Imagine walking into your teenager’s bedroom, stepping over their clothes and looking for clues of who they are and what interests them right now.
On their nightstand you see books. Two books you recognize because you bought them for their English class. The third book is new, one chosen by your child, and with growing curiosity you pick it up. Your heart stops and you feel a sudden pang as the title jumps out at you.
Dealing with a Difficult Mom.
Wow. That hurts. You know you’re not a perfect mom and that your relationship with your teen has room to grow (like any relationship), but seeing this book – and all the highlighted passages – triggers a new voice of self-doubt. In a blink, you question everything you once believed to be true. You ask yourself:
Is this really what my child thinks of me?
Is this a phase – or am I that terrible?
If I am terrible, who else thinks this about me?
Are we this far gone? I thought we were doing okay.
What now? How do I act normal after this painful revelation?
You still love your teenager, of course, but this moment cuts deep. You won’t forget it, and your instinct is to protect your heart, put up a guard, and keep the conversations topical to avoid more rejection.
The people we’re closest to have the most power to hurt us because we deeply care about what they think. As a result, the wounds can run deep, especially among family. Whether we act like it or not, we care what our children, parents, and siblings think of us.
Let me begin by saying, I’m sorry you are hurting. I wish there was a shortcut to the pain you feel right now that makes it hard to concentrate or think about anything but your ex.
There are many causes of a broken heart, but the focus of this message is the heartache after a breakup. Why? Because moms often tell me how unexpectedly hard a breakup was for their daughter (and oftentimes, their son). And, I know very few people who make it through the dating years without a heartache along the way.
I don’t know your story – whether he broke up with you or you broke up with him because you felt like you had to – but I can guess this: You really liked that boy. When things were good, when your relationship hit that magical peak, you felt happier than ever before.
Now, looking back, those good memories may flood your mind. They may play in your head like a movie trailer, one cinematic highlight after another that makes you ache for what you once had and fear that you’ll never experience that level of joy again.
But you will, my friend. You will experience great joy again because you now know what to look for. Your eyes have been opened, and your heart has expanded to a new depth of feelings toward another human being. This can keep you from settling in the future. This makes lukewarm relationships look far less attractive because you know that mountaintop moments are in reach.
I know this relationship hurt you, but it also taught you important life lessons. And if you reflect on these lessons – talking them out with people you trust or journaling about them – you’ll gain self-awareness and wisdom that can help you significantly down the road.
It’s difficult to think straight when your mind is foggy and your emotions are tangled, so here are a few truths to help you navigate this breakup.
Trust me, I get it.
I get what it’s like to have a bad day as a mother – to be frustrated with my child, someone else’s child, someone impacting my child, or an issue affecting our family.
I’ve felt annoyance that needs a way out. I understand the urge to vent, scream, complain, blurt out the first thoughts that come to mind or give someone a piece of my mind. I know the relief of getting a burden off my chest, and how cathartic is can be to talk uncensored, to be raw and real as I work through emotions, especially tricky ones like anger.
Yet here’s what else I know: regret. Regret for speaking too soon. Regret for not calming down first. Regret for acting on a knee-jerk reaction or not waiting to get the full story. Regret for the hurt I caused, the maturity I failed to show, or the conversation I wish I’d never started.