Saturday, February 13, 2010

Don't Blame the Victim

Children can rarely comprehend the nature of wounds their parents have received, and I am very much a child when I respond resentfully to my mother's negative behaviors. Today I had to have the Lord's help to reach a place of compassion for Mom.

My heart had been battered once too often by my mother's acerbic responses to my well-intentioned caregiving efforts. Angry at my mother and also with God, I ran to my word processor to unleash my frustration. I felt a strong sense of righteous indignation, because I was aware that Mom's resentful attitude toward me had been well established even before Alzheimer's disease robbed her of finesse.

As I prayed, I was immediately aware that the Lord's heart was sorrowful over wounds my mother had suffered. I was led to remembrance and new understanding of two devastating heart hurts she sustained as a young adult. When she was twenty, my mother's fiance died in an air training exercise during World War II, and then just a few years later, she nursed her sister, Goldie, through a losing battle against breast cancer. Mom was in charge of administering her sister's injections for pain relief. There was no hospice care in those days, and Mom stayed by Goldie's side until the cancer took her life.

Out of the terrible grief she suffered as a result of those deaths, there was born an overwhelming fear of loss. Thus, in her mothering she gave more than she had the capacity to give. This giving broke her mind and her heart, and not in a way that was God's will for her. Rendered unable to trust by those early deaths, she could not trust God for her little daughter's life, and so she spent herself unwisely in an effort to protect me. Her mental stability and emotional health crumpled under the strain.

Having grown up observing my mother's responses, I learned to be overly cautious and yes, fearful; but there is a difference between a learned response and the front line trauma of post traumatic stress. I am able to see the truth that release of my children into God's hands is possible, and holds blessing both for them and for me. My mother was not thus enabled. This is a difference that will bring me peace that my mother was not able to attain. I must not blame her for her negative behaviors any more than I would blame a car crash victim for being injured. The crash upon my mother’s heart came from watching her sister die and from having what she perceived to be future hope of happiness robbed from her through the same portal—death, another death, that of her young fiancĂ©. She was frightened out of her mind and withdrew from the fear of loss. I feel the Lord say to me, "She gave unwisely but Child, can you not honor the fact that she gave so much?"

Sadly, giving that is done out of a need to protect our own hearts tends to become self-centeredness. We become bound by that we cannot release, and so my mother was and is still to some degree bound by her need of my love. This is what I've found to be so repellent; this is what I found to be suffocating and has caused bonds against which I struggle. My current resentment of my mother has grown from the feeling that she has reeled me in at last; that I am now merely an accessory to her life, by turns maid, nurse, mother, friend, and daughter; I am her all in all, or would be if God would allow her to make me so. But He will not allow it. I do not need to be afraid. I am precious in His sight and He will protect me, even as He has provided for my mother.

The “caregiver’s perspective” will save me grief now. My mother takes her cues from me. I can be cheerful, positive and not unduly upset when she is not pleasant. I can respond in compassion to her, grieving with the Lord over the heartaches that cost her so much, but knowing that the Lord has taken those heartaches upon Himself. Mom is not to blame. The Lord has taken the blame.

Everyone is broken; all of us have been injured in some way. We will never know or understand the full extent of the injuries sustained by those for whom we care. This is undoubtedly the reason the Bible says "Judge not." We don't have enough information. As caregivers, we must recognize that our loved ones have received injuries from which they could not recover, injuries not of their own making. To love as we've been loved and forgive as we've been forgiven is the Lord's will for us through our faith and trust in Christ Jesus.

I'm praying for grace today to manifest love to my mom, even when she is not loving toward me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you spoke so many deep truths here. One that particularly hit me was about not judging one another because we just don't have enough information. It reminds me of how earlier this week, I was upset with Brian for apparently wasting time on his way home from work. Turns out he was picking up my Valentine's Day gift. Ugh. Lord, forgive me.