Truncated Motherhood

The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun.
The brightness of our life is gone.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had a therapist about a year and a half ago who gave me a hard time for maintaining Jacob and Abbie’s bedrooms when they had been gone so long. “It’s not healthy,” said the therapist. “You have to accept that this is what has happened in your life. Your kids are gone.”

I knew the instant she said it that she was wrong. In the darkest months and years of our alienation, when those kids and I could barely speak words to each other, those beds were the only invitation I could extend to them. The space I reserved for them in my home was proxy for the love they could not hear me speak. When Abbie came home, after the angst and anger were finished, she told me that she always knew she could come back, knew her bed was there for her, and even when she hated me, knew she was welcome in my family.

Jacob will be 19 in just a few weeks. He hasn’t lived in my house for nearly 5 years (and it may be nearly 6 years but the math is far beyond me now), and tonight, for the first time in 19 years minus 52 days, there is no bed for him here. I boxed up his few things and put them in a closet, took his bed to the donation center, and had his dad come get his drumset. With Abbie, I have experienced a miracle, but if there is a miracle with Jacob, it will be of a different sort.

This truncated motherhood is unnatural. Wrong. Jacob was the brightest part of my life, and in five long, excruciating years, I still have not learned to be content with his absence. I don’t know exactly what kind of pain I would be feeling if Jacob was still my son in all the ways, instead of just in the biological ones, as he moved into his adult life, but I know it would be different. He is mostly a stranger to me now. He is the person who made me a mother, a boy-man I find endlessly and intensely fascinating, but he is not really my family anymore. I won’t give up. I could never give up on knowing my magical, enchanting son, and to other parents suffering the horrors of alienation I always say, as long as our children are alive, there is hope. But what hope I had for a relationship beyond a perfunctory one is very small now.

He hasn’t lived with me in a long time, but tonight, for the first time, he really doesn’t live here anymore. There’s nothing for it except to breathe into the pain and pray that some day, we will all be healed; that eventually, I will lay down my grief and walk away from it, even for a little while.

But for tonight I am on my knees, screaming I love him I love him I love him and begging the universe for just one more chance.


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14 thoughts on “Truncated Motherhood”

  1. Dear friend,

    My own child still doesn’t know the full story of why she lives with her dad. I prefer to have her believe good of him. He is a good dad but what he did to get her there was not good at all.

    As she finds more and more excuses to not visit, I continue to try to connect with her. Talking to you and reading your words has reminded me of what I need to do to keep her with me even when she’s not here.

    Love you.

  2. Even though there isn’t a bed for him anymore there will still always be room for him. He knows this. Stay strong. Hugs.

  3. I did this to my Mom when I was 14, and I credit that time apart for us to have the relationship we have now, which was finally healthy again when I was about 19. Don’t give up hope!

  4. I ache for you. And I don’t even know what to say. I know of three people in my closest circle who have been alienated children or parents alienated from their children. I’m so sad that you are struggling with this.

  5. That you could hear your own heart through a counselor’s words (words that I too would contend were wrong, simplistic and choosing closure over openness) shows how a strong person you are.

    I hope your son will find his way back to you. For him even more than for you, though I wish it for you too.

  6. I know exactly how your heart aches, because mine is as broken as yours. My Madison, 18, freshman in college, emerging young woman, hasn’t spoken to me for over two years. Still not completely clear why, yet suspect her father, who hates his own mother for unknown reasons (should have been a red flag for me, but wasn’t), plays a pivotal part. I used to call or text her daily, to let her know my love for her. Then weekly, then just on special occasions. Right before this past Christmas, I called, she answered, then hung up on me, and I felt physically and spiritually sick. I.haven’t been able to.bring myself to attempting contact again…..the continued rejection was bringing me so much pain, and sometimes anger, that I was incapable of forward motion. Just writing this comment leaves me exhausted. I found you’re blog through reading anothers. It’s heartening to know I am not the only mother to experience rejection such as this- numbing, awful, emptiness. I’ll be praying for both of us, my friend…

  7. It is hard to write through the tears after just reading this post. Thank you for helping me to know, finally, that I am not alone. There is a name for what has destroyed my formerly loving relationship with my daughter. I’ll keep reading…

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