For Emily Lewis Bowers, betrayal, emotional abuse, manipulation and even fear prevailed in her early years and her mother was the source. When love is scarce and tension is high, how do you learn about love and ways to share it? When you’re a cog in a cycle of generational trauma, how do you disrupt harmful patterns and build your own?
How do you become a healthy mom when you never had one? In Mother Trauma, Emily shares her story to reveal the truth about emotional abuse and its lifelong impact on survivors. She reveals the steps that she’s taking to heal old wounds, learn self-love and grow into the mother that she wanted and that she needed as a child.
You can learn from trauma rather than living it but you need hope, healing and compassion from others and yourself. Learn how to release toxic relationships, reach out for support and know, above all, that you are never alone. Here’s my conversation with Emily Lewis Bowers.
Welcome to The Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Benji Block and I’m honored to be joined today by Emily Lewis Bowers who has just come out with a new book titled, Mother Trauma: Running from, Fighting with, and Refusing to Repeat the Deepest Betrayal. Emily, we have a lot to talk about, welcome into Author Hour.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Benji, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Benji Block: So congratulations first off on completing a book, that is a big undertaking.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Thank you, yes. It was definitely a little more challenging than I had thought it would be.
Benji Block: What was the most difficult part in this writing process for you, Emily, in getting this thing actually across the finish line?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Really, I would say, the most difficult part was getting through the emotions that I had to kind of deal with and dredge up when writing about my past and having to rethink about the memories and just kind of processing the emotions that I felt again in my adult years that I had felt as a child. I would say that was probably the biggest hurdle to get over.
Benji Block: Okay so, before we rewind and we talk about some of the content like, just give me a snapshot of your life today, Emily. What are you up to, what does your life look like?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Sure, yeah. I am a stay-at-home mom of three beautiful children, two, four and six years old, so we are busy-busy-busy.
Benji Block: Yeah, hands full.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Yes, our oldest is just finishing up his first year of kindergarten, so we’re learning what it’s like to be school-aged parents. We live in Sunny Florida and we have a beautiful dog and we’re just busy, activities all the time with the kids and swimming… And yeah, that’s our life.
Telling My Story
Benji Block: So you bring up the word “busy” and I can imagine that with three kids and then I go, “And Emily decided to write a book in this season of her life.” So, what made this like, “I need to do this now”? Is it seeing your kids and then reflecting on you being a kid or, what brings this to the surface to go, “I got to write a book”?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Actually, it literally just came to my mind, January of 2021. I had a small, what some people might call, Facebook altercation with someone in my extended family who in the short version basically said, they knew my story better than I did and that really kind of just left a little mark in my brain and my heart where I just thought, I can’t get over that. No one knows my story better than I do.
So I really just had this insane desire that I had to tell my story and of course, having children kind of did bring up the things I went through but having my children and growing into the mother that I am still continuing to grow into, I thought it was complete until this little altercation via Facebook, just really brought it to my heart where I just knew I had to tell my story.
Benji Block: Okay, so you have this altercation on Facebook basically, someone going, “Hey, what? Your mom was a better mom than you think she is?” is it, “you’re remembering wrong”? What’s the back and forth there?
Emily Lewis Bowers: All of that, you’re right. It started with the comment on an old photo of me and my mom — not my biological mom but the woman who I call Mom and who is grandma to my children — and it started with a small comment on the photo and it turned into private message that this woman told me that, exactly what you just said, that I am not remembering it correctly and that my biological mom was just an amazing mother and that she saw my mom around us and she knows what kind of mother she was to me and that I was wrong.
Benji Block: That gets the ball rolling, clearly, that doesn’t end up sustaining a whole book. I think a right push for you, right where you’re like, “Okay, wait, I need to write down my story because this needs to get out there,” but then as you’re actually writing it, you got to be going, “Okay, who am I writing this for? Like, I’m writing this for me so that I have this account, I’m writing this so there’s like the story is told” but who are you imagining picking this up and going, this is who I want to read this book?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Well, I kind of went through a bunch of phases as far as who I wanted to read my book and who I imagined picking it up and getting something out of it and it started as a, “I have to tell the world my story” and then it turned into, “I need my children to know why I am the way I am” and you know, how I became me.
Then, it also turned into this need to help other women and people who have possibly been through the same thing that I have been through, you know? The trauma and the emotional abuse and the manipulation from a parent and I realized that I’m not the only one with this story and that I’m not alone in this and no one should feel that they’re alone in it.
So, that’s kind of who I really hope to reach out to and I hope that, if I could just help one person know that they’re not alone, then, it’s all worth it to me.
Benji Block: I definitely think you’ve done that with this book and we know, right? There’s so many homes where we’re dealing with — I mean, every kid to some extent has some trauma from their childhood but we’re talking in this case, like, there’s a lot that you’ve had to process and so we’ll dive into some of this here and I know it will resonate with many of our listeners.
You kind of make a distinction and I want to make sure we make this distinction; so there is Jenny, your biological mom and then Jill who you referenced earlier who has become like the surrogate grandma to your three young kids. Let’s talk about your biological mom. What are some of those earliest memories you have, is there a story maybe that comes to mind that really sums up some of your experience with her, Emily?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Oh my, one story.
Benji Block: Well, one story to start the conversation, is there one that really comes to mind?
Emily Lewis Bowers: One story that really sticks out to me is when Jenny — you know, I feel like I was so little at this time and I always picture my own children and myself being their age, just her telling me to run away and never come back. And it wasn’t in like a playful way and it was in a real serious way and I still feel it, you know? Just thinking about having the person I love and trust the most, you know, your own mother, tell me to go away and never come back.
Benji Block: Wow, how old are you at that point?
Emily Lewis Bowers: I was about four and then you know, that would happen regularly though, unfortunately.
Benji Block: Because it was a lot of anger too, right? So, that’s a pattern that readers will pick up on is just extreme anger and a lot of yelling and actually, we’ll talk about maybe generational things here in a second but that was kind of passed down to her too.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Yes, yeah, there was — the house was filled with yelling, just daily. I feel like the general tone of the house was just the octave was high on a regular basis on a daily basis and I would wake up in the morning and kind of — I felt like I tiptoed around the house just waiting to see what the mood was. Even as toddler, as a young child, I learned to read the room so I knew if I could speak or I knew if I could express my own emotions like just a regular, I spilled my cup of milk on the floor and it upset me but sometimes, I couldn’t be upset because I would get yelled at, just simply for having an emotion.
Benji Block: Yeah, it’s causing you to shrink back significantly.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Absolutely. I felt a tiny little mouse, always having to hide in a corner and look out around me and see, is it safe to cross the room yet?
Benji Block: Okay, so a big part of this, I mean, you’re giving us a memory from when you’re four years old. If I’m being honest, I don’t know that I have a memory from when I’m four, Emily, and so, to have that deep of a core memory, talk about trauma, right? Because and it still brings up that emotion which is very understandable.
Fast-forward a little bit in your story for me. She ends up leaving and you think she’s going to be gone for two weeks and that’s not what happens. I think the context here is pretty remarkable, but what is the lead-up to that and how old are you at that point?
Emily Lewis Bowers: I was about 12 and I remember the lead-up. You know, it’s hard to tell time, it’s a little warped from my brain for me right now but I remember my parents at that point arguing a lot more and having more issues that we could see. My parents growing up, they were always really good about keeping their private maters private. They didn’t argue in front of us, they didn’t yell in front of us. I do think that was my father’s doing, he didn’t like to argue, he didn’t like to bring the adult issues to the children.
I do remember hearing them argue a lot more and it seemed kind of strange to me because they were arguing but Jenny was a lot happier with us and it was just like a really strange thing because for some reason, she was really happy with us but she was really angry at my father. Then one day, she looked me in the eye and told me she was going to be gone for two weeks and I took her word for it and it was over a year before we saw or heard from her again. So yeah, definitely had some abandonment issues.
Benji Block: Wow. Yeah because again, I don’t want to just bring it to age by any means but when you’re talking about being in such a formative year of your life and to be dealing with that, I’d then imagine even as time goes on, you just don’t even fully get what’s going on under the surface as far as ramifications for how that trauma that you’ve experienced then starts to —
I’m assuming here, so correct me if I’m wrong but, it’s got to be soaking into all your other relationships and the way you interact. And again, like the almost walking on eggshells around other people or how you show up in the world. How did all of this stuff with your mom start to play out in other areas of your life, Emily?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Absolutely. You know and it’s not even anything that I had realized at the time.
Benji Block: Right, because it was just your life.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Right. It was just my life, I didn’t even realized how it affected me until now as an adult sitting here and like, kind of looking back. After Jenny left, I just all of a sudden stopped having the same friends that I had had since I was in elementary school. And honestly, I didn’t even realize that that happened at the same time until just recently when I met up with one of my best friends from elementary school and she’s the one who told me that “Right after your mom left, after Jenny left, all of a sudden, we stopped being friends” and I was just like, my mind was kind of blown. I was like, “You’re right.”
My whole attitude, my life, the people I wanted to be around, the people I felt comfortable around, all of a sudden, it just kind of changed because I myself changed how I felt about myself. Again, at the age of 12, I didn’t realize that one had to do with the other but now I do.
Doing The Work and Moving Forward
Benji Block: How do you change the way you view yourself? So you’ve done therapy, now you’ve done this whole process of writing the story so you can look back at let’s say that 12 to 18 range of your life. What are those key changes that happened in you in the way that you viewed yourself?
Emily Lewis Bowers: The way I viewed myself then was I felt so worthless. I felt almost like I was a curse, like everything was my fault. I felt like the reason my mom left me was my fault and I felt the reason why our family felt so different after my mom left was my fault. So I just felt like a worthless shell of a human being and it was terrible. I mean, being a teenager is hard enough as it is.
Benji Block: Yeah, you don’t need extra stuff.
Emily Lewis Bowers: But to add the extra stuff onto it and feel like you know, it was fault my mom left. It was my fault she didn’t come back. Like what’s the point of being here? What’s the point of my life, you know, really?
Benji Block: It’s hard to hear too because you are going from your earliest memory is her telling you to run away and essentially what ends up happening is she runs away. To process that, I mean, let alone in adulthood but as a kid and to watch your mom then disappear for over a year — and that’s not like it was great when she is in the house because it is yelling and it is walking on eggshells but when she disappears, it brings a whole new level of trauma and question asking internally that as a teenager, you don’t have the words or the ways to express, right?
Emily Lewis Bowers: I was never taught how to express my emotions even as a young child. So I felt like I had no way to express the way like how sad I felt and how worthless I felt and I didn’t have the words for it. I didn’t have the outlet, I didn’t have the tools and now having been to therapy and done tons of research and I am always trying to learn, still as an adult, how to express my feelings, how to express my emotions, how to teach my own children how to process and express their own emotions and feelings because it’s so important to get those feelings out instead of keep them in and bottled up and fester.
Benji Block: Well, that’s a remarkable step for you to be willing to write this out. I think that is very commendable on your part and I think it’s going to be very helpful for other people who have experienced similar things. I wonder as you get into adulthood, what did your relationship continue to look like with your biological mom? Was there points of connection? What is that kind of ongoing connection, lack of connection? What does that all look like?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Yeah, it kind of has always been an on and off type of connection. It was like when I was a little younger, when I was still a teenager, I still have the desire to have my mother. I think it’s something that most people have the desire to have their mother, you know, “I’m sick, I don’t feel good. I want my mommy” but as the years progress and I got a little older and you know, I was in my 20s and I was experiencing life as an adult outside of the home, you know I felt independent.
I don’t need her, and so it was kind of at an arm’s length kind of relationship. It didn’t turn into a nonexistent relationship until I started having children of my own and I realized the anxiety that that relationship brought me and the stress and all the negative feelings that the relationship brought me that I realized that I needed to end it in order to become a better person not only for myself but for my husband and for my children, for my friends around me. So eventually several years ago, the relationship ended and that’s where it’s at right now.
Benji Block: Can I ask how do you even go about doing that because it has to take tremendous courage to do that. I mean, what does that look like? Does it just look like no more reaching out, does it look like an actual conversation you held? How do you do that?
Emily Lewis Bowers: You know, I’ll be honest with you. I wish that there was, there had been a conversation. There was no conversation. I stopped making the effort to reach out and therefore, it ended and so initially, it was really disheartening because it made me realize, “Okay, I was the only one ever actually making an effort to try and build the relationship” and fix the relationship and understand the relationship.
But eventually, that sadness kind of wore away because I realized how much lighter I felt not feeling responsible for that relationship and it made it a lot easier to focus on myself, on my own mental health and again, just trying to be the best mom that I can possibly be.
Benji Block: I don’t want to over generalize here, so I will say I have seen some patterns where it feels like generationally, the older generation wants the kid, if the parent was not a great parent, they want the kid to reach out and try to continue relationship like, “Hey, keep reaching out”. Like be nice to your mom and I know even in the Facebook message that you received, that was almost the stance of this family member.
Like, “Hey, keep reaching out. Keep reaching” out but at some point, there does have to be this level of relationship is both of us trying and both of us giving effort. How have you kind of come to terms with that since letting it go quiet? Has it just been a gradual like, “Okay, I am okay and at peace with this” or was it pretty immediate?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Honestly for me, it wasn’t really gradual. It was kind of immediate I think because I, for so many years wanted and wished and hope and then once I was disappointed yet again for what felt like the millionth time, I kind of was just done. I just had that moment where I was like, “I’m done” and so when the relationship ended, it was just an immediate like I felt so much lighter.
The responsibility wasn’t mine anymore. It was kind of easy. I shouldn’t say that, that sounds terrible to say that it was easy because it wasn’t. It was many years but in the moment.
Benji Block: Once it actually happens, yes. Okay, let’s take a second to honor Jill here. Jill becomes really a mother to you and a surrogate grandmother to your three young kids, talk to me about that relationship and how it blossomed over the years.
Emily Lewis Bowers: I just smiled just thinking about Jill and what an incredible human being she’s been to me. So she was one of my best friend’s mom and she immediately embraced me and it was almost smothering at the time as a very young teenage girl who just recently, you know, dealing with her own mother abandoning her. It felt a little overwhelming to me at first but Jill could read that on me.
She knew she needed to ease in on that, she gave me the time and the space to kind of go through what I needed to go through accepting that my own mom wasn’t coming back and that she understood she had to prove to me almost that she wasn’t going to leave me, that she was all in as far as wanting to love and nurture and care for me and help me through life and the things that a mom kind of helps their daughters through.
You know, like marriage and babies and relationships with friends like girlfriends and things like that so it was a slow evolution as far as me opening up and trusting and realizing that she truly loved me unconditionally and that it didn’t matter what I did, what I said, how I looked, she wasn’t going anywhere.
Benji Block: I wonder with these two different scenarios with Jenny and Jill — how now as a mom those relationships and the hardship with Jenny and then the connection that you then eventually feel with Jill, how has that informed you in the way that you parent and you’re a mom?
Emily Lewis Bowers: It makes me really self-aware. I feel really conscious, when I feel like I am being a bad mother, it makes me kind of stop and I have to like evaluate who I’m being more like right now. Am I being more like Jill, unconditionally loving or am I being more angry and yelling and kind of a negative mother? I am not saying that anyone is perfect, people should yell, parents yell, it happens, right? But having the two relationships in my life just really makes me self-aware every day.
Benji Block: I wonder as we start to wrap up here, Emily, for those that are carrying with them trauma from their childhood from maybe caused by a parent or an adult that was in their life, what has been most helpful for you in this process of coming to terms with what you experienced? Anything that you would just recommend that’s been really freeing and releasing for you and your soul?
Emily Lewis Bowers: I would recommend self-help and by that I mean, whatever means you need to do. For me, it was therapy. It took me many years to realize I needed help from someone else. I was not capable of healing myself. I really needed professional help, someone to talk to, someone to give me the tools to work through my emotions and to understand them and recognize them and express them.
So I would recommend to anyone who perhaps has gone through just get any type of help that you think you might need. Whether it’s from a loving best friend to sit and listen to you, a shoulder to cry on, a professional to talk to, I would recommend it. It is really freeing and healing feels so good.
Benji Block: Well, thanks for taking time for sharing your story and I know we barely scratched the surface but we want to do is give some context and we want to encourage everyone to go read this book and pick it up, hear the stories and the lessons learned here. Emily, when someone finishes this book, what do you hope they feel? What do you hope the main takeaway is?
Emily Lewis Bowers: I hope they feel like they are not alone. I hope they realize, “Okay, I’m not doing this alone. There are people out there who love me. There are people out there who have been through this and there’s someone I can call” and that’s what I hope for.
Benji Block: I think that that will definitely happen for the readers who pick this up. I wonder, if people want to stay connected to you, is there a way they can reach out, Emily?
Emily Lewis Bowers: Sure, yep. I am on Instagram, anyone can feel free to email me. My email address is [email protected].
Benji Block: Hotmail, wow.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Yes.
Benji Block: I love that, easy to remember.
Emily Lewis Bowers: That’s right, I would be happy to talk with anybody, yeah. So just feel free, reach out.
Benji Block: Great. Again, I’ll say the title of the book is Mother Trauma: Running from Fighting with and Refusing to Repeat the Deepest Betrayal. Emily, thank you for creating this book, for taking time to do the hard inner work to be able to do something like this. I know it is going to be impactful for so many and thanks for stopping by Author Hour today.
Emily Lewis Bowers: Benji, thanks so much for having me.
EPIC!: Carolyn Buck Luce