Life, Death, and the Inner Child

In my recovery memoir, I’m now writing the chapter in which my mother dies. She was an odd person—loving but distant, smart but subservient, isolated. We all knew she was dying, which sharpened our feelings and our roles. I was the dutiful daughter and Good Girl, driving two hours each way to visit her and to help with all the things she needed.

I wanted very much to help her have the kind of death she wanted. I also wanted to use this last chance to get closer to her. She’d always been closed about her past, never one to reminisce or tell stories. I wanted to understand her life better and I hoped to feel more warmth towards her.

The kind of death she wanted was to keep going just the same way as long as she could and then just die. Her idea of a good way did not include much life review or communication. So my two goals were incompatible.

Meanwhile I was living with my recovery process. My inner child was just learning how to trust after the huge betrayals of my childhood (my father’s abuse and my mother’s denial and lack of protection). This little girl was furious that my mother was getting all the attention and she wasn’t getting enough. She desperately wanted to get closer to mother, but mother wasn’t having any. I had my hands full with taking care of mother, taking care of my inner child, and working full time.

In the end, my mother died peacefully pretty much on her own terms. She had told me a few things about her life, mostly about her relationship with my father and how he dominated her. Now I’m using the memoir-writing to sort through this relationship with a woman dead for five years.

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