Forgiveness Between Mothers and Daughters Alleviates Suffering

Like daughters, mothers aren't perfect. For this reason, great distances can, at times, be generated between the two as a result of certain problematic situations. Forgiving can be really healing for both parties.
Forgiveness Between Mothers and Daughters Alleviates Suffering
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 February, 2023

As with all parent and child bonds, the relationship between mothers and daughters isn’t always easy. However, it’s really common in therapeutic scenarios to detect more than one unhealed wound in this type of relationship. In fact, there are frequent stories of suffering and problematic situations revealed by women, whether they be mothers or daughters.

Often, a young woman’s sense of self-worth stems directly from how she thinks her mother sees her. The way they perceive themselves, the vision they have of their own worth, strengths, abilities, and even their body schema are all nourished by the reference offered by their mother. It’s a reality that can’t be ignored.

Moreover, there are many mothers who are frustrated with certain behaviors of their daughters. Indeed, not all children are the same and some can be more problematic and challenging than others.

Nor can we ignore the fact that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is more common in women. This can cause serious problems at the family level. As a matter of fact, at any given moment, these relationships can break down completely, giving way to distance and resentment combined with silent suffering. They’re the kinds of wounds that prevail over time. In many circumstances, it’s helpful for them to be healed and for there to be forgiveness between mothers and daughters.

We all make mistakes. In the past, we exhibited versions of ourselves that we’ve now abandoned and healed. When it comes to repairing certain relationships, it’s a good idea to take a look at ourselves and become aware of what we did correctly or what we did wrong.

scene to symbolize forgiveness between mother and daughter
Repairing a broken relationship can bring great relief and well-being.

Why should there be forgiveness between mothers and daughters?

Some mothers didn’t know how to be mothers when they were young. And some daughters were their mothers’ enemies. In fact, for various reasons, many relationships can be turbulent, leaving behind scars of trauma and almost permanent pain. The University of Michigan (USA) conducted a study that claims these types of relationships are attracting increasing attention from the scientific world.

It seems that mothers and daughters often feel that they ‘should’ get along because popular culture has instilled this idea in them. The idea exists that, between these two figures, there should be strong complicity, mutual support, and enriching affection. However, in reality, there are often other kinds of scenarios, those in which attachment problems, disputes, and differences are a frequent dynamic.

When these kinds of patients come to therapy, they frequently request professionals specialized in this type of reality. Therapists will usually recommend reconciliation. But, why should there be forgiveness between mothers and daughters?

The person you were yesterday is different from who you are today

Perhaps your mother wasn’t ready to be a mother. Or maybe, as a daughter, you’ve realized that the way you behaved in the past wasn’t acceptable. As human beings, we all change, mature, and reflect on our own mistakes. Indeed, although we often adopt the idea that certain people never change, this isn’t always true.

Maybe you want to put aside certain of your past harmful behaviors as you now regret what you said or didn’t say. Or did or didn’t do. If you’re the mother in the equation, you might want to remember the fact that it’s often said that, to be a parent, you must first heal your own wounds. But sometimes, this process isn’t carried out till much later. So, if both parties feel ready, it’s always a good idea to give another chance to the mother-daughter relationship.

Mistakes we regret

Misunderstandings, unwise decisions, incorrect attitudes, harmful acts that caused suffering… Forgiveness between mother and daughter can only be carried out as long as there’s remorse. And, in many cases there is. That’s because time often gives perspective and invites self-awareness and the understanding of the responsibility of breaking this significant bond.

Some circumstances promote these problematic situations

Motherhood is embedded in a specific multigenerational sociocultural environment. There are different variables that can affect the fact that a mother didn’t establish appropriate treatment, attention, or care for her daughter. These can range from abusive relationships, the lack of financial means to properly support her children, the presence of a mental disorder, etc.

There are also instances when daughters dealt with adverse circumstances that damaged their relationships with their mothers. For example, addictions, psychological problems, or even having the wrong kinds of friends.

In some cases, the mother-daughter relationshio can’t be healed. That said, the circumstances that led to the breakdown should always be analyzed to assess whether it can be repaired. After all, the present isn’t the past, people can change, and wounds can often be healed. 

Daughter angry with her mother acting out how to approach forgiveness between mother and daughter
When distance is created between mother and daughter, there’s often some unresolved anger and resentment.

How to work on forgiveness

When relationships with our closest relatives heal, new sources of support are built and a healthy fabric is established for generations to come.

The mother-daughter bond is extremely valuable and enriching. Therefore, making the effort to repair, rebuild, and heal the relationship can be of great benefit. Here’s how it can be done:

Resolve resentment

Getting trapped in psychological resentment makes you a perpetual victim. The mixture of spite, disappointment, and anger leaves you a prisoner of your pain. Forgiveness between mother and daughter requires addressing this dimension. You need to:

  • Open up emotionally and describe how you both feel now and how you felt in the past in the face of the circumstances that separated you.
  • Acknowledge that the suffering was mutual and express your remorse. Regretting any bad words and wrong acts is an act of courage and healing.

Change your mentality: the past isn’t the present

The past hurts because it’s where your wounds with your mother or daughter originated. Memories weigh heavily when they’re accompanied by pain. However, once you open up emotionally, you can start to focus on the here and now. You can give each other another chance as you’re aware that your old versions no longer exist.

Today, you’re meeting again as two more mature women. You’re aware of yesterday’s wounds, but willing to create a new relationship.

Be ready to forgive and ask for forgiveness

It’s not always the right time for forgiveness between mother and daughter. In fact, finding your forgiving self can be a difficult journey. It requires time and, above all, for you to have healed yourself in the first place. Only when you harbor enough confidence, self-love, and the desire to repair your relationship can you take this decisive step.

You have to be prepared to offer forgiveness, as well as to sincerely ask for it. Moreover, you must put aside reproaches, attacks, and words that go back to yesterday.

You must want to repair the relationship for it to be healthy

Forgiveness won’t work if you return to the same patterns as yesterday. While your personalities may be antagonistic, it’s always possible to build an intermediate space in which you can meet again with respect, knowing how each one of you is. However, this can only be achieved if there’s a genuine desire for reparation, and a real effort to build bridges and improve your relationship.

Forgiving and asking for forgiveness give relief. They make you feel like you’re breathing in a hyperbaric chamber. Therefore, if you have a complicated relationship with your mother or daughter, try to heal the wound. You’ll find that your life will take on greater meaning and perspective.

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  • Shrier, Diane & Tompsett, Margaret & Shrier, Lydia. (2004). Adult Mother-Daughter Relationships: A Review of the Theoretical and Research Literature. The journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry. 32. 91-115. 10.1521/jaap.32.1.91.28332.


The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.