Thank you for taking the time to read this. Just over 8 years ago, my mother rang me up to tell me she no longer wanted me to be in her life. I had recently turned 30. We’d had a difficult relationship for many years and I believe this was an extreme maneuver to get me to beg her to keep me in her life and thus establish her as being in control of me again – that’s how she tends to like things.
I was deeply crushed but certainly did not grovel to be taken back. My pride and dignity just wouldn’t allow me. My mother is a complex mix of 20% loveliness and the other 80% is composed of aggression, volatility, unpredictability, and the list goes on. She was such a lovely mother in my early childhood, but she appeared to change and become very aggressive and violent after I turned ten.
The biggest problem in all of this is the fact that I find it really difficult to be open to having a proper relationship with a man as I fear he may not be able to fully understand my family circumstances as it’s quite unusual to be in this situation. I literally don’t know anyone else who shares my circumstances so it feels quite isolating at times. It’s also hard for me to imagine how anyone would be able to love me if my own mother isn’t able to feel proper love for me. I really want to be able to move on with my life and be part of a loving relationship, but these barriers seem to hold me back.
This is me speaking from having a lot of therapy over the years. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Yep. Crazy mothers… You are soooo not alone in having to deal with one; and when it comes to the “disownment” department, I got your back in “The Care and Feeding of Sex Symbols.” Been there, done that. As your time in therapy has shown you, it’s tough to find something that can take away the feelings of pain, disappointment, alienation, and unworthiness of love that a mother who walks out on you can cause, but as someone who’s been in your shoes I’m grateful for the opportunity to share with you the things that have worked for me on my journey to trust in love again.
To begin with, I want you to know that it’s important for you to allow the little girl inside of you, the girl who just wants her mommy, to grieve over her absence. It’s like a death, and all transitions of that sort require a painful mental shift that must be given its proper respect. The pain is a sign that you actually did value the relationship, and there’s no shame in that. So cry. Ugly cry. Stay in bed. Write a letter to your mom detailing the hopes and dreams you had for a loving mother-daughter relationship, and your disappointment in them not coming true. Give it to her, don’t give it to her, do whatever you feel like doing during this grieving process. All that matters is that you get it out. And write a letter to the little girl inside of you, as well. Let her know what you’ve got her back and will be the one taking care of her from now on. Tell her that she’s safe, and can rely on you.
Once you’ve gotten all that out and feel ready to move forward, you and your tired-from-crying eyes can now focus on the next step. This is where you understand that the pain, disappointment, alienation, unworthiness, etc that you’ve been feeling has less to do with your mom actually leaving, and more to do with the story you’ve told yourself about what her leaving says about you. Whatever emotional wounds your mom had before you were born were still there after you were born. And for all we know her staying in your life could have done more harm than good, while her leaving could have been the most loving thing she’s ever done for you, (well, outside of allowing her body to be used to bring you into this planet).
There are many parents who have stayed in their child’s life only to abuse them physically, mentally, and/or emotionally, and when you make up the story that your mom’s disownment means that she doesn’t love you, or that you’re somehow unworthy of love, you experience the pain that comes with the lie “Something is wrong with me. I don’t deserve love.” And no matter what your circumstances are in life, if you tell yourself that crap, AND BELIEVE IT, you’re gonna hurt like a motherf*cker, (no pun intended).
“Okay, so my mom not being around is more of an expression of love, and given her f’ed up mentality, she (consciously or subconsciously) removed herself and her toxic ways from my life in an effort to give me a chance at creating the happy life that has always eluded her.” That becomes your new, empowering story.
Now, while that shift in perspective is a crucial step in the healing process, it most certainly isn’t the last. Why? Because it doesn’t change the fact that there are times in life when you still just want your frickin’ mommy, or hell, even a mommy. So, what do you do next? You give to others the very thing you crave.
You want to feel love, guidance, and support? Find a kid out there who can use it and give it to him or her; or if you have children give it to them. That way you not only can participate in the loving exchange you’ve always wanted, but you give meaning to the pain you’ve felt over your mother’s absence. You see, the key to overcoming these challenging situations in life is not to try and get rid of the pain, but to transform it into love. Notice how your mom walking out has allowed you to value things like reliability and unconditional love more than you might have otherwise? Well, bring that gain from the situation, not the pain from whatever you think you lost, to your current relationships. And appreciate the loving relationships you create. Be present with them.
Then appreciate the loving, compassionate woman you’ve become as a result of having a mother who could only love you from a distance. When you do that, the guy you meet and like won’t be turned off by your distant relationship with your mom, but rather inspired by what you’ve done with the tough cards life dealt you, (not to mention grateful to be the beneficiary of the depth of love you developed as a result).
So, to sum it up, (#CheatSheet), my advice is to: (1) let yourself grieve the loss of your ideal mother-daughter relationship, (2) change your abandonment story to one that empowers you, (3) give away whatever you feel you didn’t get and appreciate the exchange while it’s happening, and (4) focus on what you gained in terms of sensitivity and values from your mother’s absence so that the disownment becomes an asset to your future relationships instead of a liability.
Lastly, remember that this is a process. Some days will be better than others, but before you know it you’ll not only have made peace with your relationship with your mother, but realize that you’re able to do kick-ass stuff like respond to letters from strangers asking you for help on overcoming some of life’s biggest challenges. And all because your mother never fully left you. Only the 80% dysfunctional side of her did. The rest of her – the best of her – she left inside of you. Even if she only had 20% ;). Best of luck!
Note: As this column is designed to be a judgement-free zone, only those who have been, (or know someone who has been), in a similar situation are invited to comment; especially if the question is unorthodox or hard for one to relate to. And for even more relevant insight, those seeking answers are always encouraged to go within.