Mother’s Day is not a celebratory day for everyone. People who have a loving mother often don’t realize that that’s not the case for everyone. Some people have lost their mothers, or are not on the best terms with their mothers. In this article Louise* (30) shares her story, who hasn’t spoken to her mother in three months.
My story is difficult, mostly because people often don’t understand it and even I have trouble explaining it. When you tell someone you’ve lost a parent, they usually express sympathy and kindness. However, when you tell someone you’re not on speaking terms with a parent, people’s reaction is usually one of shock and disbelief. Also, they want to know more. How does this happen? How do you simply stop talking to one of your parents?
First of all: there’s no ‘simply’. It has taken a lot of painful years for me to decide it was in my best interest to stop talking to my mother, at least for now. And no, my mother is not the abusive kind, at least not physically. That’s what makes it even harder. Up until five years ago she was the perfect mother; loving, kind, supportive and she gave up her whole life for her children. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong.
My father died when I was young and his death came as a tremendous shock to my whole family, but most of all my mother. After a lot of research and therapy, I have now learned that she suffered from ‘complicated grief’ which is most likely to happen in the case of a sudden death (an accident) and to people who are very dependent on their spouses, as my mother was. She didn’t work and my father was her whole world. That’s why people around her constantly praised her for getting on so well the first years after it happened. She picked herself up and kept on raising her (young) children. We hardly even ever saw her cry.
Of course keeping yourself busy and distracted is not necessarily a healthy attitude to grief and can only prolong it, which is also what happened to my mom. She started drinking and stopped taking care of herself. She isolated herself from everybody, her health deteriorated and she started getting in a lot of financial trouble. Whenever anyone tried to help she shrugged it off, denied she had a problem and demanded to be left alone. And that’s what she is now, completely alone.
I never thought the day would come where I would have to tell my mom I was better off not speaking to her, at least for a while. I can’t put into words how difficult it is to see someone you love destroying her life and feeling entirely helpless to do anything about it. And believe me, I’ve tried. My siblings and I have staged multiple interventions, called in people to help, and paid a lot of her bills. The bottom line is: if someone does not want to be helped, there is nothing you can do. Really. The best thing you can do is let go.
So that’s where I am now. I’ve decided to let go and focus on my own life, which I am still trying to build. All I can do is make sure I’m healthy and happy and unfortunately, I am much happier when I am not speaking to my mom. My therapist has labelled me a ‘junkie’: whenever my mother emails or calls, I feel the need to go back, to just drive over to her house and give helping her one last shot. But I have to stop and remind myself I’ve tried everything. There’s no more I can do for her. She has to help herself.
I wanted to share my story, so that other people who don’t celebrate Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, know that they’re not alone. Needless to say, Mother’s Day is not my favourite day of the year, but neither is my mother’s birthday, or any other holiday I don’t get to spend with her. Because no matter how happy I am, I still miss her, every day. She’s my mother after all.
*Name has been changed.