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Mom refuses to acknowledge pain she caused

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This all started when I was visiting home for Thanksgiving. I’m 37 years old. I came across a little poem that my younger brother wrote when he was 10 years old and made a completely anodyne observation about how sweet it was. My mom said something like “that was a wonderful time, despite what you think.” And I usually don’t engage but this time I lost control because it felt like such an unnecessary low blow. 

My childhood was a mixed bag. My parents cared and tried, which I know is more than a lot of people could say. But they fought. A lot. And loudly. I was never abused, but I never felt safe emotionally. I was always on edge waiting for a door to slam, for someone to move a pile of dishes angrily. A vicious argument could break out at any time at any reason. It’s a deep wound and affects me in ways I can’t even diagnose to this day. 

My dad is long dead, but all I want is for my mom to validate my feelings, acknowledge that it was hell sometimes growing up in her home. But she lacks the emotional capacity to do that. It’s full-on defensiveness, snide hurtful comments, telling me I’m an adult and I should recognize the complexity of my parents’ relationship now and accept that they loved each other despite all the fighting. But I was a child and know what I saw and felt and it’s never, ever been recognized as valid, and it’s never going to be. 

So I’m a 37-year-old man and I cried like a 7-year-old when I remembered being that 5-year-old boy putting football helmets on a map and hearing my parents screaming at each other and being so little I didn’t even know to be upset. I wanted to go back in time 32 years and hug that boy and protect him and take him for ice cream or something and be his safe space. Because there was nobody there to protect him, and it hurts my heart because that was me. And my mom will never ever understand or acknowledge that and all I need is a genuine validation.

I know I have to accept it’ll never happen, but it just hurts right now. 

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Tis small consolation that you aren’t alone in having a parent that refuses to validate your experience. Trying to empathise with the other beings around you is such a fundamental part of making meaningful connections 😞


I’m glad it’s long in your past and you’re aware enough to realise you’ve hit the limits of what she can be as a mum and sorry that you carry those wounds to heal. 

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8 hours ago, SonicYouth said:

I know I have to accept it’ll never happen, 

Sorry this happened. Unfortunately she may be in her own state of denial and chooses to mentally rewrite the story of her awful marriage to cope. Everyone's perception of reality is different so there's no point arguing with it.

If she wants to live in an imaginary world where she was in a happy marriage rather than an abusive one, that's ok. 

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You remind me of how often I call out to my husband and son "sorry!" because I am a Klutz so it probably sounds like I'm intentionally banging plates or hurling silverware but I'm just rushing around and something loudly clatters into the sink lol.  Or I'm reaching up to fit plates under plates in our overstuffed cabinet.  Have I ever smashed a plate into a sink out of frustration?  Uh huh!! It was during the pandemic and son was home for virtual 5th grade, husband teleworking all in a teensy weensy apartment.  I'm human.  It happens.  I didn't throw it and yes sometimes I reach that point and -you are not a parent and you didn't live through the pandemic with a young child at home.  But yes.  I apologized.  Yes I owned it.  No I did not justify it with pandemic excuse.

My mom didn't validate me about what went on when we were kids. I forgive her.  Why? My dad was very very ill.  My mom was his hero, his caretaker and to validate would have meant my dad likely reacting even worse.  She had to raise two kids in the 70s and 80s -talk about mental health stigma.  Yes we did family therapy, yes he did individual therapy.  But when he said the things he said, when we walked on eggshells -back then she was dismissive, in denial. 

Our family therapist explained this to me when I was 16.  She did the best she could and it hurt me.  But what the heck was she supposed to do - risk my dad getting even more out of whack? She didn't know what to do.  She did her best.  Can you possibly cut your mom some slack if there was illness going on? Or an addiction? I forgave my dad when I was in my 30s- I'm 57. He died when I was 50.

My mom also never admitted to all the hurtful comments she said to me when I was in my 20s and 30s and still single and my sister had miraculously fallen in love, gotten married in her 20s, "settled down" with a lovely man so it seemed and birthed 4 kids.  Except -as it turned out -she was lying to herself as she was desperate to marry and she stopped lying around 20 years later and got divorced. 

But even if her commitment and love had been true - my mother should never have held her out as an example of a mature responsible woman finding a good guy, and making a match for herself and having babies - what I desperately wanted and what felt so far out of my reach -my mom attributed it to my faults - you know, too picky, not ready for a real commitment.  She never admitted to doing that.  Oh yes she did.  So I get it. It was really hurtful.

Having said that I validate your feelings.  I am sorry you feel that way.  Accept what you cannot change - she is not going to validate you.  Take yourself for ice cream now - keep better boundaries between you and your family -avoid the conversations about The Past and if she initiates a convo change the subject.  I hope you feel better.


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It's really disheartening at the dysfunction that goes on in many families, and the trauma left in its wake. What I've seen in my own family, my husband's family, and friends I've known, the parents went through even worse circumstances than they subjected their children to. It's amazing they at least made some improvements, vowing to never do to their children what had been done to them, but that was still a far mark than the ideal.

Since the discussions about the past aren't beneficial, as said, set boundaries. You can cut phone conversations short if the discussion veers to hurtful remarks. You can leave her home. If she's at your home, ask her to leave. She will learn that to have the privilege of your company, that the company needs to be pleasant.

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You are definitely not alone. My dad was never sorry for what he inflicted on his family or the abuse and neglected he passed out . He is gone now so no one is getting a sorry. 

I hope one day your mom realises her mistakes and owns her part in your pain. I was 47 when my mom owned her part in what happened to her kids. 

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10 hours ago, SonicYouth said:

My dad is long dead, but all I want is for my mom to validate my feelings


No, I am serious, why? What would it bring to you? 

I am a child of divorced parents. Though I did had a good childhood, my dad is a narcissoid who think he is always right. I always had a love and support from my dear mom, but dad was and is a different breed. But I did realized some stuff so I just dont pay attention anymore. For example, do you really think I need to chase my dad to admit he is narcissoid who had 2 of his wifes left him(he married second time after him and my mom divorced) because of that and other problems? No. Its futile. I know some stuff from stories and from what I saw so far in life. But dont really need for him to admit anything to me. 

My point is, its enough that you know what happened. Losing your emotions and mental health over stuff like that is really not productive. You dont need your mom to validate your feelings. They are yours and you know its truth. 

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I'm sorry for all your pain @SonicYouth

Count me in with others by saying,  I too have a very hurtful past and as much as I want validation from my mother,  I know it is a very unrealistic expectation.   I'm sorry to say you're just wasting your time,  energy and breath by expecting your mother to validate your feelings.  It will never happen.

Not that I'm giving your mother excuses but many times,  a mother,  parent,  could be sibling,  friend,  in-law or whomever simply does not care about your feelings.  Your feelings do not matter.  Their primary concern revolves around themselves,  their concerns,  wants and / or current situation.  Often times,  the past does not matter to them regarding how YOU feel or how you're currently trying to cope with painful memories. 

Thanksgiving,  Christmas,  perhaps Easter or major family gatherings during the holidays are especially hard because it's supposed to represent joyous groups and sharing good times.  Unfortunately,  it's difficult to reconcile painful memories,  perhaps grudges,  bitterness,  resentment,  unfairness,  wrongs and hard feelings.  What you're feeling is very universal. 

I'm not defending your mother so I don't want you to perceive it that way regarding what I say here.  Even though it was not your intent to evoke hurtful memories for your mother,  she told you not to feel melancholic nor sentimental during her tumultuous marriage to your late father.  I experience the same snide comments from my mother and whenever it happens,  I let it go.  I don't give life to the subject anymore.  I simply move onto a different subject or learn to walk away.  There are times when it's better to diffuse an uncomfortable subject no matter how innocuous it was in your mind than to argue back 'n forth,  engage in a fight and allow the unpleasant conversation to drag on.  Take the lesser of two evils by shutting down the conversation.  Don't go there anymore.

Unfortunately, with some people on this Earth including your mother,  you have to walk on eggshells,  think before you speak and really watch what you say if you want to avoid conflict of any sort.  Learn to adapt.  Don't be sad and mad.  Be smart.  Be calculating and shrewd as you navigate yourself in all scenarios because it will save you.  👍

I hear you.  I'm in the same boat.  My parents housed and fed their three children but they too argued A LOT and it was ultimately a broken home.  Sure,  I can remain bitter but I've decided it's not healthy.  I continue moving forward.  Don't live in the past.

Like you,  my late father is long gone.  Don't want nor expect your mother to validate your feelings.  Since you know she lacks the emotional capacity,  don't try to extract the impossible from her.  If you do,  you'll only become frustrated,  disappointed and angry. ☹️ You're wasting your precious energy on an effort in futility. 

If you continue to pressure her to give you what you want,  you'll be met with her snide,  hurtful comments,  gaslighting and talking in dizzying circles.  Both sides will become defensive which leads to a lot of animosity.  It's better to be peaceful.  Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  🙄 🤔

It hurts.  Validate and acknowledge your feelings to be sure but also treat yourself better.  At age 37,  this is a new life of yours.  Enrich your life whether it's with your career,  surrounding yourself with moral people,  be with people who are morally supportive,  take great care of your health,  perhaps take up a hobby,  read good books,  watch a documentary or whatever makes you happy.  It's what I do and it helps a lot otherwise it's easy to become depressed and miserable. 

Transform your hurts into doing something positive.  My family and I've been feeding the disadvantaged such as serving holiday meals to veterans,  poor children and families who would otherwise not eat a holiday meal and the like.  It really puts life into perspective when you realize there are millions of people worse off than you.  It becomes less of a pity pot and you evolve into a man of gratitude.  You ought to try it because it's a huge slice of humble pie. 


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On 11/24/2023 at 9:34 PM, SonicYouth said:

I wanted to go back in time 32 years and hug that boy and protect him and take him for ice cream or something and be his safe space.

Dear Sonic, this is EXACTLY what you can do.  With the right guided therapy, meditation, hypnosis, or visualization.  That boy is still inside you, and still accessible, you don't need a time machine.  Hugs to you in your journey... (((( ))))

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I am sorry this is happening. It’s painful to not get your feelings validated from someone you care about. I’m here to tell you that your experiences and feelings are valid, and you are seen! 

My alcoholic father never acknowledged the pain he inflicted and my mother, his enabler, never did either. The only way out is to let go. As said above, it’s probably denial, it must be unbearable for parents to realise they’ve hurt their child. Not saying it’s an excuse not to validate you. I dealt with it by accepting the existing relationship I have with my parents without trying to fix it, focusing on myself, and validating myself. The last one is crucial, as in time you will become your own loving, approving, validating parent and it will bring healing into your heart ❤️

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