Healing Shame and Forgiving My Mother

Healing Shame and Forgiving My Mother - Dr. Debra Reble

I disconnected from myself early in life prompted by feelings of shame. Researcher and author Brené Brown identifies shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.” Throughout my life, I absorbed shame messages, such as, “I’m unlovable,” “I’m not good enough,” and “I’m unworthy of love.”

Wearing this cloak of shame kept me discovering who I am. It made me feel invisible by silencing my voice, squelching my spirit, and suppressing my full self-expression. To lovingly connect, I had to reveal my truth.

The core belief that I was unworthy of love took root after my mother abandoned me. I was eight years old. For twenty years, I repressed my feelings, mistrusted my intuition, and dissociated from my body. I lived in a state of insecurity and unworthiness, believing that if I revealed my innermost self to others they would not love me. Through overachieving and trying to be perfect, I tried to prove that I was worthy.

I began to release shame by embracing my vulnerabilities and connecting with the fragmented, unloved parts of me.

Before I finally made my first therapy appointment, I spent days staring at the phone in the kitchen, willing myself to dial the number on the business card in my hand. At the time, I was in graduate school studying to be a psychologist, and it felt deeply shameful for me to admit that I was struggling with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide—the fruits of all my years of self-repression. I agonized about what I would say: that my marriage was on the rocks, that I was scared, that I felt like a bad mother, and that all I wanted to do was escape to a place where no one could find me.

Then one day, while staring at the phone yet again, I heard what I now identify as the whisper of my spirit guiding me through my heart. It said, “Just pick up the phone.” When I dialed the number, a woman answered. I haltingly said, “I’d like to make an appointment.”

After the therapist had taken down my name and phone number, she asked, “Why do you want to see me?” Unprepared to let down my guard down, I swallowed hard, and mumbled, “It’s personal.”

With her guidance, I eventually mustered the inner strength to begin searching for my mother, which ultimately catalyzed a search for myself. The search took a full year of reviewing public records and tracing leads regarding her whereabouts over a long period of time.

Near the end of that tumultuous period of emotional and spiritual healing, I wrote this letter to her in my journal.

December 27, 1986

Dear Mom,

After all these years, I want you to know that I love you. For many years, I’ve tried to forget you, put the past behind me, and pretend that you never existed. Yet, whenever I think of you, I feel so much pain.

I’ve realized that for me to heal, love myself, and be happy I need to try to find you or say good-bye. I want to know what happened to you and if you’re still alive.

Mom, I’ve really missed you. I wish you were here to hold, comfort, and just be with me. Painful questions weigh heavy on my heart. Where have you been all these years? How could you leave me? Why didn’t you try to find me? Do you still love me?

I forgive you for not being there, for leaving me. I want to see you, to feel you, and to understand your pain and suffering. I know you once loved me, and I’ve always held that in my heart. Thank you for bringing me into the world. Please find the strength within your heart to reach out to me.

Love always,


I finally felt connected.

In reaching out for help by making that phone call, I finally stopped running from my unbearable shame and embraced my vulnerabilities. I realized that I had always had the power to heal my innermost wounds. But before I could heal—before I could love and connect to myself—I needed to acknowledge that those messy, imperfect parts of myself existed in the first place.

Through this healing process, I learned that, by opening my heart, I can channel the power of love within me. But until I stepped out of the shadows of shame and stopped demeaning myself, I was not able to fully open to that power. Now I can.


(Photo credit)

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Dr. Debra Reble

Consciously merging her practical tools as a psychologist with her intuitive and spiritual gifts, Dr. Debra L. Reble empowers women to connect with their hearts and live authentically through her transformational Soul-Hearted LivingTM program. Her international bestselling book, Being Love: How Loving Yourself Creates Ripples of Transformation in Your Relationships and the World (Inspired Living Publishing) is now available on Amazon. Debra is also the author of Soul-Hearted Partnership and a contributing author to two of the bestselling Inspiration for a Women’s Soul books. Download Debra’s complimentary 4 part Soul-Hearted Living Sacred Meditation Series at www.debrareble.com.

3 Responses

  1. Don Karp says:

    Your story touched me deeply. Like some of us who have lived experience of the deep wounds of rejection and shame and their resultant life problems, you have gone on from that to become a healer. I notice, that like you, most of these healers share their lived experience of transformation, but do not share the part about becoming a healer after that transformation. I wonder why?

  2. Reba Linker says:

    Oh, Debra, I cry when I read your story. I am so glad you found a way out of so much sadness and have become this light of compassion for others (so many others!) who are experiencing a similar pain of feeling unworthy of being loved. The world needs so much healing now and I thank you for being such a shining light of LOVE!

  3. I feel your story very deeply, Debra. It is definitely in my experience that, when we take down those walls that protect our hearts, we also liberate ourselves to experience love, life, forgiveness. I’m so glad that you were able to heal from this traumatic experience and go on to become a love ambassador!

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