About the Author

Bonnie Gray is the author of Sweet Like Jasmine, Whispers of Rest, wife, and mom to two boys. An inspirational speaker featured by Relevant Magazine and Christianity Today, she’s guided thousands to detox stress and experience God’s love through soul care, encouragement, and prayer. She loves refreshing your soul at...

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  1. The haze of disappointment still lingers over my experience with my own mum, so thank you for this thoughtful offering, Bonnie. I’m grateful that even in THIS we can find grace, because broken ground can become a meeting place where hearts are mended. My children and grandchildren are God’s gift to me, a “yes” from the One who makes all things new–-an affirmation that no matter where we’ve been there is hope for a future of rebuilding, restoration, and repair.

    • that’s what I love about being in Christ’s spiritual family – we can share our entire faith journey with one another! Bless you this Mother’s Day as you bless those children and grandchildren in your life – writing new stories of God’s love! I’ll be doing the same with my boys! 🙂

  2. Bonnie,
    I’m so sorry for all you’ve experienced. It sounds like God has filled in wounded gaps with HIS unbelievable love in your life. My situation is opposite from yours. I have a toxic daughter who basically resents me and everything I stand for. I know relationships are supposed to be mutually life-giving, but mine has left me feeling drained, saddened, and angry. I know if things are ever to be restored, there would have to be new boundaries so that the same emotional pain does not continue. So true that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Praying for all relationships that need restoring and for trust in God’s timing. Thanks for all the truth I gleaned here…
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Hi BEV my daughter is 27 and is very toxic her words cut deep. I always thought i would have a daughter who would love me. This was not in god’s plan. I feel like raising her was a waste of my life. In the end i have nothing to show for all the hard work . & sleepless nights.

      • Maria,
        Lifting you up this weekend. Joining with you in placing our daughters on God’s altar. May he work tenderness into their hearts as only He can do. We are good moms and we did our very best – God knows that.
        Blessings,
        Bev xx

    • Hello Bev,
      Mother’s Day is a dreadful day for many. Myself included. My daughter has mental health issues that have me demonized and that only God can heal. It’s painful to be reminded each Mother’s Day that your daughter thinks so little of you and doesn’t really care.
      Prayers for all of the mother’s and daughters that have to be reminded with a holiday that is full of expectations that fall painfully short. There is also a type of defence that comes when asked about our Mother’s Day as well, and the wound is reopened. We really have to lean hard on Jesus to comfort us and remind ourselves that we are His, and we ARE loved.

    • Hi Bev, it’s God’s love that frees our hearts to share the journey with others. Thank you for sharing your story, as you can see other sisters-in-Christ can find encouragement to share their hearts too! And yes, God’s love is strong enough to heal and repair our hearts, as we are His beloved daughters!

  3. Mother’s Day is a painful day for many of us. I ,too, had a toxic Mother. All 3 of her children believed we were hopelessly flawed for many years. It took us a long time to realize she had mental health issues. Now years later I have children that do not acknowledge me at any time of the year due to a divorce. It will take a miracle to restore these relationships. I try to always remember I worship a God of miracles.
    God bless all who are going through seasons of brokenness.

    • I’m so sorry for the pain of those early childhood years and the current journey of disconnection with your children, during a season of recent divorce. Please be sure to nurture your heart, for you are precious and worth loving – as you prioritize your wellbeing, you’ll let God love bring healing. Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this weekend going into this weekend!

  4. Thank you for this! Your words are full of truth, especially as regards the struggle to accept that we are unable to change the relationship if our mother chooses not to. My mother, with whom I had a very difficult relationship, just passed about 6 weeks ago. Her last couple years were difficult for her due to health issues and her last months were horrific. Throughout my adult Christian life I have struggled greatly with how to “honor my parents”. But walking with her through her final months during which time she was 100% disabled by a broken hip, bed bound body and a stroke, I found peace with that despite never having been able to have the mother/daughter relationship I longed for. My prayers as well as those of family who could see the difficulty of my situation with my mother and her crazy, skewed ideas about me, were doubtless answered in those final months of service to her. When I arrived the last time, she was no longer even able to smile but I could see she was trying to and she leaned her head against me as best she could. It was a precious moment that I believe I owe to the prayers of many.

    • Tracy, how wonderful that at the end of your mother’s life, you finally had a reconciliation. I had a similar experience with my mother who died of cancer about seven years ago. I grew up with the knowledge that I was never what she wanted me to be, in other words, a huge disappointment to her. My younger sister was “the apple of her eye”. In my thirties after I had a personal relationship with Jesus, I was able to forgive her and my step-father and love them even though I still didn’t feel accepted by them. In my late sixties, when Mom was stricken with cancer and had some memory deficits, she actually started to call me “sweetie”. That was huge to me as only my sister was called endearing names like that prior to that time. This was just in the final weeks or months of mom’s life. So grateful to have been blessed in that way.

    • Dear Tracy, I’m so thankful for the precious gift of these final tender moments and memories with your mother. Thank you so much for sharing them during such a tender time of grieving and remembrance for you on this Mother’s Day. May you especially feel God’s warmth and love holding you close this week into the weekend!

  5. Thank you for writing this, I understand the surrender and courage it took to lay it out there. I am on a similar path. I trust thar our Heavenly Father will use ALL of the hurt for our growth and His glory.

    • Thank you, Kasie! Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this weekend going into this weekend!

  6. Well said. Thank you for sharing the truths God has shown you. I, too, had a very broken mom who was angry & very demanding, controlling. Learning not to let those hurtful words define me. I speak God’s truth over myself constantly. His love and faithfulness are so precious!!!

    • HI Gail, may this journey of letting God love you through loving yourself become a growing whisper of love nurturing your heart – as may His whispers of rest and love grow deeper and stronger with each day that rises with the sun. Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this weekend going into this weekend!

  7. Thank you for these very helpful points in dealing with an abusive relationship. My mother was mentally ill, diagnosed when I was 7. I am 68 now and my mother died 11 years ago. As an adult, a Mother’s Day card was so hard to buy (you read them first, right?). My mother had a strong Christian faith and was diligent in teaching her children, when she could. Our family journeyed with her through the bad and good, in an out of mental hospitals. No one at church could understand how this affected us. As an adult I attempted to create boundaries so I could be a better mother to my own children, and I was looked down on by church friends for not being a good daughter. I came to understand that mental illness took away the ideal mother that I wish I had. However, God protected my heart as a child and an adult and kept me from bitterness. Trials, no matter if self imposed or brought on by something out of your control, do produce endurance and a stronger faith. James 1:2-4 seemed to be written specifically for me. Growing up in an abusive and emotionally neglectful home was not my choice and it took awhile for me to realize it was where God placed me, and I trust Him. I still work on my guilt for not being everything my mother needed. This post helped and I will be reading your book.

    • Thank you Sherry for voicing what I’ve always felt about buying Mother’s Day cards – I read them and take them very literally and can’t send something that my heart does not feel. My relationship with my mom is good on the surface, but she is not who I go to for unconditional love, encouragement or acceptance.

  8. This was a much needed article. I have struggled to reconcile in my heart the pain I endured as her daughter. Most recently I went to counseling trying to hear from a wise Christian counselor if it is in fact ok to just let the relationship go ie- to stop trying, to stop hoping, to stop wanting, to stop putting myself back into circumstances that create more pain. When rejected by my mother, yet seeing her be and do for my siblings, it created jealousy in me. I questioned my worth. I have found freedom in Jesus, He loves me, I am beloved. I will rest easy knowing I did not create this lack of relationship, but I can live my best life by the boundaries you mentioned, letting go of the doubt and shame and fully embracing the love of Jesus.

  9. My daughter speaks this way to me, but your words are healing even
    though the reverse situation is manifesting in the relationship. Thank
    you so very, very, much. Blessings.

    • My daughter treats me awful harsh words my heart is broken people say let her go stop hoping for her to love you she blames me for life choices that she has made . Moms go through pain their children cause them also. Mother’s Day HURTS.

  10. Thank you for writing this blog Bonnie! This hit home for me. I appreciate you sharing your experience and I am encouraged by your words. God bless!

    • Thank you, Jordan! It means so much to encourage my heart to hear you feel God’s love and comfort. And inspires me to keep sharing from my heart of what has encouraged me. Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this weekend going into this weekend!

    • Thank you, Tina! Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this weekend going into this weekend!

  11. Bonnie,

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s a small population of us that has this struggle but that scab gets picked off every year. And I’ve had this ongoing struggle for over 20 years. I try so hard to honor my mom within my own boundaries and it’s rather difficult on Mother’s Day. And it’s sucks how difficult it is to find a simply stated card for this holiday. Just trying to pick out a card can take the wound even deeper because none of the cards out there are true for me and fresh new grief and loss washes over me yet again. And this year we do not have the money to send flowers so I have no idea what I’m going to do….

    • Something I’ve done in the past when the effusive, superlative poetry is more than I can handle, is to get an any-occasion greeting card that is blank on the inside and write “Happy Mother’s Day” and some of the other things that I *can* say truly in it. Sometimes you can get one where the picture on the front suits your Mom in some way (her favorite flower or a reference to an activity she enjoys or something); other times, eh, you find something that’s attractive and inoffensive and hopefully it’s good enough.

  12. Praying for peace and blessings for you, Bonnie, and all of us here who know this kind of pain. Thank you for sharing your story and offering tips for help. My mother was neglectful, and my stepmother was manipulative and emotionally abusive. I have forgiven them, and I still have relationships with them, but we keep our distance. I agree, it’s hard to pick out Mother’s Day cards when most of them tout how wonderful dear Mom is. I work hard to have better relationships with my children in the hope it will break the cycle.

  13. Everything you said is good and helpful. While my mom has been dead more than half my life now, I use your words to process relationships with my family. Learning to set boundaries and put distance between toxic relationships and me. Learning to forgive a lifetime of dysfunction and wounding. It’s taken me a long time to not feel a Christian and self-induced guilt for soul care.

    • Thank you, Bridget! It means so much to encourage my heart to hear it is helpful to you. And inspires me to keep sharing from my heart of what has encouraged me. Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this week going into this weekend!

  14. Thank you, Bonnie. I believe God will use your words to help those who have had less then nurturing relationships with their mothers and will be used for their healing from the pain it caused. Prayers for all these dear sisters.

  15. Thank you! I have silently struggled every year to get through Mother’s day…my children have always been a blessing for me on this day, but I always struggle with guilt for doing what I need to do to protect myself, shame that I cannot “love” my mother the way I thought I should and how to forgive without getting hurt more. You put all the pieces into place in a way that I can relate to and understand…thank you for direction and peace!

    • Thank you, Cindy! It means so much to encourage my heart to hear it was encouragement your heart needed. And inspires me to keep sharing from my heart of what has encouraged me. Hugs from your sister-in-Christ here in California to you, friend! May you feel God’s tender love for you this week going into this weekend!

  16. Thank you for your ministry and obedience to Jesus. I sense God’s Presence here with me in areas I thought was healed only to find deeper healing flow! I sense a new and higher plain awaits, He awaits for my response to give Him my all so He can pour into me His All, His Will, ….His Kingdom Come! Amen! Praise God Almighty, to whom ALL GLORY BELONGS! HALLELUJAH! THANK YOU JESUS!

  17. Mother’s day can be hard when I don’t have a relationship with my mom. But so can other times, like when everyone else seems to have a supportive mom. Excellent points. I think there are more of us in this position than we think.

    • Theresa being a mom is hard girls and mothers seem to have a lot of issues sons and mothers not so much . In my daughters eyes i can do nothing right .so i look at mum,s day in a painful way but from another view god wants us to love not look for fault as we are not perfect. Reach out to your mum she loves you and Jesus loves you too.

  18. Thank you Bonnie! I needed this after a very emotional week with my mom who has become increasingly toxic over the past 12 years. All praise to my Lord and Savior for His love and compassion.

  19. Hi Bonnie:
    Thank you for touching on a subject that our society (and even Christian circles) refuse to address. More often than not I thought I was the only one growing up who didn’t have a great emotionally connected relationship with her Mom. But I’m thankful to know that you are one of the Truth tellers and Brave ones who are willing to address the elephant in the room. Please keep writing. It encourages and helps so many! Have a blessed Mother’s Day for you touch others with the spiritual “mothering” that you have received from God!

  20. Bonnie, thank you so much for writing about a topic that deeply touches some of us. Your advice is excellent. I have struggled this year as I prepare to hit a milestone birthday and wonder how long the shadow of my childhood will follow me. I have long since forgiven, recognized that Jesus loves her just as he loves me, accepted her as she is. Still, I find the coping mechanisms I developed and perfected can still keep me from recognizing poor treatment. I still feel like I can’t identify love, because one who should have loved me could not and did not. It’s not realistic to deny my history, but I want a break from it. I want it to fade in the rear view mirror, diminish more over time, and it seems to refuse to do so.

  21. Bonnie,

    I have often wondered if toxic parents were children of same. That’s how they grew up so they continue the cycle. That doesn’t excuse the behavior, but just explains it better. Sad when parents & children don’t get along. It is sad the many Christians don’t discuss topics like this. They all seem to wear masks & pretend all is fine. Why? Others in the Christian community are here to help & pray for you, but you must let them in. It isn’t a sin to have toxic parents & It’s not your fault. Take off the masks, quit pretending & be real with your sisters in Christ. Great suggestions!! We must take soul care of ourselves so we can go out & care for others.

    Blessings 🙂

  22. I am so thankful that God cultivated in me a heart to understand. My mother was absent and silent. But God continually has spoken to me and has blessed me by giving me a daughter where I can be the mom to her that she needs. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

  23. Excellent! So well said. I wish I had read this years ago. For 62 years I was emotionally, psychologically, and as a child physically battered and banged up by a very toxic mother who enjoyed regularly telling me that she never wanted me. I spent my life trying so hard to please her, make her proud of me, make her love me. It never happened. In the two years since her passing, I am finally finding my voice. It’s OK to speak. I’m not stupid, I’m not a pawn to be ridiculed, I have something to say. I’m finally getting a bit of self-esteem, self-confidence. Even though I’ve been a believer for many years, in the more recent past I KNOW without a doubt that Jesus has been holding me in the palm of His hand. He has confirmed it again and again. The Holy Spirit has stirred these words within me: “You are my child. You are a daughter of the King. Cling to Me.” I am. I do.

  24. Thank you so much for writing this Bonnie. I needed to hear…read this. Mothers Day has always been painful, even more so lately. So encouraging to hear from other sisters in Christ who have endured the same painful struggle. How amazing is Jesus that he can renew our hearts through it all!

  25. Bonnie, I love your precious heart! Do you know what blessed me most? I was reading this because it was forwarded to me, not knowing who the author was, and resonating with the message of hope and healing as I read. Then I got to the end and you said, “Writing my book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace …” and I smiled! Then I knew it was you. I remember being on the launch team and walking the early days (with Faith Barista) and it coming into the world. I loved sharing it with friends, and now, seeing you continue in your journey of healing and leading others into wholeness. You are a sweet light. Thank you for your constant vulnerability and how you share your heart so others might find freedom in Jesus. ❤️

  26. Although I. in the UK and have already seen mothers day in April, this still gets right to my heart .I felt enormous guilt this year, as it’s the first year that I had to completely establish no contact with my mother . I come from a family of domestic violence and abuse and a mother who, like you is verbally hurtful. I’ve been going through therapy to try to ease the pain and I couldn’t bear to keep hearing the harsh words, it was like ripping off a plaster each time and laying bare a wound .I prayed a whole lot about forgiveness and I know that God is leading me on a path only he can lead me on. I just want to thank you Bonnie for your words which are always so God- given and comforting , honest too .