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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1 comment:

Roupa Manjari said...

It is possible and perhaps likely that your mother was a sexual abuse survivor, therefore she married your father to perpetuate the sick familiarity of an atmosphere of abuse. I know my father was molested by one or both of his parents, and I have a strong suspicion my mother was abused by her father and/or brothers, and therefore my young life was ripe for the opportunity for abuse to manifest itself again. As my husband points out, those who have been abused either wind up abusing/condoning abuse, or vow to protect and defend against abuse for the duration of their lives. I believe I am of the latter, and that so are you.

My mother refuses to tell me what happened to her--but the most powerful statement she ever made to me was, "all I know is that at the age of 6, I felt myself die."
This strangely correlates to the time I was 6 years old, and she made the announcement that I was "old enough to care of myself", fired the nannies, and left me to survive on my own, which, blessed with intelligence and ingenuity, I succeeded in doing. But my heart and my head still suffered the blows and to this day I am processing, processing, processing.

Simply having the opportunity to share with you, a kindred spirit, is helping me tremendously. I feel strength and hope and empowerment, not the sick feeling of helpless blind fear.