Reframing my reflection.

When I first heard of the concept of reframing a situation, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what it meant. Recently, through the process of writing my memoir, it started to make sense.

Telling the story about my son’s brain tumor is the easy part of writing my memoir.

I first wrote most of the dramatic scenes over fifteen years ago, within a few years of his diagnosis at age 11. Had I not written them, I would still remember. The trauma created new neural pathways in my brain and the memories travel them frequently.

I’ve shed so many tears over the years as I scribbled and typed away, there are fewer left now. It helps that Matthew is about to turn 32 and he manages his minor deficits so well, you’d never know anything had ever been wrong.

A mother knows. But that’s what mothers do–they know, when others do not.

During the three years that Matthew’s slow deterioration remained a medical mystery, I knew deep inside that something was wrong. But I didn’t listen to my gut. I didn’t stand up for what I believed to be true.

The hard part of this memoir is to tell that story: that motherhood exposed my flaws, and those flaws jeopardized my child.

At this point in my writing, I’m struggling to understand who I was as a mother, as a woman, as a person. I’m struggling with forgiveness.

Today, as I stepped out of the shower, an insight hit me like a blast of cold water, and I ran around in my towel, dripping on the floor, trying to find paper and a pencil. I scribbled my thoughts down; here’s what I’ve written:

I was a flawed mother, but I didn’t give up and I didn’t fail. I pulled my family through our ordeal, and we survived, not unscathed, but stronger and wiser. And by grappling now to understand who I was then, when my children were little, I’m coming to peace with my flaws, and realizing my strengths. What better example can a mother set for her children, even though they are now grown?

I looked in the mirror, and for years, all I noticed was the jagged crack running through the middle. Shards of glass occasionally splintered off, drawing tears and blood. Now, I have sealed the crack. It left a scar. There are some chips in the beveled edges, and the antique glass is wavy. Black splotches show through where the quicksilver backing has worn away. I see character. As an antique, the mirror is more valuable with its flaws intact. The cheap frame, however is moldy, and needs to go. I put a new one on, and it changes my reflection. I love what I see now, flaws and all.

If you are on a quest of forgiveness, for yourself or others, can you reframe what you see?

If you are a people-pleaser like I was, check out the resources on this page. 


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

    View all posts


  1. Jack Herlocker on August 10, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    Karen, you are getting more and more poetic in your writing. I like it!

  2. Vivian on August 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

    Beautiful Karen!😍

  3. Laura on August 10, 2018 at 5:58 PM

    Fabulous Karen! I have followed a similar path and the forgiveness was healing. But, granting the strengths I possessed was monumental. Happy to see you on your journey and expressing yourself as a talented writer!

    • Karen DeBonis on August 11, 2018 at 11:05 AM

      Forgiving our flaws and owning our strengths are often two different steps on the journey- sounds like you’ve taken them. Yay for you! Thanks so much, Laura–appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

  4. jmlkepes on August 10, 2018 at 7:56 PM

    All I can say ,Karen, for this latest piece is”WOW!” So very well written, of an experience many of us have had, the realization that we were/are flawed. Joanne

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Maura on August 10, 2018 at 8:42 PM

    I don’t go on frequently Karen but I’m so glad I did today. Very powerful and courageous words. Hard to admit, difficult to forgive oneself. We are all works in progress. I certainly can relate to your article today. Thanks I needed to hear that.

    • Karen DeBonis on August 11, 2018 at 11:07 AM

      Thanks Maura, appreciate the comment. I’m glad you found this at the right time!

  6. Michael DeBonis on August 11, 2018 at 2:20 PM

    I good dear. You should publish the “mirror” section as your first published poem.

    • Karen DeBonis on August 11, 2018 at 3:45 PM

      Keep your day job, Dear; you’ll never be a writer, lol. But you’ll always be my #1 supporter. XXOO I’ll consider your suggestion!

  7. Catherine Lanser on August 12, 2018 at 10:54 AM

    What a break through! It always happens in the shower, doesn’t it?

  8. Karen DeBonis on August 13, 2018 at 10:59 AM

    Thanks Catherine. Yes – the shower, or the middle of the night!

  9. Karen DeBonis on August 16, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    You found a heart emoticon, and I felt it, through and through! But I don’t have one to return. (Sad face emoticon.) So I’ll just have to say thank you – you have made my day :)

  10. judy lawless on August 27, 2018 at 12:06 PM

    Wow. Such insight! I’m happy for you that you found it; I’m happy for us that you shared it. I think most mothers go though struggles with guilt. I know I have. But we do our best with the knowledge that we have at the time. You have a wonderful way with words.

  11. Karen DeBonis on August 28, 2018 at 10:45 AM

    “If only we could raise other people’s children first, before we raise our own!” I’ve always said. lol! Unless you’re a nanny, that’s not how it works, so we do the best we can, as you said, Judy. Thanks so much for your comment and compliments!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.