Last updated on February 17, 2021
I know (consciously) that grief is an ongoing process. You can get to a place where you feel better about a loss, and things are going fine, and then one day – the anniversary of the loss, a similar experience to the loss, a totally random moment – it all comes down, all over again, and you feel like you have to start at Square One.
Losing Toby was hard. Really hard. At first, I thought I could handle it because I’d “been there before”. I gave my first daughter up for adoption eleven and a half years ago (January of 1994), and losing her was hard. Making the decision and being comfortable and proud of the decision wasn’t difficult – I knew it was the right one – but living with the emptiness and loss after that… it took me six years to even begin to feel close to whole again, even after two more kids (Lili and Miles). When we found out that Toby had gone, I figured, hey, I’ve been there, I know how to get through this, I should be back to “normal” relatively quickly…
I was wrong.
Although there are similarities, the loss of a child through choice and the loss of a child through unexpected death are simply not going to be the same things. I wish they were… just so things would be a little easier. The loneliness, the emptiness from a stillbirth… they are more profound, more real, more wrong than carrying full-term. I get up in the morning and put on my jeans, and I think, “I shouldn’t be able to button these up yet”. I get the living room picked up, and I think, “It shouldn’t be this easy to bend down yet…” I look at myself in the mirror and I try to find any evidence at all that I just had a baby, and, finding none, feel unreal and dishonest and angry with my body for not giving me something to focus on.
The hardest part, though, is sometime not the loss itself but rather the domino effect of other issues and feelings that are related to, if not connected to, the death. I often advise (and, thus, must obey) that when we face grief, loss, anger, sadness, fear, we cannot shy away from the hard questions. “Was I at fault? Did I do something wrong? Was it the doctor’s fault? Did I eat enough? Could I have done something to prevent it? How will I face my husband, children, family if I was at fault? How will I face myself? Will I ever be okay again? Will I ever be whole?”
For me, the question is a little harder: “Why wasn’t I good enough?”
Understand, this question came up not just because of Toby but rather because of years of conditioning that I thought I’d finally overcome. (Again, grieving is a process that doesn’t end, it just gets easier with time… in theory.) I found myself asking this question, “Why wasn’t I good enough for him to want to stay and be born and be in my family, be my baby?”, based on my personal mythology that we all choose our lives before we’re born. We know what we’re in store for, and we choose our parents and our life-paths accordingly so that we can learn and grow and become more fulfilled and complete as the lifetimes go by. (This is not an uncommon belief, but it’s not Xian mainstream, either.)
That question is rooted even deeper in the first loss, the first betrayal, I ever expereinced. The original question is, “Why wasn’t I good enough for my mother? Why doesn’t she love me?”
She doesn’t. She never has. She’s squashed me and treated me at best with vague politeness and at worst with outright disgust. I was put in the place of raising and taking care of my four younger siblings, but maintaining a household and the kids and my schoolwork and myself was usually just way too much for me, and nothing I ever did was good enough, quality- or quantity-wise. I was regarded as distasteful and an embarassment by her, and every chance I’ve had to ask her for her honest statement about why has been met with, “Well, that’s just bullshit, I never did that…”
Her tight-lipped drawn mouth calling me down about anything that might’ve given me happiness (or, worse, might’ve gained her approval) still haunts me, her finger in my face and her voice dripping with loathing as she calls me a Lazy Good-For-Nothing Piece of Shit. Whether she ever used these words exactly is beyond me at the moment, but there it is, the archetype in my head, goading me to get up off my ass and do more, make more, be more. I have worked from sun-up until sun-down and well into the night, and it was never enough. It will never be enough. I drive myself to exhaustion, and still the shadow of that finger is stabbing at me, “pathetic lazy weak…”
And I still try. I don’t want to send my kids to school, not just because I fear for their immersion into a society I disapprove of, but because I should have the time to take care of them, and passing off that job to someone else is just laziness. It’s my responsibility first, after all, and I should be able to find a way to teach them at home, go to school full-time myself, get a full-time job, keep my house spotless, make sure dinner is on the table at 7, and have the energy to be a loving and passionate wife, on top of all the other things I do for my vocation as a minister, healer, and counselor.
Because maybe if I do enough, she’ll approve of me finally. Maybe if I get it all done, she’ll love me.
On my path as a healer, her Higher Self visits me and asks for my help, for my understanding, for my healing, and I try my best to give that to her. All I can really give her is my love, unconditional though unrequited as it is, because the attempts I’ve made to relieve her of her pain, of her soul-deep suffering, never gets very far – her Lower Self is so commited to the damage that it’s like trying to push a boulder up a mountain. It’s equal to pissing down a poisoned well. And still I try.
Because maybe if I can find the one thing to say to make her feel better, to help her heal, she’ll love me.
Her Higher Self is sad these days, and scared. I get the impression that she feels that she’s dying, and all evidence points to that real possibility. Last November, I called her with a message I received – she needed to see the doctor and look for a mass in her kidneys. She called me back and told me to stay the fuck out her head, I’m not welcome there. I told her that I wasn’t in her head, I was just passing along a message. We haven’t spoken in person since, and only exchanged two IM conversations. The letters that I’ve sent have been thrown away unopened, and the mere mention of me sets her teeth on edge.
I’ve been toyed with by an image in my head of sitting in her hospital room, the machines keeping her comfortable, and talking to her while she drifts in and out of a lucid state… I’m reading a book to her, crying softly, and finally, I just look up and pull my chair closer and hold her hand gently…
“I need you to know,” I say, “that I never stopped loving you. Even if you could never love me, I never stopped loving you. I was angry with you, and I was hurt by you, and I even tried to hate you, but I never got very far. Despite all of it, I still love you, and I never gave up on you, and I never will.”
And… I have to.
I have to let her go again, release her, finish it off, because I can’t live with the very real and physical pain of the blockage, the damage, that I’ve suffered. I can’t keep questioning if she’s ever going to change her mind about me, leaving that painful wound open for her to eventually, maybe, one day, come and stitch it back up. I can’t leave her there in my head because I have a beautiful family, beautiful children, who deserve to have me whole and present and not constantly questioning and second-guessing myself about whether or not I’m doing this whole “mother” thing right.
I don’t know how to be a mother because I never had a mother, and although I’ve muddled through by using universal truths as a template, there’s still the nagging question in the back of my mind that I might be fucking this up royally. After all, I don’t have that energy response, that “glow”, that other people get when they talk about their mothers – I have a sadness, a tightening in my chest that says I am somehow defective because I do not have that connection.
I want the world to be right again, I want to restore the natural balance and create that connection, and I know that can never happen. The mother-child relationship is established in the womb, but I don’t know if I was ever given that connection in the first place. Is it my R-level brain that focuses on the biological progenitor, or is it the social ego? Is it possible to create that bond with someone else, someone that provides everything except the womb-connection? Would that be enough to help me heal?
Ever since we lost Toby, I’ve been meaning to go over to Momma Lynne’s house. I keep feeling that if I could just curl up in her lap and cry, if I could sit in that safe, secure, sacred place and let the well of my sorrow empty, I would feel better. I’m almost a little afraid to do that for fear that it would not live up to my expectations, that I would only manage to get dehydrated and maybe be an inconvenience.
And yet… Momma Lynne is closer to being a mother for me than I have ever had in my life. Her quiet countenance and calm manner are a refuge for me, a temple from the storm, and I love her deeply and unconditionally. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. But I almost feel that I’m holding part of myself back from her because I’m afraid that my biological mother was right – Mothers Always Lie. Mothers don’t protect, they don’t take care of you, and they don’t show love. Ever.
Maybe that’s why I have a hard time thinking of myself as a “mother”. The archetype is still there, niggling in the back of my head, and I refuse to subject the people that I love to that weakness of character. Is it part of my character? Is it hers? It is not Momma Lynne’s.
Although I can only guess what the long-term effects would be as far as healing is concerned, both emotionally and physically, I’m considering asking Momma Lynne if we can have a formal adoption ceremony together, for me and her and Jae and Corbin. In this, our soul-family, it might go a long way to helping all of us heal within the web of our love-by-choice. I don’t feel that this would usurp or deny the families that we already have, but it would create a pod of commitment and membership with each other to add to our individual selves.
I hope she’s coming over today… I would like to talk to her about it. And I really, really, really want to curl up in her lap and be safe for a little while.
That was heartbreaking. *gives you a comforting hug*
But I suppose even the strongest people have bad days. You are an amazing person Dawn. You should never doubt yourself.
Even though what you wrote is a lot of sadness, the things you want to be, the things you don’t think you are…you ARE those things. I can see that a mile away.
You ARE good enough. You ARE a good mother. You ARE loved. And you know what else? You are MORE than all of that.
I know I don’t talk to you as often as others do, but I know you are a good person. You are one of those people who will leave a great impact on this earth, and on the lives of those you know. You are a person who will really make a difference.
A lot of people would like to be like that, but so few are. You are truely someone unique.
I know this will sound really cheesy, and easier said than done, but you should just forget about your sorrows, put the past behind you. While your past may be filled with hardships and pain, it’s made you who you are today.
You’ve got tons and tons of people who love you, and you should just live life being happy about the person you’ve BECOME.
You are a truely beautiful person Dawn. And you have an amazing heart and soul.
1) One thing I have wondered for awhile, Dawn… you heal everyone else, who heals you?
2) You have the question wrong. It’s not why didn’t he love you enough to stay, but how greatly he must have loved you to have chosen you for even such a short trip.
If as you say, we chose our lives, how greatly he must have wanted to share a soul connection with you that he chose a life that was so brief over others which may have been longer.
Remember, Toby chose you.
3) Ugly, stupid, lazy, dirty, unlovable. Words that I can never escape myself.
Mothers can hurt us more deeply and more lethally then any obne else. I wish I could offer you some easy advice or some possible solution. But if they exist, I don’t know of them.
I don’t bother with my mothers. It took me a long time to really believe that neither of them loved me or ever would. I’d like to say that I don’t care any longer what either of them thinks of me. But that’d be a lie. I try very hard to and some days I convince myself it’s true. But when I’m being very honest with myself, I have to admit that if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be so haunted by them. And still so easily destroyed by their past words and actions.
I can offer delusion and fantasy to you. But somehow I don’t think you’d find them acceptable.
I can offer you the same advice I give myself when my inner-voice is being all destructive and condemning: Let your friends and the people who do love you drown out the ones who didn’t, don’t, and won’t. They’re the ones that matter, anyway.
I truly wish I knew of some way to make things easier or less hurtful for you right now. I’m sorry I don’t.
4) You reassured me once. I hope you were right. It’s selfish for me to ask about this again at this time but I need to know for sure whether I have any blame in this at all or not. I apologize for asking.
Take care Dawn.
Dawn, I hope you can feel the hug I’m sending you through the universe this evening. I’m so glad you’re realizing that even a healer can need help with her own healing. And you have the prayers and good wishes of many who love you for the special person you are.
Almost 2 years ago, my healer channeled the core spirit that was my first miscarriage. I wanted to know what I’d done wrong, why did it happen, if only…etc, and most of all, did he/she know that I was lacking in even the basic skills of motherhood? Was that the reason for the pregnancy to end?
The answer I received was that I had done nothing wrong, and the baby said “It just wasn’t my time”. To everything there is a season, and this was meant to be a short season in time. My logical mind wanted more definitive answers, but my heart felt a sense of peace. The ultimate reason wasn’t about me not being good enough or doing something wrong – it was part of that baby’s life plan and what it needed to complete on the journey.
Finally, something wasn’t “my” fault. My mother used to say their marriage was happy until I came along, that she put up with abuse so I’d have a home; I even felt my father’s heart attack was my fault because I’d been wishing that my mother would die – and this was my punishment that God took the wrong parent and left me with HER. What a relief it was to know I had nothing to do with the miscarriage…
When I had Heather, I was so afraid she would hate me like I hated my mother that I went totally the opposite direction – I was too lenient, I was her friend instead of her parent. Now we both look back and realize how close we’ve become, and she realizes that I was just trying to be different from the horrible role model I had to go by. To her credit, she learned from what I did wrong, added in what I did right, and is doing a great job with her children.
I never could get my mother to apologize for the things she did and said to me; to the very end, she refused to take any responsibility for her actions and maintained that I deserved it all (“If you hadn’t done ABC, then I wouldn’t have said XYZ”).
I may have screwed up a lot in raising Heather, but at least I can look myself in the mirror and know that no matter how angry she made me, I never told my daughter that I was sorry she’d ever been born (like I was told on my 35th birthday). It’s been said that the same-sex parent is a child’s most powerful role-model, for both good and bad. And that’s so true – and it’s taken me 52 years to finally break free from the Victim Mentality that I’ve been mired in most of my life. It’s still a work in progress some days, but life is getting better.
And it will for you too – in time, with patience and understanding, and the support and love of your friends and new family.
How blessed you are to have Momma Lynne in your life – you were taught not to trust by the one person you should have been able to trust; try not to be afraid now to soak up the peace and comfort from Momma Lynne that you need at this time of healing. You are a good person, a good wife and mother, and an outstanding friend to many. Try to believe in yourself and know you are loved.
I don’t really know you that well, but please know that I care.
I can not hope to be nearly as articulate or comforting as any of my predecessors to posting, but I can try to have some words of value and worth.
Growing up, I based what it was to be a man on the most logical figure there was. My father. I should be strong, gruff at times, razor shart of tongue, and laser sharp of mind. Strong as a rhino, and more observant than a hawk, for he was all these things and more.
If I can ever truly live up to this image, it will be many years before I reach it. I had such a good role model that I can not ever truly expect myself to live up to him.
You, on the other hand never had such a role model. You forged your own way, and by doing so soared higher and farther than anyone could have ever expected you to. You’ve done things that no one else could ever do. You council all those around you, and are a terrific mother.
Perhaps one day, your children will be in the same place I am. Trying to live up to an image and person who is larger than life. And perhaps they will do it.
On a different track, I have also wondered about the lives we might live. Before I was born, did I have a choice about who I would be born to, and what would happen to me? If so, why did I chose such a difficult and different route from so many people. Upon great reflection, I came to only two conclusions.
#1: That it is a training for something far greater than I ever could have accomplished otherwise.
#2: That I chose this life because I might well be the only person who could possably live it.
Both thoughts carry with them an air of arrogance. Somehow stating that I am the only one good enough for the life I live, but then, there is nothing that says that such arrogance is misplaced.
Granted, these are just thoughts on my life, but I don’t see why they could not apply to you.
Just random thoughts, but perhaps they have some value.
Feel free to talk to me at any point. Believe it or not, when I get to hear the sounds of my own voice, and that of another person, I’m really not that terrible at this sort of thing.
You are not a disappointment, you are the brilliant star that shines so brightly the weaker stars dim with jealousy. You’ve done things better and more easily than she feels she could have ever done. She pushes you away because you remind her that she could have done better for herself. She ignores you so it’s easier for her to ignore her greater problem. To me, it seems like you are the person she wanted to be, but that she was punished for being when she was younger. You are so openly the person that you are, in spite of the rejection she gave you, which makes you stronger than she was.
Patch your wound first. Realize that that you ARE a good mother because you A. Love your children B. provide them with the attention they need C. encourage them to improve themselves and be the best they can be D. give them the security they need to feel safe.
Self-doubt is pretty common in any strong, loving relationship, but it shouldn’t be the driving force. It guides, but don’t let it push.
Once you have your wound taken care of, take care of your mother. Be a mother to her, guide her to the healing path and let her think she got there herself. Remember, this is her wound, and it still hurts to give it attention. Put on your armor/don’t give her any weapons before you start. You are an adult now, and she can’t hurt you unless you let her, so make absolutely certain that you have discarded your self-doubt, and the idea that you caused it before you move an inch closer to her. If you can’t do that, realize that it may not be you that heals her, it doesn’t have to be. Once you both are healed, that connection will come back in force.
I cannot add much to this discussion. The best that I can do is emit platitudes of self-confidence, but that would make me a hypocrite since I do not put them into practice myself.
As an outsider looking in I have watched you with your kids, and when you get right down to human relationships, there comes a point where instinct takes over, and love is your guide, and that’s all she wrote. Your mother is not the measure by which your fitness as a parent will be judged. Lili and Miles and Joseph are. If they grow in knowledge and faith and love and become strong, capable human beings then what’s to worry about?
Keep Your Head Up To The Skies
I cannot even fathom what you are going through, nor can I offer as much pleasant words of wisdom as those before me. But I will say this: Although I was not able to attend Magestock, you still welcomed me to your home without question or even knowing who I was. Most people would not ever care to even think of doing such thing, and for you I am grateful. You truly are a kind and gentle loving person. I realize that you do not know me, but I look forward to getting to know you better. You will be in my prayers. 🙂