Mothers and daughters

May 10, 1997

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

Mother's Day can fill some people with dread.

Women feel a great deal of guilt if they don't have a good relationship with their mothers, says Kathryn Marks, a counselor with Hagerstown Pastoral Counseling Services/Comprehensive Counseling Services.

"They look at all the Mother's Day cards and don't see one that says what they want to say," Marks says. "They're supposed to do nice things for this woman they might not have chosen."

Mother-daughter issues arise even after the mother dies, says Dr. Tamara Baker, director of Hood College Counseling Center in Frederick, Md.


"You'll still hear her voice in your head," Baker says.

If there are problems in the relationship, it's important to resolve them, Baker says.

Allow your feelings of loss from not having had a good relationship to surface, says Dr. Denny McGihon of Psychotherapy Services LLC in Frederick.

"You're entitled to feel anger, but you need to let go of it," McGihon says.

Here are some ways to get a dialogue going so you both can begin to heal:

Read a book about mother-daughter relationships

Baker and McGihon recommend "Don't Blame Mother" by Paula Caplan; "When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends" by Victoria Secunda; and "Things Will Be Different for My Daughter" by Mindy Bingham and Sandy Stryker.

Determine what went wrong

Realizing your own vulnerability and accountability is one of the hardest things to do, Marks says.

"If there's a problem in the relationship, each person owns a share of that," Marks says. "The challenge is to identify what happened and what the individuals feel they can do."

Organize your thoughts

Think about what you want to say, rehearsing the words if necessary.

It takes a lot of trust and love to sit down with the other person, describe your pain and tell her you are ready for it to stop, Marks says.

Telephone your mother or daughter, or write her a letter

"Either way, stick with `I messages,' " Baker says. "Tell her `I feel this way when this happens; that's why I haven't been able to talk to you.' "

Many women find writing to be therapeutic, Marks says.

"Some have written letters and gone to the cemetery to read them," Marks says.

Don't expect too much

"Make a contact and say `I'd really like to be friends with you,' " McGihon says.

While it's not always possible to mend the relationship, in most cases it can be done, she says.

"When a mother and daughter can get beyond blame and get to understanding each other, that's a wonderful thing," she says.

Give it time

Just because you're ready doesn't mean the other person is prepared to work through the problem.

Remember that the first step can be the toughest.

"Take a deep breath and have some courage," Baker says. "It's the anticipation that kills you."

The Herald-Mail Articles