DEAR NATALIE: In reference to the question from last week's column about the abusive mother: What if what made the mother abusive was out of her control, and she sought counseling and worked on changing her behavior? She may have exhibited wounds and scars, and inflicted them onto her children. In this case, how does the abused child get past that and walk into a path of healing and forgiveness once they acknowledge the authentic wound of their mother? -- SEEKING PEACE
DEAR SEEKING PEACE: There are many things that are out of control in our lives, but the one thing we can control is our reaction. Over the years, perhaps this mother lashed out at her children because of her own issues, so absorbed in her own pain, she couldn't see or understand how it was hurting her kids. If the mother has worked on herself and wants to begin the healing process, then she needs to reach out to her children. She should apologize wholeheartedly, take ownership for what she did to them and not put any blame on them for abuse that they suffered. She also could suggest that they attend family therapy and engage them in honest conversations about the past.
It can be very hard for abused children to move past pain, especially if the abuser was a parent. They may feel angry for wanting to forgive the parent, afraid to do so because it may devalue how they feel. Acknowledging the wounds of their mother is one thing, but being willing to start anew is another. This mother should be prepared for her children to want to love her from a distance until they feel safe enough to move closer - if they ever do. This mother also should continue in therapy for herself to work on her own emotional responses so that if/when the time is right, she will be able to hear their pain without hurting them further. She should take small steps, build slow, be kind to herself and to them. She also should respect their perspective, acknowledge what she did and recover together to hopefully form a new healthier relationship.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Who says you have to wait to be invited to a networking event? Ask a few of your own friends to each bring a colleague you haven't met to a happy hour or potluck and get to know new people while helping others make connections.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)