I decided to take care of my mother due to the fact that none of my siblings could get along with her (she was very hard on us all her life)…. We always had conflict in our home, and I shielded myself so that I wouldn’t be affected by what she said to me. I work and am an engineering student, so I started neglecting her just like my siblings were…. I could almost never be affectionate with her, and now I feel a very deep pain because she is no longer with me. She was difficult to live with, but I am finding it more difficult to live without her….

I know that God has forgiven me and that I have to decide to go on, but I don’t have the strength. Please don’t overlook my story! I am suffering a lot!

Dear Friend,

How wonderful to know that God has forgiven you for any way that you might have sinned in your relationship with your mother! If your conscience bothered you about any time that you said or did something that was wrong, then you were right to ask forgiveness in His son Jesus Christ’s name for that sin. However, if you continue to feel generalized guilt about your mother, even after asking forgiveness for the specific sins that you may have committed (but did not mention), then that guilt does not come from God.

God gave each of us a conscience to let us know when we have sinned. So when our consciences bother us, we know exactly what we have done wrong. At that point we can ask God to forgive us, and He does. But God not only forgives; He also forgets. We never have to ask forgiveness for those sins again. However, when we do something that hurts another person, we should ask that person to forgive us, if possible.(1)

After God has forgiven us, if we have generalized feelings of guilt that are not specifically related to actions, then that guilt comes from our own emotional state. In your case, it sounds as if you are suffering guilt for not having made your mother happy. You think that if you had just paid more attention to her or had been able to be more affectionate with her, then she might have been happy, and you and your siblings might have had better memories. And you think that if you had not built a wall of protection around yourself to keep out the hurtful things she said, maybe then you would have felt close to her and now you would not be suffering so much.

Unfortunately, nothing you could have done would have made your mother happy. Her early years, her family of origin, her temperament, the chemicals in her brain, and her life experiences made her bitter and unhappy, and she took out much of her unhappiness on you. We don’t have to blame her for what she couldn’t control, but you shouldn’t blame yourself either.

So forgive yourself for not having the power to help her. And grieve the loss of your mother and of what you wish could have been. But give yourself a year to feel profound loss and pain. Then you will almost certainly begin to feel better.

We wish you the best,

1 Mt 5:24