or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Talk Amongst Ourselves › Personal Growth › Writing a letter to emotionally abusive mother
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Writing a letter to emotionally abusive mother

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Where the hell do I start? I want this to be as effective as possible, but all I can come up with is "Thanks for f*ing up my life." Whenever I get more specific than that, it gets really ugly emotionally for me. Or I start panicking about what she'll do when she reads it.

I've never been sure if my mother loves me. I'm pretty sure she doesn't approve of me. She is a victim in her own head. Not taking out the garbage = huge lecture about how I don't love her or appreciate her (when I was a teenager). She makes rude and inappropriate comments about my body. She disagrees with all my parenting practices. She absolutely never allows me to have the last word in an argument (and we've had like 3 in my whole life because I am so petrified of making her angry).

I've made some very minimal headway with her since I got married and started my family, but we always sink right back to where we were. The same BS over and over about how I'm not a good daughter or whatever complaint she's come up with.

When she gets angry at me (sometimes I don't even know why) she'll stop talking to me. This was the hardest thing to deal with when I was little. The only way to make it stop was to grovel and apologize and admit that my feelings weren't valid and I would never feel them again. Then I would go cry in my room. Then she would be nice to me for a while and I would think that I was finally going to have a mother who loved me and cared about me.

Now, I constantly find myself rationalizing. She never hurt me (although she loves to tell this story about how she spanked me in a Toys R Us "in front of God and everyone") and she's nice most of the time. The relationship is really just superficial. She didn't say the most horrible things I've heard parents say to their kids, and she did praise me from time to time. She came to all my band concerts and competitions, she showed support in some ways. I'm so confused. I know that she'll mention all that stuff if I ever try to get her to own all the other stuff she did, and I feel like I won't have anything to say.

But that's what I want. I want her to admit to what she did and how she made me feel. I tried once to tell her that I never felt like she approved of me, and she answered, "I have no clue why you would feel like that." End of discussion. Maybe I'm just never going to get what I want from her.

Anywho, I'm thinking about writing her a letter. At least then I can say I got it all out in the open, and stop feeling all the hurt from the last 25 years every time she makes a little comment about my body or tells me I'm doing something wrong with my son. But I just have no where to start. In any event, I keep avoiding her because I just don't want to deal with one more comment, but she is starting to figure it out. Today she calls to say she's bringing over soup since we're sick. She knows we're spending more time at the in-laws house. She's going to ask me what's up at some point, and I am terrified of confronting her.

Has anyone written a letter? What did you include? Did someone help you do it? How detailed did you get? Do you deliver ultimatums?

I know I don't have what I want here, but I don't know how to get it. I am seriously thinking of telling her that I'm not going to talk to her unless it's with a therapist mediating, but it will be coming out of left field because she hasn't really done anything wrong lately. Lately.

This has just been a really emotional week for me, and I want to get out of this funk, but I know the funk will be back if I don't do something.
post #2 of 32
I have written a letter to my mom.

I kept it about our present relationship, and not what happened in my childhood.

I told her I was done with her f*ing mind games. And if she ever wants a relationship with me, I will speak to her with a mediator present--that would be the only way.

And I basically ended the relationship. That was about January '09. And it's one of the best things I did for myself.

Now I'm working on loving me, mothering me, my inner child, my inner teen, my inner adult...all.

So my suggestions isn't to dig up the past. But to talk about how you feel *right now*. And tell her you have to take care of *you*. And then let her go.

As far as all of your pain, as you go through this healing process, I'm finding that talking out loud, to myself in the mirror (or when I'm walking, when no one is around) is very helpful. Get it ALL out, be heard (by you).

"The Power Is Within You" by Louise Hays is so awesome (I'm more then 1/2 way through the book-on-a-CD.)

Learn how to love *you*
post #3 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by InMediasRes View Post

When she gets angry at me (sometimes I don't even know why) she'll stop talking to me. This was the hardest thing to deal with when I was little. The only way to make it stop was to grovel and apologize and admit that my feelings weren't valid and I would never feel them again. Then I would go cry in my room. Then she would be nice to me for a while and I would think that I was finally going to have a mother who loved me and cared about me.
The part I quoted reminds me so much of my STBX. He used to do that to me as well. I hated the begging him to talk to me. It was so violating.

Maybe in the letter tell her that you need time without her in your life. Take a month, two, three, whatever you think you need. Maybe having that time to yourself will be enough to help you see how to proceed.

I think talking with a therapist with her is a fabulous idea too!
post #4 of 32
Writing a letter is not a one-chance-only deal. You can draft and re-write as much as you like. That gives you a chance to start off with "Thanks for f*ing up my life."

Quote:
Originally Posted by InMediasRes View Post
Where the hell do I start? I want this to be as effective as possible, but all I can come up with is "Thanks for f*ing up my life." Whenever I get more specific than that, it gets really ugly emotionally for me. Or I start panicking about what she'll do when she reads it.
Even though I was a science major, I had to a communications class. They *only* thing I took away from that horrible experience was that you can only control the message going out, you can't control it going in. You control what you say/write/gesture, and that is it. That is as far as the message goes on your end.

Besides, some people use letter-writing as therapy. And never send the letters.
post #5 of 32
Oh, mama. I'm so sorry for this.

I have a victim-type relationship with my own mother, who's very emotional, reactive, and passive-aggressive. I can't do anything right when it comes to her. I've written her a letter, once, when I was getting divorced and she was calling every half hour, worried that my daughter "was lying in a ditch somewhere". Because that's what happens to children of divorce. Thanks, Mom.

But. You can't control the actions of other people. You may want her to admit that she did terrible things in the past, but you can't make her take responsibility for it. She may not even see it that way. So don't hope for that - hope instead for your own healing, and work to grow stronger and more independent from her control over you in the present day. I do still cringe whenever I say something that I know is going to make my mom go off on a tirade: that we changed my daughter's school, for instance (she's going to be maladjusted and never finish college), or a joke about how my husband doesn't like it when I leave my dirty socks on the floor (she's pretty sure he's going to leave me for that). But I'm learning to rise above it, that it reflects poorly on HER, not me.

I've been through a lot of therapy, and it's helped in so many ways. I highly recommend it. Fearing your mother is a type of prison, even if it's "just" emotional abuse, and even if she's "just" showing you that she cares. The answer lies in getting yourself to a place where you can set solid boundaries with her and have enough perspective to let her words roll off your back. Some people choose to also limit the amount of time spent with their mothers, which I've done as well. You'll find the balance that works for you.

Good luck, mama, and take care of yourself.
post #6 of 32
Leah, do we have the same mom? Are we long lost twins?

I've thought about writing a letter, but my mom just doesn't care. I've thought about asking her to do a therapy session with me, but my grandma thinks I should just let the past go. But for me, it's not the past. It haunts me every day - all the things she said, the names she called me, and the little things she still does, like mock my parenting skills (as nonexistent as they are) and just generally hurt my feelings.

But I am willing to bet she'd just roll her eyes and say "stop being so sensitive." The end.

It's a bummer. Especially for a woman who is getting her doctorate in counseling. Bah!!!

Good luck, and if you need to vent, I am a good venting machine
post #7 of 32


it sounds like your mother could have narcissistic personality disorder (npd).

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/...ssistic-mother

http://www.alanrappoport.com/Co-Narc...%20Article.pdf

i could have written your post word for word (though my mom isn't nice most of the time... most of the time she's paranoid, snarky, and accussing everyone around her of being a selfish a**hole, me included). once i had a therapist who suggested that my mom's cruel, erratic, and intolerant behavior was narcissism, but i kind of blew it off. but recently she's really been making a mess of things and like you, i was ready to sit down and write her a letter and tell her to stay away because she was hurting my family (she has recently begun lashing out at dp w/o provocation). but instead i started researching npd and maternal narcissism and holy crow, it's her to a T! everything started making sense (which doesn't make it better or easier but you know what you're working with). the information i've found has offered a lot of relief and validation, just knowing that there are thousands of women out there struggling with the same hurtful dynamic with their own moms.

check out the book "will i ever be good enough" by dr. karyl mcbride. it's full of very validating information, and talks you through how to establish boundaries and heal. i've found it an invaluable resource.

as for the letter.... i think write it, but for you. write lots of letters, puke out all the frustration and hurt and anger. unfortunately i don't think it will do much giving it to her, given how she is. she is unable to empathize, and i'm afraid you'll feel even more invalidated, unheard, and frustrated by whatever her response may be (cause it won't be "i'm so sorry, i'll change").

i am so sorry that you're going through this. it sucks. big time.

(i agree with soulcakes. great advice )
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
That is so funny that you mention narcissism because my mom has a sister that she HATES. She swears that this sister has that disorder.

The cycle continues. She is trying to buy me back right now by calling to see how we're doing and acting like she really loves me, but then she made other plans for the day we're supposed to celebrate DD's 1st birthday.

I'm going to write the letter, but I'm not sure if I'm going to send it or not. .

Thanks for the advice, everyone.
post #9 of 32
I have written a letter many times to my mother, but never sent it--because really to be quite blunt she didn't deserve the privledge of me being that vulnerable to her (and still doesn't).

It was for me, to strengthen my boundaries, to check my own reality, ect.

I think you need to think very carefully about what you want.

If you want your mother to "see the light", to admit fault, to acknowledge you, to say she's sorry--please believe me when I beg you to not send that letter. She'll use it as a battering ram against you, and you've just given her ammunition to show the rest of the family what a crazy b* you are. I don't know if your mother can be charming like mine, or has people who coddle her, but if she does, rest assured that you will have given her the best gift in her life if you give her "proof" how horrible and ungrateful you are. You're not going to get what you really want from her. Probably not ever. And it won't come at your sending a letter--if and when she realizes her mistakes it will be from her inside out.

If, however, you need an avenue for getting the poison out, a way to share your feelings without judgement, without a third party disbelieving you, ect...then it can be cathartic. Whenever you find yourself on the verge of being suckered into the mindgames again, you can read your letter, contrast your life now with then, and feel stronger and less controlled.

It took me so long to realize how much my mother craved my intense negative emotions. She loves intensity and control, and she'll take it however she gets it. The final break of her hold on my life came when I realized and was able to let go of the emotions. It drove her crazy. Then SHE started writing ME nastygrams because she was so unbalanced and out of control, and for the first time in my life I was vindicated. After that, she had no power over me. And really for the first time I can remember, I can interact with her without fear, rage, or guilt--because I took back my power, permanently. She knows it, I know it. It's nice to finally find the calm center.
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
I have written a letter many times to my mother, but never sent it--because really to be quite blunt she didn't deserve the privledge of me being that vulnerable to her (and still doesn't).

It was for me, to strengthen my boundaries, to check my own reality, ect.

I think you need to think very carefully about what you want.

If you want your mother to "see the light", to admit fault, to acknowledge you, to say she's sorry--please believe me when I beg you to not send that letter. She'll use it as a battering ram against you, and you've just given her ammunition to show the rest of the family what a crazy b* you are. I don't know if your mother can be charming like mine, or has people who coddle her, but if she does, rest assured that you will have given her the best gift in her life if you give her "proof" how horrible and ungrateful you are. You're not going to get what you really want from her. Probably not ever. And it won't come at your sending a letter--if and when she realizes her mistakes it will be from her inside out.

If, however, you need an avenue for getting the poison out, a way to share your feelings without judgement, without a third party disbelieving you, ect...then it can be cathartic. Whenever you find yourself on the verge of being suckered into the mindgames again, you can read your letter, contrast your life now with then, and feel stronger and less controlled.

It took me so long to realize how much my mother craved my intense negative emotions. She loves intensity and control, and she'll take it however she gets it. The final break of her hold on my life came when I realized and was able to let go of the emotions. It drove her crazy. Then SHE started writing ME nastygrams because she was so unbalanced and out of control, and for the first time in my life I was vindicated. After that, she had no power over me. And really for the first time I can remember, I can interact with her without fear, rage, or guilt--because I took back my power, permanently. She knows it, I know it. It's nice to finally find the calm center.
this is gold. i am inspired
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

If you want your mother to "see the light", to admit fault, to acknowledge you, to say she's sorry--please believe me when I beg you to not send that letter. She'll use it as a battering ram against you, and you've just given her ammunition to show the rest of the family what a crazy b* you are. I don't know if your mother can be charming like mine, or has people who coddle her, but if she does, rest assured that you will have given her the best gift in her life if you give her "proof" how horrible and ungrateful you are. You're not going to get what you really want from her. Probably not ever. And it won't come at your sending a letter--if and when she realizes her mistakes it will be from her inside out.
A million times, THANK YOU, Tigerchild. As always, your response is like a breath of fresh air.

This part is probably very true to my situation. The only time I've EVER heard my father get angry at me was those 3 times I've ever raised my voice to my mother. I hadn't really thought about the family response to any letter I might send, but you're right, it would be complete mayhem. My whole extended family would know about it (from her side anyway).

I guess what I'm mostly trying to do here is just have a voice...any voice. I'm so used to just nodding my head and saying "Yes, mother" to absolutely every little thing she says that I just feel like it will never stop if I don't grow some balls and say something. I've tried hundreds of times to stand up to her in person, but I always find myself mute, terrified that she'll leave me if I cross her. I feel like a letter would really be the only way to communicate any upset of mine. I know it wouldn't actually accomplish anything except to just know that I had said my piece.
post #12 of 32
Write the letter, but don't send it. Good luck as you go through these challenging times.

My mother, who was probably narcisstic, passed away nearly 5 yrs ago. But the psychological scars linger for a lifetime. At some point, I had to move out, for the sake of my personal sanity. 500 km was a good buffer to her crazy antics.

I came to a point in my life where I forgave her for all the ill treatment, never expecting her to change. By the time she was on her deathbed, dying from terminal cancer, I had no anger or resentment left. Massaging her swollen ankles and bony body was how we communicated. Mourning and accepting that my mom had a difficult and negative, controlling love was difficult.

So glad I found this thread. I have been exceptionally lucky, with a few exceptionally great friends who had healthy mindsets and emotions to set me on a better, more healthy path to living and recovering from my emotionally battered childhood.

I struggle every day in raising my 3 kids, hoping I don't repeat her same crazy ways in some shape or form.

Off to the library to finds the books you have all listed...
post #13 of 32
I wouldn't send the letter but I would write... and write, and write some more. I could not only be theraputic but it could also help your creative side... and in turn give you an outlet for things in general that you are dealing with.

Good luck dear.
post #14 of 32
I am in the same boat you are in. I would love to write a letter to my mother, um...... my concepter...because I have been instructed, in the last month, not to call her my mother (I lived with her my whole life so it's not like I was adopted out to another family). So ummmm..yeah...I would love to write a letter too. I have no idea where to start. I have no idea what to say. I have started one so MANY times I cannot even count, but never finished it. I would never send it, it would be a complete waste of my time. But still, just the thought of writing it is so consoling. I think I would start writing and never, ever stop.
post #15 of 32

dont do it

Don't write that letter, if abusive mothers could be reasoned with, they would see what they do. They cant. You would just be given another label, suck-up, weak, victim etc etc. Letter from psychologist to husband of spouse with abusive mother:

Abusive mothers and fathers are often “personality disorders” in psychiatric terms. Personality disorders are totally selfish and highly manipulative with everyone in their grasp. They seek to not only have all the attention in the family, but to control the family members with guilt, intimidation, temper tantrums, or other techniques. I’ve listed many of the techniques used by Personality Disorders in my article Identifying Losers in Relationships on this website. Personality disorders never accept responsibility for their bad behavior and in fact, blame everyone around them for their behavior. Your wife will be blamed every time her mother has a temper tantrum or acts abusively.

Your wife is making a mistake commonly seen in these situations. She believes her mother’s behavior has something to do with her behavior as a daughter or something to do with their relationship. Both are incorrect. Her mother behaves abusively to everyone equally…it’s that your wife accepts the blame for it. In families where a parent has a personality disorder, three strategies are often found:

1.“Identification with the Aggressor” — As a child, you feel the best protection is acting like the abusive parent so you become nasty as well. Sons of criminals typically have criminal records…that sort of thing.
2.Emotional Detachment — The child detaches socially and emotionally from the parent and becomes very independent at an early age, making no attempt to gain the acceptance of the parent.
3.Emotional Attachment — The child anxiously seeks to gain the acceptance of the parent (it never comes by the way) and spends their life in misery trying to guess what will make Mom happy.
I’d bet that each of her siblings is using one of the above strategies to deal with Mom.

End quote:

Your mothers behaviour is not your fault. You do not need her approval or acceptance. Do you like her as a person? Probably not. It leave deep scars, but they can be healed, you dont need to be liked (not liked by your mother is hard medicine to swallow but she is just a person. and if shes abusive, likely not a good one.) all the best, but all of you sound like better people than your mothers, dont pander to them. dont compromise yourselves, but detach yourselves from the abusive and criticsm. they are more important things in life than worrying what other think of you.
post #16 of 32
Wow, your mom sounds just like mine! Writing the letter and not sending it sounds great. When I had DD1 I started to slowly stand up to my mothers abuse and manipulations because I could not bear to have her go through that. My mother became more and more persistent in getting her way (demanding alone time with DD1, using her against me ect.). When DD2 was born as my mother realized that she was not going to get to be in charge with my kids she flipped. She gave me and DH a very nasty letter(letter is in another post of mine) and stopped talking to us or seeing her grandkids. I agonized for 2 months over what she would do and when the other shoe would drop. Finally I wrote her a long letter. In my case I took the letter she wrote and wrote back line for line with rebuttals and included a few other points. The point of the letter at first was because I have decided to end contact with her. I never mailed the letter-I realized it would cause the other shoe to drop and give her ammo to use against me. I still feel much better though having just written the letter. Now I take one day at a time and will deal with her when the time comes.

So sorry you have to deal with this . I am here if you need.
post #17 of 32
I haven't read the other replies, so sorry if I am repeating something that has already been said.

Two book recommendations, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Christian-based, worth reading even if you are not a Christian.

Homecoming by John Bradshaw.

Individual therapy. You don't need her there to work on this.

The letter...

You could write ANYTHING you feel needed to be said however you feel it needs to be said...and then NOT mail the letter.

Here is why not to mail the letter...chances are she isn't going to think she did anything wrong. She will think SHE is the victim and you are being unfair and delusional.

I could be wrong, but chances are good she is NOT going to say your were right, that she is sorry or take responsibility for the hurt she caused.

You can't change other people.

You CAN change the way you respond to her. You can change the way you feel about yourself. You can change the way you react when she says something awful. You can eventually change the way you feel when she says something awful.

She may never be the kind of mother you need. If that is the case, you will either have to learn to mother yourself or get a mother substitute in another woman. Your mother is what she is and probably is not capable of being anything else.

There is support thread in this forum for MDC moms with difficult mothers.
post #18 of 32
I think Tigerchild and Jonathan911 gave you fantastic advice already. I have nothing to add, but wanted to express support for their perspectives.
post #19 of 32
I agree do not send the letter!! I'm so sorry.
I have a toxic mother too but I no longer have her in my life although she still calls (I don't answer) and emails me occasionally trying to guilt me and basically just being her narcissistic self (even when she's trying to convince me to talk to her again it's ALL about her).
post #20 of 32
don't send it!

PMing you, hugs mama.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Personal Growth
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Talk Amongst Ourselves › Personal Growth › Writing a letter to emotionally abusive mother