Elaine: Fnding a Satisfying Mother-Daughter Relationship

Elaine aims to provide support to her daughter while maintaining her own mental health. She explained that their relationship is sometimes tense and she chooses not to bring up topics that might trigger conflict or anger for Terry. She acknowledged that it’s easy for daughters to blame mothers because there is more freedom to “release the negativity” with someone you know well and when you feel safe, so Elaine does not talk with her daughter about treatment. She explained she had a difficult relationship with her mother, who recently died. “I wasn’t told I was loved growing up. With the pregnancy, she was just so angry at me for having that happen.” Elaine was a middle child among eight siblings, making it difficult for her parents to be attentive to each child. When she thinks about her mother, criticism is what she remembers.

She [Elaine’s mother] had ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] and she wasn’t able to speak the last three years. I was grateful she couldn’t talk. When she spoke to me, it wasn’t, “Elaine, I love you; you are beautiful.” Instead I remember her criticism. I know that from her standpoint, it was a way to make me a better person. Yet the technique I’ve developed is about saying positive things. I am loved. I am good enough.

While Elaine and her husband live in Florida half the year, Terry usually visits them for a week. Although Elaine admits that Terry might find the separation challenging, she believes her decision to live out of state during the winter will help her daughter build confidence in her ability to manage on her own. Terry has told her “she doesn’t have anyone.” She does not drive and sometimes getting places can be challenging. When Elaine returns from Florida, they usually see each other every two to three weeks and will text in between.

While she desires greater closeness with her daughter, Elaine is coming to terms with “this is how it is” and realizes that she can be happy with the relationship they do have. She also has six grandchildren that live close by and so she needs to balance her time among family members. Although Terry enjoys spending time with family members, she sometimes chooses not to attend family get-togethers since tension sometimes occurs between family members related to Terry’s smoking.

Elaine is following cues from Terry about what she needs in their relationship, but also shares her concerns with her daughter.

I’m willing to press her on things that are important. For example, we said we’d go for a walk. We headed out for a walk and pretty soon she’s mad and headed back to the house. I let her go. Then I talked to her later. I told her, “That was a difficult thing for me to let you go and then for me to walk and enjoy and not replay the story in my head.”

Afterward, they agreed that sometimes communication about their interactions is important for their relationship.

When asked about feelings of loss or grief, Elaine responded, “I think it is back to the quality of the mother and daughter relationship and what that could be.” Yet, she acknowledged, “Actually I think it’s pretty good for where both of us are at.” Elaine realizes there is the potential for her daughter to go off her medications and be taken advantage of in relationships. She wonders about what will happen to Terry when she and Mark die.

She is proud of how her daughter is currently managing her life and realizes she wants to keep affirming her daughter’s successes. While helping Terry clean her apartment before her move to a condo, Terry said to Elaine, “I like having you here.” With these words from Terry, Elaine felt appreciated.

More of the Story: Sources of Support