A Letter to My Daughter — From Your Trauma-Recovering Momma.

Today my RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD guest is Dawn Daum.

Dawn is the co-editor of Trigger Points an anthology written by parents who are survivors of child abuse. Trying to navigate the trials of parenthood is hard enough without the added challenge of traumatic triggers.

You can order Trigger Points HERE.


I worry that at times you are feeling the brunt of my childhood trauma, because you have now become my teacher; your love and existence my lessons. Is that normal for every parent? I don’t know, and that in itself is part of what is most terrifying to me about being your mom. I know nothing about normalcy. I just want to give you a “normal” childhood; one where opportunities to express your potential is plentiful, except I’m not sure what that looks like. I’m winging it, baby.

Just as you are learning norms, so am I. When I see the wheels in your head spinning, racing to make sense of a moment; that is often how I feel when it comes to being a “good” mom. I can’t ask myself “What would my mother/father do or say” because my mom or dad weren’t around. The people that raised me in their absence offered only lessons on what I shouldn’t do; I have the scars to prove it.

I worry that my presence and behaviors blindly feed you confusion. How can your mother be so tender at times and yet so distant and cold other times. Why is she ok with snuggling one minute and then the next time you wrap your arms around her, she refuses you and walks away? Your requests for me to just sit with you can be the most challenging moments for me. To sit still and simply embrace unconditional love requires me to be vulnerable. I’m just now learning how to do that.

There’s a reason for all that, baby. I know you sense the jagged pieces that still exist in me. You pick up on the vibes of pain and uneasiness that radiate through me from time to time. I know you sometimes wonder if you cause those waves. You don’t; neither does your brother, or father or anyone else in our present lives. Mommy carries cracks and bruises on her heart as birth marks. These are the result of other people’s decisions, before I was even born.

Domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism, untreated mental illness, abandonment…that is the foundation for which I experienced childhood. I’m doing the best I can to reverse the ripple effects my own experiences sometimes have in parenting your beautiful, innocent soul. Some days are better than others.

In any given moment, I have to make a decision that you will learn from. I have to pull from a very dry well of parental guidance. I have to fight the urge to react to my initial responses to you, more often than i would like to admit.

I know sometimes I scare you. I see it in your eyes. I come at you in an aggressive manner when I am fed up with my job description. You talk back or don’t do as you’re told and my first reaction is to make you. Impulsively, I want to yell and scream and spank. But the dimming of the light in your eyes when I resort to control in the absence of love; that’s what stops me. It teaches me and reconnects me to a determination to be the change I want to see for you; to end the dysfunction that has leaked into generations before you.

For every lie I unlearn, I learn something new. ~Ani DiFranco

Our relationship will always be challenging. I’ve known that since you were a year old. Our fierce yet delicate personalities clash. But there is a beautiful rhythm between us. We get each other on an unspoken level that lends itself to trust and love. That in itself is a parenting win for me.

Our relationship may be complicated by the natural balance that is the mother/daughter relationship, but even more so because while I am raising you, I’m re-raising myself. But I won’t ask you to go easy on me. It wouldn’t matter if I did anyway. Your nature is gentle, but not docile. For that, your Momma is very proud. You are inheriting my good parts more than my faults. I see it in your unrefined demand to be heard and seen. I understand that to be grace. You didn’t have to survive, you were born a survivor, baby.


Dawn is a thirty-something wife, Momma to two, mental health care manager, survivor and student of life. She blogs at W.T.F. words thoughts feelings, and is co-editor of Trigger Points: Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting. Her work has been featured on Huff Post Parents, The Indie Chicks, Elephant Journal and Scary Mommy. Dawn can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Trigger Points Info:
Parenting when you experienced childhood abuse often feels like walking back in to a war zone as a soldier with PTSD. There are flashbacks and triggers everywhere, and most parents are completely blindsided by them because no one tells us that this can happen.
Our mission in creating the Trigger Points online community and anthology:
  1. To let survivor parents know that they are not alone, and that what they are experiencing is a perfectly normal reaction for those with a history of childhood trauma.
  2. To educate health care and social service providers who work with parents about common triggers that arise for survivor parents.
  3. To help partners and families of abuse survivors understand what we are going through.


Submit your story for RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD by emailing Hastywords@gmail.com

24 thoughts on “A Letter to My Daughter — From Your Trauma-Recovering Momma.

  1. Thank you so much for this. Truly! Not everyone is able to show and offer the kind of support you have because this is such a sensitive topic. But it’s so very necessary, and you get that. And that is so appreciated. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Honest.
    I KNOW your daughter will appreciate this vulnerability you show here, because Im sure you have your “solid mom” mask on. We all do.
    I can relate. Being a single Mom for so many years, I formed a different type of bond with my daughter. We’re going through stuff right now (she is 14) and I’m learning every day as well. Just like her. Just like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It terrifies me and eases my mind at the same time to think about my daughter (now 6yo) reading this, and the other essays I’ve written on the topic. Yes, I do wear my “solid mom” mask 95% of the time. But she has also seen me fall apart on occasion. I used to feel guilty about that but I’m learning that it is healthy in ways, for her to see me as human…and also as a human that is working to overcome. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Jain.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Dawn, I relate to every single word of this post. “Domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism, untreated mental illness, abandonment…that is the foundation for which I experienced childhood.” Most days, I have no idea if I’m like other parents because I have no sense of “normal”. Some days, I just do the opposite of what I was shown and hope it’s a good enough place to start. Much love to you Dawn!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I completely understand “doing the opposite.” It’s kind of my parenting mantra. lol I don’t think we even realize the strengths we possess because we are not “normal”. …it’s hard to appreciate those strengths because of where they came from. But regardless, our children benefit from what we know. Much love to you, Karen!!

      Liked by 3 people

    • The only way I knew how to be a mother was to do the opposite of what was done with/to me.
      It seems to have been good enough. My daughter is a stellar human being.
      We do the best we can with the tools we have.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Our relationship may be complicated by the natural balance that is the mother/daughter relationship, but even more so because while I am raising you, I’m re-raising myself. But I won’t ask you to go easy on me.”

    I get this and all of what you wrote in every single cell of my body. It’s Beautiful. Raw. Brave. Powerful. Brimming with love and determination. I love this post, Dawn, and I’m always so happy to hear your voice. Thanks for this. It’s fabulous. As are you! XO

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was a tough one for me to write. I think every parent worries about others judging you, but this one heightened that fear because it is so personal and so raw. Plus, I always think about my daughter reading what I write when she gets older and worry about what she will think. I try very hard to not let that get in the way of being honest. I’m not doing anyone any favors if I sugar coat things, so I tried very hard with this piece to be as authentic as I could. I’m so glad (not really glad but you know what I mean) to hear you say you can relate to it. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have no doubt that you’re doing a wonderful job with her. All of us make mistakes, and that’s okay so long as we learn from them.

    As for a “normal” childhood, I don’t think there is such a thing. Each person, each family is unique. That your daughter is well-taken-care-of and loved are the two most important things you can do for her, and it sounds like you’re doing fabulously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Scott. We are all just kind of winging it, I get that. And as far as “normal”. Normal to me is a life without trauma, not a perfect life. I fortunately do see signs that I am doing things right, even though I don’t always feel that way. Last night I went to my daughter’s parent-teacher conference and was told that not only is she above average academically, she is also a role model for her class-mates. Momma’s heart was swooning!


  7. It is sad how much I can relate to this. My daughter is 20 now and somehow I did something right but damn…being a mother without ever actually having one…especially to a daughter is so frightening.
    All I knew was to not do what my mother did.
    Your daughter will be so grateful to you for your strength and how strong it will make her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re exactly right. Mothering (especially a daughter) when you yourself are motherless (my mother was not around to raise me and she passed away when I was 15) feels next to impossible. I just thank God, the universe, whatever you want to call him/it for the strong women that were put in my life a certain times. I have pulled lessons from everyone of them…and continue to do so. xoxo


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  10. Would you be willing to share any resources that helped you along the way? books, video, etc.? This has spoken volumes to me and I feel quite behind being a middle aged single mother trying to heal and become a better parent through so much disfunction.


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