I can’t embrace forgiveness and love when holding onto fear.

I went to visit my mother last night in the care centre where she’s been for the past few weeks. She has been extremely depressed, not eating and losing too much weight. At 91, her weight was ten pounds less than her age when she arrived at the centre. “I have no appetite and I’m always tired,” she said.

“When you choose not to eat, you will be tired,” I replied.

“But how can I eat?” she asked. “I’m tired all the time.”

For my mother, the inciting incident was a woman at the assisted living facility where she lives who bullied her during a card game. Unable to let it go, her thinking kept spiralling around and around the events, her story became fixated on all that was wrong with what the other woman did and how it hurt her.

I’ve forgiven her, my mother said. But I’m not going to speak to her anymore.

Will that get you more peace or less peace? I asked.

My mother wants peace in her life. It is all she’s really wanted for a long time. Peace.

I have not always been the vessel of peace for my mother. I have struggled to let go of resentment. Of anger. Of feeling abandoned long ago by this woman who gave me birth.

I have struggled to be forgiving and loving and caring.

I can learn a lot from my struggle with my mother. I can grow a lot from seeing where in holding onto what I cannot change, I have held myself back from being all that I want to be in this world — kind, caring, loving, a light of joy, a circle of Love.

See, I’ve carried the same thinking as my mother. I forgive her, but I’m not going to trust her with my heart.

Hello? Who am I kidding?

One of the many things I learned through the experience of almost dying in my search for love in all the wrong places is that I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.

I learned this — but where my mother is concerned, I did not practice it. I have held onto fear. I have kept my distance fearing she will do or say or respond in ways that will make the past, once again, the present. In my mind, I believe that to my mother I am not good enough. I am not who she wants me to be. And in holding onto the belief that I am not the daughter my mother wanted, I keep myself separate and away from being who I am when I let go of fear and stand in Love.

In fear, I forgive… with restrictions. I give… with expectations. I love… with limits.

As I sat with my mother last night and listened to her, really, really listened, my heart broke wide open. My mother has seldom known happiness, not the deep, deep joy of feeling at peace, at one with the world around you. Not because she didn’t want it. She did. Desperately at times. But life for my mother has not given her what she wanted. A lifetime battle with depression. Grief. Fear and worry have robbed her of the peace she so desperately wanted and continues to want today.

As I listened I thought about how challenging life is when depression and fear and worry drown our peace of mind and steal our joy.

I thought about how sad it is to not know our own magnificence. To not feel our own light shining brightly.

My mother has a kind and loving heart. It is the core of who she is.

And like me, she struggles at times to allow kindness to be her first response.

Like me, she has not always known she is worthy.

Like me, she has felt pain and hurt and sorrow and grief.

Like me, she has searched for understanding and yearned to be seen and understood.

Like me, she has struggled to make sense of the past. Struggled to let go of what was never meant to be held onto.

Like me, she is perfectly human in all her human imperfections.

Perhaps, it wasn’t the journey into the darkness of an abusive relationship that was my greatest teacher. What if, it is my lifelong relationship with  my mother? What if, in seeing and hearing my mother last night, in looking into the mirror of believing I can be present and loving, with conditions, I learn one of life’s great truths? 

I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.

Our lives are filled with teachers. People who mirror for us our greatest fears, our biggest obstacles. With my mother, I have held onto the belief that to be safe, I must stand outside and not come in from the cold.

What if I am always safe when I stand in my light and shine fiercely beyond the limits of my fears?

What if I choose to live from the heart of my truth? I am always safe when I stand in forgiveness and embrace Love.

Shine on!

21 thoughts on “I can’t embrace forgiveness and love when holding onto fear.”

  1. Elgie, good morning. Strong piece. Your use of the phrase “Like me”, and its repetition is revealing perhaps …

    We all struggle, all our lives, for our parents’ approval. It rarely comes, all on its own, in the form we crave. Parents too, methinks, crave it from our children, just as our parents carved it from us.

    I believe we all feel we have failed them, all feel we have been failed by them … to some degree. Having recently lost my dad at 91, I feel your fear. Fear that she’ll die. Fear that she won’t – and fear that her angst will remain unresolved.

    Fear that we should have done more, or different, or something else …

    You are not alone in your journey. Neither is your mother.

    My best advices it to be with her as much as is practical – hold her, touch her, say what has been left unsaid and help her feel safe to do the same.

    We don’t get the answers we crave – we get the answers we hear. Unless we choose not to hear anything at all – then we can make it up. So good though, I think, to hear the whole real thing than to guess.

    I’m guessing your mother has more going on than frustration with someone who treated her poorly just recently – but if you can figure out that trigger and give her the opportunity to let more out . . . while she has time and energy.

    You … you have a lifetime to talk and children to listen.

    For now, it is your job to listen.

    … my two cents,




    1. Thank you for sharing… your two cents Mark. 🙂 The repetition is based on an exercise in compassion I like to use — to look at a stranger and repeat… Like me…. and keep doing it. It is all about knowing, I am not alone. we all share these same feelings.

      Thanks for connecting in such a heartfelt way Mark. Blessings.


  2. I love this post Louise. I too, see so much of my mother in me and at this stage of my life, I don’t resent that anymore. I see the gifts in it. It feels like I finally get “it,” whatever it is… 🙂
    Diana xo


  3. Thank you for your eloquence in expressing something difficult for all of us. I particularly like your statement “Our lives are filled with teachers. People who mirror for us our greatest fears, our biggest obstacles.” That is true for me … when we learn to recognize our ‘shadows’ we then are graced with the opportunity for self reflection and learning.

    One other thought this stimulated for me … “I forgive her, but I’m not going to trust her with my heart.” My exploration lately has been to trust the universe with my heart. When I do that … truly do that … it is more difficult for any one person, no matter how dear, to deeply wound my heart.


    1. I think that is so wise ian — to know that trusting the universe with our hearts means, we are always safe, always loved, always at ease, and in grace. Such a beautiful place and way to be in the world — and one I too strive to always live in. And sometimes… I forget. and my human nature, my adapted learnings trip me up! Hugs m friend. I appreciate your words and presence.


  4. The theme of our Lenten program is forgiveness. Last week, in answer to a participant’s question, our priest reiterated that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, and that it sometimes requires that we set boundaries so that we do not keep allowing ourselves to be wounded. Most of all, it’s about giving the forgiver peace. That discussion reframed my perspective on what what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not.

    Depression robs us of ability to reframe in terms of ourselves; we tend to give power to the other and therefore see no options for ourselves. I wish your mother deep peace.

    The following is a long quote but a beautiful one that I took away from last week’s program. It’s from Maya Angelou. “I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better’, that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry’, and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry’. If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others but in the end, the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.”

    May peace be with you, dear friend.


    1. Your Lenten program sounds so healing Maureen — and I love, love, love the Maya Angelou quote. It is what I too believe. That forgiveness of self, and others, means ‘the stuff’ never has to sit between us — it was so enlightening for me to see deeply where my mother’s words/actions were a mirror for me to see into my own heart. Thank you dear friend. Peace be with you as well.


  5. There’s a lot about your description that could be my mother. I realized some time ago, with the same sensation of breaking heart, that she has never been happy, never really enjoyed life. And, since she’s terrified of looking within, I’ve faced that this lifetime is likely not going to be one in which she ever is happy or aware of her own worth. Very hard for me to stand back from that and let her do it her way. Hard stuff to look at. And my mother is the one with whom i have the greatest difficulty letting go of resentment. You have me thinking. Another great post!


    1. Leigh, I am always grateful when my thinking inspires someone else’s thinking and then, they inspire mine again. It is the letting go of resentment that challenges me — and gives me the greatest opportunity to grow. I love how you have found that place of acceptance — thank you for that inspiration! Blessings.


  6. Louise, this is truly awesome. You are truly awesome. Thank for sharing with your heart wide open. My relationship with my mother has always been a conditional one as well. Its natural to protect ourselves from pressure to be something we are not. Recognizing who she is as a human being is so important for the healing of both of you. As it turned out with my mum – she needed to face how much she had hurt me so that she could understand how much I loved her and forgave her. Only then could she see me as the human being I am, rather than the daughter she wanted me to be. Your mum may not have this painful insight, and that’s okay. The work is ours to be okay with ourselves and truly shine!! Sending you a virtual hug.


  7. So true Val — the work is ours to be okay with ourselves and truly shine — thank you for the virtual hug. It feels affirming, strenght-giving and healing. And…. it feels all shiny and bright! My mother has always struggled to deal with reality. And I always fought to get her to face it. 🙂 I am finally realizing, as you say, sometimes the insight isn’t there’s to get, and that’s okay. Acceptance along with forgiveness is so key! Thank you for your light. Sending you a virtual hug back.


  8. Beautifully stated. (Many of us have issues with mothers. Our own children probably concur!) As you say, all of the pokes, jabs, and jeers of our lives are truly our best teachers. Being thankful for them is a perfect way to defeat resistance.


  9. As a child, teenager in particular, I was impatient to grow up and live my own life. I eventually did and bathed in the sunshine of my successes and weathered the storms. I became who I was and believed it was my journey who made me. Then of late, I have turned around and looked back at my beginnings and in particular the one constant in my life (my mother) and now wonder…. is that really so? “Perhaps, it wasn’t the journey into the darkness of an abusive relationship that was my greatest teacher. What if, it is my lifelong relationship with my mother?” You describe that relationship that is the most precious, and yet sometimes so painful.
    I hope, dear Louise, that you may find true peace with your mother and she with you.


  10. Thank you Elizabeth — it is a challenge, and a gift. It is shadow and darkness and light. It is all and nothing. I love your last line – you make me think — what can I do differently, and then, change something! 🙂 Blessings.


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