Preface: I have thoroughly considered the potential consequences of publishing this open letter. I expect that some of my family members may judge me harshly; they may attempt to guilt me or may even decide to cut off contact with me forever after reading it, and that’s OK. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and emotions! My personal, most heartfelt desire is for peace and healing in my own life. My goal is to weed out negativity and drama and leave toxic relationships behind.
I’m not sure if you will ever read this; but if it happens to find you, I am almost certain that you will not care at all. So, I am writing this letter for me, and for anyone like me, who feels like they are a broken shell of a person desperately trying to pick up the pieces in an attempt to heal. To be fully able to share genuine love, empathy, and acceptance with others who are present and emotionally available.
Since I was 12 years old, I have been acutely aware that our relationship is shallow, void, and loveless; the opposite of most mother daughter relationships I have seen. You never had any interest in getting to know me, or in finding out what I love in life. In fact, I received no encouragement of any kind from you. Nothing I have done has been quite enough to make you proud of me or take notice. You, yourself, appear to have no passion or emotions at all. Just last month I trotted over 500 miles to see you and bragged about recently receiving my degree, you barely heard me. The most I have ever been able to get out of you are comments to others that I am the “good daughter”. What does that even mean?
What's more, the sexual, physical, and psychological abuse that I suffered at the hands of your men while in my first 15 years of your custody was nothing to bear in comparison to the abandonment and betrayal I still feel when I think of your part in it now. Then, after all of that exploitation, you throw me away and place me in a deplorable institution like Bethany girls home in Arcadia, LA so that you don’t have to deal with my anger; those actions just further demonstrates your level of emotional depravity and lack of care for me as a person.
Even though some people would say I seem like an accomplished, confident, and well-adjusted person now; I know that I am still a raging mess inside. My cracks are showing in my relationships, in my inability to trust or depend on others, and in my excessive use of alcohol in an attempt to numb the painful feelings I have about you and the things that you allowed to happen to me as a child.
At 42 years old, I can’t allow this path of destruction to continue in my life. I want healthy relationships and I want my family whole! So, I will get all of my ugly feelings out on paper and put them out there to the universe for use in my therapeutic journey. Then, I will no longer allow myself to indulge in wishful thinking about the fantastical relationship I wish I could have had with you. I will allow myself to grieve our relationship; and I will finally be able to move on and find peace.
So here it goes...
The past few years have been the most difficult for me, especially since my daughter is getting older and I am finding so much pleasure in developing a healthy, beautiful relationship with her. But, my inner sickness rears its ugly head when I find myself missing my dream version of you when I am spending time with her. I am sad that she has no doting grandmother to be found in you. Furthermore, I tend to go overboard and smother my daughter because I want to make sure that she feels the love, protection, and affection that I never felt from you. But why? Why do I miss something I never had in the first place? I don’t know, but I can barely get through a single day without secretly pondering one or more of these questions or awful thoughts;
• Is it me? Why did you abandon me? Sure, I always had food, clothes, and a roof over my head; I even had many beautiful things. But as for emotional support or genuine empathy, I received none. For much of my childhood, I felt so helpless and alone. When I was seven, you took my father away from me. Yes, I’ll be honest and say that he was way less than perfect. Hell, I will go so far as to say he was a downright selfish, drunken, cheating, violent, jerk. But despite all of that, he was my dad, he loved me, he wanted to keep me, and you knew it; but I was just leverage to you. You tried to alienate him immediately upon your separation, and fanned the flames by coaching me to be mean to him on the phone when he would call. Then, when he was imprisoned, you hid his letters to me, you let me think he wanted nothing to do with me, that he abandoned me because I was unwanted, unworthy; your actions burned a hole straight through my heart. To lie and keep a father from contacting his child for eight years is wrong!
Meanwhile, countless men came into and went out of our lives; each of them inflicting various disgusting forms of abuse on my little sister and me while you did nothing to stop it; that is almost unforgivable. But… the truth is, I wanted to forgive you, if you would only have provided me a chance to forgive you. Indeed, I had forgiven my father long ago because he humbly asked me to, he genuinely feels remorse for his decisions that adversely impacted my life. And, I have worked hard in recovery to find a way to forgive all of the men who sexually, physically, and emotionally abused me too. I have also tried so hard to understand and empathize with you, but now I am coming up empty. Too many years have been wasted sitting, waiting, wishing and hoping that you would just acknowledge your lies, own up to your mistakes, and validate the feelings of abandonment that the emotional void you created has left in me. I have deeply craved a mother to wrap her arms around me, tell me that it would all be OK, and that the abuse and aftermath of it was not my fault. It never came, and after waiting more than 25 years, I know in my heart that these little wishes will never come true. The biggest thing I will have to learn to live with is that I will probably never know why. In fact, it may be that there is no reason at all.
• Why didn’t you want to know me or my children? Was it that awful to have to spend time with us? Do you know what it was like to prepare for prom dates, plan my wedding, and give birth to my babies all without a supportive mother? I have always been so jealous of other women who are close to their cheerleader type moms, they do things together, and they openly show that they care about each other, I never had any of that with you.
I considered that it might be that you don’t like me as a person, I mean, maybe it is me? But then why didn’t you care enough to get to know about the individual interests and hobbies of your other daughter or your grandchildren so that you might actually select a gifts with meaning rather than slipping us cash out of some sort of obligation on birthdays and holidays? I grew up feeling like my birthday was nothing special because you made me feel like it was a chore for you to have to stop and celebrate it. Sorry to put you out Mom, and you can keep your cash.
I have tried time and again to spark your interest in spending some time with me, to get to know you better, only to be painfully rejected time and again. I am done asking, done setting myself up for the pain of rejection from a mother who is incapable of showing or accepting love. I have nothing of personal meaning that I have received from you in this life, well except for my physical features, of course.
• Why wouldn’t you let me know you? We have had no relationship beyond chatting about the weather or some random work drama, EVER; I can get that type of relationship from a random stranger at a bar. You have shut down and tuned me out when I shared my feelings or when I tried to talk to you about the past or personal topics. Even more painful is the fact that I have had no idea what is happening in our family when it comes to life events such as births, deaths, marriages, reunions, or anything else of family importance because you have excluded me from your family completely. You took away my dad and his family when I was a child, and then you made it impossible for me to have any relationship with your family too. You have made me feel invisible, isolated, and alone.
• Why do you think my sister and I constantly compete? And when we do, it is mostly for your attention or your approval mom, which I have come to learn is utterly unattainable.
Stephanie was the only constant relationship I had in my life, and because she was my little sister I was put in the unfair position of having to take care of her and protect her from the abuse; as a result our relationship is sick and strained. We are not like normal sisters at all, I have had to step in and be her emotional mother in your absence. It makes me sad to see how as an adult, she sabotages herself to the point of destruction and has no desire to be close to anyone in the family. The men she chooses are in line with the ones you chose, and she continues to inflict this sick cycle of abuse on her own child and in her other relationships. My home has been a revolving door to her because I cannot stand the thought of her being homeless. Of course, you have always been there to provide her with cash, cars, houses, or bail money when she needs it, so kudos to you for that I guess, way to enable her. Meanwhile, I never asked you for anything but your time and attention, but I guess those things are reserved for other more important people in your life.
As a result of this dynamic between us three women, I am unable to have healthy relationships with females my age. I am constantly seeking out “surrogates”, women who are 10 or more years older to me, to provide me with the comfort, encouragement, and guidance that I seek. Resilience, resourcefulness, and coping skills are definitely qualities that I credit you with fostering in me though, I have learned to get what I need from others because of your refusal to provide them to me, and that is OK. I am not like you however, I am fully able to reciprocate. I have learned that families are not always blood members, sometimes you need to create your own tribe to sustain.
Therapists and others that I have talked to about our situation have said that it sounds as if you may be suffering from a personality disorder; some feel that I should be more open to the fact that you might not be capable of love and be OK with it. But I say that relationships are a two way street, they require give and take to make them grow. Clearly you think there is nothing wrong with the way things are, you are happy with the superficial chats and flippant conversations, you have no intention of working with me to fix it. So, I am left feeling as if you gave birth to me and then intentionally chose not to participate in my life. You have emotionally ignored and neglected me in all the most hurtful ways.
Today, I am waking up to find out that while giving up on trying to improve our relationship will be one of the hardest things I will ever do, it is exactly the healing step that I need to take right now. The thing is, you are the one who is on the losing end of this stick; you will be missing out on your loving daughter, your amazing grandchildren, and all of the experiences that come with being a part of this beautiful family unit.
All of that shared, I am finally ready to grieve you and move forward so that I can focus on strengthening the many other healthy relationships I am blessed to be gifted with. Before I go, I want to tell you that I forgive you Mom; even though you may never ask for it, I am granting my forgiveness to you anyway so that I can find a way to also forgive myself for all of the hateful feelings I have kept inside for so long and make room for the light to come shining in. From here on out, I wish you nothing but peace and calm without me. I wonder if you will even notice.
With my deepest sorrow, your daughter,