14. Replacing the Pain

14. Replacing the Pain

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Replacing the Pain

When you haven’t forgiven those who’ve hurt you, you turn back against your future. When you do forgive you start walking forward.

~Tyler Perry

How do you forgive your mother when she is a drug addict? How do you forgive her when she dies unexpectedly and leaves you all on your own? For eighteen years I couldn’t, I didn’t.

I was ten when my mother passed away. I found her in her bedroom on a crisp, Midwestern Thanksgiving morning. It was just the two of us in the house. Everything was silent, except for the beating of my heart.

I looked at her and knew she was gone.

Before she died, my life was chaotic. I hid in the corners and in the shadows while my mother got high and fell asleep on the living room floor. My brothers, sister and I became forgotten members of the house. My dad moved out, and my mom boxed up the memory of us, like she did her wedding dress.

Soon the drugs became everything in her life. She forgot to feed us, forgot to pick us up from school. Sometimes she would be so desperate for drugs she would force me to call my grandmother and beg for money. I was only seven years old. I was already tired of her games, but I didn’t know a different way of life. I assumed everyone had a mother like mine.

After my mother died, my father moved back in with us. We tried as best we could to reattach the family, but it was difficult after everything we’d seen throughout the years.

Like survivors, we stumbled wide-eyed every day through the aftermath of the earthquake my mother left behind.

I grew up and moved out. On my own, it was time to take stock of what had happened in my life, and how I could be different than my mother, better.

I had so much anger in me. How could I ever have my own children? How could I love a child when I had never been loved? My mother was absent my whole life. She was missing when I graduated high school, missing when I got married. She was missing every time I needed her.

Slowly, my heart turned to steel. I hated feeling lonely and sad—homesick for a mother I had never known.

As the years passed, I stopped thinking of her. I lived my own life, careful to not make the same mistakes she had. I was careful not to take drugs, careful not to lie, careful not to manipulate people or to let them down. I walked on eggshells.

Then I became pregnant. While I was sad that my mother was missing that too, my mindset shifted with my growing belly. I had a lot of time to spend with this baby blossoming inside me. I spent hours rubbing my stomach and reflecting on the life I had as a child. I was sure I would never treat my son the way my mom treated me. I would make sure he had the life I didn’t, full of love, and attention, and understanding.

The day came when my son entered the world, and my world completely changed. His birth healed me in ways I never would have guessed, and healed some of the gaping wounds created by my mom. I knew then his life would be better than mine. But in order to create that happiness for him, I would have to forgive my own mother, let go of the hurt and the heaviness she had left in my life.

I forgave my mother then, after eighteen years of being angry, after eighteen years of hurting. I forgave her so that I could make space in my heart for all that my son had to offer. There was no room anymore for all of the negative emotions I felt when thinking about my mother. I forgave her for my son. So that in place of hatred, love lived instead.

How do you forgive your mother when she is a drug addict? How do you forgive her when she dies unexpectedly and leaves you all on your own? For eighteen years I couldn’t, I didn’t.

Then one day it became clear that the way to end the pain was to simply let forgiveness take its place.

~Kate White

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