Grieving the Imperfect, Finding the Unconditional: The Importance of the Inner Mother for Women. ~ Bethany Webster

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Developmentally, our relationship with our mother serves as a template for our relationship with ourselves.

As female children, we absorbed information about how she felt about herself, about us as her child, and about the world. Naturally, we internalized these beliefs and worldviews to form the basis of our very own beliefs and experiences.

We learned to treat ourselves the way our mother treated herself.

Our task as awakened women is to transform the inner mother within our psyche from a duplicate of our biological mother with her human limitations into the mother we always needed and wanted. In doing so, the inner mother more accurately meets our needs, and unconditionally supports and nurtures us in ways our outer mother may have been unable to.

We can become the mother we always wanted—to ourselves.

In this way, we become capable of accepting the limitations of our outer mother, because the inner mother becomes the primary one we can rely on, in ways that perhaps we were never able to rely on our outer mother.

Our mother could only love us to the extent that she could love herself.

At a certain point, we must face that our mother could not and will not meet our needs in all the ways that we needed and wanted her to. This must be grieved all the way through. We have to grieve the ways we had to compensate and suffer from the mother wound.

In the process of grieving, we have the chance to realize that the fact that we felt unloved or abandoned in moments was not our fault, and we can stop struggling to prove our worth to the world. In the grieving process, we can also have compassion for our mother and the burdens she carried.

Photo: Mary Naby on Pinterest

Healing the mother within transforms your life beyond anything you can imagine.

Through facing this pain, we may find that what we thought was our pain may actually be partly our mother’s pain that we have been carrying for her out of love. We can now choose to put this burden down. Instead of attenuating ourselves out of guilt, we can stand confidently in our bodies and hearts with a sense of true wholeness and self-love.

By becoming the “good enough” mother to ourselves, we liberate not only ourselves but everyone else in our lives.

It is challenging to admit to ourselves the ways in which we felt unloved in our relationship with our mother. We may recall seeing how burdened and overwhelmed she was, and we may have thought that we were the source of her pain. This “daughter guilt” can keep us stuck. Recognizing the innocence and legitimacy of our childhood needs is a way of releasing shame and baptizing ourselves into the truth of our goodness.

Once we have first grieved for ourselves, we can then grieve for our mothers and for women as a whole.

Grief replenishes and strengthens us.

As women, we can heal and give ourselves what our mothers could not give us. We can become our own source. The collective female “pain body” is healed one woman at a time. And as the female pain body heals, so does the collective human pain body. Our own healing is not only a gift to ourselves, but to the world.

The mother wound is a great opportunity.

As we allow ourselves to contact what feels like an ancient, inexhaustible hunger for an inexhaustible mother, we birth ourselves into our true identity—the womb of light—an inexhaustible, overflowing fountain of love and abundance that is not dependent on circumstances or conditions.

We then can live in service to that which we truly are—love itself.




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Assistant Ed.: Jayleigh Lewis/Ed: Bryonie Wise


Source: via Kimberly on Pinterest


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anonymous May 5, 2013 9:30am

Divine. Powerful. Beautiful.

anonymous Mar 24, 2013 6:20pm

Dear Caty80, Thanks for your comment. So excited for you on your motherhood journey! And YES! The more you are able to love and nurture yourself, the more you are offering your child. Thanks and blessings!

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 9:23pm

Thank you for this beautiful essay, Bethany. I've struggled for years in my relationship with my own mother and I'm now on the verge of becoming a mother myself. I often fear that I'll make the same mistakes—leaving my children feeling abandoned and unloved—but this piece gives me so much hope! I need to love and nurture myself the way my mother never did, and in that space I can practice being the kind of mother I want to be. Thank you 🙂

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 11:06am

Eden, thanks for your comment. You bring up a Very good point. I can understand why the compassion part would not resonate. My experience has been that you cannot force compassion or forgiveness. It is something people, and especially women, tend to rush into. Compassion is the byproduct of having processed and confronted the entirety of one’s anger, rage and grief. I tell women to let themselves feel the anger all the way through. It will subside organically when it will. This is something that society does not encourage in us yet acknowledging the truth of our feelings is the only way to authentic healing. Allow yourself to feel the anger about what happened. Take very good care of yourself. Take some space from your mother if you need to. Anger can be a cleansing force– it is a message that a boundary has been violated. We must contact our truth in order to truly arrive at compassion and forgiveness. Blessings to you on your healing journey and again thanks for leaving a comment.

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 5:28am

I like this post, and it is the first one i have read that has really connected with me deeply, As a mother to a 6yr old child, and having been abused by my mother when i was a child into my teens, i am always aware and analysing myself as a mother.
As my mother is still in my my life and my sons life, it has been swept under the rug everything that happened as a child, and i tend to explain it away as 'she had a mental health disorder, she was having a breakdown, it wasn't her'

This sentence resonates with me 'In the process of grieving, we have the chance to realize that the fact that we felt unloved or abandoned in moments was not our fault, and we can stop struggling to prove our worth to the world.' But the rest of the sentence doesn't….how can i be compassionate to my mother, there are times now where she still is not a mother, and time where she is, and i am completely confused, even as an adult.

I want to know how do you start this grieving process, i cannot do it myself, i have tried. It makes me upset, and i can cry, but i don't know what to do with this upset.

Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Keep well.

anonymous Mar 23, 2013 1:50am

Bethany, I discovered this post last night on Facebook via "Occupy Menstruation", and it's like having found a missing piece of the puzzle that I am putting together again, in the search for wholeness and healing as a woman, mother and daughter…and in my work with women. I'm so excited and moved!! You've put into words what I've been looking for and intuiting over the past years. I am a childbirth & menstrual cycle educator,and I've recently started facilitating a circle for mothers called "A Place for Mothers" (in Spain) and one of the core intentions of these circles is to create a space of self-nurture and renewal for us as mothers, and to integrate self-care more and more into our daily lives. But my big question has been, "why is it so hard for us as mothers to take care of ourselves?". We give and give and give until the well gets dry, and with this the resentment and also the guilt. You've given me a new window on understanding more deeply where this guilt comes from, and the root of the difficulty in loving and caring for ourselves. Your words are a balsam and a pearl, thank you so much for writing so clearly and succinctly and compassionately about something so important and necesary. Bless you!!!

    anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:58am

    Hi Sophia Style, thanks for your comment. I’m so grateful and glad that this piece resonated with you! Your work that you are doing with women is so important and needed. The generational wounds between women include guilt for feeding ourselves (physically, emotionally, etc.) because we’ve learned that that is our role . It’s time to shift from either/or thinking ( feed myself Or my loved ones) to a paradigm of both/and. We can feed ourselves And our families. Claiming and owning ourselves and our needs as legitimate will shift our communities and society. It takes courage. Thank you for commenting.

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 1:54pm

Thanks, Bethany, for this thoughtful essay. We carry so much from our original families, and it is important to hear that it is never too late to heal.

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 12:26pm

Beautiful Bethany. Thank you. There are so many bits of this that speak to me. I want to share that I have been in the process of really seeing my grandmother. She is in the later stages of her life and after a lifetime of rearing children, I can see that she was never afforded the opportunities that I have had for the type of personal growth that you are talking about. I don't feel like I can talk with her about it, as much as I would like to bring this healing to her. I am reassured by your words that my own healing is in fact the medicine and I rededicate myself to this. Thank you for your wisdom and for bringing it out to the world.

    anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:39am

    Hi Mel, thank you for your comment. It touches on something really important–even though our mothers and grandmothers had way less opportunities than us, we have to learn how to be comfortable in claiming those without fear. I think many women feel that their success is a betrayal to those generations before us who struggled so deeply. I think this is a pivotal piece between mothers and daughters. Many would rather stay stuck than surpass their mothers. I’m interested in this and helping to shift this do that we can claim our success fully and without fear– and also support one another in doing do. Again, thanks for your comment!

      anonymous Mar 23, 2013 10:47am

      Hi Deirdre, thank you for your comment! Agreed, we do carry so much from our original families which can serve as the raw material for our transformation. Our wounds do not have to define us. It’s great whenever we can remind each other of this. Yet the wound is the doorway to our liberation. Blessings to you

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 10:59am

Hi Bethany, sister, your writing touches on so much of my own mothering to my daughter, and I am aware of how my love for myself is reflected in her own self image….
It is a pleasure and it brings me much joy to see how this hard fought understanding for yourself has unlocked such wisdom in you, and that you are willing and able to share.xoxoxoxoxolove you tons

    anonymous Mar 22, 2013 11:35am

    Heather! Thanks so much for your beautiful comment! How blessed your daughter is to have a mother who is conscious of this in herself. The journey to healing the mother wound is the hardest thing I've ever done and the most rewarding and transformational!! That's why I talk about it as an opportunity. I think we all end up with this wound to some degree–it's what we do with it that makes the difference. I want women to know that while it is fraught with pain and discomfort, the wound has the potential to transform into gold! Lots of love and thanks again for commenting! xoxo

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 8:50am

Diane, Absolutely–there are so many ways we can contribute to young people by giving them positive experiences and bringing awareness to how we interact with them. I would say that we can make the biggest impact on others by healing this wound in ourselves first. This speaks louder than any words or ideas we could convey. That way, no matter what we do or say to others (both to those that are "tuned in" to this awareness and those that are not) we embody and emanate a wholeness and love that touches everything we do. Thank you so much for your comment!!

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 8:09am

This truely states that children learn what they live – I agree that the "mother wound" helps us be "aware" of this, makes us that self-actualized person, and I'm so glad, given things that you, Tayla and I talked about years ago – you have experienced this. The toughest thing as an older person when mentoring kids/young adults I find, because I am always trying to promote self esteem & self evaluation at different ages in what I choose to do with the kids, etc., is the importance of stirring up this awareness – and the manner in which this type of awareness can be taught that helps shape that deep 'stuff' going on. Perhaps for some it's counseling, sharing deep thoughts with best friends – being with an adult mentor. In order to learn to evaluate oneself, I feel it's best to provide children/young adults with very positive influences (thus youth groups/organizations similar to what I am involved in as a 4-H Horse Leader/Program Coordinator) is very important. It's very difficult/frustrating, when you have the gift of this type of awareness, to pass this along to others who have no clue, and its best to start these young members in this tumultuous society very early on. Nice work Bethany! xo Diane

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 7:50am

Beautifully written and well said 🙂 Kimberly

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 6:53am

Thanks for this powerful post!

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 6:50am

Hi Bethany ,

I'm guessing the same basic principles would apply for men.


anonymous Mar 22, 2013 5:05am

Thanks for the article… and thank you for this follow up comment. I am now also wondering about fathers and how we relate with them.

And would also add – male, female or otherwise…

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 2:38am

Bethany, could you speak to how this would relate to male children ?



    anonymous Mar 22, 2013 4:24am

    From my own experience and work it is the same for male children.
    Our mothers are our source of nurturing, we come from them, they (hopefully) fed us from their breasts, and they cared… or didn't… for us throughout our lives.

    The way we relate to them and feel about them reflects the way we relate to our own sense of self-nurturing.

    Learning to nurture ourselves is to free our mother from that role and part of becoming an integrated adult.
    Male or Female.

    My thoughts about it anyway.

      anonymous Mar 22, 2013 7:12am

      Monkey, you say it beautifully. Absoutely–for both male and female children the mother is the very first one we rely on to form our own internal world. She is the raw material so to speak.

      I think something that women may feel more intensely than men in relation to their mother is the guilt. Seeing our mothers struggling creates a tension that daughters tend to absorb into their self-concept about being a woman. Letting go of this "daughter guilt" can be tough because there's a sense that in doing so we are abandoning her on some level. Internalizing this sense of burden is an unconscious way of being loyal to her. This loyalty can greatly limit us. Doing the grieving is a primary way of releasing the guilt and freeing ourselves to live as full and integrated adults.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

        anonymous Mar 22, 2013 6:42pm

        Your comment about the mother guilt makes a lot of sense.

        I think the way a male would feel about his father would be along the lines of resentment rather than guilt, seeing all the ways his father isn't showing up as the masculine role model he is looking for can create deep resentment for the father figure for males, at least in my part anyway and I suspect this is a patter for the male.

          anonymous Mar 24, 2013 6:23pm

          Hi Monkey. Thanks for this comment. It makes sense to me that men would feel resentment towards their fathers for not being the masculine role models they need. How do you think this resentment shows up in men's lives? (My limited experience with this has been seeing the resentment between father and son stay underground and unspoken, limiting the intimacy and connection between them.)

            anonymous Mar 25, 2013 1:17am

            Definitely limiting intimacy and connection between father and son… and I would also say between other males in our life. Sure we will have our good friends who we can joke around with, yet without a clear sense of the masculine… men in general do not seem to be able to open up emotionally, particularly with other men.
            And I think this is a function of an unintegrated masculinity and connection with father.

            Other ways I think it might show up is in men having difficulty in taking direction in their lives and also committing… to partners, to life choices, to what inspires them.

    anonymous Mar 22, 2013 7:39am

    Hi Randolph, I think it's somewhat different for men. Although all children usually start out with their mother as the primary attachment figure, we tend to have a stronger identification with the same sex parent, making the impact even stronger for female children. I would love to hear from men about "the inner father." An exciting topic for sure. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

Shay Dewey Mar 22, 2013 2:21am

Wow, very powerful writing. My mother never really liked or bonded with me, having me at 15, I don't remember her liking herself either, I sort of became my own mother, but I never really nurtured myself. I am going to take a better look on how I treat myself.

    anonymous Mar 24, 2013 6:18pm

    Hi shaydewey, Thanks for your comment. Nurturing ourselves is so important, especially when we had no role models on how to do it. That's awesome that you're going to look deeper into it. It is something that can positively impact every aspect of your life. Very empowering stuff. Blessings to you.

anonymous Mar 22, 2013 2:17am

To me our mother represents our relationship with nurturing and in my experience what you write is as equally valid for men as it is for women.

To evolve we become our own parents, mother and father (guidance).

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Bethany Webster

Bethany Webster is a writer, transformational coach, international speaker, and what you could call a midwife of the heart. Her work is focused on helping women heal the “mother wound” so that they can step into their full feminine power and potential. In addition to writing and teaching internationally, Bethany offers online courses and a private coaching program for women leaders who desire to take a quantum leap in their leadership.