“Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness” is an intimate exploration into the lives of daughters who were wounded by their own mothers and who chose wellness over victimhood. Their stories touch upon the deepest and darkest of pains, knowing you have a mother but you don’t. The daughters’ journeys of healing their fractured selves and of honouring their voices are a testament to the power of choice, perseverance, and resiliency.
Chapter 3 “I Made Me Who I Am” – Dawn
From Brokenness To Wholeness.
Reflecting on Dawn’s healing narrative, I was both moved and touched by her transparency and her honesty regarding her journey. Doing the hard work with her therapists was critical to her wellness path, and yet she remained open to supplementing her recovery with medication, under the careful watch of her psychiatrist. Moving from Brokenness To Wholeness does not mean we necessarily follow one path. It often requires exploration into to a variety of treatment methodologies and a willingness to remain receptive regarding their healing properties.
While validating Dawn’s authenticity regarding her recovery work, I moved into a related question. “Dawn, it sounds like your work has been ongoing. However, would you say there have been stages within that? Or other? How would you describe it?”
Dawn thoughtfully explained, “I was always under the impression, like with depression, that I would get over it one day and life would be great. Through the process of learning that this whole thing is a process…there is always something that is going to pop up because my roots are deep. These wounds—these psychic wounds—are deep and it’s an ongoing process…and my therapy or whatever is it that I do is constantly changing because there is always something new coming up. But, I have these tools that I have constantly been collecting in my little box that I can go back to.” Her voice intensified, “I think it’s a misconception that you just go to therapy for a year and you’ll be fine. I don’t know, maybe that’s true for a few people, but not for me!” Dawn’s bounce returned, filled with laughter.
Although I joined in with her, I was struck by Dawn’s use of the word wounds. I steered our conversation back to that word, “Dawn, I am interested in your thoughts around your wounds.” I explained a bit more, “I think identifying wounds are important, especially with betrayal from our mothers. We’ve talked about their depth and breadth and how they can smother the core of our beings.” I paused for a moment, then questioned her, “As you think about your healing journey, are there any wounds that you would say have been carefully tended to? Are there any which you can speak to where you have experienced a pronounced sense of healing?”
Firmly and insightfully, Dawn responded, “My understanding and my acceptance of who these people were…who they were before I was even thought of, and making that connection.” And then like a judge delivering a verdict, she proclaimed, “Understanding that I wasn’t their problem. I was never their problem! They already had those problems! Even recently, this has been huge for me…knowing it. And not just knowing it, but knowing it. I was never the reason my mom became an alcoholic. Never the reason she felt the need to hit me. Never the reason for the issues my stepmother had…it was never my problem. Now, I know they were not my fault.”
Dawn took in a deep breath, “With that said, it doesn’t mean that I am still not untying the knot of liking myself. I know it’s not my fault…and there is still a lot of work to do. But that knowing has been critical—it was never my fault.”
In my mind, I pictured Dawn traveling down her recovery road. She had taken time to scour her landscape, taking inventory of her betrayers and of their injustices. She sifted and sorted through mounds of toxic debris. Bravely, she dug down deep underneath the layers of her betrayal grounds and unearthed massive boulders of burdens she had carried within her. And most importantly, with a solid level of recovering soil in place, she released the giant rocks of responsibility for her past, and began recognizing and reclaiming her healing truths.
We both sat quietly, relishing the freeing of Dawn’s feelings and honoring the space as they floated around us. A welcomed lightness moved in. I waited a few more moments before leading into our closing questions in this section.
“Dawn, you’ve traveled so far. You’ve come such a long way. Looking back on your journey, is there anything else you could point out which really helped you? Any path that led you further down your road to wellness?”
Dawn’s bounce returned, renewed and reenergized, “Being able to write about my experiences and share them with people has changed so much for me. I don’t just mean writing in a journal. But I mean writing and having it published.” She paused, then added, “Even get paid for it! And I know that might sound kinda awful, but for all the years that I was never able to talk about what I was feeling…what was going on or what was happening….and having extended family members look the other way.” The bounce took on new heights. “NOW, I can write about these things and other people read it, but I also get paid for it. It is incredible!” Dawn grabbed her breath, “I don’t mean revenge…it is almost like taking something awful and using it for my advantage. Turning my experiences into assets! And yes, there is always something to work on, but it does get easier!” Dawn’s bounce was bursting out of her. “It does not have to be the end! It is a choice! It is huge for me! I can actually use this!!”
Basking in Dawn’s words, I realized I was hearing a familiar voice—the voice I first listened to when I tuned into one of her podcasts on Growing Up Chaotic! Vibrant! Fun! Strong! Empowered! I was jolted back to the present as Dawn poured out her truths.
“My mom, when she was drunk would say, ‘You are never going to be anything…you are never going to be anything…’ And my stepmother would say, ‘You will never be able to take care of yourself. You are never going to be able to do this, that, or the other thing.’” Dawn’s bounce took on more and more resilience. “I was the one who did the work and see that I could use it in a positive way. You [mom and stepmom] thought you were going to bury me! You didn’t!! It makes me happy to think that!”
And with the majesty of a giant sequoia, Dawn’s wholeness burst forth. It could not be contained. Her words spilled out, spreading across acres of healed landscape. And then with a quiet calm overflowing with conviction, she voiced her decree, “They thought they were burying you, but little did they know you were a seed.”
I remained speechless, honoring Dawn’s journey and soaking in her words of wellness. I thought about this daughter—I thought about how the odds were against her—not one betrayer but two. And the betrayals, not doubled, but compounded year after year. And yet, Dawn made the decision to right herself. She fought for herself and for her recovering. She reclaimed herself and revived her truths. Dawn was living proof—doing good work restores the good.
I took in a deep breath and returned my focus to our last section. I was excited to discover where Dawn’s wellness path was leading her next.
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Text excerpted with permission from the book Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness to Wholeness published by Loving Healing Press. Copyright (c) 2018 Holli Kenley. All Rights Reserved.
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”