Grieving the mother you never had

This will be my first full year without my mom. She’s around, somewhere living her best life. I’m trying to do the same, but I have to do it without her.

Mother/daughter relationships can be complex. They go through phases. As a teen, mom knows nothing, as a adult you find out mom was always right. Growing up my relationship with my mom was the same, but there was something important missing…


When I was in high school I always wanted that mom I could run to when I had a problem. One that would console me, hug me, tell me I was beautiful or special (kids are mean). But my mom was different. She was disassociated with me and all the extracurricular activities I did in school for her to notice me. Unless other people were around, then she noticed me.

When I tell people I was homeless for three years, they always ask me how. They wonder was I a bad kid? Did I come home pregnant or on drugs? No, none of the above. I was a straight nerd who stayed after-school helping teachers because I didn’t want to go home.

I don’t go into details in casual conversation, but some people I will tell: “my mom said she was ‘tired of looking at me’ and made me leave.”

It’s true. I remember those words well.

Those three years after high school graduation, I lived in my car, then with a family I met online. I became a reporter, got on my feet, finished college and moved to another state.

Through all that, a part of me still wanted my mom to be in my life. I thought that showing her I came out on top, she would finally be the mom that I needed. But that never happened.

In the world of healing we call it “going NC” aka going no contact. I went NC with my mom some time last year. No more texts, no more calls, no more Facebook likes or voice mails of her telling me she wishes I was better.

Ever since I went NC, I never felt this happy.

That was until I had to learn to let go of the hope that my mom would change. That one day I could call her and tell her I hosted a banquet or sat down with a celebrity and she’d respond with something other than, “I’m busy you gonna have to call me back.”

I’ve been reading this book, Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride. If you feel your mom has some of the same characteristics as mine, I suggest you read it too.

There’s a section about grieving the mother you never had. That hit hard for me just recently.

I was watching “Crazy Rich Asians,” which is supposed to be a feel-good awesome movie. But I spent the majority of it bawling my eyes out. Like really ugly crying.

There’s a scene when the main character, Rachel Chu, gets publicly humiliated by the mom of her soon-to-be husband. Rachel runs home and cries for days until her mother flies around the world to be there for her daughter.

I lost it. I realized I will never have a mom like that. And I write that very matter-of-factly. I won’t. I had to accept that, and it feels like someone did die, the mom I will never have. 

I’m writing this now, in the home of a friend who has pictures on every wall of her and her child. I’ve never seen someone so happy to be a mom. It’s beautiful.

I hope that if you do have a mom who loves being your mom, that you cherish the moments she’s there for you. Being a mom can’t be easy, but there’s nothing like a mother’s love if you’re lucky to feel it.

Grief sucks, even this kind. It’s ugly. Some days you don’t want to get out of bed. Other days you’re accomplishing goals and taking names. The key is to feel the sadness, all of it. Don’t try to push it away. It will still be there. It’s OK to be sad.

I don’t know what happens after the grieving. What I do know is everything I’ve done in my life up to this point, I’ve done. I’ve gotten this far and done this much on my own.

The time period when I needed that maternal nurturing is gone. My life is up to me to make sure I am happy and my future is good. For me and my future kids.

So this goes out to all the girls like me. On holidays when people post photos of their big happy families, if you don’t have that, this goes out to you.

You’ve given yourself the motherly love you didn’t receive when you should have. So from me to you: You are beautiful, you are special and now, there’s nothing important missing.


8 responses to “Grieving the mother you never had”

  1. Ellen Laraway Avatar
    Ellen Laraway

    Thank you, Elizabeth!
    Just read your article in the Az Republic about mother’s day! I want to commend you on your courage and vulnerability. You help others by being genuine and speaking your truth!
    Keep up your great writing and nurturing words♥️

    Hugs, from a mom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My path was different than yours, in that I stayed and lived with the emotional rollercoaster of a mom who on her good days was affirming, but at her worst left me bereft and unmoored. It was my extended family circle that affirmed and supported me throughout those difficult teen and young adult years. I am the oldest of my siblings: The youngest to this day still believes I was the “problem”, and now as a grandmother myself I am slowly rebuilding a relationship with this sibling based on the present rather than the past. This of course is only possible when I am at my best, and therefore, I use NC when necessary, and yet continue to try to be present when grace allows.
    When my mom passed away (6 years ago), it was my dad, husband and I at her side. There were a few moments of grace in that experience, and in others great difficulty. It was my family, both chosen members, my spouse and my children who walked with me through these difficult moments. In a second family of choice for the last 20 years, I can resolutely say: YES, even with a difficult mom whom at times requires for our own health a NC decision, you CAN and Will find and thrive in life, because we are resilient and lovable for just who we are in all the messiness that living out of such a childhood entails.
    May you continue to find the courage and love it takes to make it through each moment.
    Happy Mothers Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth, I cried reading your article about your challenged life with an unfit mother. Although my mother and her actions did not rise to that level, I can relate to many of your points. A counselor once told me that I was grieving the loss of the mother I wanted and needed. I realized that I had to let go of the hope that one day she would no longer be so self-centered and would care about her kids and maybe put them ahead of whatever man she was with. It may sound like I am a young person but I am 61 and I still wish I had that loving mom! I suppose that feeling will never go away. You will be an amazing mother one day because you have learned what NOT to do. Love your blog – keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank You ! Thank YOU !! THANK YOU !!!
    It’s been quite difficult to NC these last ten years – feeling ‘mental stilleto knives’ being thrown at me by mom has not been easy but the resultant happiness after cutting her negative, life-altering bs has been transformational. Like you, I’ve grown to realize how special it is to be free of someone who’s never going to awaken. My highest hope is that her next incarnation is one that gives her the opportunity to live happily and without concocting drama and crises where none existed before she decided to manifest them into all of her four children’s reality. It’s not okay to manage people’s lives without their consent. After 46 years of trying to help her find healing, after being threatened with being shot, after taking care of her youngest daughter with terminal brain cancer along with her 11 & 12 year old grandchildren, after caregiving for her parents (Granny & Granddaddy) for 15 years … finally realizing the only way forward for me was NC … fortunately, I found my mother in reality, by going up to Mount Shasta for many years. She loves all unconditionally. She always nurtures and responds in a healthy healing way and never lies, never tries to empty your pockets but always enhances your days and nights. Mother Nature’s cure awaits those who care to venture forth into her welcoming bosom. She’s waiting for all her Children to serve, honor and respect themselves enough to seek Her out.


  5. […] You fall asleep for what seems like a minute, and wake up thinking about the same thing again. That was me, the night I wrote my piece about grieving the mother I never had. (Read it here). […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing and being so transparent… You are so brave and you well forever be blessed!!! and you spoke the truth.. I felt like I was the only person praying for a better mom … I didn’t even realize how narcissistic my mom is until just recently.. Thanks for mentioning the book I will be reading it as well..thank you, you have inspired me so much.. . I’m slowly moving forward and your story definitely helps! I’m too grateful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I never knew and now must live with the regret that I accepted a vacuum of love to exist in my family without my knowledge and action.


  8. Hi Elizabeth,

    I just wanted to thank you for this article. I first read it when it was new last Mother’s Day, two weeks after my mom chewed me out for not making efforts to spend time with her.

    The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, reading it while still processing my thoughts on why I never go out of my way to see her. It lead me down a path I never knew I had been on my entire life. Raised by two narcissistic parents who made me the scapegoat of the family, I could never do anything right in their eyes.

    Now that my eyes are more open, it helps… but I still need to talk to a therapist who understands this type of abuse so I can finally become the person I could have been. Any recommendations?


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