I couldn’t even mutter the words. How did she get inside my head? What did I say that gave away my secrets? I burst into tears because I knew what was coming. I’ve thought those words. I covered my face, ashamed that breaking down revealed what I had thought many times before this moment. I wanted to hide. In front of my life coach and in front of my classmates, I sobbed.

In the moments leading up to my meltdown, my coach guided me as I peeled back layers of pain, memories, and resentments I held against myself and my mother. She listened as I poured out my heart and held space for me. When she asked me to repeat something, rather heavy, I thought I was ready to take it on.

She said, Jess, I’d like you to repeat after me. (I think I may have actually smiled in anticipation of making a breakthrough) There’s a big part of me…

There’s a big part of me, I repeated, still smiling and wondering what was coming up next.

That’s relieved…she had barely finished and I burst into tears. I had already finished the sentence in my mind, regardless of what my coach may have said next.

In a calm voice, she acknowledged my pain. You’ve been holding onto a lot of shame and guilt over those feelings. It’s time to let it out. It’s okay to cry. So I did. Unmuted and with an audience. I was a broken mess, right there in front of everyone. But it was a safe space, with supportive, loving women, who also struggled with their own inner stuff. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

What was this really about?

My relationship with my mother always felt disconnected. Instead of letting anyone else see what I felt, I put a smile on my face every time someone asked me, How’s your mom doing? What’s she up to these days? The answer remained pretty consistent. She’s doing fine. She works as a caregiver and really likes it. Mom loves taking care of others. Yes, she’s still at the same house.

But what was really on my mind during those conversations? I guess it’s time for me to open up, so here it is:

How’s my mom doing? I don’t really know, so I’m going to give you my best guess. We barely talk to each other because each time we do, it’s painful. We text sometimes. Every once in a while we talk on the phone. There’s such an emotional disconnection left from childhood that neither of us knows how to repair it and move forward. Is that even normal? To feel that way when you talk to your own mother? As soon as we start talking to each other, my invisible wall goes up faster than the time before. It’s hard to talk about normal things because of it.

What’s she up to these days? Again, I’m not really sure, other than working long hours, complaining she has no money to pay her bills, pitting her kids against each other all while making us feel guilty that we don’t visit with her enough. You know what? My kids have never been to her house and probably never will. My husband has pulled into her driveway once in 14 years. Why? I’m embarrassed of my childhood home. It’s a mess – a hoarder’s dream or nightmare – whichever makes more sense. We tried helping her clean it and fix it up and we tried helping with bills, but those are just surface issues compared to the problems she doesn’t want to touch.

Instead of finding help, she keeps holding in her pain. She’s good at that, so she keeps on doing it. Mom takes care of others because it’s easier than taking care of herself. It’s easier for her to be kind to others because being kind to herself means that she has to find it in her heart to love herself first. She was always good at putting on a happy face while she crumbled inside. That was the secret she kept hidden from everyone at all costs. There were severe consequences to that decision.

I so desperately want to have a loving relationship with my own mother, but I have no idea where to start. Neither does she. So we both keep doing the same damn things, over and over again. I just want her to love me, like, really love me so I believe her, and maybe I can start to love her back the way I want to love my mom. That’s how my mom is doing!

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Diving deeper.

I learned how to love myself from adults who cared for me growing up. My mother was my full-time parent after her divorce. The way my mother loved herself was under the spotlight constantly while I was a child soaking up everything I observed, learning, and taking it all in. I watched her run from her troubles, hiding from pain with alcohol, coping by yelling after losing her temper, scraping by barely making ends meet, and feeling miserable in poorly matched relationships.

Once all of her kids grew up, moved out, and started lives of our own, things got worse. Her health began to deteriorate. Hoarding entered the picture. We all knew that mom needed professional help, but her stubborn belief of not needing help prevented that avenue of healing to reach her. Instead, mom continued down the path of comforting self-sabotaging thinking and behaviors, ultimately leading to a heart attack.

Our family tried helping. Sometimes it felt like everyone judged my family, thinking we weren’t actually doing anything to help her, but there were a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff others couldn’t see. From the outside, it may have appeared that she had just given up on life. Maybe she did – though I believe she didn’t know how to love herself and it showed up everywhere in her life.

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Squeeze an orange, you get orange juice.

My life coach offered a fruit analogy to help me better understand what loving oneself looks like. It keeps me thinking about how important it is for me to heal and fully love myself so I can give the love others in my life deserve from me. I’ve found several fruit analogy examples online to explain and here’s one of them. (I encourage you to follow the link) Let me share my simplified version with you, and you can quietly answer the questions yourself.

When you squeeze an orange, what comes out?

Would apple juice come out?

Would grape juice come out?

No, orange juice would come out when you squeeze the orange. Why? Because orange juice comes out of an orange. Apple or grape juice wouldn’t come out of an orange.

Imagine that the orange represents you and you are filled with emotions, painful memories, or negative experiences.

When someone squeezes you or gives you a hug, what comes out? If you are sad, angry, or depressed – what comes out? What flows out from you and into the other person?

If you are filled with negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, anger, and so on, those are the emotions flowing from you, not love. You may conceal or hide them from others, and maybe you’ve become really good at that over the years. If you are an orange filled with negative emotions, orange juice won’t flow from you at all. It could be lemon or grapefruit juice instead, but not pure sweet orange juice. Can you relate?

Now let’s imagine that you are filled with love of all things, including yourself, then love flows from you – just as orange juice comes out of an orange. What would that look like for you?

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For years I had painful emotions, such as sadness, disappointment, anger, resentment, anxiety, confusion, frustration, and some more, bubbling under my surface. When mom passed away, a new and unexpected feeling emerged – relief. With it, came guilt and shame because I felt relief after mom passed away. How could I feel relieved after losing my mother? Who does that? I did. I do. I’m going to tell you why.

  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to question if I’m actually loved or not.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to feel embarrassed about my childhood home.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to fumble my way through telling people how my mom is doing when I don’t know myself.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to convince my mom to pay her bills and not worry about buying my kids Christmas presents.
  • I’m relieved because my mom no longer has to suffer from an alcohol addiction.
  • I’m relieved because my mom no longer is burying her pain by hoarding and filling the void with things.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to lie to myself that everything will be okay with my mom’s mental and physical health, finances, or anything else for that matter.
  • I’m relieved because my mom no longer has to figure out how to pay for her Diabetes medication, gas, electricity, heat, or to get her car fixed when there’s not enough in her paycheck to take care of it all.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to make up excuses as to why my husband and kids have never been inside my mother’s home or why I hated going there myself.
  • I’m relieved because my mom’s house sold, as is, within days of it being on the market.
  • I’m relieved because my mom no longer has to worry about not making enough money to survive.
  • I’m relieved because my mom is no longer living in a home that brought her unimaginable stress.
  • I’m relieved because I can now talk openly and honestly with my mom’s spirit about anything – past, present, or plans for the future.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to feel guilty for having a closer relationship with my aunt than I did my mom.
  • I’m relieved because there’s no longer tension in my family.
  • I’m relieved because I now know my mom was truly sorry for not loving me the way I needed her to love me in life.
  • I’m relieved because there’s no pretending anymore.
  • I’m relieved because I no longer have to put pressure on myself to heal my mom when I didn’t know how.
  • I’m relieved because I know that telling this story will no longer hurt mom’s feelings, but instead help me heal and resonate with others.
  • I’m relieved because my mom is finally at peace.

There. I said it. All of it.

I have been sitting with these feelings and this blog post for a good 3 weeks. I have been afraid to share something so raw and personal to my inner core with others. What will you think of me? What will they think of me? Will they think I’m selfish? Ungrateful? A bad daughter? Trust me, it all crossed my mind.

Developing the courage to accept my feelings and stand in my truth took hard work and grace. What helped me reach the point of acceptance was knowing that my mom is now at peace. Her spirit has finally transcended the earthly realm and can see the impact on the world she left behind. I know my how my mom loved helping others, and I want her to be remembered for that. The lessons being revealed in her absence are much larger than relationship we shared together on earth. The value of these lessons I share with my audience may bring awareness and possibly prompt an invitation to heal in your life. That’s why I’m walking with you on our journey through life together.