Saturday, May 8, 2010

"You're Not My Daughter Anymore"; Getting Past It

I'm having a good day so far, munching my food, planning a chicken-and-broccoli dinner, enjoying sunshine and taking my little girl to her activities. I also managed to get out and walk a mile today, which was nice.

It's Mother's Day weekend. I always have mixed feelings about this weekend; on the one hand, it is a celebration of being a mother, but on the other hand, it's a reminder that my mother is dead. And so are both of my grandmothers. And my mother-in-law has dementia and doesn't really know who I am. But my mother, well, if you've read much of my blog you know there were issues. She was somewhat of a religious zealot. She never spent any time with my children (her only grandchildren) and they have virtually no memory of her, even though she only died 8 years ago. She lived on the other side of the country, but had an open invitation to come stay with me, visit, or even live with me at any time. "I love you Mom," I'd say, "I don't care what religion you are. You're my MOM, I just love you." But she never came to my home, not once. Not when she flew across the country to visit her friends who live near me, not when my little ones wrote her letters and called her and asked for her to visit, not when I lost my baby and almost died from hemorrhaging, not when I was on bedrest for 2 months trying to save my unborn son's life. "Please, Mom," I'd say, "I miss you. I want the kids to know you. Can I bring them to see you?" "When you come back to Jehovah," she'd respond. And that was that. Being a Christian was not good enough; if I was not in her religion, if I did not raise my kids the way I was raised (no holidays, no birthdays, and spending every weekend selling religious magazines to strangers), then I was no longer her daughter. Apostate, she said. All I wanted to do was have a close family. But she wouldn't let me be close to her.

There was one time when I only had two babies, and she actually did come to my Aunt's house and visited with my children. My younger son was 3 months old. And then again when he was 8 months old, she said she'd like to see him. So we flew across the country, only to have her call me when we arrived and tell me she'd changed her mind and didn't want me coming near her because I had "left Jehovah." I was devastated. After much talk she finally agreed to let me *just* stop by to pick up a few things of mine that were in her basement. We went by, got the things, and she spent about 10 minutes with my sons. That baby is 18 years old now, and he never saw his grandma again after that. She just cut us off. When I'd call, she usually just hung up. She never once called me.

Several years later, my mother tried to commit suicide. I know she was never really well; I've written before about her childhood of abuse and her alcoholism. When I heard she was in the hospital, I had to go to her. I booked a flight and took my 2 youngest kids with me to see her. I wasn't sure WHY she wanted to die, but I wanted to go and tell her how deeply I loved her. I wanted her to feel WANTED and cared for. We spent a few blessed days visiting. She was more open than she had been. She enjoyed seeing my two children, ages 2 and 5, that she had never met before. But after we left, the shunning resumed, and that boy who was 5 never saw her again. The boy who was 2 saw her one more time: the day before she died.

It's a sad thing when religion comes between family members. I wasn't a druggie or a whore or a boozer. I was just a woman who loved her children and God and wanted to have a Mom in her life. My Dad had passed away years before. I was lonely for family. It really hurt me that she rejected me like that just because I did not believe *exactly* the same things she believed.

When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I came right away. But just 11 days after she was diagnosed, she passed away in my arms. It was sad. I knew she loved me, but felt she *had* to shun me to be loyal to her god. I wasn't angry at her when she died. But after she died, and I felt the magnitude of loss, and saw what my children had missed, then I got angry.

The anger that came was part of my grief. I was angry that she denied my children a relationship when they hadn't done anything wrong. I was angry that she shunned me when I loved her so much. And when I read the will, I was fuming. She left everything she owned to her church. And you know what made me angry about that? It wasn't the land or the money or the car. It wasn't the 'stuff' or the cash from the stuff. It was the sheer sensation of being slapped with rejection yet again from the grave. She couldn't leave me one token that she cared? Not my father's record collection or her wedding bands or a family heirloom? Not ONE thing? She couldn't leave her grandchildren a simple gift to show that she considered them? Oh, it made me really mad. She KNEW I was in poverty at the time. She KNEW my kids had holes in their shoes and that I was working and going to school to try and improve things, yet she didn't want to help us. She took all of my childhood possessions, my grandma's dishes, my father's belongings... and gave them to the church. And would they let me have any of it? No, not unless I came back to Jehovah.

I think for about two years I couldn't even think or speak of my mother because it was so painful. Holding her as she died was traumatic for me. It was not the peaceful, pretty picture they show in the movies. It was ugly and scary and horrible and I had no doctors or nurses or anyone with me because she died in her home. Then I was alone in my sorrow. And the anger was like a huge monster raging inside me. I couldn't let it go. The love I had for her at the moment she passed was, over time, turning into a near-hatred of her. It was a very difficult thing.

It wasn't until recently that I started to truly understand those emotions. Anger is often a cover-up for some other emotion, and for me, of course, it was covering up deep hurt and sadness. I wanted a mother and she didn't want me as her daughter anymore. She told me so. And that hurt me terribly. I am a sensitive sort, and the decade of rejection just gored me emotionally. I was so devastated that she had died and we had not been able to reconcile. I had dreamed she would soften over time, and come to live with us and be the grandma my kids never had. I dreamed of the day she would hug me again and tell me she loved me and was proud of the life I'd built. And when she died, all those dreams died, too. And on top of that, there was the realization that when I needed her, she was not there for me... but I came and sat with her and held her in death, because she needed me to... even though doing so was devastating for me.

And once I understood the sadness, I sat in my mind and held that raging, angry-but-sad little girl without a mother, and I hugged her and told her it was alright to feel that way, that it HAD been unfair, that it WAS a terribly sad ending to her mother's story. I let her rage and sob. And then the little girl began to heal.

A few years ago I wrote my mother a letter, telling her all of this and more. I rolled it up, put it in a bottle, and with a mighty toss sent it into the water on its way to the ocean. I let it go. You have to let this kind of thing go. You just have to, to be free. To live.

Now, I always do think of my mother on Mother's Day, briefly, but now it has become a celebration of the life I have as a mother of five beautiful children. I know I am so very blessed to have each of them. When I wake up in the morning, I think about the two decades I have spent being their mother and I smile. I will ALWAYS love my children. I will BE the kind of mother and grandmother that my own mother could not be. That's what is important to me.

Happy Mother's Day. May you heal from your pains, and be blessed with the desires of your heart in the future.

35 comments:

amoslionhorse said...

I am so sorry. Those words sound so pithy.. but they are true. I am glad to hear of your road to healing.

And so glad to hear how you are celebrating being a mother to your wonderful 5 children. You can and ARE re-creating for them a wonderful legacy of love and family.

hugs to you. Happy Mother's day.

Diana said...

Happy Mother's Day Lyn. Have a good day with your children. :) Cause they're all that matters now.

Rebekah said...

((((hugs)))) Happy Mother's Day. Your kids are so lucky to have you!

froggy said...

Haven't commented before but I so admire what you have been able to accomplish. Your poor mother was abused by that religion. Organized religion can be as horrific as it can be wonderful.
My SIL made herself ill because her Dad would not be reborn while deathly ill. She made us all upset when we didn't need to be. I could not see where she was getting any comfort whatsoever from her religion.

mominVA said...

Beautiful post Lyn. I'm so sorry for your loss, all of it. I hope you have a fantastic Mother's Day!

Daisygirl said...

Lyn, this is so similar to my story with my mother, I could have written some of it myself. My situation has not been as extreme as yours but things are very very tense. I am so sorry for what you endured and I am so proud of you for moving forward.

Religion to me is a celebration of God and some faiths take all the joy away from it. That isn't how it's meant to be. A life blessed is one that notes the moments and sees them as special.

Anonymous said...

How sad. Your mom really missed out, and so did you. Mother's Day is painful. Even though I have children, I don't celebrate it because I haven't spoken to my own mom in over 20 years. I can't be around someone so self centered and cruel. I "adopted" a grandma for my kids. :-) They know she isn't their biological grandma, but they love her just the same.

Flabby McGee said...

Wow. I don't know what to say. i grew up without any kind of grandparents, and I didn't really feel that loss until I was grown. Even now, it's not a real pain - just s dull ache. Because my mother made my childhood so awesome I never really realized I was missing anything. I still feel blessed and happy - and I would like to think your children will too. Mothers are the most important thing in a child's life, and you are there for your children. That's all that matters, and all that counts. They will be (are?) grown, and they'll know that Mom was always there - no matter what. So, I hope you have an amazing Mother's Day, and celebrate a very important mother....You. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy mothers day to you!

Thnk you for this post. I too had a very unfulfilling relationship with my mother. This was due in part to my immaturity (she dies wehn I was 19) and in part due to her 10 yesr battle with Cancer. To this day I miss her terribly and wish that things could have been different. For years I was in a deep depression after she died and this manifested itself in many issues with food so that I would not have to deal with the feelings. I still struggle with this some 15 years later, Thank you for sharing your experience...which reminds me that I am not alone.

Laryssa said...

Lyn, I'm sorry you weren't able to get the closure you needed from your mother but I'm glad that you have been able to reconcile with it.

It's like you've written my story; at least most of it. It's so eerily similar it's scary; I spent 12 1/2 years without speaking to my mother for the same reason. When I turned 18, I was kicked out of the house and shunned because I had "left Jehovah". My mother walked past me in the street on the day I buried my daughter and, although she knew what had happened, she acted as if she did not know me.

After 12+ years, I wrote her a letter and sent it. Although she is still very involved in her religion and can't believe that I was baptized Catholic after knowing "the Truth", I think she realized she would die without any of her daughters if she didn't make peace. (My older sister lives in FL, the youngest in KY; I'm the only daughter who lives nearby.) She called me when she received my letter and we "reunited" on New Year's Eve 1999. I constantly thank God for this opportunity which I know so few in my position get.

Keep remembering the happy times with your mother and hug your children that much tighter. Have a blessed Mother's Day.

Betty said...

This post just broke my heart. I am so sorry that your mother let her religion come before what should have been one of the most spiritual relationships of her life. It's so very sad for every one of you. Bless you for being there for her, even though she wasn't there for you. I hope you take comfort in the fact that your children will never have to know that kind of pain, simply because they have a wonderful mother who is there for them. And I hope you have a very lovely Mother's Day.

Julie Lost and Found said...

I'm sorry for the pain that you had to endure.

I'm so glad you've been able to work through it and thank you for your courage to share these experience on your blog.

You sound like an outstanding mother and I hope that your mother's day is abundantly wonderful and filled with many blessings. YOU deserve it!!!

Julie

M said...

I'm so sorry you weren't able to have the closure you needed with your Mom. I'm glad you let that letter in a bottle go.
It makes me realize how thankful I am to have my Mom here with us visiting for a few weeks.
I wish for you a wonderful day tomorrow and I know your kids will enjoy having such a special Mom and making memories to last a lifetime.

ohiofarmgirl said...

You have to feel sorry for your Mother...she lost out on so much. Her daughter, her grandchildren but most of all...who God really is!!
You can not make someone be nice or be anything at all...accept that it is their problem and you can't fix it.
Her actions do not define you and you can not let it control you from the grave. Blessings to you...enjoy your family! Dianntha

Allyson said...

What a horrible loss and sadly your mom never knew what she was missing. A daughter who loved unconditionally and desperately and naturally wanted to have a relationship. As a mother of three grown daughters I send you a Hug and wish all the way from Langley BC that you find peace and joy on this day that honours YOU! Happy Mother's Day Lyn!

Julie said...

Happy Mother's Day to you!! I'm sorry your mother couldn't see past the narrow-mindedness of her religion to enjoy her family!!

Dinah Soar said...

What you must remember is that your mom was a member of a religious cult--in essence a victim. These cults know how to manipulate people for their own purposes. My mother-in-law was married to a Jehovahs Witness minister. She was messed up big time...institutionalized several times. BTW--cult is the official defnition/label of JW, not my label. So, any of you reading this, don't get on my case if you disagree. I don't decide what is or isn't a cult. There is a set criteria.

spunkysuzi said...

I too have had some major drama with my mother. I just want to say "hugs" and have a great mothers day with your kids.

Barbara said...

My mother was a Narcissist. She is gone now so despite missing my mother, I am relieved at no more abuse.

I too am fighting obesity. My mother refused to believe that PCOS was causing my weight gain - she preferred to call me names.

http://barbarany_9.blogspot.com/2007/05/unsung-gifts-of-motherhood-mothers-day.html

big hug and keep up the great work!

emmabovary said...

This is a perfect example of how harmful cults can be. I'm sorry you were the target of the fallout.

Kim said...

So sorry for all the hurt you went through with your mother. I'm not close with my mother as well even though I've tried to be in the past. She's missing out on so much time with my kids, but it is her loss. Somehow, along the way I understood too that my mom had been raised w/ issues that were out of her control and those things bled into the kind of mother she was to me. I've just accepted it the best I can over the years. It's very hard. I can't imagine the pain you've gone through...glad you have found peace along the way. :) Happy Mother's Day.

Sib said...

((HUGS))

I have my own issues with my mother, who is still very much alive, and choose to love her from afar as it's too painful to spend more than a day at a time with her. My children don't even want to speak to her on the phone, let alone go and visit. Yet I am grateful to her for showing me what sort of mother I DO NOT want to be. I have a fabulous relationship with my girls and being their mum is my absolute favourite thing in life.

Happy Mothers' Day Lyn (*_*)

Anonymous said...

When people die, it's not always like the movies where they aim for closure and making amends in their lives. When my mother died, she was just about the same as she always was. I have tried to understand and forgive. I guess I can let go like you are doing, but really don't know what forgiving is.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Foodie McBody said...

Wow. this post just took my breath away. You've endured so much and I am so sorry. But you've also come out the other end which so many are never able to do.

I've always had mixed feelings about Mother's Day. I was given up for adoption and found my birthmother when I was in college. We had a long and complex "reunion" for decades during which time she rejected and claimed me over and over again. Now we are out of contact again. But it was very complicated and very painful.

This year I am focusing on the beautiful people who surround me: my adoptive mother who lives with me, my children and husband. It's all a gift.

Fiona said...

Thank you for sharing your story and your feelings. I think so many of us has issues with our mothers. All we can really do is ensure that our children grow up in the warmth of a loving relationship. You are a very strong lady and I was so impressed with how you dealt with this difficult situation. You should feel proud of yourself. Big hugs and Happy Mother's Day x

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your mom, not taken the time to know what a wonderful mom you are. She missed out to get to know her beautiful grandchildren. Celebrate her life I believe that's the best of Mother's Day gift you can give yourself. My mother killed herself when I was a little girl barley 10 years old. I have yet to forgive her for this. I am a mother of a terrific daughter and try to paint my mother in a positive light for her. I however, can’t forgive her for what she did, all the suffering and pain my dad, my siblings and I went through after her death. I envy you that you have found it in your heart to forgive your mother.

Anonymous said...

I am in shock at your story and some of these comments about other mothers. It is unfathomable to me that someone could do that to their own child and grandchildren in the name of "religion." I thought I had problems with my own mother, but I have NOTHING to complain about. She is a very good grandmother and mother to me now, and I am realizing today how much I take that for granted.

I am amazed at how you have survived through so many painful experiences. You are an incredible woman! Thanks for sharing all of your very personal experiences. It really helps me gain perspective on my own life and weight battle. Congratulations on your incredible weight breakthroughs and Happy Mother's Day!

Salted with Shadows said...

{{{Lyn}}} I'm sorry you went through so much heartache with your mother. Your own posts resonate with what a loving mother you yourself became, and how compassionate you are. It's truly inspiring. Hugs to you.

Karen in Tennessee said...

Lyn, it breaks my heart that you had such loss in your life...well before your Mom's death. It makes me appreciate being able to see my own Mom for Mothers Day.

Hang in there.

Fat Grump said...

Ooooh. religion....aaaargh. It has so much to answer for. With apologies to those out there with a strong faith - how on earth can something like Lyn's story happen when the central tenet of most faiths is LOVE for one another??? It makes me so angry. I am sorry Lyn that you had a mother blinded by religion. Her rejection of you was nothing but cruel, misguided and selfish imo. You however have done SO well to overcome so many painful and lonely years. Not only that, you have been a good mother to your own children. It looks like you may have exorcised that pain and put her actions into perspective. Our parents aren't supposed to mould us into exact copies of themselves...we don't 'belong to our parents'. Hopefully most untie the apron strings with a blessing and let their kids go out into the world to shape their own futures. That is what you have done - so well. In many ways it must be easier not to have a mother than have a mother who shuns and rejects you. How hurtful.

I am glad you are moving on Lyn. Of course that sadness will always be there, but we can't turn the clocks back and change things. All we can do is go into the future knowing we did our best and made a life for ourselves despite such painful circumstances.

Wishing you a happy future. It is going to be a slim one too! x

Theresa said...

Happy Mother's Day Lyn. It is wonderful to read that you can heal from such tragedy. You are a very strong woman.

Teale said...

Beautiful entry. It's true what they say, that time heals wounds, but it takes some work on our part too. In your example, writing that letter to your mother, and now allowing yourself to feel sad & continue to heal. I'm sure your children admire you as a mother & are proud to call you their mom. Happy Mother's Day!

Erin said...

Wow. That was very well written, and it is also a very sad story. I'm so happy that you are embracing life again. I don't think it is a coincidence that your impressive progress with healthy habits and weight loss is coinciding with your ability to so honestly and transparently communicate your emotions about your mother. I continue to wish you all the best!

SpiritualBrother said...

The JW religion can cause a lot of horror for sure. Sorry about your pain.