Saying Sorry Doesn’t Automatically Cancel the Damage


emotional abuse emotional healingLast week I published a guest Post by Pam about Self Abuse and how sometimes we “learn to be self abusive” by the ways we are treated as children. I enjoyed the conversations that went on in the comment discussions. I’m adding to another highlight to the conversation about self harm today.


Something that I was really confused about, both in the past and during my process of emotional healing was that I mistakenly thought if someone was truly sorry for their behaviour I believed it should cancel the DAMAGE done by their behaviour. I thought that I should be OVER it as soon as someone expressed regret for their behaviour.  I felt guilty and ashamed that I still felt the effects of the damage that was caused to me. I am not talking about an isolated one time minor incident such as my mother losing her temper and calling me a brat. I am talking about being devalued, criticised, discounted, picked on, neglected and or abused over time.


I am familiar with both sides of this coin. My mother never said she was sorry for any of the damage that she had a hand in over my lifetime.  A few times she said “I’m sorry but…” and the BUT always had excuses tagged on to it like “I’m sorry but I never wanted to be a single mother” or “I’m sorry but you were not the easiest person to be around.” Or I’m sorry but I had a really bad day…” well, you get the picture.   


When I finally drew my personal boundaries with my mother, she withdrew from my life. At first I was shocked but eventually I was able to see the whole picture of my life and dysfunctional toxic relationship with my mother, and I actually understand why she doesn’t want to have a relationship with me or even to try and work things out with me. It helped me immensely to finally understand that this is about my mother and NOT about me. Healing from the damage caused by my dysfunctional and toxic mother’s lack of interest in me had been up to me and has never depended on her apologizing.


My mother has never tried to make amends to me or in any way tried to restore our mother daughter relationship, so in healing from the damage caused to me in our dysfunctional and toxic mother daughter relationship I learned that I could heal without my mother making any amends. I don’t need the “other person” to “do” anything in order for me to recover.   


My husband on the other hand, did try to work things out and get things between us resolved. The damage caused by my husband discounting me was not gone just because he realized he was doing it and began the process of learning how to have an equality based relationship with me. He wished it were that easy, and I guess that I did too, but I still had to look at and define the damage that was done to me and heal from it. HE didn’t cancel the damage he caused just by saying he was sorry for all the years of putting himself and his need/wants/dreams ahead of mine. And the fact that I was still in pain from the damage he caused, and still had healing to do didn’t mean that I didn’t accept his apology.


Because he apologized and learned to have a real relationship with me, we are still married.

Personal Recovery and emotional healing is not about the relationship with the people who did the damage though. It has been so important for me to understand and to remember this truth. Emotional Recovery is about personal healing from the damage that was caused. Emotional Recovery does not depend on someone else’s decision or reaction to what I decide to do. They might be sorry and they might not EVER be sorry, but at the end of the day, it matters not.


It isn’t that I held a grudge, which is often what he accused me of, in his attempt to get me to just “get over it”. It was the wounds that went deep. Part of it was that I had been denying that there WERE wounds most of my life, and now I was taking an honest look at them.


It isn’t wrong to still be hurt and feel hurt for a while afterwards. The fact that I was hurt was the truth. His “I’m sorry” didn’t change that. After years of being discounted; it was important for me to understand that the change in my husband was only a very small part of solution towards healing our broken relationship.


The healing work still had to be done by me regardless of what my husband or my mother or anyone else does or doesn’t do.


Please share your thoughts, feelings and stories. This is a safe place. Please remember that you may use any name you wish in the comment form and that if you change your mind about using your real name, you may at any time change the comment form.


Exposing truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

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111 response to "Saying Sorry Doesn’t Automatically Cancel the Damage"

  1. By: Laura Posted: 3rd October

    I hope you understand how much your words mean to me, right now. My Mother will never say she is sorry.

    “I’m sorry you feel that way”

    “You were always a difficult child”

    “She’s very hard to live with ” (what She told my astonished husband)

    “You have a very vivid imagination”

    “That never happened ”

    ” I never said that ”

    “I always knew something was wrong with you”

    These quotes are emotional imprints. It is truly sad , because i used to believe them. Till one day I woke up from her abnormal behavior. I saw the damage in my own daughter.

    I want to know how to purge her brainwashing from my mind. Please help me.

  2. By: Lucy Posted: 2nd October

    Hi everyone,

    Darlene, thanks for posting this. I am just now realizing, over the last couple of years, the part that my mother played in my abuse. When I have talked to therapists about my mother, they’ve expressed that they were surprised that I had any relationship with her at all. One tried to get me to make our relationship ‘right’ because I said I sometimes wished I had the kind of relationship with my mother that was normal. I think first, I needed to accept that it was not normal. My mother and I both attended Al-Anon meetings over the last few years (not together) and at one point my mother tried to make amends with me. I chalked it up to the fact that I was going through the same program and I felt like she was doing it for herself and not because she was really sorry for what she had done. She asked what she could do to make it right – REALLY? I’m supposed to have an answer for that?! I chose to distance myself from her at that moment. I ‘detatched’ myself from her.

    A couple of years ago, my father was on his deathbed in my mother’s opinion, my brother and I were spending a lot of time with him. That was what she thought – in reality, we maybe saw him once a week for an hour or so, unless he was in the hospital which towards the end was pretty frequent. My mother called a family meeting which is just me and my brother since my parents have been divorced since I was four and my oldest brother passed away 17 years ago at the time. She had me and my brother convinced that she was going to tell us that she was dying of cancer. She started the conversation that a few months prior she had been to the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well and he ran a bunch of tests. When the test results came back, he (the doctor) said she should talk to her kids. Funny, in order to keep her from dragging it out, my brother blurted out “Well, what IS IT?!” That’s when she told us it was heartburn. She told us she was upset that we were spending so much time with our dad and not her. She chose this time to tell us that our dad used to beat his mother. She asked us for forgiveness for being such a terrible mother. My brother fell for it and went to her side. I stayed back and told her that while I couldn’t speak for my brother, I felt like we were doing the best we could with what we got dealt. Two weeks later my dad died.

    She still tries to give us the guilt trip for detaching from her. I haven’t exactly been straightforward to her about the act of detaching but I don’t feel guilty about it. I do, however, have a hard time with the fact that I haven’t been able to accept her apologies/amends. I just feel like they are for her well-being, not for mine – just as it always has been. I shared on another post about when I told her that her BF was abusing me, she told me that I should never come out of my room without being fully clothed and then proceeded to let him live with us for another year or so after. I just can’t get over that broken trust.

  3. By: Melanie Posted: 2nd October

    Hi everyone, I have struggled for years trying to live with anger from my childhood, which was very abusive. I have always blamed my mom because she said she was not strong enough to get herself out of the abusive marriage much less us..I went on to date abusive men and the ones who were not abusive did not interest me. I finally found a man that treated me like a princess and loved me, we married in 2002. The night we came home from our honeymoon was the first time I had ever seen him get angry, he called me a a B****h and threw a suitcase at me almost knocking me down a flight of stairs. I was not sure what to do or why he was acting like this, later his family started talking of his bad temper. The marriage just kept get worse, he was controlling, manipulative, selfish and cruel. We had two beautiful babies but by December of 2009 I was done. We divorced in March 2010 and he still was abusive to me and my kids…June 2011 my daughter, who was 6 at the time, told me daddy was molesting her. I have never felt such betrayal and anger in my life..I turned him in to the police and he confessed. The day the warrant was issued they found him hanging in his garage..complete selfish to the end. We are all in counseling, and in church..God is the only one who got me through this ordeal.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd October

      Hi Melanie
      I am so glad to hear that you got out! I am so sorry for you and your kids but so happy to hear that you are taking care of them now. I think that it is huge when a parent validates a child by doing something about the abuse (turning him in) and then getting them help when they have been abused. It is rare that a parent will take action!
      Glad you are here.
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Jane Posted: 1st October

    Hi Darlene,my mother never apologized for any of the horrible things she did to me. She would say things like if I had to do it all over again I would not have had you,I would have married the man I dated before your father he was rich and died from cancer so I would have had his money and would have been free to do what I wanted.I had a nervous way of moving my leg when I sat down, my one leg would cross over the other and I would swing it up and down fairly fast but I only did this when I was at home, my mother would always yell at me and say “what are you digging my grave,then I would hurry up and stop what I was doing and more than once I would just go to my room.She was sorry she had me that was her apology to me. When I moved out I still thought it was my duty to keep in contact with her even though she made my visits with her unbearable. Then the day came when I stopped calling her and I stopped going to her house it didn’t faze her at first but she did finally call me and said I’m sorry if I ever offended you it was such a generic apology because she didn’t even remember what it was she did, she never told me it was because I abused you and treated you like shit your whole life, I let your brothers molest you and rape you when you were little and that your older brother got caught by your father and was sent away to the army and that I blamed you for his being sent away because I molested and raped you myself along with your brothers. Then I threatened you to secrecy that if you ever told a single person I would kill you. I could never figure out why I hated her so much while I was growing up, why I was deathly afraid of her and my brothers. Until the day I remembered what finally happened to me, till it all made sense why I didn’t speak,only enough to get by. No teacher back then ever ask me what was wrong with me until 8th grade my math teacher who was a nun told my mother I was failing math,she told my mother that she could see I had problems, psychological problems. My mother ignored her she said the nun was crazy. That same year another teacher asked my mother if I was an only child because I rarely spoke in class. So the apology of I am sorry if I offended you in any way cut me to the bone. I can not begin to tell you of the life that was taken away from me at the hands of my mother.It’s my turn to say that I am sorry to that little girl that everyone abused and that everyone abandoned. Hugs Jane (Believe it or not I am not crying as I type these words.)

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st October

      Wow Jane
      What a horrific childhood you had. What happened to you was brutal and there are no words to even express how much I felt reading the comments you wrote and how much I relate to the pathetic excuse for an apology and how much it cut you. Thank you for sharing this here. I smiled a victory smile for you and with you when I read the part of how you are sorry to that little girl everyone abused and abandoned. YES!
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Miralee/Miralina Posted: 1st October

    Oh I will also add, not only was I thinking “she/he is the therapist”, (and that was something superhuman to me at that time, i really did think they must be close to perfect beings.) I was also thinking “I’m the sick /flawed one”, so surely if something went wrong I had at least a part in it….But this is how I was raised. I was raised to see at least a little bit of fault in myself for everything, by my family. Because that way they weren’t solely responsible of course. So people could treat me badly all over the place, without me having access to my anger. I don’t think that way anymore, although I do have to battle old thinking patterns sometimes. Now I think, if I pay for food at a restaurant, I don’t care about how the chef’s wife is doing. It’s not my responsibility. I should be served food that doesn’t make me sick at the very least. I have a right to be angry if I don’t get the value that I paid for. If I pay to have my car fixed, I have a right to be angry if they return the car without having fixed it, or if they’ve even broken it some more. Thatmay seem obvious to (healthy) people but I actually did not allow myself to get angry over basically anything! Anger was not allowed. Not anymore though.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st October

      LOVE the points you made esp in your second comment. I was raised to believe that I was the flawed one and my whole life was directed by that belief ~ that is why I talk about the belief system more than anything else in this site. Understnading mine is what enabled me to change it back to the truth and set me free.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Miralee/Miralina Posted: 1st October

    Joy, I’m so sorry what happened between you and your therapist. In the past I have had not very fruitful meetings with therapists, and I would search myself and blame myself, because surely there was nothing wrong with them. After all they were the therapists, they had the phd’s and so on. Now I have a much different approach – if I feel weakened or diminished from the encounter, if I don’t feel strengthened, I conclude the therapist has done a bad job. I’m the customer, paying for a service. And my feelings know if I’m getting what I pay for or not. So what you feel, is all that matters. You’re the customer. She didn’t pay you to care about her feelings, right? She can get her own money and pay for her own therapist for that, or she has her family and friends. At no point, what so ever, should you feel responsible for her feelings or have to try to understand her. This is not an equal give and take relationship when it comes to feelings. You give her money, she is supposed to be there for you and aid in your healing. Just as when you receive bad service at a restaurant, you don’t expect to have to care about wether the chef has had a bad day. I hope this helps you and empowers you in your future dealings with therapists. Good therapists will agree with this and clearly tell you not to worry about their feelings. They will also encourage you to test them out the first couple of sessions and see if you can trust this to be true. All the best to you, and trust your feelings. There are bad therapists out there, just as there are bad car mechanics, but there are ways to find out the difference.

  7. By: Joan H Posted: 3rd February

    My mother says I don’t remember, I never did that!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd February

      Hi Joan
      My mother says stuff like that too… She also reminded me for years that I did not remember things correctly and would use examples from her own siblings to “prove it” ~ that they remembered things differently. She was always trying to make me doubt myself.
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: joy Posted: 3rd October

    Its ok. I love Fi’s writings too .. all are good writers here am sure.


  9. By: Karen B Posted: 3rd October

    Sorry, it was actually Fi’s blog…

  10. By: joy Posted: 3rd October


    THank you so much for reaching out to me. It means so very much to me. I did see a few posts by our dear Pam and love her writing.I am heaing over there right now to see the link; thank you so so much..



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