To mothers

“When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from that grantor’s gift.” 

-Maya Angelou
And this is why I post this narrative…it is my bread being cast upon the waters.

Estrangement between adult children and their mothers and/or fathers is known in 2013 as the silent epidemic. It is silent mainly because parents whose children have rejected them, who have taken grandchildren away from them, who have told them they never want to see or hear from them again, many times with no tangible or rational reasons given, feel such shame and grief that they don’t want to talk about it for fear people will think they must be horrible depraved parents. Well, that is not the case most of the time.  Statistics prove it.

My message to my fellow mothers?…..Be grateful for what is before us right now the present is the only guarantee we really have.

This year was my 28th Mother’s Day, and the 30th anniversary of my mother’s death. My 30th mother’s day without my mum.

I would give anything to have another day with my mum, even another hour. I miss her dreadfully, painfully, every day. She was my mentor, guide, advocate, safety net, and she said I was the light of her life. I never quite understood that until I became a mother. When a child has grown under your own heart, or when a child has captured your heart, there is not turning back. It is greater than any natural laws, it need not be acquired and it need not be deserved, it is there, unconditional unending, profound. It is full blooded, courageous, pure and poignant.

A mother is not be perfect, after all this is her first life too, but her love is perfect. It can be injured, it can be hurt, it can be tested, challenged, rejected, but it is undefeatable. . It can experience great joy, anxiety, terror and tragedy, it is immortal.

Even though my mum has been gone more than half my life now, I still feel her love every day, it has stayed with me, it is breathtaking, it is heart wrenching and it is beautiful.

As I grieve my mother’s absence and am so terribly sad that she never saw my children, never saw me as a mother, never saw her grandchildren, she never got to love them and they never got to love her, and as I yearn for that chance that will never come, that history could somehow be re written and she would be here, I feel like we are still in a dialogue even now. I know that a mother’s love for her child outlives her.

As perfect and undefeatable a mothers love is, there is nothing that can be done to save a relationship between a parent and a grown child. And sadly, little children lose too.

I have not seen my grandchildren in a long time. I only really got to know one of them, love one of them, cherish her, adore her, before I was dismissed from their lives. One minute I was there in the delivery room for my oldest two, I saw my daughter birth them, my heart was full, the moment the most precious of my entire life.

But I didn’t see it coming. Estrangement was unfathomable to me. I only know that it started with one of my children and then that child took another one along with them. Convinced them I was not worth knowing. I should not be a grandmother. I lost two children and three grandchildren.

Just. Like. That.

They won’t tell me what I did, they won’t let me communicate, defend myself or make amends, take responsibility, whatever is required to put our family back together. I cannot know what their perception is.  I cannot fix it. It appears they don’t want me to. It appears they are content in their loss of me. Maybe if they could get a glimpse of my best intentions, my conflict, my commitment, my humanity, they would come back to me.

I am in an abyss. I feel like I have been murdered but my heart still beats. How do you not be a grandparent anymore when you were one, ARE one, and you loved it and loved them and could hardly wait for the next day with them? How do you take that out of your soul once it has been there? You don’t. You can’t.

How do you reconcile that your children who you planned or maybe didn’t plan but loved the surprise, who you birthed, loved, nurtured, truly hate you with all their being- so much so they do not care about you, they do not think about you, they do not want you around them and their new families? You don’t. You can’t.

It is like being on death row for a crime you did not commit, but it is you who decides if you live or die. If you are freed or confined for the rest of your years.

I wish I could not love them anymore. I wish I could not think about them anymore. I wish I could write them off as users and losers and be glad I am rid of people who must have no sense of empathy, honor, loyalty, no sense of family.

While they deny me a part in their adult lives and in the lives of their babies, one of the things they cannot deny me, and the thing I hang onto the most in the darkest times, is that I am the one who gave them life. And in turn, part of me lives in their children. They are who they are in part because of me.  I nurtured them when they were helpless babies relying on me for love, warmth, nourishment, protection, it was me who watched over them and advocated for them, encouraged them, guided them, laughed with them, cried with them, forgave them and mothered them from the time I birthed them. I was the first face they ever saw. They have both slept under my heart.

It would be so much easier to just turn my back. But it’s that mother’s love thing again.

The truth is I worry about them all the time and can’t stop wondering what horrible thing I did to make my own children turn against me. How did the children who laughed, played, held my hand, cuddled, asked me for advice, showed love and compassion towards me, loyalty towards me, come to reject, shame and belittle me?

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.  (King Lear-Shakespeare)

This mother’s day was painful. It was filled with trepidation, what if’s and a slim and faint hope that the doorbell might go or the phone will ring and it will be one of them or both of them, telling me they are coming back to me. Even though I have children who love me and who I mean the world to, who remind me every day that there is a reason to be happy, to have fun, to count my blessings, to look forward to the future, to my future and to their future,  there will be moments in the day I will wonder if the other two have given any thought at all to their mother.

Sometimes the part of my heart that is broken, has pain so piercing and constant I can hardly breathe; it’s as if a cement block has been permanently placed on my chest. I don’t think it will ever go away. Grieving becomes a way of coping with the tremendous loss that now makes up my life. And even though the jagged edges of my own grief have begun to smooth out a bit, I also know that it will always be with me and forever define my family. It is not just me who has lost my children, but my children have lost their siblings, their nieces, their nephew. And my grandchildren have lost half their heritage.

And this mother’s day I’ve learned to embrace the paradox of unfathomable loss and profound gratitude for living.

But there’s no anticipating when grief will sneak up and wash over me like a rogue wave. It just happens. It can be a song, a special place, a little child playing with her grandmother at the park, walking past a toy section, or just a memory suddenly slides into my subconscious and all I can think about is the tremendous hole that now fills my life. I can be having coffee with a friend and laughing one minute, and find my eyes filling with tears the next. And that’s okay. In fact, it just brings my two missing children and my grandchildren closer to me for that moment.

The beauty of the human spirit is that we have a remarkable ability to continue on, even in the most adverse of conditions. But we will always mourn our children and our grandchildren in estrangement. Our memories of them are all we have.

A mother’s love is forever, but for those of us whose love has been rejected, our grief is always there too.

Until next time, In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer  (Albert Camus).

Sian Erith Thomson

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