Toxic Mom Toolkit on Grief: A Passage or a Prison?

10 Feb

A dear church friend of mine died this past weekend and I’m grieving. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She loved to sing and taught so many children their hymns. All the children, teens, even the kids away at college, were devastated by the news of her passing. I find my eyes filling up with tears while I’m driving. I have to grab a tissue 20 times a day. For the past few days, any thought of my church family carries a sad weight. And yet, I know that in a few weeks or months, I will reflect on her life and think only good thoughts. Her memory will very likely inspire me to do more for our church and I’m sure there will be many times that I quietly, anonymously do things at church in her memory. Grief is a sad dark tunnel, but eventually you walk out into the sunshine again.

As children, our goldfish introduce us to grief. A few hours or days of remembering our pet naturally morphs into appreciation for all animals and our role in caring for them. If we forgot to feed our fish, we may suffer longer. But if a good old fish turned up floating, it was simply sad. We get through it.

And then our hearts are broken in puppy love, re-introducing grief. Perhaps one of our grandparents passes. Then a beloved teacher is suddenly swept away and our families and friends talk about loss and grief and introduce the idea of respecting each person’s unique life and our personal timetables for grief.

In adulthood, the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling is a great grief and the sympathy we receive never seems to outlast our grief. But there is an understanding that even in the worst grief, there is a turning point. Even a widow is allowed her long grieving and then we are happy for her should she remarry and rebuild a happy life.

And yet, for the adult children of toxic mothers, the grief over existing with an unloving mother is indefinite. As long as your toxic mother is living, you can feel that you are in a state of perpetual grief. When she is cruel to you, you may experience periods of deep, low-functioning grief. Or your mother grief may feel more like a low-grade flu that never ends. Grief often includes a feeling that you need to stop in your tracks; that you shouldn’t make plans; shouldn’t plan fun things. It can become a foundational feeling of great sadness that keeps you from feeling you deserve happy plans, fun trips or get-togethers with friends.

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself: When do I decide to trade in grief — over my childhood, over the stress of my current relationship with my mother, over the pervasive feeling of being cheated of a mother’s love — for hope? When do I leave my sad, dark mindset and walk into the sunshine of living my life?

If a Sunday School student had come to my late friend and expressed deep grief, she may have pointed to Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Are you ready to consider comforting yourself regarding your toxic mom? Is your grief about your toxic mom a passage or a prison? Could you imagine the luxury of giving up your toxic mom grief?

14 Responses to “Toxic Mom Toolkit on Grief: A Passage or a Prison?”

  1. Dawn February 10, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    Thankful, I have siblings to help me process the grief of our TM. Even though we have worked through most of the pain, anger/grief raises it’s ugly head and we need to process so more.

    • collectingjourneys March 17, 2017 at 11:16 am #

      You’re right! It’s so valuable to turn to someone who was there and ask, Did I remember this right?

  2. Amanda February 10, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    “The sympathy never seems to outlast the grief”. Isn’t that the truth! I have been blessed to not have lost any of my immediate family. My very close uncle. My ex husband. That carried so much guilt, I said regular mean things an ex wife says… but with a toxic mom? I am just now realizing that when I keep looking closer, I find wounds on me I didn’t know I had. And wounds don’t heal when they are still being picked and jabbed at.
    So I’m giving myself permission to go NC. And I was very much against NC a while back!! I’m a Christian, a Jesus follower, and so I did not take this lightly. But like Rayne says, I can be NC for now and if in the future I need to break it that’s ok. For now my wounds need to heal so I need to get away from the jabbing and poking! So this can be a phase, not a permanent place. Thanks rayne !!

    • collectingjourneys March 17, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      Whatever works for you, is what works!

  3. Natalie February 10, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    Thank you for this post. I have recently gone no contact and at first found the grief hard to deal with but allowed myself time. I found that by saying that I could take as much time as I need, I have needed less than I thought I would. I started the journey finding lots of support on Facebook groups and with friends, within a couple of months I have unfollowed the groups (except for your page😆) as I started finding they were pulling me backwards.
    I have been asking myself the very questions you posed here, so thank you.

    • collectingjourneys February 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      Hi Natalie! I love your comment. I’m curious – why do you think other groups fell away, but Toxic Mom Toolkit had value for you?

      Best, Rayne

  4. Amy February 12, 2017 at 11:20 am #

    Thank you for this article… my eyes still have tears in them as I started reading this. I learned last year that my mother was toxic and it’s sad to say I didn’t figure it out until I was 35! This has been the worst year of my life with some major confrontations with my mother (and my dad who just backs whatever she says or feels)… my husband (whom my mom dislikes) and I moved away to another state 1 year ago this month because we not only felt God calling us to but for our family’s health we had to get away from my mom. She latched onto our first born daughter and has this idea that she should be daily involved in her grandchildrens lives yet she obviously favors the oldest and I see it becoming a problem in the future for our 2 daughters so I’ve had to decide today that ties must be severed more than before… I was made to feel terrible for buying a black set of sheets for our daughters bed because I was going to depress her with those dark colors! I didn’t have much money and was redecorating in ladybugs so the black sheets were brand new at a thrift and looked really good with her red, green and black ladybug bedding set! Its just what made me feel like such a failure of a mom that I’m done… again! I keep getting sucked back into talking to her again or doing things because she will straighten up and be nice and respect boundaries when she has gone too far but then it’s a vicious cycle… how do I get free?!?! The saddest part is that we are both strong Christians and I just keep wondering why this is happening between believers! Thanks for your advice!

    • collectingjourneys February 13, 2017 at 4:27 am #

      I wonder if my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, might not be helpful to you? You can find it on Amazon or ask your local library to add it to the collection. Best, Rayne

    • Amanda February 13, 2017 at 5:18 am #

      Oohh amy, you and I have similar stories from what you’ve said. I discovered about 33 my mom was/is toxic. She also tried to parent my children, and very obviously made my oldest her golden grandchild, and my second born her scape goat. The other 2 she hasn’t determined yet; and she won’t get to. I’m staying no contact this time. I also moved out of state and I am SO HAPPY to have that opportunity!! I don’t think I could manage no contact living in her town, or also my healing. I am also a believer and God has given me permission to go no contact; until a further time if my parents heath fails, I’ll consider how to honor them from a distance.
      It’s sad, but we can’t heal with them around. And we are stewards of our own families. We have an obligation to the Lord to take care of our families and we can’t do that with a demanding narc grandparent around. Hugs to you and your kids!!! We’re doing the right thing and on the right path. Some people don’t figure this stuff out for another 20 years.
      Watch some you tube videos on narcissism and what WOULD happen if we let the narc around our children. She will turn them against us and each other if we let them. I never want to see my children go through sibling disconnect like I have. I also need to update my will, and name my in laws as beneficiary and such… anyways hugs and God bless.

      • No Ones Daughter September 19, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

        When i went no contact with my TM, her last assault, was meeting my daughter, in secret and turning her against me. (She was almost 12) I later realized my TM was grooming my daughter, her entire life, if and when I cut her out of my life. My biggest regret and my biggest parenting mistake was putting my daughter between 2 people who despise each other. My daughter is now in the custody of relatives, i trust. I live less than an hour away from me. We moved 600 miles away from my toxic Mom. She was stalking me, harassing me online, and sending the cops to my house. Again, i am a terrible Mother for ever allowing that predator close to my daughter. My two other children are safe.

  5. Julie October 30, 2017 at 7:28 am #

    I have gone nc many times in the past. This last time has been almost 6 months. The problem with nc with a tm means nc with the rest of the family. Tm is always there at all the functions so if i want to be around the rest of the family, that means i have to see tm. Everyone accepts her and her behaviors because they dont want drama but im the one that misses out on everything because i refuse to be around her.

  6. Mrs. Loveyourselffirst November 5, 2017 at 3:03 am #

    A little over two years ago, I chose the “sunshine” that had been clouded from a life-long period of grief and sadness.
    I finally stuck up for myself and had the biggest blowout of my life with my TM. After deciding I wasn’t going to stand in my mother’s kitchen and take her tongue lashings that included every mean (twisted) thing she could ever bring up, I left her house with my fiancé and travelled through the night just so I could find safety at my own house three hours away. Before leaving, I told her that as soon as she was willing to talk to me like an adult, she could call me. However, I did not want her in my life anymore if that’s how she was going to talk to me. After three months of sadness, grief, and checking my phone for a missed call from “her”, I decided it was okay that I did what I did and that I couldn’t feel badly about doing what was right for me. During these few seemingly long months, my fiancé and I had countless talks about how this was a positive change in my life and in our life together. One night, he said to me, “Why don’t we finally start planning our wedding?” You can imagine my initial thoughts… I was nervous, scared, felt guilty etc etc all because my mother and I were not speaking and I knew this meant she wouldn’t be a part of this huge, life changing event. And then without skipping a beat, I said, “You know what? This is the perfect time to begin planning.” I knew that “she” wouldn’t be able to sway any of our decisions, make anything about her or make planning the best day of our lives an unhappy experience. I had been engaged for three years and in my relationship for 11 years. The only reason we had put off getting married was because I knew what a disaster it would be because of “her” if I began planning it. We had even started planning our wedding when we first got engaged and I quickly put a halt to it because “she” immediately added unneeded drama to our planning. So, we finally began planning together; just the two of us. We fell in love with a venue first and of course everything just fell into place from there. Every aspect of our wedding was “ours” and not once did we have a blowout fight or argument since every detail was what we dreamed up together. From the colors, to the decorations, to the food, to the wedding dress and suits… everything was totally our taste. I had friends, a few family members and my fiancés family gladly fill the void of not having either of my parents be a part of my wedding planning. They helped only when asked and didn’t push their opinions on us. It was all worth it because the people that were involved in everything, love us whole-heartedly and helped create the most love-filled weekend I have ever had in my entire life. My mother-in-law came to every dress fitting appointment so that she could learn how to lace me up on my wedding day. We also spent countless hours in her kitchen together making wedding favors while making too many happy memories to count. My father-in-law and biggest hero and fan of my life walked me down the isle. Not once on our wedding day did I wish for the stress, hurt or selfishness my TM would have gladly provided. The people that showed up for us were those that will forever remain in our lives through good times and bad. They will also be the ones that will be a huge part of our future children’s lives. They are our real family. Our wedding day was the most freeing day of my entire life. It made me realize that I have a new life to live; MY LIFE, not hers.

    To those struggling to break free:

    If you are feeling guilty, but know that you are dealing with a toxic person, DO NOT just stand there and put your life on hold or keep your heart in their grip. You deserve to have the life you long for. You deserve to feel the sunshine on your face and the love of those around you. I’m giving you the permission to move on and decide that it’s time to truly start living your life. The right time is now and you have so much to look forward to.

    • pinkisnewblackblog December 20, 2017 at 5:10 am #

      It was so hopeful to read your post. While I have a TM, I’m blessed to have a wonderful mother in-law in my life and had a great father-law too, until he passed two years ago. I went through breast cancer two years ago and for that time, my TM and I, grew closer. I thought we were past all of the ugliness, but it was simply not meant to be. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

  7. pinkisnewblackblog December 20, 2017 at 5:03 am #

    I’m new to this blog and new to even referring to my mother as a TM, but she fits the description to a tee. I’m personally struggling now since Thanksgiving when I was going to take my family to her home, until I called in the morning to let her know we would not be coming since my son was feeling very ill, and running a fever. I chose to stay home with him and keep our family together. She said some terrible things that I reacted to, and things elevated from there. It’s been a tough year all around in my relationship with her. Huge blow up back in May when she refused to see me for Mother’s day after she accused me of not placing “our side of the family” first. After some recent email exchanges (against my better judgment), we are now at an impasse. I have considered extending the olive branch as I always do, but feel so deeply hurt, I’m not sure I can. My boys see the hurt and stress she causes me, and actually have no problem not spending time with their grandmother. If it were not for my father, I would probably not try. My father is a gentle, kind man, but weak in character. He has been manipulated by her for 50+ years of his marriage and he’s allowed it. I know he is hurting, but he’s hurt me to by not stepping in all the times she’s unleashed her craziness on both my brother and I. I’m working on it every day. Just trying to do the next right thing for myself and my own family. I vacillate between feeling sad and being very angry and resentful for her ruining my Thanksgiving, which is now stretching into Christmas. It’s sad and destructive and unnecessary. Perhaps I need to rise above it all, but I have to protect myself in the process too.

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