It's My Fault My Mother Is Homeless: Healing the Parts of Yourself That Are Frozen in Time
My mother, circa 1967
When my mother first became homeless I was 11 years old. From age 8 until I was 21, I didn't know where she was. Exceptions to this defining reality of my childhood were every couple of years when she would resurface by phone for a few days before disappearing again, and 9 months she spent in a homeless shelter when I was a senior in high school.
My uncle had her listed with the Bureau of Missing Persons, but to no avail. She was gone, and there was no finding her.
During those phone conversations (I didn’t see her between the ages of 11 and 17), I would find out that she had been living on the streets for most of the time since she had last contacted me. When she wasn’t living on the streets, she was in jail, a psychiatric hospital, or a halfway house.
That was the progression. She would go from the streets to jail to a court-ordered hospital to a halfway house, and then the cycle would repeat itself.
One day when I was well into my 40s, I discovered this belief buried deep inside me: It’s my fault my mother is homeless.
I discovered this belief a moment after I discovered the belief that I’ll never have enough money, and that I’ll never have enough money because I don’t deserve to have enough money, and that I don’t deserve to have enough money because it’s my fault that my mother is homeless. Bam. There it was.
It startled me as I strode down the street in the shining sun, suddenly
brought to the surface of my awareness by a line in the podcast I was listening to on my daily walk. I literally stopped in my tracks.
Now that it was staring me in the face, I realized that I had been semi-conscious of it for years, having skirted the edges of it in numerous EFT sessions spent tapping away layers of grief and guilt about my mother’s tragic life, tapping away the pain of her absence from my life.
Notice that the belief showed up in the present tense. At the time, my mother had been dead for 12 years, and in the last 12 years of her life, she was never homeless again. However, the part of me that believed that my mother's plight was my fault was frozen in time. She was an eternal adolescent, devastated by the fact that her mother has been living on the streets without a bed to sleep in, without a roof over her head.
I was 13 when my mother first told me, in an unexpected and much longed for phone call, that she had been living and sleeping on the streets of Spokane, Washington, 900 miles from my home in California. A 13-year-old who lived in a big beautiful house in an upper middle class neighborhood, and who always had enough to eat.
I remember thinking when I was in high school, “My dad is a judge who lives in a nice house in a nice part of town, and my mom is a bag lady.” I couldn’t reconcile those two things inside of me, nor could I forgive myself for the comfort I took for granted while my mother slept on park benches in winter.
That teenage girl who was locked in time for all those years was the one who needed healing. She was the one who needed to be set free. And she was the one who believed that she would never have enough money for the rest of her life, as punishment for not rescuing her mother.
So even though the $3.85 an hour I made working 10 hours a week at my after school job wouldn't have gotten her off of the streets, the belief I found inside me is that I should have sent that money to her.
And even though I wouldn’t have known where to send the money, or even how to find her, deep inside me was also the belief that I still somehow should have saved her from the miserable reality of being homeless.
And even though the actual cause of her homelessness wasn't her poverty, but rather her mental illness, which rendered her unable to function well enough to cash her disability checks from the government and maintain an apartment--that very young part of me still believed that I should have figured out a way to rescue her.
The part of me that believed that my mother's plight was my fault was frozen in time. She was an eternal adolescent devastated by the fact that her mother has been living on the streets without a bed to sleep in, without a roof over her head.
This is a perfect example of why I often tell my clients and students that it doesn’t matter what the facts are, it doesn’t matter if a belief or fear or memory doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with it. All that matters is that it’s your emotional truth.
Your emotional truth will always win the day, for better or worse, and usually worse. That's why if you don't want a particular emotional truth to run your life anymore, you must heal it.
So now my task was to tap this out. I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was afraid to do it. I was afraid to do it because I knew it was going to hurt, and it was going to hurt like hell.
But what I also knew was that it was going to change my life. It was going to change my financial life, and it was going to change every other aspect of my life. That’s because it would increase my self-worth, and also my confidence. It would allow me to forgive myself for not doing the thing that I could never have done no matter how hard I tried.
And it would also allow me to forgive myself for the financial struggles which had plagued me throughout most of my adult life, and which, in turn, plagued my daughter, who grew up poor and suffered because of it.
Had she still been alive, I knew that my mother, the deeply wise and loving part of her that was often hard to find under the upsetting behaviors caused by paranoid schizophrenia, would be really sad to know that I had blamed myself for much of the suffering she endured in her life. And I knew that she would also be sad to know that I had unconsciously punished myself for it by struggling financially throughout most of my adult life.
As I endeavored to tap myself free from this belief and the grief and trauma from which it sprang, I imagined her as my guardian angel, cheering me on toward the liberation of deep healing, and toward all of the fruits that my newfound wholeness would bear.
Did it hurt? Yes. But not as much as I thought it would. There were tears, and there was the fear of not knowing who I would be without the pain and false beliefs that had become parts of my identity, but in the end, it took less than an hour, and then I was free. Free to step into a more empowered, more confident version of myself. Free to realize more of my full potential, including my earning power. And free to love my mom even more than before, because thinking of her was less painful than it used to be, so I no longer turned away from her in my mind.
So what are you afraid to tap out and heal? What is buried inside of you that hurts so much that you can’t even look at it? Whatever it is, I encourage you to find the resources, inner and outer, to help you do it, to make it happen.
Whether that means hiring an EFT practitioner to help you, or scheduling an appointment with the EFT practitioner that you already have, or giving yourself a tapping session, do it. You deserve it. You deserve the peace that it will give you. You deserve the prosperity that it could make possible for you. And you deserve the self-love that it will generate. Get after it. I'll be cheering you on.
When doing EFT/tapping on your own, if you get stuck, aren't getting the results you want, or would simply like to have the support and guidance of an experienced professional, I recommend working with an EFT practitioner.
If you decide that this is the best course of action for you, and you would like to work with me, you can schedule a session or free consultation here. If you feel that another EFT practitioner would be a better fit for you, click here to access a directory of practitioners.
BY HEATHER AMBLER
Heather Ambler is a San Francisco Bay Area EFT expert and success coach. Through her private practice and online programs, she has helped over 10,000 people from 75 countries to recover from loss, heal trauma, release fears, increase their confidence, and achieve their goals.