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Cutting out your Toxic Parent

I get hundreds of emails a month from people who have read my books and want to share their personal story about their abusive past.  I love that they trust me with their life story and that they feel comfortable enough with me to share such dark secrets; sometimes their email to me is the first time they ever told someone about their abuse.  It’s an honor.  But there seems to be an overwhelming theme with most of my readers and fans; they are unable to cut their toxic parent or abuser out of their lives and end up continuing their childhood abuse into adulthood.

I remember starting my first job and having my first lunch with the ladies in my Accounts Payable department.  They were asking the typical questions about my life; where am I from, am I single, and of course, someone asked about my Mom and Dad.  I bristled when the question about my parents came up, “I haven’t talked to my Mom in over three years” I stated rather matter-of-factly.

I wish I had a camera to capture the looks on the faces of the ladies in my department.  You would have thought I had three heads and purple hair the way they were looking at me.   The thought of not talking to your own mother and just going years without speaking to her was an absurd concept to all of them.  How could a daughter do that?

Because I had to.  Because I decided that I didn’t want to be abused by my narcissistic mother anymore.  I spent sixteen years under her reign of terror – her mental abuse, her physical abuse, her affairs.  Saying goodbye forever was the only way I could end her abuse on me as an adult.  How was I ever going to grow and learn who I was if my abusive, narcissistic mother was still in the background, trying to pull my strings and control my every move?  How could I still allow a woman into my adult life that hurt me so badly when I was a child?  And how could I ever allow her around my children, after knowing the pain she put me through.  It wasn’t like I was ever going to leave my boys at Grandma’s for the weekend.

Was it easy?  Gosh no.  It still is extremely hard not having a mother.  I wish I had someone to call for a recipe or someone to text in the middle of the night when one of my boys are sick and I need some motherly advice.  I had no mother there on my wedding day, no mother there when I graduated college, no mother there helping me when I gave birth to my sons, and no mother there when I went through my divorce.  And then there is guilt – the guilt of a child who still feels like they did something bad and want to win their mother’s love back.

It’s not a cold act or a heartless act to cut an abusive parent out of your life; in fact it’s just what you may need to save your own life.  The guilt is understandable; the guilt is why many of us don’t share our abuse stories with anyone.  There is still this feeling of loyalty towards your parent; regardless of what they have done.  And this is where I found the majority of my problems lay – I felt some sick loyalty towards Mom and thought that I could put up with her as an adult.

You can’t deal with an abusive parent like mine as an adult because the abuse never stops.  They may not physically abuse you, but there is always drama, always a guilt trip, always reminders of the past.  I hated seeing her face – because all I could remember every time I looked at her was the pain she put me through and how that face sneered at me night after night during her beatings.  The drama doesn’t stop when we turn eighteen – it’s just a new sort of drama and if you aren’t careful, this drama will seep over and affect you, your spouse, your children and everyone around you.  You find yourself reverting back to a child; doing everything you can to please this abuser and neglecting your life and your future.  It isn’t worth it.

Completely cutting an abusive parent out of your life isn’t for everyone – but I would suggest it for some.  I’ve gotten emails from fans that are living in hell as 40 and 50 year old adults because they have been unable to cut ties with their abuser and their abuser is still controlling their life.  It’s not worth it – it’s your life and your future.  Just because someone gave birth to you doesn’t make them a parent.  It makes them an incubator – their actions are what allow them to be called parents.

I’ve found leaning on my friends, my cousins, my neighbors, college professors and co-workers provides me with the support I need.  I have a mentor who I consider a Mom figure and who I go to when I desperately need some motherly attention.  Find a mentor, lean on your community, join a support group – but if you are still being abused by your parent, for goodness sake, please cut them least for a little while.  You will be amazed at how much easier and peaceful your life is.  And for those who can’t or won’t cut their toxic parent out of their life – set boundaries and stand up for yourself.  You are not a child anymore and it’s your future now – not theirs.

Cutting out your Toxic Parent

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2015). Cutting out your Toxic Parent. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 25 Jun 2015
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