I Was Estranged From My Mom, But I Still Miss Her

by Liz Petrone
Originally Published: 
A kid holding her estranged mother's hand
Sasiistock / Getty

I miss my mother.

Am I allowed to even say that? Can someone who basically estranged themself from someone when they were alive still miss them when they are not? Is that a thing?

I think it can be. I think it has to be, because I do. And the thing is, I missed her before too, when she was still here but not really, not in the way a mother should or could be, and certainly not in the way she had been before.

Back then I missed her in that nasally, whiny, victim-y way, where if I had been able to talk about it (and I wasn’t), I would have been insufferable and after about two seconds you would have wanted to stab me in the eyeball with your finger to get me to please shut up.

Back then I missed her help. I missed her matriarchal presence over our whole family and the wisdom I wanted her to give me when I was standing knee-deep in laundry with twenty extra postpartum pounds on my belly and a baby on each hip and a crazed, manic shining across my face. I wanted her to be able to say, “Look, it gets easier. It gets better,” and for me to believe it because for her, maybe it had. Maybe she was a happy grandma by then, working in her garden in a sun hat with dirt under her fingernails and an appliqué sweater on and a house decorated in the smudges of my children’s fingerprints.

But she wasn’t, she wasn’t better, she wasn’t even okay, and so I stood on the laundry mountain and whined nasal to myself about how unfair the world was, forgetting for the moment or the decade how much worse it probably was to be her because it’s easier to let your gaze fall inward sometimes than to open your eyes to the pain of the truth.

But now I miss her in a very different way. It’s an ache that lives in the core of my being, in the primal pace that regulates the most basic things like my breath and my heartbeat and my love for my children and the way I think mushrooms and cheeseburgers and a good Cabernet are the most delicious things in the world.

I think about her life, the last decade at least of it lost from her — and from me too — to mental illness and addiction, and my heart breaks along a new fault line because this time it breaks for her and not because of her.

And I miss her now not because I’m lonely or lost or slightly maniacal. I am those things too, but I miss her for a much simpler and more permanent reason.

I miss her because I am her daughter.

I tell you this because I want you to know that it’s okay to feel however you need to feel right now about the things that are missing in your life. It’s okay to be whiny. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad or relieved or laugh at the absurd ridiculousness that is life on this planet. It’s okay if what you feel oscillates through all of these and more a hundred times a day and leaves you dizzy and breathless and a little nauseaous, even.

And I tell you this, too, the thing I wanted so desperately to hear from my mother: it gets easier.

It gets better.

Wherever you are on your own journey, be there. And know you are not alone.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

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