I went to an event not too long ago and a young woman spoke about having to cut her momma off. Her mom displayed some toxic behavior and it was enough to warrant the break.
I hear that a lot nowadays.
There are whole Facebook groups for parents who have been cut off from their kids.
Some without any notice.
Some got a reason that they may not have understood and were simply left to wonder what happened. These parents long for what they used to have and some can’t move forward. I sincerely feel for them. No matter how they’re urged to rebuild, they hold on to the past and lament over children who no longer want anything to do with them. It’s sad to witness.
Then there are Facebook groups for kiddos of narcissistic parents and another group for families looking for grandparents for their children and mother/father figures for themselves because their familial relationships were less than ideal.
I get it. I hate that I understand but I do.
Toxic has become the buzzword for the moment and people in relationships that get the label are easy to dismiss. Now, let me preface all of this by saying, yes, there are times when you must cut ties. I had to for the physical safety and emotional well-being of myself and my family. That was a no-brainer. I’m not talking about those instances.
What I see is a lack of understanding and unwillingness to give grace. We seem to be in short supply of it these days.
Let me explain.
Today happens to be my Nana’s 111th birthday. I miss her so much and think of her often. I think about all she went through being a Black woman living in a Jim Crow South and segregated city. She was part of the Great Migration out of the South and went West and landed in Los Angeles.
I cannot imagine the things she saw, heard, and experienced. I know she did have strong feelings about certain groups of people and those feelings were probably very much so warranted based on how she grew up and how she was treated.
As much as I love my Nana, she wasn’t without her flaws.
None of us are.
She sincerely did the best she could with the tools available to her during her lifetime. She was extremely proud of her $3,000 whole life insurance policy. Was it enough to cover her final expenses? No, it wasn’t but it was her best.
And let’s talk about that phrase “did the best they could.”
Some say it’s a cop-out and they’re no longer accepting it and that worries me.
Judging Previous Generations on Freedoms You Have
We have to always consider that what’s available to us in 2023, wasn’t available to our parents and grandparents. Grace should automatically be given in this case but it isn’t.
My mom, Bishop Gwendolyn Mack went through some things in her life that only as a grown married woman I could begin to understand. My mom was flawed, too. Again, we all are. And when I stopped and asked myself what tools were available to her at the time of her trauma, who could she have talked to, who could she have confided in? I began to feel compassion and empathy for this woman. I could give her grace. Because in the 70s and 80s, therapy for Black people was nonexistent. You had Jesus and the church.
Some traumas require that and so much more.
Momma needed more but it wasn’t available to her so she did the best she could and I see that.
I appreciate her for making the choices she did because she could have made others.
I can’t judge her for her actions based on the fact that I can now go to therapy when she couldn’t.
And Momma couldn’t judge Nana Brown on some of her decisions because Lord knows Nana didn’t have authority over her own person at certain times of her life.
And let’s be clear, my going to therapy only became available during the second half of my life.
It was still Jesus and the church well up into the 2000s.
And a lot of Black folks still believe that “therapy is that white people s#@t.”
So, I would hope that my kiddos wouldn’t judge me based on the first part of my life for decisions and actions I made because I was fighting for my life and theirs.
My Father The Queen
This is the feature film I’m working on and it’s loosely based on my life.
I know a whole lot about trauma and “daddy issues” and how those issues manifest in a grown woman’s life.
I told a friend recently that my hope is that this film gives insight into why your parents are the way they are and hopefully grace can be extended.
Because for all that my father and I have been through, I understand his hurt. Doesn’t negate mine but I understand his and can give him grace. Even with that understanding, the relationship will go unmended and I’ve made peace with that.
Change Comes Hard
Listen! The healing process is hard and messy. Not everyone wants to go through it. It forces you to come face-to-face with YOU and that can be scary. You can move through life easier if everyone else is to blame. But owning what’s ours and doing something about it is absolutely necessary. Everybody should own their own stuff.
Even if therapy is somewhat normalized for Black folks now, old mindsets can still prevail. Some simply find anger and rage comforting. It’s all they know. To live a new experience would be terrifying because their conversation would have to change. Their outlook would have to change and sometimes it’s easier to keep believing the lie you’ve grown comfortable with.
And that’s when I understand cutting folks off is necessary.
If there’s an unwillingness to use the tools and resources available to us now or if there’s no desire to heal and evolve I get the ex-communication. I had to do it.
You know what’s best for you and your peace.
Do that by all means.
But I do hope that when you look at the people in your life, you see them for the era in which they were raised, and the tools available to them at the time, and begin to understand why they made some of the decisions they made. See them as people navigating life the best they could in the cultural socioeconomic, and societal circumstances they found themselves in.
Then maybe in your heart, you can find compassion, empathy, and grace for them. You may never reconnect with them but I promise this will help with your own healing and forgiveness journey.
Much love, y’all.
Lisa N. Alexander is the author and founder of This Woman Knows and What Million-Dollar Brands Know. She is an award-winning filmmaker, director, producer, and writer and is the owner of PrettyWork Creative.