The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


My motherlessness came as the result of years of abuse, betrayal, rejection, and finally a fourteen-year estrangement. During our time apart, I realized that whether I had a relationship with my mom or not – I was motherless - and I mourned the loss of the mother she could have been - but was not.

Our separation did protect me from further injury and was essential for healing from my abuse. Nonetheless, after I had largely healed from my mistreatment, the pain of estrangement remained.

Estrangement is an unnatural loss. Whereas death is “an act of God,” estrangement - or the need to estrange - feels like the ultimate rip-off. Oh how I wished my mother would acknowledge my abuse, apologize and become a loving mother.

With death, we have to accept the finality of our loss. With estrangement there is often hope of reconciliation. Hope that the mother-love we have always sought will finally come our way.

The estranged adult child doesn’t carry the loving essence of a mother, but instead carries painful memories of their mother and of rejection. When emotional hardships befall an estranged child, we often long for a mother’s love. We search to fill the void created in our hearts by the lifelong emotional absence of a mother.

Estrangement is like the amputation of an intricate part of ourselves. It’s a soul injury. We are alone in the world, floating like a leaf in the wind, homesick; yet, not able to find our home. My mother was the missing link in my life, disconnecting me from my family history and from the roots of my gender.

The most difficult aspect of motherlessness is the sense of aloneness. Sometimes, no matter how much emotional work I did, I still felt the “void” and I found it necessary to turn to my sense of spirituality. When I ached for “home,” I visualized Christ on the cross. In the human sense, Christ was completely alone. Yet, Christ was not alone. The Lord was with this beloved Child. For me, sometimes merely saying that God is with you doesn’t seem to be enough; however, visualizing Christ, suffering alone but not alone, gave me the strength to feel God’s presence meeting me right where I was.

“But now, this is what the Lord says –
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers,
They will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
You will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3”

Sometimes, I imagined Christ’s unconditional love surrounding me like giant hands, tenderly holding me, loving me and keeping me safe.

God provided me with healing tears to wash away my heartache. The Lord sent me people who were willing to bear witness to my pain. God blessed me with daughters of my own so that I could experience a loving mother-daughter bond.

I thought about those in my life who did love me – my children, my friends, my partner, and I reminded myself of all for which I had to be grateful.

My father died when I was nine. I kept his picture next to my bed. Sometimes, before lying down at night, I looked into his eyes and remembered how much he loved me.

The pain of estrangement did lessen with time. As I peeled away each layer of pain, I experienced all the stages of grief until I finally reached a place of acceptance. In the end, the void made room for something more loving to grow in my life.


seagrl said...

I have a situation in which there has been a four year long estrangement from my oldest daughter. She has abused me, her mother, emotionally and financialy. She uses my grandchildren as pawns in her games. This pain has gone on too long and now I need time to heal. I wish she would acknowledge her many hurtful actions. I have to learn to live with thinking that this child I raised in a loving home with two sisters who love me and their father would turn out to be so hateful and disrespectful. I carry many memories of rejection that is still going on as of this day.
I am a mother and grandmother who needsto take time to forgive and heal.I hope one day she realizes what damage she has done.

healandforgive said...

Dear Seagrl,

I am so sorry for your loss. As a mother with two adult daughters of my own, I can't imagine the pain of losing a child under any circumstances.

I understand the deeply profound loss of estrangement. Unfortunately, we only have control over our half of the relationship.

Like you with your daughter, I longed for my mother to acknowledge the harm she caused me. Because she was unwilling to do so, I needed to find a circle of supportive individuals to validate my injuries, let me express my anger, and help me mourn.

I can relate to your words, "I carry many memories of rejection that is still going on as of this day." For many years during the 14-year estrangement from my entire family of origin, I often told people, "I wake up each morning to a feeling of continued rejection and somehow have to learn to live with the pain."

Over time, I learned to move on to live the best life possible, understanding that although I didn't have any control over the emotional growth of my family members, I did have control over my own growth.

It is hard to be patient when our hearts ache for our loved ones. Nonetheless, all we can do is accept what is - at this point in time - while keeping our hearts open to the possibility of mending the relationship some time in the future.

"Healing from Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off from a Family Member," by Mark Sichel, CSW, is a wonderful resource for dealing with the pain of family estrangement.

Wishing you Peace,

caitlin said...

My middle daughter has estranged herself and her 3 children from me recently - as a mother and grandmother I fully understand your pain.
I tell myself that she has made her choice as a grown woman - but without an explanation - I only know that she thinks I've let her down because we asked her to come home from abroad and look after her son 16, who was in our care, for a few months - he was very disturbed and unhappy. I am a chronic asthmatic with high Bp and glaucoma, my husband is in constant pain with arthritis and also has high BP and cholesterol - she aleays knew this/ We gently told her many times but she refused the indications until her sister told her that we couldn't cope (we are in our 70s) she left without a word. The pain is terrible - my husband wants me to forget but I cant. I do know that she will one day feel the pain but I dont want this for her. I dont want to think she is so bad - but...I would welcome comments

healandforgive said...

Dear Caitlin,

I am sorry for the loss you are experiencing with your daughter and the additional loss of your grandchildren – so sad for all of you. My heart also ached for your 16-year old grandson who appears to be feeling pain with regard to his mother. I don’t know enough about your situation to comment on the specifics of your estrangement, but I do know enough to understand your pain, and to support your need to protect your health.

I don’t think we can just "forget," nor do I think we can immediately "fix" a relationship. The root causes of family estrangements don’t happen overnight, nor does the healing from those causes. Sometimes we need patience. We need to accept what is at this point and time as what is – with hope that it can possibly change in the future.

I agree that as mothers, we don’t want our children in pain; yet, pain has a purpose. Pain is a signal that something is out of balance. With pain – comes growth - over time.

You are not alone in this experience. Unfortunately, countless people are suffering from the pain of family estrangement.

Finding the support of people in similar circumstances can help to dissolve our isolation. There is a link on the left side of my blog under Estrangement Resources to an estrangement support group if you are interested.

God Bless,