People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

Cry Me a River

Let’s just call grief what it really is: a wily, slimy, and brutally persistent motherfucker. Grief is like moths that thump against the lampshade until I am almost mad with their noise, except these moths are 40 pounds apiece and they are slamming against the inside of my skull. It’s a weight in my guts, a blazing coal between my eyes, a vise around my head.

This grief has no funeral. There was no obituary. What in the world would it say? Mother-child bond broken beyond repair; death date is unknown because the mother was the foolish frog in the water pot who didn’t know she was being boiled alive. Responsibility for the death lies in many hands, so for the sake of simplicity the burden is laid at the feet of the mother. She should have done better, so say we all, and amen.

Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.

I let it happen. Some other people helped, but I am the mother. Maybe I deserved it.

I am exhausted from trying to repair those bonds, but they are so fragile, so full of holes, so eaten away by wounds and resentments, that I almost can’t see them anymore.

Not almost. You don’t know, you whose bonds with your children are intact. You can’t see or hear or taste those bonds, but when they are destroyed, there is an empty space. The empty space is infinitely more visible than the bond that once lived there.

Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.

I did deserve it. I’m sure of it.

But how can I?

How can they?

There is no curiosity in this story; no rubbernecking interest to be had. Just two teenage children who live with their dad and hate their mom. How pedestrian. How ever-fucking ordinary.

Except it’s not. And anyway, why don’t you cry me a damn river? It’s not like they’re dead (said Robert).

It’s just that they hate me.

You are thinking, Oh, no, they don’t hate you! You are thinking, Oh, but I was terrible to my mom when I was their age! You are thinking, Hang on! It will all get better when they get older!

But this is not normal teenage nastiness run amok. I am not their family anymore. I am the person who was once, long ago, their mother. And a bad one. Terrible, in fact, because why remember the good when hate is so damn satisfying? Why remember what was sweet and joyful when anger can make you belong to your other family? Why take a chance when resentment makes you invulnerable?

Why try, when you can just lay back and not try? Why not just cling to what was bad (and there was much that was bad; I can measure what was bad by the weight of the regret I carry) and let its energy tell you a story?

The bond is broken and I am not their family anymore.

Jackie and Amy were the lucky ones. The smart ones.

I have to let go because I am dying.

Yeah, I know, cry me a river.

But I am, in fact, dying. There are no two people I would sooner die for than Jacob and Abbie, no two people who I love more, butĀ if I die, they will not be saved. The consequences of this situation will not evaporate from their lives.

Would they? Sometimes, at 3 am, I think that my disappearance would fix everything for them. At 6 pm I know that’s not true, but 3 am is as wily and slimy as grief.

And Jacob and Abbie are not my only people. There are no people I love more, but there are people I love as much.

I think they miss me, those other people who love me, lost as I am in my grief and my striving and my constant building-of-bridges-that-go-nowhere.

But how?

How do I let go of them? Cut them loose?

My children.


I can’t imagine.

But I have heard that I must. The person with the letters after her name, and the doctor, and the husband, and God forgive me, even the little red-headed boy, all know. They know.

I am broken.

And the people said: Oh, how sad. Cry me a damn river.

I mean really, it’s not like they’re dead.

It’s not like I didn’t deserve it.

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14 comments to Cry Me a River

  • Oh Adrienne…. I’m so, so, SO sorry this is what it has come to. It is a horrible, horrible conclusion to commit to. To accept. You’ve probably dipped your toes in the water a couple times before, and you’d recoil back, not wanting to know, to accept. Grief when somebody dies is hard enough: there is no protocol, nothing that says “do this then, then this will happen, and by such and such, you’ll be over it.” Grief in situations where death is not so cut-and-dry, not so clear, are even harder. Because “accepting” the death (so to speak) at the same time feels as if you are killing something. Like you’re giving up, whilst there is no definite proof that they are in fact deceased. You in fact get to choose (oh joy!) when your grieving process will start, when you declare the death and the pain will hit in full force.

    All I can do is tell you I care, and that death might even have been easier. Don’t let the outside voices internalize: this is YOUR grief process, no one else’s, so whatever you are feeling – it IS valid. You are allowed to let the feelings roam, be mad, angry, upset, sad, feel relief, feel despair… don’t let anyone tell you it’s not real.

    I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this…

  • Bakingmomma

    Adrienne, I am sorry that you are feeling this way. You have done everything in your power for each one of your children, and hopefully one day they will see that. No good things come from 3 am wily and slimy thoughts, but it’s hard not to think them. You need to work through the grief you are feeling to hopefully get to a place where you can deal with this. I hope you can get there soon.

  • kim

    Adrienne, I have been through a very similar situation. What I can share from my experience is that we detach in love, love in spite of the hate, show them that no matter how many firey darts they throw, you will dodge them, and you will be ok. Without going into all the details, I will tell you that they are now in their early 20’s, and we are so close, closer than I could ever have dreamed. My eldest daughter has shared that she came through her darkest hours, because I was her light, and never gave up. She said, Mom, you never gave up, even when I was so ugly to you, and I would have deserved it if you never spoke to me again. Why? I told her because I love her more than I love myself.
    So, I say, never give up. Never. Don’t push. Just live, and let them know you love them. One day, they will come back.
    I wish you all the best. If you ever wish to talk reach out…I am here.

  • I wish so much that it could be – will someday be – better than it is right now. I ache for your terrible struggle, Adrienne.

    Much love to you.

  • I don’t have the answer (I very rarely do), but I am thinking of you as you deal with this pain.
    I’m sorry for all that you’ve lost, and I hope that peace is restored to you, however it may come.

  • Shawna (momofbug)

    Oh fuck this hurts. I know, I still feel the grief, the self blame, the agony. My husbands kids are 18 & 19 now, and it’s not any easier, they flit in and out of our son’s life a couple of times a year, making promises they never keep, giving him (and us) hope that it will get better, but it rips us all apart every. single. fucking. time.
    I want to cut off all contact, thinking that will be easier than false hope, hope that a relationship will rebuild, hope that with adulthood will come perspective. If we leave it alone will it heal? Will it heal over so well there is no chance to ever have any kind of a relationship? The questions are never ending but one thing I DO know is I have to let them make their choices and protect my little family the best I can.
    And that’s what you need to do too. You need to listen to your husband and son when they tell you, even without words, that they need you. You need them too, rest your head on that wonderful man’s shoulder, let him take care of you and you take care of him.
    The future is unknown, we have to learn to live in the present and not let the unknown risk what we have now.

    and I have to take my own damn advice…

    We need to be strong for our small ones who need us every single day and heal ourselves just in case one day our bigger ones make the decision to come back to us.
    hugs, Hugs and HUGS to you.

  • I have nothing but my love and prayers. they don’t feel like enough, but they are what I am giving you, my friend.

  • I wish there was something I could say that would help. I am so, so sorry.

  • Maybe this will change. Maybe life will ebb and flow and what seems like a permanent withdrawal will turn out to be temporary. Because they are your children they must (like you) have the gift of laser-like honesty and that truth will remind them that you are their beloved mother. That is what I believe will happen in time.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Today I am sending you all the love and ((((HUGS)))) I can, Adrienne. And I hope that you can hold tight to Kim’s words and find a way to let go without giving up, for your own health. Never, ever give up on those kids, your kids. And cry a river, cry an avalanche, cry an ocean. Those tears are your body’s way of supporting you in these times of such searing pain. You have every right to every single tear that gushes forth. These. Are. Your. Babies.



  • I’m so very sorry you are in this situation. I have no real words of advise or comfort but I want to say that I now have no relationship with my father and 2 of my sisters (my dad and stepmoms kids). It’s sad. It hurts. Hate is a strong word but I hate him and the step mother. The sisters are a casualty of the war. He did a lot wrong. He allowed a lot of wrong to get done. And yet … there is that tiniest of hope that he will say sorry and try to reach out to me to make amends. I know he won’t. But maybe … just maybe there’s a tiny bit of hope for you in your situation. Until then, I hope you can find some peace and make the best of things for your husband and your little boy. They need you. And we’re here for you if you just need to vent/cry/scream/curse at us through our screens or to ask for virtual hugs.

  • I am so, so sorry. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • I hate this for you. I think about it often and wonder things like “why can’t you…” and “but she only did what she had to…”. But that doesn’t help, does it? I’m sorry. It’s not fair. To them, no, but not fair to you either.

  • Suzanne Grey

    I’m sorry for the loss. I hope everything will be back to normal.

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