


We talk about walking in sunshine, about gratitude, about sorrow in the abstract. We awkwardly fumble over reflections on motherhood and what it is to be a good one – it is, after all, Mother’s Day. There is so much awful history temporarily unspoken between us.

The tone of our voices remains light. The tension in my stomach eases somewhat. We talk about the week ahead. We say goodnight.

She is grateful. I feel guilt: Guilt for holding my truth and not burying it to please her and others. Guilt for speaking and writing it. Guilt for knowing it.

I go to bed and dream tortured dreams of my own teenager crying, homeless, estranged.

A Mother’s Day hangover of sorts.

I have told her I forgive her, and it was one of the hardest places to arrive. It took decades of anguished healing work, cup by cup, drip by drip pouring out all the pain until there was none left to corrode into the rust of bitterness. And then forgiveness arrived. Unbidden, unexpected. Softly, gently, quietly.

But forgiveness doesn’t fill in the empty spaces of the past. It doesn’t fold closeness into the crevices of light conversation. And it doesn’t mean I am no longer shaped by my own or our shared history. I can no more change that than I can undo the freckles, lines, and moles formed of years of basking in the sun by applying sunscreen today. Changed patterns now don’t erase the truth of history, nor their imprint.

The inner little girl part asks: Am I bad for not pretending? I know she wants me to pretend.
And the grown, therapist-author wise part reminds: That is gaslighting. You wrote a book about this.


Knowing doesn’t make it easy.

Forgiveness releases her. I don’t try or want to hurt her or wish her suffering for the past. I see her in full context, a context of layers of her own hurt and trauma that is not mine to share. I see her with compassion, and I even allow myself to see parts of myself in her, a truth I ferociously resisted most of my life.

But forgiveness doesn’t demand I cut out my own tongue to appease.

There are many challenges to owning our own stories. Knowing, grasping, framing them under a cohesive narrative are just first (and oh-so-difficult) steps. Giving yourself permission to inhabit your truth – to live within it, unapologetically – is a last step and, I am finding, a lifelong process.

A process of letting go of what can’t really be made from the shards we’ve inherited. Of letting go of the role of protecting those who were to protect us. Letting go of playing a game we should never have been asked to play.

Of accepting our inborn right to sing our own songs, mournful, wistful, joyful, bold, defiant.

May we all live wild and free, our hearts and voices untethered from the bounds of secrets and lies.

What holds you back from sharing your truth?

Which stories are hardest to give voice?

Where does this suggest you need healing today?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *