“When I became a mother, I was determined I was going to be the kind of mother who raised exceptional children. I was going to give my children opportunities to live big lives where the possibilities are endless. I was going to raise brilliant, compassionate, interesting human beings.
I poured all my energy and love into them. I was going to have wonderful, loving and mutually satisfying relationships with each one, enjoying their friendship and companionship into their adulthood.”
When my oldest daughter decided that I was not the mother she wanted anymore, I felt my world crumbling out from under me and I went into a free-fall. She was the child that made me a mother. All I ever wanted in life was to be a mother and she fulfilled every dream I ever had. I remember how over the moon I was when I found out I was pregnant. I remember how I loved being pregnant and the ability of having her all to myself. I remember her birth…the complete and utter exhaustion and exhilaration at seeing her for the first time. I remember feeling that I would never love anything ever again more than I loved that perfect little girl.
For the first 2 years of her life it was just the two of us. I poured all my energy into her. She was my world. The sun rose and set around her and all that she needed/wanted. She was the first grandchild as well which made the pedestal even higher for her. As she grew, she only became more beautiful. Her talents were many but writing was her true gift. She would write me notes and stories all the time. She drew fancy dresses, sang songs all day and adored putting on a show for anyone that would watch. She loved stuffed animals, especially her Pooh bear, sleeping with him every night until the day she left. She really was the light in my days. Time passed, and the family grew, adding 4 other siblings to the mix, all the while things had started to become more difficult between my daughter and me. When she entered her teen years things became really strained between us, as they often do between teenage girls and their mothers. At that point in my own life, I was in no position to be the best mother to her. Things were not always easy for her, or for me. When she was 19, the bottom fell out. I was in an abusive marriage and felt trapped, when she and her sisters found out her dad had been unfaithful….and I knew about the infidelity but in her mind had done nothing.
“Her world came apart. Getting out of my marriage was the only thing I could do to preserve my sanity, so I know I could not have done anything different. I did everything in my power to support her through this process, but I was having a difficult time navigating it myself. I know I failed her in many ways. She was so angry with me. She was angry and did not know what to do with that anger. She was at the age where teenage girls specialize in putting the knife in and twisting it. I was an easy target, since in her mind, I caused her world to spin out of control. She resisted all my efforts to help her find ground under her feet.”
Once her dad moved out, she and I struggled even more. She wanted to take over and, perhaps even felt she had to take over. I was not able to provide as much stability as my kids needed at that point because I just did not have it in me. We were all falling apart, just as our family had. After a particularly horrible incident in which the police were involved, she left for good. Words were said by her, by me and by my own father in anger that can never be taken back. She went to live with her aunt and my heart shattered into a million pieces.
“It was a beastly thing for a young girl to suffer through — feeling abandoned by her parents, losing her home and her siblings. It was as though we had smashed her childhood into smithereens. I agonized over how to reach her. I was so sad that she was in so much pain. I did everything I knew how to do to let her know that she had my love and support. I was unable to put her life back together for her, even if she had let me. I wanted desperately to fix our relationship, but at this point I didn’t know how. She had retreated so far behind her fortress that I could not reach her.”
She blocked me from all her social media, blocked my number from her phone and only communicates in anger now. I felt sure that at some point she would come around and need me to be her mother again but I was so wrong. It has been 4 years since I have seen or spoken with my daughter, other than her texts to me when she is angry or upset about something I have done to one of her siblings. I try to reach out and have vowed to never give up but to say that this has been an excruciatingly painful experience would be an understatement.
“I spent the first year being really hurt, but I still believed that she would come around. The second year was when reality set in and I cried almost every day. The grief of losing my child while she was still alive was fraught with shame, self-recrimination and humiliation. If only I had been a better mother. If only I had done something different. If only, if only, if only.”
When people ask, I say that I have five children. I speak of her as if she is still an active part of my life but when people ask for details, I am honest, saying that I really do not know what she is doing because she has chosen to distance herself. When people comment with “Oh, kids do that. She’ll come around.” I smile and say that I am forever hopeful. However after over 4 years, I am starting to believe that may not happen….but a mom can dream.
“I began to spiral further and further into grief. Her birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas were so hard. I carried this pain like a tender newborn, swaddled close to my heart. I reached out to her over and over with gifts, cards and letters, letting her know I would always be here if she ever wanted to come back. I never got any response. Feeling sure that my offerings were going into the trash, after a while, I just stopped.
At some point in the process of navigating this heartbreak, I read something that finally set me free to get up and go on with my life. I have wished a hundred times I had written the name of the book down, a book I checked out from the library about parent-child estrangement.
It said, in a nutshell, that parents and children have a contract in this life, and sometimes that contract is short. As a parent, we do our job and if that job ends before we think it should, then we have to accept that was all the time that was allotted.
So basically, I did my job in the 18 years I had and then I was fired. My ideas about how it was supposed to be were of no consequence. I was not in charge. I had made a decision that changed her trajectory and that trajectory was away from her source of pain — me.
That realization left me with the task of looking at my own pilgrimage through this life and seeing that my work was to learn to completely let her go, even if that means that I never see her again. When I write that on the page it still breaks my heart. But I have learned that clinging to our ideas of how things should be, while resisting how they really are, causes a lot of suffering.
I have done everything I know how to do. I long to have her back in my life, but at this point, I have no control over that. What I do have control over is my own path. I can choose for myself how to go forward with my life, taking advantage of all the joy that is offered, not allowing the grief to keep me from living fully.
Forgiveness has played a huge role in helping me to heal. I have had to forgive myself over and over and over again. I know that I hurt her, that my decisions changed her life. I know that I failed her. But I am human. It has taken years for me to find a way to forgive myself for not being the mom she wanted me to be. For disappointing her. For wanting to free myself from the hell I was living in, knowing that it shook her world at the foundation.
There are many times I still have to remind myself that I always did the very best I knew how to do. Even when that was not enough, it was the best I could do. Period. And then I have to practice extending grace to myself again. But it does get easier.”
I get occasional updates from her siblings about her life, but they are cautious about what they share with me as not to upset their sister. I feel their pain as well. They miss their sister. They miss her being a part of things when we are all together. They have to keep their relationship with her separate from me. I know that my daughter struggles with jealousy of her siblings, that she has multiple jobs, that her dreams have taken a backseat to providing for herself, and that her anger with me is still there, although she will never admit it. I long to run into her at her workplace, a grocery store or even a parking lot, just to have a momentary interaction…just to see her. Sometimes when I see mothers and daughters together, my heart breaks all over again and tears come to my eyes. I miss her hugs most of all…the hugs that were not given freely but when she gave them, she hugged with every part of herself….with her whole being.
“My daughter’s path has been difficult, but I have not been invited along to try and make it easier. My daughter has her own journey through this world and is following her own map. I have learned to accept and honor her choice. I have to trust that she will find a way to heal, and I will always hope that someday she will return to me, but I am at peace either way.
As parents we don’t own our children. They are ours for a time and then sometimes we have to let them go. Is it easy? That would be a resounding NO. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done.”
I miss my Princess every single day. Nothing fills that hole in my heart that she left. My love for her will never change. I pray daily that she would someday allow me to be a part of her life, to show her how sorry I am and how deeply I love her. However, I have had to find a way to live with my new normal. I have to work daily to offer myself the same grace and forgiveness I long to offer her.
To mothers, I say love your daughter for who she is in the moment and do not take one second for granted….even the arguments and fights. Offer yourself and each other forgiveness, acceptance and grace.
To daughters, I say love your mother for who she is in the moment and do not take one second for granted…even the arguments and fights. Offer yourself and each other forgiveness, acceptance and grace.
Not one of us is perfect and navigating this life is not easy for any one of us. We make mistakes, we fall, we fail but with forgiveness, acceptance, grace and love we can move forward to find peace.
And finally, to my daughter,
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.