Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Motherless Daughter

Motherloss is at the top of my thoughts the last couple days. My friend Heide just passed away, leaving motherless daughters. Yes, they have a wonderful family to adopt them now, and they have a new mom, but the loss they've suffered will be forever a part of them.

My mother died when I was 10.

When my son Jacob was small, a family came to visit. A wonderful family, expectantly waiting to adopt the young boy we were fostering. He wasn't meant for us, he was meant just for them. Lisa gave me a book before she left. Motherless Daughters, the Legacy of Loss, by Hope Edelman. I began reading, and couldn't put the book down until it was done. I think I went through an entire box of tissues. How could this woman, this stranger, know me? Know the feelings of loss and abandonment that followed me through my days, tormented me through my nights.

Hope outlines the issues that women face after the loss of their mothers....entirely dependent on the age at which the loss occurred, certain traits make themselves apparent. I fit perfectly into her description. The stories moved me to my very core.

I'd spent my life running. Running from the prospect of being hurt again. I'd already suffered the greatest hurt a child can face. I didn't want it to happen again.

Children are resilient. You hear it all the time. I heard it today at the bank.

Children are confused. They can't spill their guts, tell you what they're feeling. I was so afraid to talk to anyone. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to explain what was going on inside my head, and that if I did manage to find the words to explain the feelings, that no one would understand. So I smiled, and got good grades, and followed the rules.

You see, I didn't even believe my mother was dead. I wasn't allowed to attend her funeral....funerals aren't for children, don't you know? I hadn't even seen her in days, as the hospital she was in didn't allow children to visit. Not even her own child....a kind nurse let me in once. Just once, in two weeks. And then my mother just didn't come home. The adults told me that she'd gone "home." She was in "a better place." Even though my mother had taught me about God, about Jesus, about the resurrection, the thought still remained.....

How could a mother be in a better place than with her own child?

I'd misbehaved once (according to the adults) while she was in the hospital. Perhaps my mother had simply decided that she was tired of being my mother...maybe she'd just packed a suitcase and left. How could God take my mother from me?

I did eventually get a pseudo-mother. A foster mother, trying to mother 19 other kids...yes, you read that right. We averaged 20 kids in that foster home. My foster parents had 12 kids before opening their home to others. My foster dad had 8 kids from his first marriage, and my foster mom 3 from her first. They had one together. And then they fostered a sibling group of 5. There were a couple other "permanents" like me. And always one or two temporaries. She tried, bless her, but I needed more mothering than she could possibly give.

I spent my 20s and most of my 30s keeping people at bay. After all, if there's no close connection, how can abandonment occur? I honestly didn't think I could survive another great loss. How many nice men I hurt because I'd inexplicably turn cold and push them away when they showed signs of getting too close to my heart.

But I did survive. In 1991, I lost my brother Tony to bone cancer. In 1994, my sister died from complications of Crohn's Disease. And so I finally let someone in, someone who seemed so kind and steadfast that he'd never leave me.

And at 46, with two young adopted children, I lost my husband to divorce. The one person I'd shared so much of my life with. He abandoned me, too.

There's not much point to this post. Except for this: if you know a child who has suffered a loss, please, please, don't just assume that things are okay because she is smiling. Because she doesn't let you know how deeply hurt she is, because he won't cry for days on end, please don't think that nothing is wrong. Get some counseling...read some books...draw them out. Don't pretend that just because "children are resilient" that life is easy for them.

I wish someone had been there for me.


Hal Johnson said...

Oh sheesh, Annie, I wish someone had been there for you too. So many grow up with too little love in their lives.

If you were in front of me, I'd give you I big hug. Rhonda might give me a thunk on the head later, but I'd do it anyway. (Her thunks are actually kinda playful.)

I'm glad you didn't close off your heart for good. I closed off my heart for many years. I missed a lot of pain, I suppose, but I missed a lot of joy, too.

PaintedPromise said...

well a really really late comment but i just found your blog recently and linked back to this point from your recent one. i just got off the phone with my daughters, my two youngest that still live here drove to Utah to spend a few days with their big sister... if they were here, i'd hug them, and they'd ask me why, and i'd tell them about you. but since they aren't, i sent them all a text and said I LOVE YOU.

they'll probaby ask why i did that too. the other day, the reason was that my step-mother lost her niece, and told me to hug my girls, and i couldn't right then.

well. if you were here, i'd hug you too!