Aftenposten – 13th July 2018
To be a walking dead for your own mother
Religious breaks can cut family ties. How can a mother cut off her child?
Recently, the greatest gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses was held in Oslo. 60,000 people were in during one weekend.
I work in Hjelpekilden, a voluntary organization that provides help and support for people in problematic religious violations. We have no agenda for faith or beliefs, but work with help on topics such as social control, children’s rights and mental health.
Jehovah’s witnesses are known to have a policy of breaking with family members who are no longer members of the sentence. But this text is not an attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s about losing contact with mom when you choose to break with a religious community.
At one of Hjelpekilden’s summer talks I was sitting talking to one of our volunteers, and we found out that we both had vacations in the same place on the sunny coast of Spain. My mother owns an apartment there, and I told a little bit about how nice it was to live with her and how important it was to have a mom when life was shaking. I talked and talked, and the woman nodded and smiled, but said nothing. Before she said this: “It must be nice to have such a mother.”
Something broke inside me. I had not thought how bad this with family is to many of our members. I have not even grown up in a community of faith, like our volunteers and our users, so I never felt on the body to lose family members or other close people in the same way.
She I talked to was a new mom. After she had chosen to break with the church, the close relationship she and her mother had lost. They had occasionally contact, she had seen her grandson, but her mother’s grief over her daughter’s choices made a distance in the conversation and relationship. The daughter felt sorry for not having a mom in her life as she could share adversity, especially now that she had become a mother.
Losing one who still lives
I looked around at the other participants who spoke lively together, this little but cozy Friday evening in the Frogner Park. I know most, and it struck me that almost everyone had the same difficult relationship with his mother.
“Knut” said that the mother said, “If you leave the church, you will never see me again.” “Katrine” told her she had just lost contact with her parents. “It’s a bit like being orphaned, even if they live and I’m after all forty years old.” “Marits” mother had found out that she was active as a volunteer in the Help Source, which had endured the fragile relationship they had. And “Ingunn” had told that all the conversations with her mother were really badly hidden preaching, a mother’s desperate hope of bringing her daughter back to the church.
Everyone had lost someone. But there is something special about losing a mother who still lives.
Not just children who need parents
Because a mother is not only important until you’re grown up. A mom can give you good advice when you are really badly bad to manage your own finances after moving home for the first time. When you make bad choices in love, she does not judge, but stands patiently at your side. A mother’s phone can be all that’s needed to get the right perspective on things when everything in life is chaos. Once you have received a ball mark on the exam, have entered the school you have applied for or received a new job, you will first call and tell it to mom. When she is happy on your behalf, her words are as good as the time you came home from school with a dubious sledding project. A mother has life experience and wisdom in the buckets and buckles, but does not push it on you to guide you in the desired direction. She lets you go the little paths you’ve found are right for yourself, and are as patient and supportive as when you were a teenager, thinking that self-assembled harem pants or punched jeans were the thing.
When a mom stops being mom
A mom is priceless when you are expecting children for the first time because you have so many questions you are so scared and insecure, and your mom knows exactly how you are. A mother is the one you encourage you to tell that marriage is not going well and that you know you do not keep it anymore. She helps you with the practical challenges you have and does not hesitate for a second when you say you need help to take your driver’s license, now that you are alone with your children. A mom is worried about you when you’re sick, she’s calling and checking how it goes, even if you’re over forty. She will call the next day to hear if you have done what you were told, come to the doctor and get the medicine you need. And rejoice if you have not done what she has said! A mom is worried about the fridge when she is visiting, and fills it up if you have some bad advice. Even if you are an adult and really should do it yourself.
For a mom will never stop being your mother, even if you have made bad choices. Therefore, it is so incomprehensible and basically sad that some mothers stop being mom – when you no longer want to share her faith.
How can a mother cut off her child?
You have not really made a bad choice but a good choice for yourself. But for her you have made the wrong choice. Perhaps the church’s counsel says that by breaking all contact, one can succeed in bringing the children back to the church again, so maybe that’s what she hopes will happen by turning your back? Perhaps she believes you will die when the end time is coming soon, and therefore chose to make the pain less by caring already now? Perhaps the congregation speaks of losing its fleshly family, but will have a spiritual family instead, through members of the church? Perhaps that’s exactly how it’s connected, just what makes her living with her choice?
“Renate” has a nice reflection that I want to include in the end: “I choose to think it’s a bit too bad for the moms too. Those who think they are doing right and do not understand what they miss. That in itself is also sad. And for me a way to cope with the grief. That they choose to live their whole life without their kids, hoping for a new life later. It’s infinitely sad. And of course: I could have done a lot to have mom again. But I will never go back in. “
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