I’ve always struggled to let go of the fact that I never truly had a normal mom and that she was never quite “a mother” by any definition. She suffered from mental illness and addiction problems. She was a narcissist, which made life difficult because things always had to be about her no matter what was going on in my life.
When I got engaged to a wonderful man, I thought that would spark some joy in her and possibly bring us together as I went through the wedding planning process. I thought maybe, for once, she could stop playing her usual mind games and manipulation tactics and just be a mother. But wow, was I wrong.
One morning when I was at work, I received a brief text from her that stated: “I will not be attending your wedding.” My heart sank. My stomach began twisting. Thoughts flooded my head. One thing I’ve learned in this life is that when it comes to dealing with someone who suffers from mental illness, we often find ways to blame ourselves for their hurtful actions. And just like that, I immediately questioned if I perhaps did something to provoke this. But I didn’t.
I included my mom in any way I could — she even came to our wedding shower and had a great time. After much contemplation, I told her she could bring her new husband to our wedding. This was a man I didn’t know at all and had only heard awful stories about. Despite my mixed feelings, I told her she was welcome to bring him if that was going to make her feel more comfortable. I even went so far as to ask her how she wanted to be introduced, and if she would prefer to walk in with my father or not. Other family members offered her a ride to the wedding and even a free place to stay. I did my part.
But I couldn’t stop looking at the text. Before I responded, my sisters tried contacting her. She didn’t have much to say, and her only reasoning for her decision was that I “made the wedding all about me and my soon-to-be husband” and that I “didn’t take her dress shopping.”
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but typically, yes, weddings are mostly all about the two people who are getting married, and secondly, the mother should be taking the bride-to-be to dress shop, not the other way around. All of her excuses were invalid and disgusting. I finally texted her back explaining how hurt I was, how she broke my heart, and that if she chose not to come, I could not forgive her. As much as we tried, and even after I sent her that message, she never responded, and she never showed up on my wedding day.
My mom has done a lot of messed up things, but this one hit me hard. She has never sought out help for her addiction problems or mental illness. And the thing is, she simply should have wanted to see her daughter get married and been there no matter what. I’m slowly coping in various ways. And if your parent has ever broke your heart beyond repair, I hope these will help you cope too.
1. Remind yourself that everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t see the reason right now, trust in the process. It could be a blessing in disguise. The heartache could be helping you learn a valuable lesson for the future or allowing you to close one door so you are forced to open a better one.
2. You may never forget, and you may feel unable to forgive, but you need to find a way to let it go. Write the pain down on paper and burn it or crumple it into little pieces and let it go in the wind. Listen to music, paint a picture, hit the gym. Write about it — describe the painful details. However you want to release it, just get it all out of your head and put that energy somewhere else.
3. Focus on the people who ARE there for you. The people who love and support you. Surround yourself with those people. The people who show up for you, the people who lend an ear when you need to vent, the people who have your back no matter what. Those people can help make that heartache subside and can bring a smile to your face.
4. Get some distance, take some space. It may be best to not contact your parent for a while to give yourself time to clear your head. Speaking too soon could result in hateful words filled with anger that you may regret later. Create boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Your parent hurt you, you deserve all the space you need to move on from that.
5. Don’t let it take over. Life is short, there are so many ways to find happiness, so many places to travel, and so many things you haven’t done yet! Focus on all of that and try your best to not get dragged down by their actions. Let them be — karma will get to them if warranted, and if it does, you’ll be too busy enjoying life to notice. They already hurt you, don’t let them cause further damage by allowing it to take over any more of your happiness.
6. Practice acceptance. You will never be able to change your parent or their behavior. They have to want to change. Accepting the things you cannot change is one of the best things you can strive for in this situation. That acceptance will free you from their restraints. It’ll free you from the burden and weight they put on your shoulders. At the end of the day, it is best to focus on the things you can control and let go of the things you cannot.
7. Move on without them. Chances are, you’ve done just fine without them anyway. Oftentimes, unbeknownst to you, they’re actually depleting your strength and making you weaker with all of their problems. You don’t need them anymore; you’re stronger without them, and you deserve better. Parent or not, having someone toxic in your life can do some serious damage to your mental health. You should always cut ties with toxic individuals, no matter how difficult it may be at first. It’ll be worth it in the end, and it’ll make more room for the nontoxic people in your life.
8. Be patient with yourself. A parent is supposed to be our go-to human, our source of comfort and advice. When that turns on you, it can be hard to handle. Make sure you give yourself time to heal. It probably won’t go away overnight. Go easy on yourself. Grieve, do something that brings you joy, and let yourself be sad for a little while. And whenever you’re ready, pick up the pieces and move forward. Take the time to focus on yourself. Continue down your path of life, and leave the pain they caused you in the rearview.