Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Reach Out to Mom for Healing

DEAR NATALIE: What about those of us who view Mother's Day as just another Sunday because they don't have a good relationship with their mother? My mom was abusive while I was growing up, and I haven't spoken to or seen her in years. I recently heard from my aunt (whom I am very close to) that my mom is very ill. My aunt thinks I should talk with her and make amends. But I feel like too much has happened to ever forgive her. I have been having a lot of anxiety about the idea of talking to her, and I feel depressed about the whole thing. I wonder, will she apologize? What should I do? -- MOTHERLESS

DEAR MOTHERLESS: The words we leave unsaid may be the ones that haunt us in the end. Forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about you. Being able to allow your heart to heal can only happen when we begin to let go of the pain. And a good way to start that would be to tell your mother how you feel. If for no other reason, the fact that she is sick could give her a new perspective on things that she has buried deep inside over the years. Meet in an emotionally safe place, whether that's in public or at your aunt's home. Write down your thoughts before you see her, or, better yet, write a letter. If she begins to fall into old patterns or habits, interrupt her and say, "I won't stay if you talk to me like this." But, if she comes to you with an open heart and wants to find peace, then hear her out. Some people aren't meant to be parents, and she may be one of them. Regardless, the opportunity is here to begin healing, so seize this moment.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com 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.)