Mourning My Mother
How strange it was to write the title of this blog, “Mourning My Mother,” because my mother has not died. As far as I know she is healthy and well. But July 28 marks two years since my mother decided to cut me out of her life. And they have been a hellish two years. I wish I could say that I have found peace with her decision, but I have not. I wish I could say that I don’t obsess about why, but I do. I wish I could say that I saw a solution or end, but I don’t. I live everyday with the weight of sorrow, unanswered questions, and unfulfilled hope.
I have thought too often for my own comfort that it would be easier to accept her death than her rejection. When people die, we go through the phases of grief and then hopefully come out the other side able to find comfort in loving memories. We do not hold on to hope that the person will come back to life. We do not replay the past looking for signs or hints of the betrayal that arrived with the loss. And happy memories are not daggers, but balms. What my mother has done to me leaves me unable to mourn in the traditional sense, but still living with immense loss.
Up until the birth of my oldest daughter, losing my mom was my greatest fear. I could not imagine my life without her in it. There was never a time when she was not available to me, when we didn’t talk and spend time together, so it was always difficult for me to think about her death and losing that connection. I assumed that as my mother aged, she would be in my care. And, as much as I feared facing her death, I always assumed that I would be given the opportunity to say goodbye to mother in a loving way.
It never crossed my mind that I would lose my mother, but she would remain alive and well. Accepting this reality has been hell. I can’t mourn my loss because she is still alive. I cannot express to others how sad I get when I see little white-haired ladies in the drugstore, because I am ashamed and embarrassed by what has transpired between me and my mom. I cannot cry on the shoulder of the remaining family in my life, because they “do not want to get involved.” I cannot mourn the loss with my husband because he is so angry with her, he doesn’t want to hear her name. I don’t want to think about happy times, or good memories, because she has rejected me and therefore a lifetime of memories. So, it’s nothing like mourning the death of someone. It is silent, shameful mourning that rots me from the inside.
I don’t know anyone who has been rejected by their parent as an adult. I was already a grandparent myself when my mom walked out of my life. 53 years old! I just didn’t think mothers did that. Especially to a child who had been so kind, helpful, loving, and supportive. My mother was intimately involved in my life and family until the day she decided to reject me (and by association my husband). If my life were a movie and it ended when I was 53 with my mom rejecting me, you would walk out of the theatre saying, “WTF! How did that happen? Where did that come from? That doesn’t make any sense? Why would she just reject her daughter after all these years? Walk out of her life without explanation or effort to work through challenges? How can she knowingly and willingly break her own child’s heart so coldly?” You would demand a sequel for an explanation. That is how I feel. She has left a cavern of hurt, broken heart, and unanswered questions.
So, my days are spent over-analysing the past. And the realizations have not been fun or pleasant. I had a relationship with my mom because I wanted to have one with her. It was my choice, so I did not go looking for her faults. I knew she and I were different. We have a different approach to people, life, and challenges. But I never thought a mother and a daughter had to be alike to have a relationship. She hurt me many times in my life by choosing others ahead of me. Most specifically my ex-step-father. But when he betrayed her and left her, I stood by and supported her. Even though I despised the man long before he betrayed her. I always stood by her. Defended her. Supported her. And I gave her a family to share every occasion with. I wanted her in my life. And I wanted my children to have a relationship with their grandmother that I never had with mine but always longed for.
So, I accepted her and never asked her to change. I never called her out when she hurt me. I turned the other cheek time and time again. And then cried alone wondering why even though I gave her everything, she could always find fault in me or something I had done. But no one else noticed her little comments and criticisms. She is sweet, and quiet and plays a little helpless. If you say boo around her, people instinctively jump to her defense. I on the other hand had to learn how to be tough. I was told on a regular basis to “toughen up.” To “stop crying” and to not be so emotional. Any time I ever showed a hint of weakness it was made clear that was unacceptable. So, compared to my mom, I come across like an army sergeant. I am jam in a can; she is jam in a delicate puff pastry.
I realize now, that from a very young age I was groomed to put my mother’s feelings before my own. To not upset her. And that deep down, I feared she would abandon me. It was a subconscious feeling. I instinctively knew that if I tried to explain to her how I felt, or if I called her out when she hurt me, that it would not go well. I tried a few times over the years. When I was 15 and tried to express to her what my problems were with her husband, she told me that she had to “choose him over me,” because I was going to grow up and leave home, but he was going to be her husband forever. (He left her within 10 years).
When their marriage was ending my mom spiralled emotionally. He had cheated on her with his assistant, a woman my age. She was devastated and fell into a deep depression. She dropped to just over 100 pounds in weight. She spent money recklessly. She had to take a leave of absence from her job. She then quit that job and went through a series of excellent jobs that she quit one after another. Despite the fact that he had emotionally and psychologically abused me. Despite the fact that he cheated on her. Despite the fact that he ended up having a child with the other woman… she still wanted him back and fought for the marriage. She went to counseling with him. She reconciled with him, moved into his home, and provided free daycare for his baby. She did not give up on the relationship until the counselor they were seeing pulled her aside and told her he was not committed or interested, and she was wasting her time. She ended the relationship with him but maintained one with his daughter. For years, my ex-stepfather’s daughter who is younger than two of my three kids, was invited to join whenever my mom had my girls. She essentially forced me and my children to have a relationship with the child of the man who abused me.
hen I split up with my oldest daughter’s father and moved from Montreal back to Vancouver, my daughter and I lived with my mother for a year. One evening, my older brother came over for dinner. He has had a volatile relationship with both my parents since his teen years. He has spent more time over the last 30 years being cruel to my mom and alienating her than being kind to her and trying to have a relationship with her. But whenever he comes around with a hint of kindness, my mother drops everything and welcomes him with open arms. During this visit, my brother and I had a disagreement. He completely lost his cool and came at me physically… in front of my two-year-old daughter. I stood my ground and went to grab the phone to call the RCMP. My mother took the phone from me and begged me not to call the police. She told me to calm down. My brother left, so I did not make the call. But afterwards I asked my mom why she did not let me call the RCMP when I felt physically threatened. Her response was that she did not want my brother to get in trouble.
Fast forward to the current troubles between my mother and me. Ten months after she first rejected me, and a week after my first Mother’s Day without her (or my daughters) in my life, I fell into a deep depression. My future seemed meaningless without my family. I was desperate to understand why my mother was doing what she was, and why she had dragged my daughters into it. So, I called her. I got her voicemail. Sobbing, I told her what her actions were doing to me. I said I was sorry if I hurt and that I would do anything to repair our relationship. And that even if she didn’t want to have a relationship with me, then she at least needed to explain to me why, because her silence was torturing me. I told her I felt suicidal, and I begged her to please call me. Begged her!
But she never did call. I ended up calling the suicide hotline and getting put on hold. I then called my best friend and got her voicemail. Fortunately, she returned my call within minutes, as I don’t know what I would have done had she not. It took her two hours to talk me down from my heightened emotional state. It was hands-down the most traumatic day of my life.
The following day now in a state of disbelief that my own mother ignored my desperate call, my husband and I took our dogs for a walk. Walking had become the only release I could count on. We were gone for about an hour. When we returned home there were 3 RCMP vehicles parked in front of our house. As we walked up to our house, two officers came walking out of our backyard, and another approached me. All were armed. It was intimidating. They asked my name. They then informed me they were doing a wellness check because someone in my family had called in that I threatened suicide. This was a full 24 hours after I made the call to my mother. When I explained to the officer how much time had passed and asked what the point of the visit was after so much time, he responded that he too felt it was strange they had waited so long to call for a wellness check. But that once they got the call, they were required to check.
I spent the next 30 minutes standing in my front yard explaining to three male, armed officers the emotional ordeal I had been going through with my family for the previous 8 months. And that all I was asking was for my mother to talk to me and explain why she was cutting me out of her life. That explanation never came. It turns out my mother told my middle daughter about my call, but she too did nothing. My middle daughter then told my youngest daughter, and it is she who decided to call for a wellness check. I have no idea how much time passed between my mother getting my message and my youngest daughter hearing about it. But my youngest was the only one motivated to respond in anyway. They other two were willing to gamble with my life.
Fast forward another six months or so, and I tried to contact my mother to inform her that my cousin was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is one of only two of my cousins on my dad’s side; my mom has known him his whole life. He is two years younger than me. When I called her, I discovered she had blocked all my phone numbers. It was yet another gut punch. I got through to her from one of my husband’s lines. I left a message telling her how hurt I was that she had taken that action and that she needed to talk to me. I said that I would keep calling her until she either answered or called me back. In this message and in most others, I told her that I was more than willing to engage a counselor or mediator. I called her three more times, and then gave up. As hurt as I am, I am not insane.
What followed was the second most horrific day of my life. Instead of calling me or agreeing to getting counseling with me, my mother called her sister and accused me of threatening and harassing her. My aunt then bombarded me with emails, messenger and text messages telling me they had taken out a restraining order on me. She also claimed copies of all my letters and emails had been forwarded to the RCMP. She sent an awful message to my husband via his work email in the middle of the workday saying he was blinded to who I “really was” and that he was controlled by me. She insulted my entire father’s family. When I responded, aggressively that she should stay the F out it, she came at me more.
But sure enough, within hours, another RCMP officer was on my doorstep. However, as I knew, everything my aunt said about a restraining order and the police having copies of my correspondence was a lie. However, my mother DID NOT call the police when I called her begging her to phone me because I was feeling suicidal. But my mother DID call the police when I said I was going to keep calling her! That has been a particularly tough pill to swallow. She would not call the police to save me, but she did to prevent me from bothering her. And she would not call the police on my brother when he physically threatened me because he did not want him to get in trouble. But she did not have the same concern for me and all I did was threaten to call her which I did not follow through with!
And here’s the other thing if you didn’t already catch it. My mom fought for her marriage for years. She went to counseling. She accepted shitty treatment from her ex-husband for years. And even when she ended the relationship with him, she maintained a relationship with the child he had with the woman he cheated on her with! But she would NOT attend counseling with me. She has abandoned me, but she still has a relationship with his child. And she also still has a relationship with my brother!
Two years into this nightmare, and I have reached the phase of acceptance. Clearly, she does not care about me the way she does others, nor has she ever. It seems to me now that she had a relationship with me all those years, because she had no one else. I gave her holidays, vacations, and celebrations. But as soon as my daughter was married and old enough to do that for her, she dumped me. I never was her first choice, so it was easy to let me go.
There is nothing I can do now. I have tried everything to repair this relationship. But every effort I have made has been reframed as me being crazy, or not respecting boundaries, or threatening, or abusive. She decided I am unlovable and therefore dispensable. All I have done, all I have given, all I have sacrificed is worth nothing. Because I am no longer willing to accept the neglect, abuse, and double standards, then I must be labeled as troubled and evil to justify her rejecting me. Otherwise, how does a mother justify ignoring her own child’s desperate pleas?
She moved a couple of months ago. She did not inform me she was moving, nor where she moved to. I suspected all along that she had moved in with my middle daughter and confirmed recently that is the case. My mom who always told me that she did not want a suite in a home with my husband and me because she did not want to lose her independence or get under foot, has now moved into a bedroom in my daughter’s home, where my 3-year-old grandson and my son-in-law’s father also live. Once again, proving that she was never honest with me even about simple things like this.
So now I must mourn her. She may not be dead, but she is to me. Not because that is what I wanted. Not because I didn’t try. Not because I stopped loving her. But because she does not want me. Because she was unwilling to try. And because she stopped loving me… or more likely, she never loved me to be begin with. I have taken down her photos and tucked away the memories. Maybe one day, after she does leave this realm, I will be able to look at them with less hurt. But for now, for my survival, my childhood memories and all memories of my mother must be archived. To move forward with my life, I must let her go.