The Power Of Forgiveness

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Me, aged 5, in China with my mother.

I have to admit, this is not an easy post for me to write. I’ve stopped and started a dozen times and lost track of how many drafts I’ve gone through, but, as they say, writing is about “bleeding on to the page”, so here goes:

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my mother.

It’s not a personality clash or the usual generation gap, it’s the fact that I’ve always wondered if she wanted to have me in the first place. 

“I wish I’d never given birth to you,” is a phrase I’ve heard often.

One time I thought she was righting her terrible mistake by giving me a beating so savage, my kindergarten teacher wanted to call the police (and this is in China, where hitting your kids is seen as a sign of good parenting).

I was covered in so many bruises I had to lie and say I was hit by a bike. Partially, I was covering for my mother (if I told on her, she’d probably kill me), and partially I was embarrassed that I had, once again, incited her rage.

Another time, she hit me for the crime of being sick. “You didn’t wear your winter coat like I told you to, so every time you cough, I slap you.”

I ended up developing a wolverine-level of pain tolerance as a result of constantly having to ward off her blows.

So, it may not come as a surprise when people ask us “so are you having kids?” I don’t feel a compulsion to say yes. Would you want to experience the “joy of motherhood” if you spent most of your childhood terrified of your mom?

Anyway, all this is to say that up until recently, I was convinced that my relationship with my mother was unfixable.

As far as relationships go, this was, according to Wanderer, one of the most broken relationships he’d ever seen.

While we were still working, every visit with my parents ended up with me and mom screaming at each other over the kitchen table in Mandarin while Wanderer, unable to understand Mandarin since he’s from Hong Kong and only speaks Cantonese, would look on in stunned silence. Unable to convince me to stop torturing myself by cutting off contact with my parents out of a misplaced sense of filial devotion, he settled on his own coping mechanism: When we started fighting he would retreat into our upstairs bedroom and pass the time by downing shots of flavoured vodka.

The pattern became so regular that his co-workers would spot the bottle of vodka sitting at his desk and joke “off to visit the in-laws again?”

When we became FI and quit our jobs, upon informing my parents, we (surprise surprise) had a HUGE fight and didn’t communicate for months.

Fast forward to 2020, a family emergency happened, completely blindsiding us. The family emergency was on Wanderer’s side, but as an only child, this forced me to confront a cold hard truth. Like many mainland Chinese people my generation, I am an only child. Whether I liked it or not, as my parents get older, the task of taking care of them will fall squarely on my shoulders.

I couldn’t remain estranged from my mother. If for no other reason, that would take away the precious time I’d spend with my dad. And for those of you who’ve read Quit Like a Millionaire, you know that my dad is my hero and the main reason I am who I am today.

So with COVID wiping out our schedule, I had no more excuses or distractions. I had no choice. I had to fix my relationship with my mother.

But how do you fix a relationship with over 30 years of baggage? 30 years of both physical and emotional abuse? How do you fix a relationship with someone who’s terrorized you for most of your life?

The fix, it turns out, was sparked by a Chautauqua reunion, which took place last year when a bunch of us rented an AirBnb together in Portugal for a week. What was supposed to be a mastermind session about passion projects turned into a giant cry fest with all of us revealing our hidden emotional scars. It was like someone had spritzed a buttload of empathy pheromones into the air, turning us all into sobbing, blubbering messes. Having shown each other our emotional scars, we hugged and gave suggestions for how we can fix or at least manage our emotional trauma. 

That night and a half a box of tissues later, I penned a letter to my mom. This is not something I’ve had the courage to do in the last 30+ years of my life but comforted by my Chautauqua family and inspired by their stories, I was spurred into action. What made it easier was telling myself I never had to send it. I didn’t have to waste mental energy thinking about the argument we’d get into about who was right or wrong. The letter wasn’t about proving her wrong or getting her to acknowledge my suffering, it was about acknowledging my own pain.

Something magical happened after I wrote that letter. It was cathartic, because as much as it was a letter for my mother, it was also a letter for me. Or rather more specifically, my past self. I felt as if I went back in time and comforted my childhood self. I wanted to tell that kid that yes, my mother hurt me, and yes, it wasn’t fair what happened. But I also wanted to tell her that I would survive it, and not only did all of that abuse not screw me up, it made me into someone special. Someone that others even looked up to. Even though she had terrorized me for so many years of my life, I had ended up stronger for it. I had ended up successful and happy anyway.

I realized at that point that forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for you. It’s not that you’re forgetting what they did and turning the other cheek, it’s that you’ve agreed to heal yourself by acknowledging your own pain.

I didn’t need my mother to acknowledge the hurt she caused me because I acknowledged it to myself. I didn’t need her permission to move on. I could decide that on my own.

So I decided to forgive her. I decided to seize my power back.

I’m not sure why exactly, but after I wrote that letter, the next time I went to visit my mother, I no longer felt triggered by her attacks. When she called me “fat”, “ugly” or pointed out my “hideous freckles”, I simply didn’t react.

And because I was no longer triggered or defensive, for the first time ever I sat down with her and asked about her childhood. I told her I was writing a book on the Chinese cultural revolution and needed her to tell me about her past for research purposes.

It turns out, that was the first time anyone had ever asked her about her experience. It was the first time I’d ever heard my mother’s story. The first time anyone had ever listened.

Story #1:

“The day after I was born, your Popo (grandmother) took me to meet her father for the first time. He was in jail and awaiting execution. His crime was owning land, because during the revolution, landlords, teachers, doctors—basically anyone who was educated or had money—were deemed bourgeois and enemies of the state. He was to be executed the next day.

That was the last time I ever saw him. The next day, your Popo, wrapped me in a blanket and took me with her to claim his body from the morgue. That’s how I came into the world—full of fear and witnessing death.”

 

Story #2:

“When I was 10 years old, your Popo woke me up at 5 AM every morning to help her grow vegetables in a graveyard. The party confiscated everything we had and made it illegal for us to own any land or grow any food, so we had no choice but to secretly grow food in a graveyard. After months of hard work, I found out that thieves had stolen our food. I cried non-stop for 3 days.”

 

Story #3:

“Did you know I had a little brother? No, not the uncle you grew up with. I had a third brother. You never met him because he died way before you were born. When I was 16, your uncle, 6-year-old at the time, went to pick up some firewood by the river, to tend to the fireplace. Your Popo (grandmother) and GongGong (grandfather) had to work odd jobs, like selling corn pancakes on the street or carrying heavy rocks in a quarry because, as former landlords, they were banned from owning anything or having regular jobs, so they didn’t have time to watch him. He lost his footing and was swept away by the river. That was one of the worst days of my life.”

 

These are just some of the stories she told me whenever I went home to visit.

I was the journalist; she was my interviewee. In that safe space, there was no judging, no anger, no blame. Simply listening and capturing the story down on paper.

Sometimes I had to switch notebooks because I was crying so much, I couldn’t read what I wrote down.

I finally realized that it was generational trauma that had destroyed our relationship.

My mother didn’t choose the horrors that happened to her and I didn’t fully understand what she’d gone through. I didn’t understand, because in all my years of dodging her blows (both physical and mental), I never thought to ask.

By sharing those moments, for the first time in 30 years, we finally began to understand each other. Little by little our relationship began to heal.

“Wow, your mom looks happy these days!” Wanderer told me the other day. “She’s actually smiling!”

“I know,” I said. “It’s creepy.”

The other day, she took me shopping because “your father and I feel bad that when you were growing up, we didn’t have the financial resources to give you a happy childhood.”

She followed it up by saying I should probably lose some weight because the dress I picked out emphasizes my fat knees, but hey, baby steps, right?

I am now a believer that even the most broken relationships can be healed. But first, you have to heal yourself.

For those of you who struggle with challenging relationships, you are not alone. There is hope. Now, I’m not saying that all difficult relationships can be fixed because some can’t. Sometimes you have to set boundaries, accept that you were never meant to have the relationship you want and move on. Other times, you have to let go of the “Full House”, “After School Special” parental relationship you long for and accept your parents for who they are, faults and all.

And sometimes you have to find out the history that led you to this point. That doesn’t excuse what happened to you, but it does, in some cases, give you closure, to help you understand where the abuse came from.

Even though COVID completely wiped our schedule and screwed up our year, the silver lining is that, for the first time in 30+ years, I understand my mother. Our relationship is not perfect, and my mother still struggles with severe paranoia and PTSD from the cultural revolution, but the pandemic gave me the time and space to understand her—something that I didn’t think was possible at all.

So, for everyone out there who’s struggling during this difficult time, know that even in the darkness, sometimes you can still find a ray of light. And sometimes, a supportive group of friends sharing your struggles, is all you need to be inspired to fix what you thought was unfixable.

What do you think? Have you ever struggled with a difficult relationship or have you ever experienced generational trauma?


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165 thoughts on “The Power Of Forgiveness”

  1. Wow! I’m so glad you guys made up! Those are tough tough stories to hear. Totally understandable about her hard expectations and discipline of you.

    I hope your relationship continues to improve!

    I have fears my kids will turn out rotten. We are always there for them and we are always kind. Will they grow up so soft without more strict discipline? Hard to know.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Sam

    1. Evidence based research shows that secure attachment is the best thing you can give your kids and kids who grow up in a secure, loving home have the best results. While Kristy made it through, lots of kids don’t. We can help build resilience and independence by giving kids firm boundaries, responsibilities, consistency and consequences while still making sure they know we love them. I’m glad Kristy is able to heal and help her mom through healing too. Abuse is never the answer and you are never to blame for being abused.

    2. Thanks, Sam. Yeah, I never thought it would happen but here we are.

      “I have fears my kids will turn out rotten. We are always there for them and we are always kind. Will they grow up so soft without more strict discipline?”

      LOL. That’s what my parents thought about how they disciplined me, compared to their parent’s discipline. Each generation gets softer. It’s progress.

    3. Same feelings, omg pretty much speechless, my grandma lost a child very young and had to leave her abusive relationship with three young kids to raise on her own in the Saskatchewan prairies, trauma, but not at the level your mom and yourself experienced, very sorry.

      We are feeling the same with our first kid, thinking about cadets and/or martial arts to toughen them up and teach some discipline. We are such softies ourselves…

      thanks for sharing

  2. Well done for writing this, and for healing your relationship.

    I am going through a difficult patch with my partner. A lot of it is to do with her mental health, and she too has some trauma in her past…some of your ideas were helpful. Thank you.

    1. Sorry to hear you are going through a difficult patch. Yes, trauma can do a number on your relationship. Hope you both find healing and understanding.

  3. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable about this. You broke the cycle, which in and of itself is amazing. But you took it to the next level and you gave your mom space and permission to heal too. You stepped up and became the loving parent you never had for yourself, and then turned around and became the loving parent your mom never had either.

    And a note on those jabs your mom still can’t stop herself from slipping in. Change is hard. It always help me to remember—the judgements others express about you say *FAR* more about them than they do about you. ❤️

    1. “the judgements others express about you say *FAR* more about them than they do about you.”

      This is SO true.

  4. This article hit very close to home for me. I haven’t had a relationship with my own mother since my wedding day when she tried to ruin the day for me. It was very troubled prior to that but that was the icing on the cake. Now my children (5 &7) ask about her and ask if they will meet her. They know I don’t have a relationship with her but would still like to see who she is. I grapple with knowing whether she will go on to hurt them as well or if they will be upset with me that I never allowed them to meet. Families can be so wonderful but they can also be so tough. Well done to you!

    1. Brave and good for you to be able to get beyond your pain to see into your mother’s past. Here’s to the healing!❤️

    2. So sorry to hear that Julie. My mother also caused some pain during my wedding too. That’s one of the reasons why it was so hard to heal and have empathy for her. But it can be done with time. Still, it’s important to set boundaries–I don’t think our relationship would’ve improved if I hadn’t done that.

      One of the biggest reasons why I struggle with the decision to have kids is whether I would want them to meet her. And how worry I’d be leaving them to spend time with her. So you are not alone in these fears.

      I hope you can heal over time. First focus on healing yourself and only then, if you feel up to it, work on that relationship. Setting boundaries is key in protecting yourself and your kids.

      1. Thanks for sharing your story – that’s an incredibly brave thing to do.

        My wife has a similarly traumatic relationship with her mother (the exact details differ of course) which has clear impacts on her still and one of the struggles she had (has?) was what sort of relationship the kids can have with their grandmother. The interaction our kids have with her is definitely very heavily mediated by us due to a lack of trust in the situation (ie: we’re unlikely to ever feel comfortable leaving our kids alone with her). As our kids get older (our oldest is almost 7!) we’ve tried to explain to her why some of the problems exist and what they are, while clearly explaining to them that their grandmother is not an evil person, she’s just a reflection of her own life (living dirt poor all her life, probably often not having enough to eat, and receiving a torrent of abuse from her own mother because as a girl she was a drag on the family, while still having to take care of her mother in her old age).

        All that goes to say, if you did have kids, especially when they’re very young, you get to guide the relationships they have. It’d certainly be easier to be able to be able to look to grandparents as a support instead of a hinderance, obviously. However, from a personal point of view, having kids has enriched our lives significantly and I wouldn’t want them to not exist because of the likely trauma we’ll inflict on them and the challenges in explaining our larger family situation to them.

  5. My heart goes out to you, that’s so much to go through at any age, but you were so young. I am so glad you found peace with it, and that your mother is finding peace, too.

    Violence is not unlike a pandemic- it spreads via contact, it replicates itself, it worms its way into people and sits there, spreading again and again. It creates trauma and makes future violence more likely. It re-iterates itself generation after generation. The ripples can grow smaller over time, though, as each person affected tries to do better.

  6. Thank you for your courage in sharing this personal part of your life. I was nearly in tears reading this post. I completely agree with you that forgiveness is more about yourself and releasing the weight of the anger towards someone. I went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat where they did a meditation on forgiveness and more than 2/3 of the room was crying. And like you said, most people who cause us pain are acting from unprocessed trauma or grief. Your story is such a poignant example of how opening your heart and listening can help repair a relationship. Thank you again for sharing, I am deeply touched by this post and I think it will help a lot of people.

    1. Aww. Thank you for this your kind, amazing words. I was supposed to go to a 10 day Vipassana retreat in July but that got cancelled due to covid. Oh well. Maybe one day.

      1. Such a bummer that it was canceled! Have you thought about doing a virtual meditation retreat? Initially, I was not into the idea but a friend of mine did one and thought it was a really valuable experience. Check out Spirit Rock, they have a few upcoming virtual retreat options. I’m planning to do one in November.

  7. Thank you for writing this as it totally hit home for me. My father grew up very poor in China and was abused by his mother. He never finished high school and continues to struggle with his lack of education, height, etc. As a result there was a lot of mental and physical abuse. I struggle with my years of trying to not provoke him so I could see my mother. I am not an only child but I am the only child who tried to maintain a relationship with my father for the sake of my mother. It is the saddest part of my life that I cannot see her as much as I would like to and that she is missing out on the wonder that is her only grandchild because of him. I don’t know if I will get to where you are with your mother but this article gives me hope. Thanks for that.

    1. “she is missing out on the wonder that is her only grandchild because of him.”

      :'( :'( :'( That’s so sad. Yeah, like you, my maintaining a relationship with my mother was mainly so I could see my dad. That was what was weighing on my for most of my adult life. It took a long time to fix, but I finally go here. I’m sending you lots of good thoughts and vibes that you will one day get there too. For me the biggest thing was a) setting boundaries with my mom b) acknowledging my own pain, otherwise I can never prevent myself from being defensive around her.

      Hope you find healing and peace.

  8. One of the most powerful stories to come out of this pandemic. Thank you so much for “bleeding on the page” and sharing this, FIRECracker.

    I can’t imagine suffering the hardships and trauma that your mom suffered growing up. And then to never have those feelings acknowledged for…well…a lifetime reveals a lot.

    Congrats on doing the hard work to find your own healing. There was no guarantee that would have changed your relationship with your mom, but I’m so glad it has.

    Hoping your new relationship spreads hope to others facing similar challenges.

    1. Thanks, MI! I did have a moment of anxiety that woke me up the night before publishing this, but I’m glad I did because even though it makes me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, it seems like it’s helping other people so it’s worth it.

  9. This was extremely eye opening. I was introduced to this blog by a Canadian barrister friend of mine. I have loved reading through the Investment Workshop. I dedicated a whole weekend to absorb the teachings!

    But this post is painful in that I can also relate to this and I wasn’t even aware that generational trauma was a thing. My father was 4 when he saw the partition of India into Pakistan etc which displaced 15m people and resulted in 2m deaths. I do not speak with him anymore and I’m not sure I even want to change that. But your post gives hope that maybe things can be fixed.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Singh, please thank your friend for us for plugging our blog 🙂 Glad the workshop has been helpful.

      It sounds like your father had a very difficult childhood, just like my mom. I didn’t realize it was generational trauma either until I did research into it about going into our pasts. Hope you can heal and have a relationship with your dad someday. Don’t push yourself though, it takes time to heal.

  10. Wow you really ARE special, FIREcracker, you have a level of maturity and inner strength that I can only hope to achieve someday, and I have probably a good 2 decades on you!! Thank you so much for sharing this. Like you, I grew up with a lot of generational trauma (the specifics are different and I had difficult relationships w both my parents, not just my mom) and though I managed to heal some before my parents passed away, I can’t say I will ever feel fully healed. To this day, seeing happy families interact is hard. I never had kids and I’ve never regretted it, in part because I see the generational damage now play out with my niece and nephew. Kudos to you for surviving all you went through as a child, and breaking the cycle with your parents still around!!!! 😊

    1. “To this day, seeing happy families interact is hard.”

      I hear you. Give yourself a pat on the back for managing to heal some of the trauma before they passed. It’s difficult when your parents are gone and there are unsaid words. I hope you find healing and enjoy time with your other family members. I’m always grateful to have supportive friends who are my “Chosen Family”.

  11. Thanks for sharing this.

    I clash pretty badly personality-wise with my Mom. It’s obviously nothing like what you have been through, but it can be so hard to relate to her. And, like you, I’m hesitant about having kids because I worry about having a daughter and what that relationship would be like.
    I might try writing a letter as well.
    Thanks

    1. I hope you do, T of M. Even if it doesn’t fix your relationship, hopefully it gives you closure and some comfort. We don’t choose our parents, just like they don’t choose us at their kids, so sometimes personality clashes happen. For me it helps me to think of my friends, who are my “Chosen Family”.

  12. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing! Hope your relationship continues to improve and looking forward to your book when you finish. I feel really relatable to this story. Moreover, I feel like pursuing FI as Asian diasporas/immigrants could be tricky at times especially because of the collectivist Asian culture v the more individualist culture in the West.

    To some Asian immigrant parents, pursuing FI is like “you are voluntarily choosing to leave a stable income and care about yourself.” Stop continuingly earning high income at a young (er) age may not be what the immigrant parents had envisioned when they felt like they had worked very hard / and sacrificed so much to bring the children to the West. I have a feeling that some in my family may even consider the concept of FIRE is individualistic if not selfish, especially if the FI number does not take into account the parents living expenses. I’d definitely like to hear if others as Asian immigrants in the FI community have the same experience, or perhaps things are just more old school for me

  13. What you’ve accomplished is exceptional. But I would think that for many, writing off those people (parents, or any other toxic relationships) and moving on is a better answer. It’s less wasted effort (which can amount to years in many cases) and leads to more productivity as there is no guarantee of success. In many cases, there is nothing wrong with writing off.

    1. Yes, you are right, in some cases, the relationship cannot be healed and you need to set boundaries to protect yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. You decide what’s best for your relationship and situation.

  14. Thanks for sharing this FIRECracker. Inter-generational trauma is no joke. My materal side of the family had lots of issues too. Great-great grandmother was a literal axe-murderer, great-grandmother an abusive alcoholic towards my grandmother, she in turn became a narcissist and someone who expected her daughter to “parent the parent”, eliciting my mother to have schizophrenia, BPD, and debilitating anxiety which wrecked havoc on everyone in my family. Both grandma and mom were jobless due in part to their problems.

    Needless to say I now have depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. As with yours, my father has been a guiding light for me and my only source of financial stability. I’ve resolved to never have kids unless I can fix my own issues first, and even then I’m hesitant. I’m trying to break the chain.

    I think this trauma alone is a good reason for us all to care more about social, environmental, and economic issues. The more wealth inequality, lack of mental health support, risk of war, etc. there is in society, the higher the chances of perpetuating all kinds of problems not just for ourselves, but for those yet to be born. It’s no coincidence that nations with strong social and economic stability also rank highest on the human happiness index.

    1. Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your story. It’s sounds so tough what you and your family have had to go through. And I do agree that the trauma does help us in some ways, in terms of having empathy for other people, and sharing our struggles and experiences.

      I hope you can heal and break the chain. *hugs* to you for trying.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story and you’re mother’s in greater detail.
    As a mother of 3, I often worry about the baggage and trauma from my own childhood that I have unwittingly brought into my parenting.

    1. The fact that you are self-aware about the baggage and worried about passing it to your kids is already a huge step. We can’t expect our parents to be perfect–parenting is already insanely hard (and even more so when you have 3 kids), so forgiveness and understanding is warranted. I have the same worry as you if we end up having kids, but I’m planning to take it one day at a time, and not be so hard on myself. No one is perfect. Parents or children.

    1. Awww! Sue, you are making me tear up. I have to admit I almost quit on this post many times and had some anxiety that disrupted my sleep the night before. But I’m glad I found the courage to post it, because I seems like it’s helping others with their trauma so it’s worth it.

  16. thanks for sharing your story, and i think this is part of the healing process. Maybe when your mom growing up, she never receive love and she didnt know how to give love to you. It’s great that you share it and let it out of your system.

    1. You’re right. She had an absolute nightmare of a childhood. She grew up thinking everyone was out to get her, and for the most part, she was right. I can’t imagine having to live through a famine and class warfare with the totalitarian government hell bent on turning everyone against each other. I’m so lucky to have to had experienced that. There are worse things than poverty. She’s incredible just for surviving all that.

  17. So sorry for both of you, I can relate on many levels. I have started ‘The Presence Process’ by Michael Brown which is highly recommended in the health/wellness community. I took a deep breath and had a child (mb) late in life and look to ensure any discipline is appropriate 👧🏻 and that she always is told she is loved regardless. Just a thought, the fat knees comment may be a troubled version of saying I love you 😱😉. Love and blessings, tigermom and miracle baby.

    1. “that she always is told she is loved regardless.” –> Awww. So happy for you and your MB, she’s lucky to have you as a mom. Thanks for your book recommendation, I’ll check it out.

      “the fat knees comment may be a troubled version of saying I love you”: HA HA, no, my mother is very literal. So when she says that, she actually just means, your knees are fat. But hey on the plus side, I won’t need knee pads when I go roller skating! 😀

  18. Very touching.. I am glad you are on the road to recovery.

    I hope (for your mother) that one day she is able to tell you how much she loves you and is proud of you.

  19. I feel for both you and your mother here. I feel she had a similar relationship with her mum, though she grew up without the great dad you had. As it happens, she became a great mum and I expect you would too, if you chose to become one.

    When I adopted, I was told there are two approaches to parenting; you either do everything like your own parents did or you do the exact opposite of what they did. My mother chose the latter.

      1. Surprisingly, my mother had a way better relationship with her mom than I do with her. My maternal grandmother was a very loving, gentle person. It’s her relationship with her dad that was rocky. So I think a lot of the baggage comes from that. So in that sense, you are right.

        Good for you for adopting. We would consider that option too if we later choose to have kids.

  20. Thank-you for posting this and for practicing vulnerability. You said it at the beginning of the post: “I have to admit, this is not an easy post for me to write”. But you did, and I am very grateful.

    I have been thinking a lot about how COVID is bringing the past into the present, whether we like it or not. This pandemic presents an opportunity to learn about trauma and develop empathy and compassion for others (as well as ourselves). As I have been unpacking my own baggage, I am becoming aware of just how much trauma exists in the world, and how navigating it, for better or worse, shapes who we are. Some of the learning suggests healing from trauma necessitates accepting and befriending it, which can enable a person to reshape themselves.

    When thinking back to FIRECracker’s story growing up and how those experiences have shaped her life, it’s such a paradox: on one hand, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone; on the other hand, the story had a profound impact on my life and my choices since I first stumbled across the story on the CBC. Without that peppered past and learnings that I could borrow, my life would look very different and be less resilient.

    1. “This pandemic presents an opportunity to learn about trauma and develop empathy and compassion for others.”

      This is very true.

      I’m glad my story was helpful to you in some way.

  21. I can only imagine some of the other stories you heard from your mother. I can see how my grandparents’ upbringing affected their children, and so on. My grandfather was mean, from what I’m told, and abusive. Some of his sons then went on to be criminals and drug addicts, or generally horrible people (one uncle told my aunt to call him when he had one sister left, because my other aunt was dying). The children of those sons? Spent their lives in and out of prison and on drugs. And don’t get me started on their racist remarks. I’ve been blocked by so many family members for calling them out on that, that it’s almost comical. Inter-generational (multi-generational?) trauma is so real and prevalent that it’s frightening.

    I’m so sorry that you had to grow up in that type of environment, and I’m sorry that your mother did too. I hope that you can continue to recover from it, and form a relationship. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you, Amber for sharing your story. I’m so sorry that you had to experience inter-generational trauma too. We can’t choose our parents or their histories, but we can choose to overcome it, and with time and the support of our friends and “Chosen Family”, find our way to peace.

  22. Wow! This is a powerful piece. Thanks for sharing. Your story of redemption made me reflect on “the” story of Redemption. It keeps echoing over millennia…

  23. Thank you for sharing. This feels close to home for me too. It’s good to hear your story and struggles, as it can feel like no one has these challenges aswell and you have to suffer and deal with it alone. So glad you were able to heal and forgive and let go of the pain. It’s harder than it sounds, I’m still learning how to forgive and let go of the pain.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Wendy. Yes, at times it feels like we are alone in our struggles, but when we find the courage to be vulnerable, we find out that others share the same struggles. I’m so glad I found my Chautauqua “Chosen Family” because they’ve inspired me to overcome challenges in ways I never thought I could.

  24. Life is messy. I enjoyed hearing this story and I’m glad you are able to start to mend your relationship with you mother. You won’t regret it!

    1. Thanks, Tawcan. Whenever I talk to my Asian friends, we inevitably end up trauma-bonding because they’ve also been through abuse. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope you can heal from your wounds too.

  25. I have come here regularly to learn about FIRE math and numbers. I now have an even higher regard for you, Firecracker, and would like to thank you for sharing your vulnerability and reflection. Story-telling is so powerful and therapeutic. While you interviewed your mom, you also helped her open up and heal her own wound. I believe your relationship with your mom will only get better from here.

    Coming from a Chinese (Taiwanese) culture myself, I have also experienced some criticism and physical punishment from my parents growing up. Over the years, I have learned that’s just the way they were raised. They were frustrated and helpless themselves and did not know how to act or express their love. For example, my parents never hugged us, never said the word “love”, they constantly used critism and nagging to show that they cared about us …. etc. Now that my parents are both gone, all I remember about them and cherish in my heart are the moments when I felt their unspoken love and care despite their imperfection.

    1. “Now that my parents are both gone, all I remember about them and cherish in my heart are the moments when I felt their unspoken love and care despite their imperfection.”

      That’s a beautiful way to look at it, Andrew.

  26. The Cultural Revolution, the responsibility of Mao Zedong, was a horrific time and many people were murdered at the hands of the Communists. More people were displaced. Stalin, Mao, Hitler – monsters all who thought nothing of murdering millions of innocent people.

    I think I dropped a comment on this site about a year or so ago. It was to mention a man whom I had worked with while I was at IBM (on a contract). He was a software tester and was one of the most intelligent people I ever met. His wealthy family had been destroyed by the Communists. He was also one of the most highly paranoid and quixotic people I have ever met. He could go from being a generous and helpful co-worker to a hostile stance in the blink of an eye. He saw devils everywhere. He was convinced that I was some sort of spy at one point. A spy for who, I will never figure out.

    All that I could conclude is that the Cultural Revolution was a horrific time that ruined the lives of many people and, apparently, your mother was amongst that group. Out of curiosity, how did your father cope?

    1. So sad to hear about your co-worker. Yes, it sounds like he struggles from what my parents went through.

      To answer your question, my father had similar struggles to my mother. He lost his father, a military doctor for the kumintang, after years of denunciations, and psychological torture. He was also sent off to the countryside, like my mother, for 10 years of hard labour. My father is more optimistic and logical and chose to see that horrific period of his life as character building, and that’s why I got most of my resilient characteristics from him. In my book, Quit Like a Millionaire, I wrote that he taught me a Chinese concept called “Chi Ku”, which literally means “eat bitterness”. This is what has served me well throughout my life.

  27. Here is your book title….

    “My Mom was an Asshole thanks to Mao”

    A story of generational trauma and the Chinese cultural revolution…

  28. Dear FIREcracker, I understand you, I empathize with you, I grieve with you, & I heal with you. I, too, have been in similar shoes as you. I offer you my hugs and prayers. You are amazing for sharing your story. Thank you so very much. I love you for what you do and who you are. Blessings to you and your family.

  29. I admire your strength and empathy, FIRECracker.

    You made me think about my decade-old decision to go no-contact with my parents. My father died a year ago, and I have no regrets that I did not see or speak to him before he passed. I believe that some relationships are not worth reviving, and death does not change that.

    My mother is still alive, so I suppose I still have an opportunity there to reach out…I do know her behaviour is rooted in her own trauma. I don’t know if her narcissism would have been there regardless, or if that’s just a way in which the trauma warped her personality; probably the latter. But ultimately, in a practical sense, it doesn’t matter – she is who she is. I can forgive her in light of the childhood scars she no doubt carries, but I can’t find any desire in my heart to let her back into my life.

    So I am still at peace with my no-contact decision. But different choices are right for different people, and I’m happy for you that you have found a way to connect with your mother despite how difficult that was and continues to be.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Lauralee. I agree with you that some relationships cannot be mended. Sometimes you have to cut off that relationship to protect yourself. Boundaries are important.

      I’m happy for you that you are at peace with your decisions. Sending you lots of *hugs* and good vibes.

  30. Thanks for sharing your and your mother’s story, Firecracker! Interesting to hear because I recently mended my relationship with my dad which had also been broken for over 15 years. I was inspired to reach out to him after a TED talk I saw about different communication styles and how you may be perceived by others when communicating (who says the internet is good for nothing!?). We had a very real and honest conversation and I asked him why he thought our relationship was broken and I shared my views. I had no idea I had hurt him in the past and I didn’t even remember it, to be honest. Anyway, as a result, we’re doing SO much better and each of us is making an active effort to stay in touch and call each other more often (we live in different countries). Anyway, I’m really happy it worked out for you. Listening and being open to communicating and not being judgemental can be extremely powerful. Best of luck and I hope it continues to get better from here. My mom also calls me out on my flaws, by the way, but while it annoys the hell outta me sometimes I think it’s more from a place of wanting us to be the best versions of ourselves and trying to improve where we can, FYI. The world is tough on women. 🙁

    1. Wow, beautiful story, Giovana. I’m so impressed that you found the courage to have a real conversation with your father. Good for you.

  31. Kristy, I have been reading your blog for years, but this is the first time I’m leaving a comment on a post. I’m so glad that the pandemic brought you home long enough to build this bridge to your mother and her stories. Just this last Sunday, I had an opportunity to hear stories from my father and uncle about my grandmother that I had never heard before. These conversations are like unexpected gifts. I hope you write that history book… Thank you for sharing some of it here.

    1. Thanks so much for reading all these years, Tara! Really appreciate it. I’m working on the history book–thanks for your encouragement. If I do end up finishing it, and it doesn’t suck, I will dedicated it to my mother, just like I dedicated QLAM to my dad.

  32. Wow, you are a much bigger person than me FIRECracker! It’s really admirable how you’ve found forgiveness, but I still feel like I need to point out that nothing excuses abuse and you shouldn’t let your abuser continue to emotionally abuse you!
    My parents were somewhat emotionally abusive and extremely emotionally neglectful, and I don’t feel any urge to listen to their reasons – as I said, nothing excuses abuse. They are Asian migrants, and they try to use culture as an excuse for their behavior, but I refuse to tolerate it, I have as much right as any other Australian citizen to have what my white friends have!
    Some people say you’ll regret not having your parents in your life after they die, but my Dad died a few years ago and I don’t regret not having reached out to him – he was never going to change, and I was better off not exposed to his unacceptable behavior. My relationship with my Mum has improved since his death, my reaction to it taught her that she needs to be the one to reach out, and she needs to compensate me for the damage done, if we’re going to have a relationship. I should probably reciprocate and try to understand her, but, at least right now, with work taking up all my emotional bandwidth, I’m not up to it, and I don’t apologize for that. Maybe I’ll be able to be kinder after I become FI.

    1. “nothing excuses abuse and you shouldn’t let your abuser continue to emotionally abuse you!”

      This is true. You can’t forgive if you’re continually being abused. In my case, I did put an ocean between myself and my mother by travelling the world for 5 years. That set up the boundary to protect myself. I also stopped staying over and shortened our visits to only 1 hour dinners whenever I came back to Canada.

      Not all relationships can be healed. You have to protect yourself first. I hope you find your “Chosen Family” of supportive friends like I did. Families come in all different forms, they don’t necessarily have to be the people you’re related to.

  33. Have you ever struggled with a difficult relationship or have you ever experienced generational trauma? Yes and yes.
    I had a difficult relationship with my parents. They rarely said a kind word to me; they ordered me around, criticized and insulted me. They beat me a few times but not severely. My maternal grandmother was also mentally unstable and violent. All of them had PTSD from their own parents and the Vietnam War. So as a child, I prayed a lot to the buddha. I was obedient, studious and intuitive. I tried to do everything perfectly, hoping they would yell less. During college years, I tried to get summer job on campus to avoid going home. Later, I went to graduate school, got married, disowned my parents and moved far away. Overall, I experienced parental abuse, neglect, and PTSD. Disowning my parents was the correct action, like cutting off the tumor. I could not change them, but I can improve myself. I benefit from meditation, yoga, reading, hiking in nature and prayers. Thank you Kristy for sharing your story. You have a generous heart.

    1. Aw, I’m sorry to hear about all the trauma you’ve experienced, Gina. You’re right. Sometimes it’s better to protect yourself and the relationship is unsalvageable.

      Good for you for working on healing yourself. *hugs* I hope you find your ‘Chosen Family” of supportive friends, like I did. My friend, Cover, started a FB group for us to come together and heal over our trauma, if you’re interested in joining: https://www.facebook.com/groups/asianwellnesscollective

  34. Wow again!

    I read your book and I was really shocked to hear your story growing up poor in China. I felt that was already a big burden to go through and also to share. This post add another dimension to your existence.

    I can’t imagine how much harder your childhood and adulthood has been compared to us. Also, huge respect for you to be able to finally publish this. You must be really brave for sharing such stories to the rest of the world. Huge kudos for that.

  35. Thanks for sharing that story. To digress for just a moment, in my situation, if there is one piece of advice I would give to my younger self, after all I went through with family and people in and out of my life, it would be this: If you can’t say no within a relationship, be prepared to say no to the relationship. This, too, applies to family.

  36. Very powerful and moving, thank you for sharing your story. I admire your courage and magnitude, very inspiring. Take care.

  37. And domestic violence is soaring during COVID. I hope at least one victim can find your book or your blog and know you don’t have to stay in a household or a relationship because you don’t have enough money to survive on your own. Step by step.

  38. Writing things down is VERY cathartic and brings the power to heal! I had a similar experience with my father. I am the oldest of 3 and was always the “ceiling breaker”. My father was diagnosed with cancer and fought for 6 years. As it got closer to “the time” I knew I had to do something to at least let him know how I felt and possibly make a difference before he went. I was out of town on business and got very drunk. Came how to my hotel room and decided to start writing. Talk about a cry-fest! after several hours of being along, drunk, and crying like a newborn I had written 10 pages of MANY thoughts. When I got home, I could not bring myself to give it to my father so I mailed it (weak!) and my mother got it and read it as he struggled with most simple tasks. She read it and thought is was about her or both of them. We had a short “discussion” and I told maybe if she played her cards right she might get a letter. She did read my letter to my dad and his response was “Maybe I need to talk to my sons…”. 2 weeks later we were standing outside after a nice lunch and all of a sudden my dad puts his arms out and starts walked towards me to hug me. Very odd behavior to say the least as I can barely remember ever getting a hug from him. All was forgiven in that moment! He pased a couple weeks later and I was okay with that. Writing or speaking is a REALLY good thing and can help even the most f’ed relationship! My 2 younger brothers never took any steps to correct their standing with our father and 20 years later they have many hard standing opinions and lingering pain. I do not. Thanks for sharing your painful story!! Keep up the awesome work you and Wanderer do!!

    1. “all of a sudden my dad puts his arms out and starts walked towards me to hug me.”

      Aww…started tearing up when I read this sentence. Thank you for sharing your story, John C! I’m so happy you were able to relay your feelings in writing to your father before he passed. That must not have been easy but glad it was worth it. *hugs* ❤️

  39. I am sure this post must be very hard for you to write. Being vulnerable like this is not easy. Your relationship with your mom reminds me of my relationship with my dad with less physical abuse and more mental and emotional abuse.
    I am so glad that you turned out to be more resilient and came out as a successful person on the other end, alot of kids don’t make it 🙁

    1. Thanks, Neo_sauga. I’m lucky that I have an amazing support network (Wanderer, Chautauquan friends) to help me through it. I’m very sad for those who don’t have that and it’s so much harder for them.

  40. Such a beautiful story! I have long learned that forgiveness is more about you than the other person. Also like you said, if you start showing kindness you will see it reflected in the other person. Even in less extreme cases such as being annoyed by a friend – take the high road and be the good friend.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Charlotte! I do have to caveat that I was able to forgive only after I could get away from the abuse. You have to protect yourself first, then only can you forgive.

  41. Amazing story. Please check out It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn – it explores this subject matter. It helped me make peace with a parent too. Peace!!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Lisa! A friend also recommended that same book to me, so I will add it to my TBR list.

  42. Nice job fixing your relationship.
    My son thinks I’m too hard on him, but my experience was much more difficult. His life is so much easier than mine. In turn, my childhood was way easier than my dad’s life too.
    It’s hard for kids to see the parents’ perspective until they’re a bit older.

    1. Each generation has it easier than the previous generation. It’s progress 🙂

      Yes, I absolutely agree it’s very difficult to see a parent’s perspective as a kid. You are in different places in life with very difficult values.

      For what it’s worth, I think Rb40 Jr is great! Well behaved and good manners. We enjoyed hanging out with him. Don’t worry, you are both doing a great job and he’s lucky to have you as parents. I was very touched by him hugging your arm when we were eating dinner at that Burger joint.

  43. I’m partway through your book and I’m glad to read this post. Most of all, it’s impactful to read about the act of forgiveness sometimes being for us, not the other person. Acknowledging the pain to ourselves even if the other denies it. I’m curious if you’ve considered therapy at all for it? Like mini-Chautauquas with one person. I’m sure I’m not the first to mention it but am curious if you’ve had experience with therapy much as I am about to start on Friday!

    1. Thanks for reading our book, FM! And yes, I have had a few therapy sessions back when I was working. The therapist helped me realize my mom had PTSD from the cultural revolution, but back then I was not ready to forgive her because I was still torturing myself by going back to visit and having fights constantly. I didn’t know how to set boundaries.

      Good for you for working on yourself and finding the courage to talk to a therapist. Sending you lots of virtual hugs and good thoughts.

  44. One of the best posts in this blog. I think the word here is resilience. I remember a story about two guys, brothers, which had an abusive father. One grew up and became an abusive husband and father. When asked why, he replied “Well, with that upbringing I had, what else could have happened ?”. His brother grew up and became and excellent dad and a loving husband. When asked how could that be, since he had such a terrible childhood, he replied “So all I wanted was to be the opposite of my dad, I did not want to be like him”. Congrats on choosing the other side. Also I read that in order to really forgive you need to heal a bit. That’s why forgiving is so difficult. It needs patience, you cannot move on when you want. You have to wait for the wound to heal a little. Peace.

    1. Thanks, LS! That’s high praise 🙂 I love the story of the two brothers. Thanks for sharing. Resilience is definitely the key to getting through hardships in your life. It’s also helpful to surround yourself with supportive friends (aka, your “Chosen Family”).

      1. Since forgiving is about the person who forgives, who does not need acknowledgment from the person who hurt him/her in order to move on, do you think asking for forgiveness works the same way ? Assuming you really mean that you’re sorry for whatever happened, can you just forgive yourself and move on, while the person you have hurt is still attached to those bad feelings ? oops, is this a finance blog ? LOL

  45. Respect for daring to confront your painful past, for opening a dialogue with your mother, and for having the courage to tell your story. You are nothing short of amazing.

  46. A quick comment: my late father grew up as an ethnic minority kid in pre-World War Two rural southern Texas. This was during the Great Depression. He picked cotton for money and whereas I will walk 100 meters to my local Family Mart convenience store here in Taipei and have the clerk microwave some healthy option lunch choices, he would kill his own lunch–a Texas jackrabbit–with a 22 caliber single-shot bolt-action rifle. He would catch rattlesnakes with his hands, place them in a gunny sack, and sell them to a gentleman who paid by the pound and would put the snakes in roadside museums for tourists or sell them for meat for rattlesnake sandwiches. Picking cotton is tough work–no shade in hot Texas heat–bent over and dragging a long cotton sack and being paid by the pound. Truly back-breaking labor!
    My late mother was his war bride from northern Italy, who also grew up in a rural setting and whose parents died before World War Two. She lived through multiple nations invading her country.
    His Army career and her jobs at military child care centers put them both into a middle-class lifestyle with houses, cars, income, and benefits that included pensions. I grew up middle class and got more degrees than a thermometer and have done mostly white collar work.
    Generationally, it’s tough to grasp our parents’ experiences if they’re so foreign to our own.

    Dan V
    Taipei, Taiwan

    1. Wow, thank you for sharing your story, Dan! Your parents have lived through a lot. It’s good for us to see their perspective.

      “I grew up middle class and got more degrees than a thermometer” –> HA HA, I laughed out loud at this sentence. Awesome.

      1. Thanks! Sometimes a bit of perspective on our parents’ lives before we came along helps us “get it” more as to why they are the way they are.

        Dan V
        Taipei

  47. Absolutely great article from the heart, commendable that you use humility and vulnerability to speak to more people that you probably realize. Much respect and thank you for this blog

    Peter

  48. Very well written and powerful. Gotta say, you’re a much more forgiving person than I would have been. Feeling as I do that: 1) no upbringing, no matter how terrible, is an excuse to abuse your kids and 2) It’s perfectly ok to cut out toxic people even if they randomly happen to be relatives, my story would likely be more like this:
    The day I move out, say “FU” to mom, blocks number. Keep in contact with dad. Maybe reassesses relationship with mom after a long period of time, x number of years. Maybe. If no serious improvement in her, the cut off remains for another period or maybe forever.

    1. I think I had to forgive for the sake of my Dad. It would’ve been much easier just to cut my mom off, but if I did that I wouldn’t be able to see my Dad.

      But you’re right in that, some situations it makes sense to cut off that relationship. Especially if the person continuous hurting you.

  49. Not often you go to a site on FIRE and read such a powerful and moving story. Thanks for sharing this part of you with us readers.

  50. Firecracker I am grateful for your courage to post your story online. Reading your post was like reading a reflection of my own story. It must be an Asian thing.

    In my case, my mother has a big habit of saying “she’s not my mother”, “how she regrets adopting me” or how everyone(my aunts and uncles) was right when they advised her to not adopt me. That last one really screwed me up during my teen years, for years I was pretty cold and silent to my relatives for a while. Different words of abuse but probably same mental stress.

    Kids have been a question my husband and I are struggling with right now. In all honestly, my trauma from my own mother has pretty much turned me off from wanting to be a mom.

    I was kind of mad my own mother did not come to my wedding but perhaps from reading the comments I was lucky she did not come. Still mad about it… but perhaps I was luckier in this way. As of now, I’ve stopped trying to call my mother now. My husband is quite relieved and my mental state is much happier, but now I probably have the status of bad daughter to my name whenever my mother talks negatively about me with friends and family.

    So much of your posts are like exactly like how my interactions with my mother are, it’s actually kinda unreal. I am really glad you posted your story Firecracker.

    1. Aww, I’m glad my story resonated with you, C&C. Yeah, it took me awhile to get past the “bad daughter” label, but I realized no matter what I did, it was never good enough. So I stopped trying to please my parents and do my own thing.

      I’m glad your mental state is much happier and I hope you can find peace. Would you consider writing a letter to your mom but not sending it? This has helped me tremendously–even though I didn’t think it would.

  51. I’m here for the numbers, humour and general FI stuff but this is one of the best things I’ve read all year. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on how far you’ve come!

  52. I was missing my Friday post and I came back to read this post. Glad you shared it, I hope you continue to find peace in your relationship with her and in everything you do.

    1. Thanks, Provident! I’ve decided to take a break from the Friday post this week because the Monday post really took a lot out of me. Thank you for reading!

  53. Thank you for sharing this vulnerable and relatable story. As someone who also grew up with a difficult parent, two things struck me about your story: I once read that the things we don’t know about our parents’ stories tell us more than the stories themselves. My Dad never talked about his childhood or what his parents were like. Clearly, your mother didn’t share much either, so hearing her stories now seems to be one of the keys to new (Hopefully mutual) understanding. The other thing is sharing your story with others and really hearing their stories. When we grow up in troubled homes, I think we keep secrets. When we feel safe enough to share our feelings (and spill those secrets) and learn we are not alone, we start to heal.

    Bravo to you for sharing and healing!

    1. Thanks, Marla! You’re right, it’s very difficult to talk about trauma, but very healing when we do. You are definitely not alone. I hope your Dad will one day open up about his childhood and parents too. It helps us understand where they are coming from and help us heal the generational trauma.

  54. I honestly have no words FC, this is a truly beautiful reflection born out of a tremendously difficult situation. I am proud of you for doing the uncomfortable work of digging deep inside yourself and then addressing the relationship woes with your mother. I know how hard that must have been.

    And also a “giant cry fest with all of us revealing our hidden emotional scars”. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. What a simply powerful week that was and one that I think was so pivotal in all of our lives.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Wow! And thank you too for opening up and sharing your struggles during our Chautauqua reunion week. Should do it again sometime once it’s safe. Miss all of you!

  55. Hi Kristy,

    Thx for this blog, i fully recognize and can relate to your situation. Been through all that pain myself but luckily also through the healing phase within myself. Though my mother is still unreachable. It’s easier to let go but blogs like this still let me rethink to find a way to touch her heart and open up. If not, it’s okay, we can’t force, but if still possible it would be an awesome nice to have. The main thing is forgiveness and accept she has her reasons not to be able to, maybe because of her background.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Rose. I hope you can find a way to reconnect with your mother. Even if you don’t, just knowing that you tried your best is enough. It’s not your fault and kudos to you for healing yourself.

  56. Kristy, thank you so much for sharing your experience, and I’m glad you are able to forgive your mother. Your story has inspired me to keep on pursuing a relationship with my mother.

    I can relate to your experiences. My mother grew up dirt poor, maligned by her parents and had to fend for herself as a child. She then placed years of repressed trauma onto me and my siblings through her emotional abuse.

    Through a lot of psychotherapy, I have come to understand and have compassion for my mother. Like you, when she insulted me, I would no longer react, realizing her jabs said more about her than about me. And over the decades, perhaps sensing that she no longer has the power to make me unhappy, and perhaps through self-reflection and talks with my father, she has become a nicer person.

    In a show of real insight, a few years ago she even apologized to me for being a bad mother. She never ever apologizes, so this took me aback. I thought of telling her, “yeah, damn straight!” and listing my complaints. Instead, I told her that she did the best that she could, and no one’s perfect. Then I hugged her, and I let my baggage go.

    Yeah, she still sometimes insults me, and often I can just tell she’s itching to tell me that I look fat/thin/tired/not dressed well/etc. But she is generally nicer and more pleasant to be around, and bites her tongue most of the time.

    So, all is that to say is that it sounds like you’ve started a new journey with your mother, and hopefully your relationship with her gets better and better. It has taken a few decades for me and my mother to get there, but the effort has been worth it. I realize it’s not for everyone (sometimes relationships are just better off dead), but already your efforts seem to have yielded great results.

    I wish you all the best in this journey. It can be rocky and frustrating, but also extremely rewarding.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, AF! It’s incredible that you’ve been able to forgive your mother and for her to apologize to you. That’s very up-lifting. I feel like my mother has been doing the same lately and lamenting how she treated me as a child. Previous she kept mentioning incidents of her sacrifice and what a difficult child I was. It really does make a big difference whether you react to the jabs or not. I’m so glad you’ve been able to find peace with this and healed your relationship. *hugs*

  57. Your story really hits home. I am not close to my mother and never was. She is a true sociopath and there is no way I can change her. We haven’t spoken in years and will probably rarely ever speak again if ever. On the flip side like yourself, I am closer to my father, but unfortunately he has no power in the family and is constantly being stepped on by my mother. It is really good you were able to make up, however for me I don’t think there will be any making up, ever.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ezdividends. I agree that not all relationships can be fixed, and you have to set barriers to protect yourself from hurt first. Sending you lots of *hugs* and good thoughts. Hope you can heal from this trauma.

  58. Thanks so much for sharing! It was very vulnerable of you. I think the most encouraging post I’ve read on this blog.

    Seeing our parents for who they are rather than who we want them to be is hard, but good. We are all just people.

    1. Thanks, Jswheeland! Yes, I agree that seeing our parents from their perspective is difficult but worth it.I could only do that once I was not longer abused and had the strength and financial independence to take care of myself. In that sense, discovering FIRE saved me. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the time to heal myself and find the strength to forgive her.

  59. This must be so difficult for you to share, so thank you so much for putting yourself out there. This is an inspiring story. It gives hope to those struggling with relationships and understanding to the lives of generations before us. Thank you so much.

    1. Thanks, Cindy! It was a very difficult post to write but messages like this makes it worth while. I also hope that my struggle will help others find peace with their difficult relationships.

  60. Animals are instinctive by nature. Scientists will never find a single case of animal that is cruel by nature. We, humans, first and foremost are animals. Environment and culture finalized our actions and behaviors.

    Your mother abhorrent behaviors toward you were not the result of hatred. She was broken!

    You cannot go back and fix her, but you can move forward with the determination to stop your pain from bleeding into the next generation – your children.

    When you are mentally ready just give your mother a solid hug, but don’t expect she will change or see you differently.

    Ninety nine percent of us will eventually become the victims of our successes or failures!

  61. Dear Kristy, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know how hard it would have been to write. Long time reader, first time poster. I also have a difficult relationship with my mother, though we’re from HK so she didn’t have to escape the revolution. Crying at 1am here in Australia as I’m reliving her beating the crap out of me numerous times and having to lie at school as to how I got the bruises. The most minor things would set her off like not practicing piano or pissing her off ever so slightly. These days you would get arrested for that shit! She never apologised and still never apologises for anything. She is stubborn as hell and can be SO rude to me for absolutely no reason. We still have massive screaming matches to this day and my partner has to physically separate us. I didn’t understand how my Aussie friends at school would be best friends with their mum and go on shopping trips and holidays to Bali together. My partner can talk to both his parents for hours on the phone. To this day we are not particularly close and can’t spend more than 2 hours together at a time but we do see each other regularly as she loves my two kids so much. She always provided for me growing up but the trauma of being her physical and emotional punching bag my whole life has caused me to build a wall. I have forgiven her as she was in a violent relationship with my dad in a foreign country with no family support as poor migrants so they had to stay together for financial purposes so she was probably taking out her unhappiness on me until she could leave him when I turned 19. My dad now showers me with money possibly in his way to make up for being violent to my mum. I always vowed to have more than one child as its much more diffused than the hyper intense only child/single parent relationship. Anyway I didn’t mean to write an essay but wanted you to know you’re not alone and your article made me feel like I’m not some selfish horrible person like she makes me out to be. I forgive her for the past and don’t expect to be best friends but maybe we could get to a point of not screaming our heads off at each other. At least I am applying the opposite to my kids and they only know love. Take care xxx

  62. I am a Taiwanese immigrant in Brazil, moved when I was 5. A very typical story that most Asian immigrants face, strict parents, they have no idea how to demonstrate love, every time is something harsh from their mouths.
    I know personally quite a lot first generations of Asians that have their half of childhood with some residues of a broken family. Violent fathers and just like your mother, when comes to talk to us, feels like we are not good enough to be their kids.
    I hope the next generation of parents should be softer about raising kids. Stop projecting their desirable kids that they might have failed once young. I think we forget to live our own lives and focus achieve their wishes. Wondering if all of the hardship is for us or for their future.

  63. What a powerful story you have. I actually sent this to my mother (who emigrated from Honduras to the US in 1970) and who had a difficult and complicated relationship with her own mother. Thank you for sharing.

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