How Can I Forgive My Mother?

November 23, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     I am very hurt and angry at my mother. She and I have had a lot of problems in our relationship due to her self-absorption. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom didn’t protect us from him or other people who hurt us.

     My sister and I raised ourselves. We were expected to get dressed, prepare our food, get to school and back, and do our homework without help from the time we were five years old. Our father was either at work or at a bar and our mom was consumed with her own life.

     Over the years, I have made my peace with the fact that my childhood was very painful. I have a good life now and that’s what I concentrate on, nurturing an attitude of gratitude. I can’t change the past, so why cry over it?

     My dad died a couple of years ago and since then I see my mom more often. In an effort to resolve our issues, I recently opened up the topic of my upbringing and her neglect. I approached her gently. My goal was to have her hear me out, not to blame her for her shortcomings.

     My mother got extremely defensive and actually flat-out said, “I was doing drugs when you were growing up, so I couldn’t take care of you. I did the best I could.” How do I even respond to that? Instead of bringing us closer, that conversation has caused a greater wedge between us. How can I forgive my mother when she takes no responsibility for her actions?

Beth Anne

Dear Beth Anne,

     I am sorry that you are going through this. It is excruciatingly painful to make one’s peace with a parent who has hurt us deeply and takes no responsibility for inflicting the pain. I advise you to contact A.A. and N.A. and ask for information on groups for adult children of alcoholics and drug addicts.

     I think that it would be healing for you to meet others who have walked the same road which you and your sister have. In addition to hearing similar stories and making your voice heard in a roomful of people who “get it,” avail yourself of recommended literature. You can get through this. Look how far you’ve already come.

All my best,