Reflections of my Mother

This essay was published in Spirituality & Health magazine (titled Mother’s Day Reflection)and won an award in the memoirs category of the 76th annual Writer’s Digest contest.

***

My mother and I have been engaged in an awkward dance of reconnecting. We use email because it feels safe. I have time to choose my words carefully. Besides, I think that my mother is not ready to hear the sound of my voice again.

She and my father had an ugly divorce when I was five, and my father gained custody of me. A year later my father remarried and my visits with my mother stopped. I remember sneaking down to the basement when I was very young to look at the one picture with my mother in it. The others had been discarded, but my father missed this one and I was grateful. It proved to me that she was still real.

Years later I have processed so many feelings, including the anger I had at her abandoning me. I am ready to embrace my mother and become vulnerable enough to give her the chance to love me again. Or love me still, whichever it is. I think this reunion will be tremendously healing for both of us. I tell her this.

But then I don’t hear from her for a long while. I’m confused. I think I’m offering her the gift of a lifetime and I don’t know why she doesn’t respond. My heart is open and I have forgiven her. Why doesn’t she accept this second chance?

After several months I grow frustrated and angry. In one message she tells me of the terrible hole in her heart since she left my life. In the next message she ignores my offer to visit. I want to shout, “It’s me! Remember that little girl you left behind? The one who looks just like you? I survived and I haven’t forgotten you! Don’t you want me back?” But I sense that I have to be gentle.

Then one day I experience the incredible gift of clarity. It is difficult to explain the depth of knowing that came to me. I suddenly feel I understand why my mother cannot have a relationship with me again. Every time she even thinks of me she is reminded of that dark place inside herself that is so full of guilt and despair. She is fragile and does not have the tools or the strength to deal with her overwhelming emotions. She has spent years trying to keep this wound covered through various escapes. My presence in her life threatens to take away her veil of denial.

I often wondered how a mother could abandon her five-year-old child and go on. Now I believe that she can’t. She can’t do it and survive emotionally. My mother is not all right. She is consumed by guilt and my forgiveness will never be enough. She cannot forgive herself.

My heart aches with grief and I cry for myself and for my mother. I thank God I am strong in spirit and I know what I need to do. I send my mother one last email. I tell her I understand now why she doesn’t let me back into her life. I know that she would if she could. I tell her it is okay and I am strong and I will go on. I tell her I will always love her anyway.

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25 thoughts on “Reflections of my Mother

    1. I definitely understand that point of view, nelly jouan. What I’ve come to understand though, is that five yrs of marriage to my father, ending in a violent loss of custody left my mother emotionally fragile. More details are revealed in this memoir/blog as it unfolds.

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  1. I am the mother of an alienated daughter. Her father and I divorced when she was 3 and he remarried when she was 4, the alienation started slightly before. The last time I got to see her she was 7 and refused to call me mom and told me it was “ok for other kids to have to moms, just not me”. Talking to her, over the years, was very difficult, as I was blocked at ever turn and her being rude was encouraged, for the most part. The last time I communicated to her was via snail mail and she was 16. She is now going on 23. I’m still blocked on Facebook, (age of 15 after I sent her a messaging saying I loved and missed her and gave her my new contact information). I’ve not been given information about her since she was 6 and anything I find out I have to do via google…which is extremely difficult. I believe the alienation continues, even at this age. I don’t hurt as much as I used to…used to be the thought of her would drive me to uncontrollable tears. But, I’ve said my “good-byes” for the sake of my emotional well-being, as well as for my other two (younger) children. I wonder what goes through her mind. She, too, looks just like me, while her father and stepmother are both fair haired and skinned, she’s undeniably Hispanic. Does she look in the mirror and hate herself for looking like that “mean woman who dares call her self my mother”? she’s said some terribly hurtful things to me, in the past, and while I knew it was the brainwashing of her “parents” it was still hurtful and I still wonder how/why she could believe those things, even now, into adulthood. I also worry what this has done to her spirit, to her self-esteem. I have no way to reach her, as her father denies me all information and, 2 years ago, told me to “never try to contact her, again, by calling my house!” I have an open facebook and a twitter, just so she can find me, when/if, she’s ever ready. It’s a sad thing people do to their children. It’s a sad cycle of abuse, I’m sure, will continue for many generations. The irony is her father was always accusing me of abuse, playing on my fears, so he could gain control of our daughter, and therefore, keep control of me. He was manipulative and controlling and I was a scared fool to have thought he would NOT do the same thing to our child. Still, I hope she’s has some happiness in her life and may, someday, try to find me. All that being said, it does scare the heck out of me to think of her contacting me. What will she accuse me of? What will she yell at me? What will she think of me? Will she be open-minded? Will she judge me for who I AM, or what what she’s been told? Will she like me? Will she like her siblings. Will I like her? There’s so much emotional trauma that will have to be faced and overcome. I think it’s very courageous, as well as empathetic/insightful, of you to realize your mom is facing all this fear, and froze up. Stay strong and good luck. Much love and prayers, Alyson

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for visiting this blog. I think you are wise to have decided you need to look after your own well being. Also, I so appreciate the honesty with which you name your fears, if you should reconnect. I think many alienated parents feel the same fears. Best wishes in rising above the conditions that created this unfortunate situation. I think the better position you can get yourself in emotionally, the better chance of a successful reunion some day.

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  2. I am an alienated mother who is fortunate enough to live in 2015 when the British courts are finally accepting parental alienation, and hopefully on the home stretch to getting my daughter back. Your mother was not afforded this protection. She had no choice but to leave with your father ’emotionally kidnapping’ you and him wielding such power and control via you and your sister.
    Like me your mum will have been asked by friends, family, and even child professionals(!): “What did you do to your daughter to make her reject you?” And when she explained about your father’s manipulations, they would have replied “Oh but he seems such a nice man/good father.” Leaving your mum under the finger of suspicion of being abusive, sadistic and uncaring. This label would have spread throughout the whole community. She had no choice but to ‘abandon’ you leave the area in order to survive. People simply can’t comprehend how a father would or could be that manipulative – it’s easier to believe that the targeted parent must be the evil one – after all, a child wouldn’t lie would they?
    Then when your mother moved she would have had no choice but to reinvent herself and never mention her daughters or that stigma would follow her. That is why she would have had to tuck away your existence so deeply and start her life anew.
    As well as your mother struggling with difficult emotions, to reveal your existence and her enforced abandonment of you to her friends and family now could possibly destroy her life a second time – people around her would not understand any differently now. Also that she has hidden such a big secret would destroy relationships and friendships too.
    Is there any way that she might meet you in secret?
    Or just as alienated children say they don’t want any contact from the rejected parent but secretly treasure the arrival of cards and messages, can you keep up a trickle of connection with your mum?
    Just like an alienated child, she may not respond always but your messages will keep you both warm. One day her circumstances may change, her nearest and dearest no longer be around – and she may have a window to come and see you and give you that big hug she has ached for all these years.
    If I was your Mum, no matter how frozen I had become, I think I would want that as in her heart you will never really go away.
    I do feel deeply sad for both of you – you my dear, are amazingly strong and forgiving. I wish you love and courage to carry on. x

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    1. Thank you, Faith. You clearly understand my mother’s position. Her family and a select few others know of her past, but it not something she shares or can even face openly. Best wishes to you in reuniting with your daughter!

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  3. I am a mother surviving parental alienation. I have never given up on them despite the disrespect from them and complete control he has over them. Their stepmother pretends and wants to be their mom even though she is too busy to parent them. As a mom, the fact that it feels like they are choosing her over me is heart wrenching. Sometimes, I want to scream at them and say,” Really? I gave birth to you!” ” I raised you alone for ten years!”
    Don’t underestimate the pain this similar experience caused your mother. She didn’t want to abandon you but she was too weak to take the pain. And I tell you it is painful to feel replaced. Yes you were a child and she was the adult but this kind of alienation and rejection is enough to literally drive one insane.
    I am lucky enough to have had social work as my undergraduate degree and this taught me to research and understand this syndrome and pursue!
    I have wanted to quit so many times because it is just tok painful!
    However, there are days like yesterday, where my middle son and I facetimed and I helped him with his book report . And my eldest called for me to help him with his French homework for university. This, despite being completely ignored for the last 6 weeks due to the holidays and their father’s desire to completely cut me out. I felt used and hurt. I wanted to say, “Too bad! Ask HER to help you!” But something inside told me they still need me, want me, and love me. I have to be the bigger person. I can’t let their poison destroy me or the boys.
    So don’t give up on your mother! Don’t send her one last anything… She does have guilt! You are right. Stay the course and take it slow. Keep your daily routine, and most of all , take care of yourself. Move forward. You are an amazing woman and she will get there! She likely feels hurt by felling replaced and blames you subconsciously. Just keep the door open! You will win her over with your patient, non- judgmental approach . I know …parents are suppose to be stronger than their children, but look at our own parents…. We are all human and getting and it is easy to lose focus in the parental alienation syndrome, whichever role is yours…. Alienator, alienated or child….don’t give up!

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    1. Thanks so much for writing. Yes, you are right that this situation has been horrific for my mother; I often think it was even harder for her than for me (though it was certainly traumatic for me to have my mother disappear!) I haven’t given up, but have made it very clear I am open to her contacting me any time and so I give her the choice and the space to make the decision. I’m so glad you did not give in to your frustration or anger and instead responded to your boys’ requests with love. That calm and consistency does not go unnoticed by them. You are showing them with your actions that you are a good and loving parent. Actions are powerful.

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  4. Mothererased, I look forward to your writings! I have read and re-read this latest entry, along with the wonderful comments from readers who know all to well the hurt and the pain of being alienated from the children they love so much. As I read the comments, I thought of a small feather afloat on the wind. When you go to catch it, the simple movement of your hand sends the feather beyond your reach. However, if you extend your hand, palms up, in the path of the feather, it will eventually gently land in your hand. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the door open as an invitation rather than to make a direct attempt to connect. What if you were to create another blog; and on it, you’d post letters to your mom…just whatever sentiment you wanted to express that you felt your mom could handle…then, you could email your mom the link and she could peek in when she was able to handle it. You would decide for yourself to believe she’s reading them whether she responds or not. I just keep thinking of your “A Message from Your Estranged Child” where, outwardly a child may show that they want no parts of the alienated parent, but inwardly, they pray that you never give up. God bless you and your mom! May the healing hands of the Lord repair even what may seem to be irreparable, and may He grant you both peace!

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  5. Id never thought that would be me. Not even allowed to say happy birthday. Im so lost on how to survive every day without them. Some days i pretend they dont exist because that pain is so unbearable and i havent found a way to cope. Its only been a few months for me and its not any easier. I wish writing here talking to others would help me see them, say i love you or anything in communication. Thank you for this blog mothererased! Thanks to all you others going thru it to and commenting.
    Still got my website for them if you want to check it out.
    http://www.lovemedeadavidsebastian.mobi

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    1. I am sorry you are going through this heart wrenching alienation. I believe it can only be resolved in somehow rising above the awful mindset and conditions that led to it happening -even if the mindset was not yours at all, but their father’s. Find a way to peace, knowing that it is in that place of calm that glimmers of hope will reveal themselves. I was unable to get to your website. Is that the correct url?

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  6. Sometimes I find it incredibly difficult continuing with my PAS site. I read the same stories over and over again and there is so much shame attached. I have been alienated from my son and daughter for over 23 years, with very small gaps in between but always the same result. Cut off from all social media, no telephone, no address, all other relatives alienated so no means of contact. I must admit that I do not feel shame and never have done. I have done everything I possibly can to contact my children and grandchildren with no result. I have pictures of my daughter and grand child on the walls and speak of them to friends and family often. I do not have a picture of my son as they were all destroyed by my ex husband. The photos I have of my daughter and grandson are from our own secret meetings a few years ago. You should not feel shame, nor feel you have to keep it a secret from others, it is the adult child’s choice if they do not want to see you and you have to respect their decision. My door is always open, my phone number and email public and my feelings exposed in my website, along with several messages to my children and grandchildren if they ever stumble across the site and want to read. Its so good to read that your head and thoughts are in a good place which I am sure will guide you back to some sort of meaningful relationship. Thank you for being brave enough to put you thoughts and feelings out there, I think this is the only way forward with PAS. The more we communicate the more we understand and the better equipped we are to deal with it. Love & Light xxx

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  7. There are all these fathers rights groups claiming that PAS belongs to them, that women are the bulk of the alienaters. I think the courts are giving more fathers sole custody in an attempt to stop PAS from happening. But look at this page of comments, look at all of us mothers being victimized by violent, domineering, and vengeful men who feel they have the right to “own” their children. I always felt that the alienation of my children was partly my fault because I didn’t press charges against their father for domestic violence when I had the chance and I allowed him visitation even after he had proven to have an anger and violence problem, how could I have thought that he would only do it to me? I was young I tell myself, I didn’t have a supportive family, I felt stigmatized to admit that we divorce because of his violent anger. The truth is that abusers are really naturally gifted at alienating people, he alienated me from my own sense of self long before
    he did it to my girls. I have read all these comments and my heart breaks with each one and I am angry, angry with these abusive personalities that always seem to “win.”

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    1. I think perhaps my own mother could have written the same words you did. If she had sought help or had support before the divorce, things could have turned out differently. But she was young, unsupported, I think ashamed of the violence, uneducated, and inexperienced. And like you, her sense of self suffered greatly.

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    2. Also, I do not know the statistics (I do know both mothers and fathers do the alienating). But I was told that the most extreme cases of complete alienation happens most often when the mother is young and intimidated and/or abused by her husband.

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    3. “, look at all of us mothers being victimized by violent, domineering, and vengeful men who feel they have the right to “own” their children. I always felt that the alienation of my children was partly my fault because I didn’t press charges against their father for domestic violence when I had the chance and I allowed him visitation even after he had proven to have an anger and violence problem…”
      These words could be my words to a Tee! I reflect over and over to all the abuse I endured which caused me to leave him… yet, stupidly, I couldn’t have imagined he’d carry that same level of manipulation and control onto our children?!? I should have known better. I shouldn’t have been so trusting in the love of a child to be strong enough to override the hate and resentment I know he felt when I left him.
      Thank you for your comment here. You put words to my very thoughts I ponder and beat myself up with daily. ❤️

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  8. Perhaps your mother feels anger, rage and hurt and betrayal and a deep sense of injustice and sorrow ……not guilt the fact that you say guilt indicates you are still somewhat under the spell of the alienation……just my opinion x

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  9. Maggie, this piece was published in a magazine many years ago, after my first attempt to reconnect with my mother. In hindsight, i was pushing her away even as I was “attempting to reconnect”. I am absolutely sure you are correct that she has felt anger, hurt and betrayal as you suggested in your response. In addition to those emotions, she has told me she felt bad for not “being stronger and standing up to my father”. However, I have assured her I do not hold this against her. It was very difficult as a young child to be “left with him” as my only parent, but I know he would have “allowed” it to happen any other way, and she knew that as well. Also, she did not have the resources or support to fight him in court or otherwise. Thank you for writing!

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  10. Your understanding and compassion is astounding especially after all you’ve endured yourself, I find it staggering. I can’t help but weigh these words against my daughter’s recent words and actions of utter cruelty. Having not only no interest in truth but zero desire for it much less to believe anything other than what they apparently choose and want to believe now in spite of many blaring facts to the opposite.
    Anyway, that makes your words of complete understanding beyond your own innocent pain through this, just really touch and embrace little pieces of my heart that I’ve tucked away to protect myself.
    You are an amazing and astounding human being. Truly….. ❤️❌⭕️❌⭕️❤️

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