How does one give love if they've never received it

I am 74 years old.  A recovering alcoholic sober 22 years.   I grew up in a disfunctional family that included a father who broke his neck but lived.  He never worked again though.  I did not receive affection from my mother, my father was affectionate until the accident.  I am trying to give my adult children love and affection but I don't know how to do it.  Can you give me any suggestions. 


Dear Nancy,

you've told me some facts about your life. But other than the fact that you are 74, what you've told me is about your history. I want to know who you are now. Are you a person with hope, fear, gratitude or regret? Are you insecure or perhaps angry at the injustice you've lived with? Are you someone who longs for love or someone who is at peace with where they are now. I could go on with my questions, but it is important to understand who you are at the deepest levels before we can talk about how to offer something called love to your adult children.

Believe it or not, I think there is something even more important than love and that is compassion. That's the ability to look deeply in someone's eyes and say "tell me about your life" and then listen for a long time. And while you were doing so, try to imagine that life is your life. Some would say that is an act of love, but whatever it is, it is precious and healing.

To offer that to your children would be a gift and I am sure something you can do. But more complicated would be to do the same thing for yourself. Because I imagine you've never received that kind of compassion either. So just take some time and look at yourself through compassionate eyes and wonder what is it like to be Nancy? The answer to that question will vary moment by moment, so please try to drop in on yourself several times a day. Over time, you might find a friend in there