For Many Parents, Mother’s Day May Not Be About Smiles, Flowers or Cups of Tea

Inundated with images of happy moms cuddling with their kids, intergenerational photoshoots depicting grandmothers, mothers and daughters posing proudly, and marketing emails encouraging people to show their mothers how much they mean to them, the holiday can have a much darker, upsetting side for many who have been affected by childhood trauma involving their mothers.

“My whole life, my mother was horrible to me. She was always jealous of my freedom because, growing up, she didn’t have any,” says Melanie*, a mom of two. “For example, she would be excited that I was going on a date, help me get ready and then, at the last minute, pick a fight and ground me. Afterward, she’d act like everything was fine, and ignored my sadness and frustration. I left home at 17. It’s really difficult for me to celebrate Mother’s Day.”

As society begins to recognize the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on adult children who are now parents, we must be mindful and raise awareness of the triggering potential of these celebrations, and public consideration and support must be given to those who continue to struggle with the open wounds of their childhood, especially on a day when we’re encouraged to celebrate someone who may have hurt us so terribly.

“I want to be there for my kids and show them that Mother’s Day can be a great day, but the anger and sadness that I feel toward my own mother overshadows it, and I just can’t find the energy to celebrate myself.” finishes Melanie, who has been diagnosed with clinical depression.

In addition to seeking help from medical professionals, parents that are struggling with their memories can try journaling, with a twist – after writing, read it back to yourself.

This strategy is inspired by two proven therapies, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which focuses on how feelings, thoughts and behaviour influence each other, and DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), which incorporates the aspects of CBT and goes further into the process of regulating emotions, practicing mindfulness and learning to understand and accept pain, with the hope that reviewing the writing will elicit a positive awareness of the situation and ways to repair it will become self-evident.

According to a 2002 study from the University of Iowa, “Journaling that highlights emotional expression and cognitive processing, [making an effort to understand and make sense of a traumatic event], may offer greater benefits than journaling focused on the expression of negative emotion. Journaling that focuses on negative emotional expression alone may contribute to increased reporting of physical symptoms.”

“During my illness and recovery, because writing to myself and to my doctors about my state of mind worked wonders for my healing, I had the goal of establishing a space as a means for open and honest conversation and support,” says Leanne Minichillo, creator of ParentalMental.com, “It is a place where parents can feel heard, and begin to heal, confidently.”

 

ParentalMental.com was created from a Lived Experience/1st Voice perspective to give parents an honest forum to share experiences and feelings while navigating their own mental health challenges, including mental illness.

Leanne Minichillo is an advocate for parents with mental illness, and uses her extensive life experience to inform her work. A mother to one child, she reflects on her own undiagnosed childhood, on how parenting with mental illness affects future generations and how we can reduce the stigma and fear for parents to seek help for their own mental health concerns.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy


 

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