“I Forgave my Mother for Abusing Me.”

Posted in homily by frvictorray on July 2, 2020
“I Forgave my Mother for Abusing Me.”

Pascale Kavanagh

As children, Pascale and her younger brother endured constant torments from their mother: “She would hit me and my younger brother, fling plates in our direction, and call us names. My father tried to get between her and us, and she wouldn’t spare him, either.”

Pascale’s parents were both successful physicians, but their home life was deeply troubled. “My mother had had an abusive childhood,” says Pascale. “So maybe as a result, she subjected me and my brother, who was severely autistic, to her constant drama.” The harassment extended into adulthood. Even when Pascale was off at college, her mother would call once a week to berate her: “She disparaged my appearance, my friends, my academics. I felt that she was driving me over an emotional ledge.” After graduation, Pascale moved across the country, away from her parents. There she eventually got married and, in 2002, had a daughter of her own, Sofi. Pascale hoped that Sofi’s birth would soften her mother.

No such luck. “Once Sofi was five, she became independent-minded, and her behavior set my mother off,” says Pascale. Her rages returned, now directed at Sofi. Pascale sought help from therapists. “I wanted this relationship to stop causing constant pain in my life,” she says.

Then, in 2010, at the age of 73, Pascale’s mother suffered several massive consecutive strokes; her brain was irreparably damaged. Arriving at the hospital, Pascale was shocked to find her mother unable to communicate or even understand language. As the only relative capable of caring for her mother—Pascale’s father and brother had both died—she felt duty-bound to help. She sat by her mother’s side around the clock, reading books aloud and just talking—though not sure what, if anything, her mother could understand.

“At first I was angry. I felt she had left a mess that I had to take care of,” says Pascale. But as the months went by, her fury at her mother, who was now in such a vulnerable state, slowly dissipated. Finally, one day, an exhausted Pascale suddenly laid her head down in her mother’s lap. “And the hatred went away. It was just…gone,” she says. “For the first time, I stopped condemning her. And that gave me peace.”

Forgiving her mother also helped Pascale, who now owns a personal-health-and-wellness consulting firm, let go of other resentments (such as a rift with her ex-husband, with whom she split in 2007). “I’ve become less interested in holding on to all forms of bitterness.” Pascale’s mother remains in a vegetative state, but Pascale visits her at the nursing home weekly. “I see now that forgiveness is not so much about what you receive from people,” she says, “but what you give them.”


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