These days it seems that we’re all trying to heal from childhood wounds, and though I’m a big advocate for cutting people off – family included – I’ve come to learn how challenging that actually is. But also, it’s not always necessary if you have a parent who is open and committed to doing the healing work along with you, a mother, for example, who is receptive to her truth. But this also means you are receptive to the reality that parents are humans who often take cake crumbs from their parents and so on. It’s not to say that you have to accept piss-poor treatment because they’re human, but if any of us are going to embark upon a healing journey, we must acknowledge even the difficult truths.
This one is particularly difficult because I think so much weight is placed on parents to solely take on that identity that we come to think of them as superhuman, which at times can be counterproductive to our own growth. Healing can take place in a multitude of ways. However, one of my favorite methods which I’ve come to use to address the trauma amongst the girls I reach in my nonprofit, Black Girl Book Collective, is bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy allows us to use books and the characters within them to encourage healing through solution-focused work.
With that in mind, here are 6 books to honor your pain and healing simultaneously – books that you can read alongside your mother to better understand the way trauma works to ingrain itself generationally.
1. Mother Hunger: How Adult Daughters Can Understand and Heal from Lost Nurturance, Protection, and Guidance by Kelly McDaniel
Authored by trauma counselor Kelly McDaniel, this book observes the patterns created by childhood trauma and into adulthood. The sometimes destructive behavior we exude in our adulthood is rooted in the trauma we received in our childhood. “Depending on what we each did to earn our mother’s love—what we end up doing is duplicating that with friendships, in romantic partnerships, and sometimes at work,” McDaniel shared on The Goop Podcast. Through this book and a concept called Mother Hunger, McDaniel seeks to minimize the shame that comes with having mommy issues and help those heal from attachment injury.
At the top of the pandemic, this book turned Hulu original series was all the rage. It tells the story of two mothers brought together by their children while centering on each of the mother-daughter relationships and how the dynamics vary based on intersectional identities – from race to class. With secrets, obsession, and motherhood at its core, the riveting novel will have you reeling with upset and yet so compassionate for the characters you find to be the most villainous at times.
Author of Toxic Parents, Susan Forward, Ph.D., expounds on damaging parent-child relationships once again but this time with a focus on the mother-daughter relationship. She provides self-help techniques to help women who have experienced pain as a result of unloving mothers cope. She also breaks down different types of unloving mothers: the mother who is overly enmeshed, the mother in constant competition, the mother who is a narcissist, and the mother in need of mothering, just to name a few. Mothers Who Can't Love is an insightful tool for healing and emotional support for women in need because of the way they weren't properly nurtured.
4. It’s Momplicated: Hope and Healing for Imperfect Daughters of Imperfect Mothers by Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay
This book doesn't simply focus on the trauma and complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, it asks that you do the work through spiritual and therapeutic work. Of note, this book was written with Christian women in mind so I highly recommend it for those who rely on their faith in God, particularly. Whether you identify as religious, spiritual, agnostic, or none of the above, It's Momplicated is filled with gems that can be applied to just about anyone’s life if we can agree to “take the meat” and “leave the bones.”
While particularly good if you can read it before you yourself embark on your motherhood journey (if not, that’s also okay), this book brings so much understanding to the parent-child dynamic without directly looking at trauma. Instead, the book takes a look at the socialization that we take on as parents and how that turns into worry or fear for our children. But oftentimes, we place those fears on our children and while it may seem reasonable, The Conscious Parent shares the way ego, often connected to strong emotions like fear can stifle a child’s growth as well as the parent-child relationship.
Dr. Harriet Learner provides us with a great many scenarios in regards to healing ourselves and potentially our intimate relationships, the ones with our mothers included. She fills the book with casework, thus providing examples that help us to envision the way in which these solutions can be implemented. The Dance of Connection can be a transformative tool in your healing journey and your journey to your authentic self, teaching you how to use your voice and take up space without sacrificing the connections you value most.
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