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Mother's Day Is Also for Grieving the Mom You Wish You Had

Michelle was raised in a home with mental illness by narcissistic parents. She always felt like she was adopted and didn't fit in.

I am me because of you

I am me because of you

I am adopted: A joke but not really

I am adopted. This was something I used to say a lot as a kid. I had no idea the depth these words would have one day. I would say it when my parents would embarrass me mostly. I am adopted. They are not related to me. Putting myself back in my young shoes though, those words were deeper than what I showed on the surface. Yes, it was a way for my shy self to disconnect from them when I felt embarrassed but I also felt legitimately disconnected altogether. My young mind didn't realize it but my soul knew. My soul felt it every time they hit me, judged others and me, teased me, talked badly about their neighbours, portrayed two faces to friends, showed greediness, blamed other people for their setbacks, pointed fingers at each other, and took out their anger on me. I never went to them with my problems knowing deep down, they wouldn't understand.

I wrote a poem once. That's how I released my emotions. I wrote a poem about a 15-year-old girl who was struggling. When my dad read it, he assumed it was about one of my friends. He thought this because she smoked cigarettes, the way she dressed, and the way she coloured her hair. He judged her right in front of my eyes so I didn't object. My mom was the same way. Always judging. That same friend, she wanted me to stay away from yet didn't even know her.

I always felt like I came from somewhere else. My mom was so negative. So filled with darkness and I was the opposite. How could she be my mom?

Thank you for trying

She tried to be my mom. She tried to listen. She tried to be there. She took me back in after a breakup. She didn't really have the room so my newborn and I shared her bedroom. She moved in with me when things fell apart with my best friend to avoid my eviction. She stood up for me to my dad a few times. She watched movies with us, played board games with us, brought us camping, visiting zoos, and gave up a career to raise us. She would tuck us in every night and tell us she loved us. When I demonstrated a love for cooking, she bragged to everyone that I would be a famous Chef. She gave me birthday parties and always made sure we had a good Christmas despite being broke. She held on for dear life when my brother and I would make her life a living hell. For that I thank you. I thank you for your sacrifices. I thank you for trying to be someone you didn't really know how to be. I thank you for doing YOUR best.

I thank you despite the negativity that followed those happy memories. I thank you despite the "I told you so's" and expecting a return for your good deeds.

I thank you for being the mom I needed you to be so that I could be the mom I needed to be.

I am me because of you

I watched a talk by Tony Robbins one day. He was talking about his mom and his traumatic relationship with her. Then he said something that stuck with me. He said he wasn't angry with her for all that she didn't do. He thanked her for all that she didn't do because that pain was the driving force for who he became. He said, "I am not me in spite of her. I am me because of her." That resonated with me so deeply.

So mom, thank you for being you because, in the end, it made me who I am. It made me the mom I am to my girls. It made me kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more accepting, and it made me stronger. It gave me a clear picture of the path I didn't want to take in my own life and was the driving force I needed for my healing.

Mother-daughter relationships

We are more alike than I thought

As I talk about my mom and her downfalls, I realize that our journeys may be more similar than I've ever thought.

Depression, negative thoughts, lack of self-confidence, addiction, sexual abuse, abusive relationships, jealousy, insecurities, controlled by fear, and narcissistic behaviours. This was me for 10 years as it was her all my life before that.

Like me, her relationship with her mom was disconnected. She wasn't taught how to mom. How to be emotionally open. How to be open-minded. She was born in the late 1950s, raised by a single mom, influenced by a brother and abused by an uncle. Her dad, she never really talked about him but I do remember her saying that she never wanted to see him. She started smoking cigarettes when she was 8-years-old and still smokes to this day. I am now two years cigarette-free after a nine-year addiction. When I opened up about a boyfriend wanting sex all the time, which was a taboo subject in my family, she opened up about her abuse.

Like me, she suffered. Only she never found the door to freedom.

Honestly, until today, I had a pretty negative view of her. I blamed her for how she treated me. I blamed her for not being the woman I needed. I blamed her when songs would praise their mamas and I couldn't because I was nothing like her. She wasn't a role model. She wasn't my strength. But, I was her. For ten years while I suffered and struggled, I was her. As I look back on her life, she was alone too. Her mom died, her brother died and her dad left. She had no family. No role models. Who she became was the product of her darkness. Who she became, connected easily with my brother who is now a narcissist too. He too, a product of her and his own darkness.


What do I do now?

I went to bed last night in tears, yearning for a mom I didn't have. Resenting her for not caring. All my life, I tried. I tried to have a relationship with her. I tried to confide in her and communicate with her. I tried to love her. But loving her hurt. I was expected to bow down to her needs, her thoughts, and her beliefs. I was expected not to challenge her when she was wrong but to join in on her hatred towards others. I was expected to put her first and myself last, to give but not take, to silence myself when she became abusive towards me and others, and to agree with her victim mentality when life didn't go her way.

I've tried to forgive her countless times and been left to regret it every time.

Recent conversations included her telling me that she wasn't mad at me anymore, she forgave me and loved me unconditionally because I was her daughter. The problem is: I haven't done anything for her to forgive me for. When I expected an apology for her letting my brother physically abuse me in front of her and my girls, she forgave me for severing our relationship. When I expected an apology for her joining him in calling me a bitch after I set boundaries, she forgave me. That day, four years ago, was never spoken of again and we still don't have a mended relationship.

In the last two years, her lung cancer came back and she's had a few strokes. My dad forced me to visit her in the hospital. "She is still your mom." Is that how life works? You take abuse for most of it and then when they get sick, you're supposed to let them back in like it never happened? "You'll regret it if she goes." Will I? Will I regret standing up for myself and setting boundaries? For loving myself first?

Talking about her has helped me realize that she was a victim of her darkness. A victim of my brother's darkness. Darkness she couldn't defeat as I have. Darkness from which I also can't save her.

So what do I do now?

She says she wants to talk. An important conversation she said. She will cry she warns. She has cried before to get forgiveness without real change.

What do I do now?

My healing started on the drive of not wanting to be like her with my own kids and as a person. My distance from her was set in place so that I wouldn't be influenced or hurt by her darkness. Of course, I love her, she birthed me.

But do I owe her my forgiveness?

My time?

My energy?

A second chance?

I don't know...

Forgive and forget

© 2021 Michelle Brady

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