Why did this happen? Estranging myself from my mother.

Why did this happen?

There is no answer to that question.

There are too many answers to that question.

If your childhood was unhappy, if there was someone who hurt you when their role was to protect you, you may never know why it was that way. It may not be possible to reconstruct how their weaknesses and angers and sorrows were weighed, over and over, against their strengths and sense of responsibility and their love for you – and why they all too often came up short. It is dead weight you will carry on your back, in your mind and your heart, without ever seeing it in full. It is dark matter pulling unseen at the stars in your sky.

If you estrange yourself from them, you will grieve this loss for years, like the death of a beloved. Giovanna Calvino, daughter of Italo, spoke of timelessly mourning her father’s death: “For me, at the very best, only four-fifths made it through… The rest of me is trapped in a space-time loop where I am forever reeling from the loss of my father.” Estrangement is the loss of a beloved. You lost who they might have been to you. You will slowly learn to accept that some fraction of yourself will always be fearful, heartbroken and ashamed.

You will be called selfish when you pull yourself away from them in an effort to keep yourself safe, and it will make you feel like everything they said about you was true:

no good

can’t do anything right


wish you’d never been born

You will continue to be desperate for an explanation, then and now – why did this happen to you? Why is it happening to you? (It is always happening, in some deep-buried oubliette of the mind.) While it is still happening, the only explanation they will give you is that it’s your own fault. You’re the reason they act this way. That’s all you have to grasp onto to explain your suffering, and you will grasp on and hold tight, because it at least gives you some reason, some meaning. Better to be a monster than to plunge into the vast ear-splitting silence of the truth – that your care was given to one behaving monstrously.

You will be selfish sometimes as you live your life; you will hurt others because you think that is just how people behave, or because no one ever protected you from being hurt, or because you simply cannot see that you are doing it. Once you come to realize it, you will feel this only proves their point about you. Can’t do anything right.

You will think about how many more people suffer much worse than you do, infinitely worse than anything that ever happened to you, and you will feel ashamed for making such a big deal out of it. It may seem easier, then, to pretend nothing happened at all. Soon, you will even try to feel nothing at all. You will shift that dark weight around inside you, trying to contain it completely. It will push unseen against your insides, straining against you. Straining you.

You will not be able to breathe when you think about letting yourself feel it all in full, like water rushing from a broken dam. Surely if you felt that much at once you would die.

Oh, you will go through many deaths in this way: you will be hurt and you will hurt others, and continue over and over to lose much that is fragile and tender and good. I am so sorry. I wish I knew another way.

In your grief you will lose all sense of self, all track of time.


When did I surface? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s when I moved to New York, or when I subsequently cut off all contact with my mother, to keep myself safe. It could very well be when I started to reach out to reconnect with other family members, in spite of distance, and feelings of anger and betrayal. (Where the hell were they, you thought, angrily. You remember, though, that you were very good at lying at that age. And so was she.)

(I’m sorry for the pronoun confusion. Somehow, certain parts of this are easier to write in second person.)

My grief at not having a mother is around me and inside me at the same time. On the very worst days, it feels as it will permeate through the skin, melt the boundaries of my body until I am not defined by who I am but by the hazy ocean of pain that rocks through me.

But you don’t act that sad.

I pulled myself out, eventually. And when I couldn’t, I asked those to pull me whom I knew could, and would. Once out, I kept going, moving toward a life where I did not have to keep quiet or hide in fear. That’s not easy. Choosing to estrange myself from my mother when I saw I couldn’t be whole in any other way right now – that was definitely not easy. It was the right decision for me, though.

Don’t people push you to talk to your mother?

Not those who know me. I recognize I am in a unique position – I haven’t a single family member, including those also related to her by blood, who encourages me to speak to my mother. In fact, some actively discourage me when I do start to doubt myself. Not everyone who has estranged themselves from a parent can say that; in fact, most probably can’t. This is why I talk about my experience. Not because I think it’s positive – I hope no one reading this has to go through it. But if you do come to that point where you have to choose, know that it can be done. Trust in yourself and in the supportive people in your life.

But she is your Mother

I know. I know. I miss her even today. There is no logic to mothers, whether good or bad. They take up too great a space in our lives to exist rationally in our minds and hearts. Often that is beautiful. Sometimes – if something goes wrong – it is horrific.


Why did this happen? There is no answer; there are too many.

151 responses to “Why did this happen? Estranging myself from my mother.”

  1. Katie, thank you again for this forum and for letting us know we are not alone.
    I am 61 now, and moved away from my hometown when I was 24. Been there, even though I maintain minimal contact via a weekly phone call (I haven’t seen Mom in over 18 months now, and I live over 1800 miles from her). I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could talk with her about things that really bothered me, or about the kids. We share family news and keep it light; there is no real emotional intimacy. My girls think she’s a witch, not based on what I say, but on what she says to them or about us. When Mom gets nasty or sarcastic, I ask why she says something (giving her a chance to think about it), and if she still persists (somehow she thinks it makes her sound witty) I tell her I have to hang up, and then I do. She then calls me back a few hours later to offer an apology which I accept, until she does it again. Luckily as Mom gets older, and fewer family members are around to put up with her (Mom is 89) this little dance happens far less often. My dad was a wonderful confidante for me, and he helped me in so many important ways, but he died a few years ago, so it feels like I have no parents now. My sisters have talked about her behavior before, and all three of us are on antidepressants and have been in therapy, but they seem much more forgiving than I . The younger one is separated and in a difficult financial situation, so she depends on Mom a lot to pick up her kids and to often babysit them. The other one is now living even further away from her than me; she’s also Mom’s obvious favorite. I dread when Mom dies, because I’ll be expected to say nice things about her. I’m thinking of saying something like, ” I loved her, but our relationship was complicated,” or similar.

    • No, you are not obliged to say something nice about her – just say nothing. You should not lie about her just because you think it is customary! No need to get nasty, either – but I am sure you would not anyway!
      See, I was estranged from my Dad and when he died this January, I did not go to his funeral service. His widow (not my mother) did not explicitly invite me, so I could easily skip what would have been a big lie.
      Stand true to your feelings. Just go to the funeral if you really want to be there for those who loved her and might need consolation. The funeral is not about her – only about the surviving.

    • You will just speak the truth. She saw things in her own unique way, had a desire to help others ( even if she wasn’t able to). Talk about what your mom longed for and wished for. Her dream was to live with a whole heart possibly ( but she maybe never reached her full potential ). The great lessons she has taught you may be because of the negative ways she reacted to things. So in a way she helped point you in a more positive direction in your life. Maybe this doesn’t help. But words like this are truths. How people interpret them is up to them. You are more amazing than you have ever gave yourself credit for.

      • That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Children need love and protection growing up. Not fear and dread. Circumstantial unhappiness can’t be avoided, but deliberately causing your children to be miserable can never be undone. Growing up in such a negative environment means that negativity becomes one’s default position. Some turn out to be cruel and selfish themselves, unable to differentiate it from love and sacrifice (which they never saw while growing up). Most are depressed and their depression easily triggered throughout their lives. Some are incapable of love and/or afraid of love. Some believe they don’t ‘deserve’ to be loved. So tell me Ms Jody, how did her mother “point her in a more positive direction in her life”?

      • I didn’t say it was easy. I’m sorry for offending you. I guess I was trying to give suggestions if she wanted to write something nice but also wanted to stay true to herself. How do we appreciate if we have never gone without. How do we know love unless we know what it feels like to feel unloved? How do we know good, unless we know what bad is? How do you know the value of ourselves unless we’ve experienced to other? All of these things make us make choices in life. Some of these lessons we experience but we are lost in trying to make them work for us instead of against us. How we store experiences makes or breaks us. It’s not about denying that they ever happened, it’s about how we pull ourselves up inspite of it happening.

    • I’m the same way, regarding my children or major life events. There are times in life you just expect to have a mom. I have to remind myself that even when I had contact she was never there. I’m sorry you have had to distance yourself, too.

      • I have had at least two *major* life events where I was in trouble and called my mom. Her answer to one was ‘well, do you really need my help? Can’t you make it home from the hospital yourself?’ and to the other she arrived 4 hours after the emergency was over. She lived 15 minutes away. I have always felt incredibly let down by my families inability to be there in a time of need. I have always felt completely on my own, with no safety net. None. It is exceptionally difficult for me to ask for help and I wonder where that will leave me once I get to the point where I can’t do everything myself.

    • Wow Your Story sounds very close to mine and My Mother and Thannk You so much because I see I am not the only one I Lean on The Lord Jesus Christ at the same time I just act like there is nothing wrong because She wil Denie everything I dont want to strt that so I keep it to My self Thank You SHERI Barton sheribarton64@gmail.com

  2. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks dbffbeckgfed

  3. Will not say more just that I powerful piece and that it takes real courage to speak your heart out in public and I honour you for that…I might not feel your agony sub consciously as I have a doting selfless mother…touchwood…but somewhere you made me feel your pain consciously through your honest confessions….I am following you as I want to read you more.

  4. read your Holy Bible
    and then youll have a much
    clearer understanding of the things
    that (take) place in each and everyone’s
    life . 1 very important question I’d personally like to ask you . Would you
    ( love ) 2 have all the people that ever came to know and hold dear to you for eternity ?

  5. This is incredibly beautiful and articulate, even if you do shift persons. How appropriate, really, given what happens when a parent doesn’t mirror a child back to herself in a way that confirms her own identity. (I have an Estranged post myself, as it happens, though it’s not about a parent; http://paulareednancarrow.com/2014/05/24/estranged/) I am so grateful that you wrote this, and I hope you understand how important it was that you did.

  6. Thank you for sharing this personal story. You have given me a number of things to think about and shed light on many of the feelings that I have bubbling up at this time.

  7. There will always be a hole in your heart because of this. I wish you can reconnect with your Mom. I bet it will be another great article to read. 🙂

  8. Wonderful… It touched!…
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  9. My mom & I never talked to each other again when we both got into an argument & dad too for that matter.. I have’nt spoken to them since Sept, 1990.. Mom died 2yrs ago frpm cancer & even then I didnt talk to them.. I didnt even go to her furneal cuz of dad.. now I’m just waiting for him to die off so I can get my trust fund..

  10. Thank you for writing about this. Four years ago I finally got the courage to tell my mother that I didn’t want to talk with her any more. It’s only been a little over a year since she actually stopped contacting me. I feel like the rest of my family (even my father who is divorced from her for over 25 years) don’t really get why I did it, even though they understand my reasons. They never found the courage to do it themselves with their parents. I also feel them moving away from me because they do things with her where I won’t have any contact with her at all. The other day she tried contacting me again and I just don’t see her changing her patterns. It helps give me strength to see that you have struggled with something similar and choose life over depression and pain. Thank you.

  11. Estrangement is one step on the way to establishing a civil relationship. It gives parties the time and distance to reset the boundaries of their interactions – if they want to, and if they don’t want to, there is a modicum of peace in your life.

  12. Sometimes the things that make no sense at the time, reveal their true colors later on in life. Perhaps it will all one day be clear why it has happened this way. Until then, I hope you realize how strong you are to do what you feel must be done and to stick with it no matter how hard.

  13. I am estranged from my father and your description of the experiences is perfect. I found relief in gratitude. I wrote him a letter that listed everything he’d done or given that I was grateful for and then explained that I still could not be around him. I don’t know what that letter did for him, but it set me free.

  14. Too scared to say anything because I will reveal too much about myself. I haven’t spoke to my mom for years, never met my biological father. I have real painful reasons for this unlike my own two daughters. It hurts.

  15. As I mom I would love to hear from my grown children
    if for some reason I said something or not do when they were growing up. Be who you are, trust and surrender.

  16. Thank you for this! I have been struggling for years now about how I’ve also estranged myself from my mother. I can’t really say why. I don’t have a “good” reason, other than I just don’t feel good, or wanted, or loved, or that I can be myself, or any of those things that people so happily talk about when they mention their mothers. I haven’t seen her in over 2, almost 3 years. I haven’t called her. She hasn’t called me. I haven’t visited. She would NEVER dream of visiting me. Not that I don’t love her, I do, hence the guilt and distress, and still I can’t go back. I’m 56 now. My Dad passed away after a long illness about 10 years ago, although it seems like yesterday. I miss him terribly. I can point to a couple of things that she said when he passed that were not kind. I didn’t think much at the time. I visited now and then, and when she got sick, I tried to visit more. It felt awkward, uncomfortable, awful. I never went back. My sister gives me a hard time, or at least she did, until she stopped talking to me altogether over this. As you can see, I too struggle with guilt. But I cannot bring myself to “be” with her. I feel like a bad person, selfish, inconsiderate, unloving, all of that. I’m somewhat comforted by your blog posts, knowing that I’m not alone, not a “bad” person? She is not a bad person either. But I just can’t. I’m sure this hurts her. She has only one daughter of three who sees her regularly. That’s sad. Thank you for sharing your story and feelings.

  17. It would be enlightening to hear the mother’s perspective. There used to be a phrase: being BIGGER than the other person. Not so you feel superior, but so that you give them a chance to grow too.
    Seventy times seven is a lot of times to forgive, but how many times has one needed to be forgiven oneself?
    Honour your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth is an unfashionable concept. It might be worth a try and might bring healing to yourself as much as to all involved. I’m not advocating prostrating oneself before someone for potential abuse. I’m just saying that people move on and one never knows why they might have behaved in a certain way at a certain time. Maybe cut them some slack? Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…Then you can flourish yourself.
    If this is inappropriate to your situation, then ignore it, but I can’t help saying it with true compassion. It is not meant to be smug in any way.

    • Clearly you don’t understand the damage abuse can cause. Some people don’t deserve forgiveness. Sometimes the best you can do is make peace with a situation, and with yourself, then move on.

      • Fine. I respect what you are feeling. I said that in my comment,actually. But you have pre-judged me: you simply cannot know the depths of suffering I may have felt over the last thirty or so years. I would nevert say to you as you have to me: ‘Clearly you don’t know/ understand,’ as that would be assuming something that I had no right to assume- ie/ that someone else can somehow know or BE me.
        People don’t deserve abuse and they don’t deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift that one chooses to give unconditionally. It isn’t to be forced. People give it when they are ready. Some might never be. No one can blame someone else for not forgiving. Forgiving might not mean recreating another close relationship with the one who has offended you, but it might. That would depend on the seriousness of the original abuse/ pattern of behaviour.
        Now I will leave you to your deliberation and wish you well on your journey. I acknowledge that your past experiences have been very bad.

    • I’ve been thinking about this command : honour your father and mother. I thought : how lucky i am to have parents whom it is easy to honour. But what do you do if you’ve been severely mistreated by one or both your parents ?
      Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Yet it doesn’t seem right to fogive to someone in your thirties for something a parent did to you ages ago (like for instance sexual abuse).The child you were at that time doesn’t exist any more. How can you as a grown-up forgive in her or his name ?
      Also, it also seems to me that your OWN children deserve to be protect from a mistreating parent, whether or not that person realises how much he/she is a mistreating person. I find Eminem’s song “headlights” very fair : Yes mum, i understand you had your own trouble and I miss you, but my children remain my priority, even if I dream we could be connected.

      • Probably ‘forgive’ in the sense of trying to cease from anger and resentment toward the person and to try to wish them well, without necessarily leaving yourself open to any repetition of the previous behaviour.
        I agree that severe abuse is another matter, different from (say) perceived mistreatment that might be open to interpretation and which might have been produced through a prejudiced perspective created by parental alienation syndrome, where one divorced parent trashes the other to a child and the child’s memories are distorted and manipulated. There, with professional help, the past might be able to be re-visited, clarified and healed with goodwill on both sides.
        But with ravening wolves, I think you might just respect their nature from a safe distance!
        As with a lot in life: it all depends!
        The need for forgiveness is so that rancour is replaced in your own heart with a gracious love. That doesn’t mean you should become a punch-bag, or doormat.It will also bring you peace.
        All very difficult to express and to practise!

  18. Thanks for sharing. At the age of 24 I had to disown my father for the same reasons. I knew that if I kept him in my life in any way, I would never heal (because he would not allow me to) and I would have gone over the edge and probably become an alcoholic as he is. It still hurts a year later but it is one of the best decisions I have ever made and my life is worlds different now, positively. God bless you!

  19. I loved your description of how you processed your feelings and grief. How you still struggle and don’t act sad. My mother has been in prison for the past 10 years and I really only recently started talking to her again. For years I hated her and blamed her and although my situation is different from yours, I know had she not wound up behind bars I would most likely be an awful person, someone I’d be ashamed to know. She was cruel and manipulative and she made me feel small all the time until one day she was gone and she had to wait for me to answer the phone. But seeing as I don’t know your story totally, I just felt like I needed to say that I was affected by this. Everyone has their story and everyone feels life differently so to be honest, I don’t feel like anyone should be ashamed of their feelings no matter how big or small the issue is. Because feelings are the only thing I know and understand and that means (to me) they more real than anything. Thank you for sharing.

  20. There is only so much emotional anguish one can take. I have to admit that it is a strange concept to distance yourself from the very people who gave you life, but when you reach that limit, you know it. Growing up, the nasty chain of comments just kept on coming, and they were all meant with the “best intentions” from the parents’ perspective to motivate me, push me and propel me forward to be independent. They were performing a selfless service in their own mind, while I felt trapped in a vicious circle of fear about what is coming next and I had no way out. Every interaction with them added to this fear and I have reached my quota of what I can put up with. No child should ever feel like they have nobody to turn to or confide in when they are the most vulnerable throughout their growing years. When you have to go to the library to learn about life, social skills and all other important issues, you realize that you are lacking something in your life. When you have to grow up way before your time and miss your childhood just to survive, you learn to block out that period of your life and compartmentalize it in your mind to protect yourself from those painful memories.
    The first chance I got to get out from under their watchful eyes and controlling ways, I was out on my own. Surprisingly, when I made the decision to cut off the communication, because they chose their friends over me and my family, I felt liberated and free for the first time in my life and I did not have to expect the dreaded daily check-in calls anymore. I do not feel ashamed, fearful, less than who I am or mourn the decision. From the moment I consciously realized what was happening to me by attending several seminars discussing personality types, I swore that I will treat my own children differently. I gave them praise, I loved them with all my heart, I showered them with hugs and kisses, while gently guiding them down the path towards their independence. I was scolded by my parents for showing that much outward love towards my children and even my pets. I never talked back to them, because it was not respectful and I did not have the courage. It took half of my life and several total strangers to give me the courage to do that, but better late then never. I do not regret my decision. I am redefining the boundaries and my comfort zone. I will never make the mistakes they made. They will never admit or realize what they have done to me and I am not going to waste my energy to explain what is going to fall on their deaf ears anyway. I will focus my energy on people who matter in my life and those are my new marching orders. I burnt the bridge, closed the book and never looked back. It will take an act of congress and a totally different approach on their part for me to even consider the option of rebuilding any kind of relationship again. I want to make it clear that I am not perfect nor that I consider my parenting style the best. Children do not come with a user manual. However, there is one basic human need that everyone needs to experience and that is the freedom of choice or we might as well be slaves. I will do my best to give people in my life that choice.

  21. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Tough story to live and to tell well. I left my mother’s care at 14 to live with my father (not a picnic, but safer.) I’m my mother’s only child but have not spoken to her in 3 years. Am trying to get up the nerve to fly 6+ hrs to her and spend the $$$$ to be in that city, as she is now 80 and has very few friends left; alcoholism, bipolar illness and personality made for a challenging combination, even leavened by wit, blazing intelligence and beauty.

    It’s very difficult to mother oneself as well.

  22. Thank you. I haven’t ever read anything that resembles my situation as you have articulated. Such courage, though it sound without choice. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  23. It is probably not a coincidence that I happened to stumble upon your post. I cannot explain why I needed to divorce myself from my mother. I have little to no feelings for her which causes tremendous guilt because I feel I should. I suppose some mother daughter relationships are just complicated. Being around her is a literal death sentence for me. I had to choose…me or her. I chose her for over 30 years. Now I am choosing life, my kids and hubby. Thank you for writing. ❤

  24. I am amazed that I’ve stumbled upon this post. I’ve never considered myself close to my mother. But she was recently diagnosed with leukaemia and well now, I’m digging into the recesses of my memory and you know…actually finding that my mom and I are friends. That being said. I’ve always believed that you have to take care of your self, make certain you’re happy and others will be happy to be around you. If you’re mother can’t let you take care of you…taking her out of your live’s equation is for the best albeit sad. But some things must be done that way, the sad way. Anyway, thank you for your post.

  25. Moving post.
    Its amazing the power a parent has over a child. Even if we know the parent was wrong or a bad person a part of us will always ache for them & desire their acceptance.

  26. Katie I hope one day you have a daughter or kids of your own if you don’t already, this would be a great opportunity to emend the wrongs done to you, be everything she was not, not for spite but to prove to yourself that change can happen and that no matter how close we are to toxicity, we have a choice to love deeply and the right way instead. There is healing in this. I loved reading your post, thankyou.

  27. This is moving in ways I never considered possible. It makes me consider things very differently, and realise that what I thought was a breaking-down relationship actually can be saved. Thank you very much, and I hope you never regret any decision you have ever made, including this one. I hope you’re happy.

  28. I believe not having a mothers love is the most painful thing one can go through. I pray that God will help you fill the void

  29. Reblogged this on wwince511 and commented:
    These are the words of many. I enjoyed the writing, but most of all, this is a personal journey I have walked. I have and continue to become heal and whole on a daily basis. But only through the Power of the Holy Spirit…..Please Enjoy.

  30. This reminds me of my relationship with my mother so much. I just moved out/got kicked out of her house a year ago and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Dealing with the comments of me being ‘selfish’ is hard especially coming from family members.

  31. truth. whatever side you are on (mother/child or child/mother). but, did you not ever consider what side your mother is on? Sometimes mothers know when they can trust their child to be without them (or maybe it was God all along?)… which in turn might not exactly be what mother thought… but, we trust God and His timing, even now.

    Daughters, please rethink… especially before you have a child (daughter) of your own. If you did or do not like the cycle you are in/on… change it. Why do we ( which I am guilty of) condemn those that bore us?

    Have you ever thought.. maybe, just maybe, in some little way, our mothers knew more than us… no matter how old we become?

    She is the life that bore your life. If only in that… Be Thankful!

    (this coming from one whose mother disregarded her as being anything. Yet, in reality, it was because she knew I was of Him.)

  32. It will be 3 years, 4 months on July 8 since I have spoken to anyone in my family. They are dysfunctional. I am trying to heal. Being around them makes that an impossible task. I understand the pain and I am sorry you have had to go through it.

  33. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone. I have struggled mightily with this very issue. Been all over the place trying to figure it out, from the “You have to forgive her” from well-meaning friends and relatives (they did not see the private side she never let others see that I definitely saw), to trying not to become just like her. I am beginning to think I am not going to be able to forgive. Maybe that will happen. Probably not.

  34. Thank you. I’ve been “given permission” to separate completely from my mother for years. I finally did it recently, and have had so much peace and freedom. I am a Christian, and can feel a lot of guilt over that 4th commandment. But many holy people have affirmed my need to be estranged. I understand your post so much. We have to keep reminding ourselves of why we are motherless, and that despite the pain, it is better than the alternative.

  35. My mother was a monster that had the audacity to say she didn’t remember all the things she did, that she was even a good mother.

    You are very strong to have left her behind. People really don’t get why you aren’t best buds with your parents and really are forever trying to get you to fix things and it’s like “yeah they seem
    Normal to you,” and they think that’s all the time. But it wasn’t.

    I am sure our situations weren’t the same but what you wrote resonates with me.

    • As a mum myself, any woman who tells me she is a good mother all the time, I listen with disbelief. You do hurt your child from time to time. You do get too angry. You say stuff you didn’t mean. No one is perfect. You can me an OK mum when you ask forgiveness to your child. And if you discouver one day that you are mistreating your child on a regular basis, then it is your responsability as a parent to ask for help.
      In my opinions, the very violent families are also ones where the parents think they are perfect parents. So how much a mum thinks she is a good mum has no real link to whether or not she is indeed a good mum.

      • Very true, it’s just shocking that they can truly believe that they are doing such good things… I mean yes, I am totally going to mess up with my children, be late to things, miss appointments you know. I am sure we’ll fight and all that. It’s how these things are done, in my opinion, that matter.

        Yes there were good things in my childhood but I also know there was more bad and that it didn’t have to be that way.

        I am working on trying to understand and I think I am doing well coping but I am not sure I can ever quite forgive. But that’s just me. (In the USA in the South there is a huge thing about giving everyone forgiveness and I am asked constantly to do so. I’d be interested on your thoughts on that as well)

      • In a peanuts comic, Lucy says : “the whole trouble with you is that you won’t listen to what the whole trouble is with you”
        I find it very true for many abusive parents. I think one way of dealing with this is to view this as part of THEIR problem, as a result of many factors that have made them unable to ask for help in raising their kids, even when it was obvious to everyone (but them) how much help they did need.

        So I guess the most important think is for you now to focus on coping. And viewing a parent’s failure to recognise his or her own wrongdoing not as a moral issue can be a way of forgiving them. They did the best they could and maybe that was far from enough.
        They inability to recognise what went wrong then is just part of “the whole problem with them”, to quote Lucy. Maybe they had little control over that.

        For me, forgiving is not saying “oh, I forget everything now” or “it didn’t hurt that much” or ” it can’t have been that bad as I am coping now”.

        Hope this helps.
        God bless you.

      • Thank you, God bless you! I feel like the more people I talk to, the more bits of the puzzle I find. So thanks for your piece.

  36. I honestly commend you. Sometimes, we have to be the ones to protect ourselves, and sometimes the way to do that is distance.
    When I see all the Bible verses in the comments telling to forgive, or to honor parents, or to this or that, it breaks my heart to see it encouraged for you to stay in a cycle of mistreatment and/or abuse. Love yourself. Protect yourself like you would your only child. And you’d never show anyone who treated your baby like that to continue. Sometimes we have to be the protective parent to ourselves and be free the bibles verses and their perpetuating guilt.

  37. Interesting that I found this as I just wrote about extracting myself from my “family” and how it has made me so much happier and has redefined my definition of what a family is. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is let go of “family.”

  38. what changed the entire way that I dealt with having no relationship with my mother were the simple words that you can’t take things personal. I moved with my grandmother when I was 13. I was angry and bitter. And then I read those words, that you can’t take anything personal. Her anger and inability to cope with life or children had nothing to do with me. They existed before I ever came into the world. I started to look at her as human.. a very flawed human and not this ideal of perfection that we sometimes give to our parents. I became empathetic towards her and keep her at a distance. We don’t speak and that is fine. I learned what the parental relationship was through my own children. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck. It does. I just don’t have the ability to have that much control over how a person faces life. And I’m okay with that.

  39. I have danced with my father on and off for several years, and just recently came to the conclusion that it’s so much safer to leave him on the floor by himself. I don’t think anyone else is too eager to pick up where I left off. Great post. Thank you.

  40. Challenging, powerful Lesson in estrangement.. particularly from “Mom”.. Who are you BOTH with her, and away from her? That’s the only constant you truly can count on and have SOME control over..

  41. It breaks my heart to read this, and I wish I had a magic wand that could erase your pain and make things better…and turn your mother into a more loving and accepting parent. All I can offer is some good but trite advice: This is about her problems and shortcomings, not yours. You are fine!

  42. Beautiful, truthful, profound. My daughter estranged from her father, needs to read this, to know she isn’t alone and what her heart feels, her mind can comprehend, it’s all valid and able to be overcome.

  43. I personally feel that the biggest blessing that come in our life is in the form of powerlessness! We are powerless in front of time, happiness, sorrows, bad days and struggle; the reason why we cannot HOLD them and they have to -pass one day. Three words says it all: Life Goes On! Thanks for sharing something deep and thoughtful 🙂

  44. Beautiful Prose. I detached myself from my mother when I was 16 years old because she refused to accept me for who I am. She believed being gay was/is unholy, and that deciding to take this route, as if it was a choice, was selfish, childish, and in return for playing with these “demons” I would never amount to anything. With all that being said, I don’t hate her. I actually love her a lot for everything she did for me before. We still do not talk, its her choice. But I beleive time will play a role in our lives coming back together after our fork in the road, and I will forgive her. Thank you for writing about this. It seems unrelated to my story, but pieces of it I really connected with. It brightened my day up, so I hope you have a great rest of yours!

    -Reed from reedbyme.com

  45. This is amazing! I have and am going through the same thing and I think you described it perfectly and this has actually inspired me that when this happens its not the end of the world, thankyou, obviously im not happy you also are going through it but its noce to know that I am not the only person, I always feel like I am attention seeking whenever i speak about but wow! Brought a tear to my eye.

  46. Reblogged this on The Introvert Recruiter and commented:
    Why has this happened?

    There is no answer, there are too many answers. Answers I’m not quite sure I want to have or know. Its better for me to stay in this dark corner. Although I think, the kind of liberation I long for can only become with the knowledge of what happened….

    But then, there are too many answers and I’m not quite ready to have them

  47. Thank you so very much for sharing your feelings about your mother, and what has happened between you both. Your openness has opened a door for my daughter to get back in touch after nearly 4 years. We’ll get together on Sat. for a visit, and I hope very much we can understand one another better after a talk. I don’t know if we’ll be as self-aware as you seem to be, but I’ll hope for the best. It does feel good to know we’re not alone out here in this world of misunderstandings and pain.

    • Hi Judy. Thank you so much for sharing this comment earlier this month. I hope your visit turned out well. Whether it did or it didn’t, I was incredibly touched to hear about this. I wish both of you the best as you figure out how to move forward and communicate openly with each other. It’s very brave ❤


      • Hi, Katie,
        I’m so sorry I didn’t see this note until a year after you sent it! My daughter arranged a meeting at a local eatery with her son along. It’s the first time I’d seen him since he was 6–and now he’s 11. It’s painful to lose half my family that way, and hard not to be angry, but I write to them, whether or not she gives the letters to Nick–no idea. I’m keeping a notebook here of my letters to them so someday, when I have every hope he’ll materialize on my doorstep, I can share them all with him. Moving out of our house of 25 years turned up many items that were hers from her early years, which I’d been storing for her, and some things of ours that she wanted. It took us 3 carloads to move it all! I feel closure that she now has her things, and I am not holding it all here. I’m also so very thankful for new friends in RI, since we moved 5 months ago. I miss my old friends, but my new friends are great, also.
        Good luck with your family,
        Judy.tysmans at gmail.com

  48. Thank you for sharing this. I am estranged from both my mother and father for different reasons, and it was such a difficult decision to do so. I still doubt myself on occasion. It is painful and I do feel selfish. But it’s how it must be right now – like you said, I couldn’t be whole in any other way. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  49. Immediately your caption captured me!
    I, too, have decided to cancel Rosebud (the person who birthed me) out of my life!
    After giving a person numerous chances you realize that it will never be any different and so the wall goes up, communication stops and you feel a little better knowing that without her you ARE a better person!

  50. I could relate to all of this. I hope it’s okay to say that this piece is beautiful, beautiful for its truth and expression of loss that can never be reconciled.

    There are others of us in your shoes as well. Thank you for articulating the inherent difficult situation that this is.

  51. This was beautifully written but anguishing to read. I have a wonderful Mum, but I know others do not. My Grand-daughter is one of them – I fear she will write a similar post in 20 years about growing up insignificant. I do my best as her Nan to envelope her in love, champion her ideas, and appreciate every bit of her beautiful, unique and wonderful self.

    I have a sister I’m estranged from and hubby gave me the greatest gift — “taking a relationship sabbatical” – I stepped away and finally could see what the relationship was – or rather- wasn’t.

    Bests to you! MJ

  52. I divorced myself from my mother ie cut all ties when I was 24. She kicked me out of home when I was 16 and I left and never went back. Had a few rough years but made it thru OK (didnt end up on the streets or in trouble thank god). Everything I did and went thru was in spite of her. I never ever ever EVER grieved for leaving her behind. Was the best decision I made to remove that toxic wasteland who happened to bring me into the world from my life.

    My sister is on her team, and we havent talked since then either. I have wistful moments when it would be nice to have a sister but I know they can’t and won’t change and I won’t let them back into my life again (and in our family it would be seen as weakness to give in first)

    Im 45 and I tell people Im an orphan for things like Xmas (keep in contact with my Dad but he lives overseas)

  53. Thank you for sharing this article, i also have a bad relationship with my mum, i havent talked with her since my dad past away. But i hope someday i can hug my mom..

  54. Really nice written! I understand you completely as I myself has done the same with my “mom”.

  55. Gosh I came across this post and was like woah this is me, I was adopted by my birth mother, she lied to my for 16 years saying she didn’t know who my father was, then when I was 16 she decided to tell me that she did know who my father was and gave me his name. I met him online but it never went any further, guess he just wasn’t interested in being a father anyway. As for my mother this year I gave birth to my son and it really hit me that in such a fragile state she gave me away to some strangers, but the story goes as follows. I was born October 22nd, 1990 and by 6 months I was officially adopted. After two weeks of taking care of me my mother gave me to one of her college professors to watch me and four weeks later asked her to leave me with the daycare family, that she would come pick me up there. The professor would go to work and leave me with the daycare family daily. This time she didn’t come back and neither did my mother. Sometime within the 4-6 months of me staying with this daycare family a lady called on the phone asking if they would want to adopt me. They at first said no, and then called back and said yes. So they showed up at court and my mother showed up, told the judge she didn’t know who my father was and ditched me again. My adoptive parents being kind hearted let her have an open adoption so I would see her on holidays and birthday sometimes throughout the years. I thought she was cool because I was young and nieve, as a child I had such a big heart. As I grew up I realized what she really had done. She had abandoned me with complete strangers and I was like a puppy she left at a friends house. To this day it makes me sick that I forgave her and continued a relationship with her. I let her keep screwing me over, lying to me, and using me to the point of where I realized. Some people you need to cut out of your life for the soul purpose that they will continue hurting you because they are selfish and they will guilt you into being in their lives. She always played the poor victim and I was sick of it. She was also very passive agressive. I remember looking at the clock and thought, I could go 20 years and not see her and be fine with that. So I messaged her online and told her everything I felt. She didn’t take it to lightly. She blocked me because she knew I was right about everything. There is much more to the story like how she would use her boyfriend for his money and attention and always say she could do better, how she would leave him off and on and hook up with guys just a little over my age, how she would have sex with random men and women upstairs when I lived with her when I was 20 years old, hearing them have sex S&M style. Something no daughter should hear or be apart of. Let alone she allowed me to and enabled me to smoke marijuana , cigarettes, and drink with her. Just not a good person to be around when you are trying to make a better future for yourself. So after years of forgiving her for thing after thing, I had enough. I think the spark was being 9 months pregnant and realizing who I want in my sons life, and what kinds of people I will allow my son to be around. So I messaged her and haven’t heard from her since. At first I thought it would be heard but after a month, not hearing from her was music to my ears. Now I can live a positive happy life without her in it, because she will always and always did bring me down.

  56. You are so right!
    The “But she is your mom” part is what got to me in your article. All of it… but especially that part.
    I’ve to remind myself every day that it’s not me who decided to let go, but her deciding for me as she made it so easy! However, I give her a chance every once in a while only to realize (all over again) that she’s exactly where we left off and will never change.
    She is, unfortunately, one of those who will never be happy …regardless…

  57. I relate to this very much. My mother is still very much in my life, but there have been times I have had to take a step back and create distance to protect myself. I’ve cut off most of my extended family for the same reason. It is very brave what you’re doing, so many people say “get over it” “move on” “stop holding a grudge”, but it’s more about their own discomfort than worrying about yours. Bravo for taking a stand and honoring your feelings.

  58. Katie. Your post interested me. I have become estranged from my mother as well. My mother has an affliction that drove first my father away, then my brother, then finally me. It is called “Borderline Personality Disorder” It is very hard to diagnose even for the professionals. I would suggest you look into this and see if this fits your circumstances with your mother. If it does then I cannot recommend enough a book by the title of “Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds and Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem” By Kimberlee Roth. It is written for the children of parents who have BPD. It was written for people like you and I. I hope this helps a little.

  59. Appreciate the book recommendation submitted by greggerykunkle. I plan to read it.

    Almost all my memories of my mother are painful. She was so negative towards me. One example is: as a teenager, I found her unconscious in my bed. She had taken an overdose. I called the ambulance and remember that I was shaking. After some time in ICU, she was transferred to a psych unit. She quickly checked out of the hospital, against medical advice. She returned home, refusing any further treatment. She blamed me for the overdose.

    Decades later when she appeared unconscious in a hospice bed, dying of esophageal cancer, I heard tiny words from her. It was surreal & I still question if it happened. I really struggled with her last words to me. I’ve raged and wept about these words. Why these words so late?!
    “I wish we could have been friends”.

    • CJ. I am sorry for your loss. For the loss of your innocence and your childhood. I can only imagine the rage, the frustration, the sense of utter helplessness at your mothers last words. No one should have to go through what you did. I know the book I recommended will help you even if your mother did not suffer from BPD. It helped me. It helped me to understand that I am not to blame for what my mother did to me. I can only hope that others can get a small measure of peace as well from reading it.

      • Thank you both for your comments!

        greggerykunkle, I’ve heard of this book before, and I think I’ll definitely have to read it. Thanks for the reminder! More than one mental health professional has said my mother may suffer from BPD. It’s something I do want to learn more about, and perhaps explore in further writing, as intimidating a topic as it is. I’m really glad the book helped bring some measure of help to you.

        CJ, I’m so sorry that had to be how it ended, and that you had to experience what you did as a teen. I hope you’ve been able to find support and a safe place to grieve, whether among loved ones or through resources for people like us. You’re not alone. I hope you’re doing well.


      • To Katie and CJ. I unfortunately am still dealing with my mother. She lives about 10 miles from me. I only speak to here once every several months in an e-mail. I have severed almost all ties with her, but not completely. Also I think you both may appreciate my thoughts on inheritance. Go to my blog and scroll to the bottom. (Disquisition Libertas) It is my very first post. That is the title “My thoughts on Inheritance” I re-posted it by accident and I can’t figure out how to delete the second one. I am very new to this blogging thing. LOL.

      • Thank you for sharing & for your healing words. Blessings to you in your life & best wishes with blogging. I started blogging about a week ago. It seems to be a learn, as you go thing, and I am finding definitely finding inspiration.



  62. I am a mama of four sons. My third son has estranged himself from me. It’s been four years this Mother’s Day. When I read your words, I am slayed. My son is an adult who can make his own decisions as to who he wants and needs in his life. I am not one of the people he chooses. But I still choose him. For the last four years, I have left messages on his phone (number unchanged) made videos for him, touched base when I heard a song, joke, recipe that reminded me of him. I said, “No pressure, Baby. Whenever you want to talk, my door and arms are forever open to you. No need to ask.” I am a greatly flawed human being who had three sons by the age of 22. I’ve a scroll of things I wish I’d never said, never done. Your writing feels like my son picked up a pen and wrote to me. You write to estranged mothers everywhere. Good on you for taking care of you. And if this is what my boy needs to be happy and content with his life, then I will not judge him for it. Just so you know, mamas hurt, too. We miss you as if there were gaping black holes in our chests. We hear you cry at night; baby cries. We know the smell of your neck. We can draw your crooked teeth on our forearms. We are happy you beat us in the family Mac&Cheese Cookoff 2005. We miss you like you miss us.

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