Moving forward

Posted on July 4, 2010

I’m sorry I have not written. I had no words. Everything was just numb.

My mother died on Mother’s Day, 2009. I was with her for the last two weeks of her life, and it was an emotional roller coaster that can only exist in a troubled, volatile, sometimes violent relationship. While I tried to explain away much of what she said as being drug induced from the painkillers, the truth is that her criticisms and insults, even in the last two weeks of her life, were the same things she’s been saying to me all my life. She just couldn’t bring herself to accept me for who I am, even as she knew death was only days or hours away. My brother confirmed this, too.

I learned much about my mother by talking to him in the days and weeks and months after her death. Things I didn’t know he knew. Things he observed but never brought up, to avoid rocking the boat in his very good relationship with her.

I talked quite a bit with a social worker who spent several months with my mom in hospice. She said I was a “lightning rod” in the family, and that my brother was the one who smoothed things over.

I think I am finally starting to get it that the reason I was never good enough in my mother’s eyes has more to do with my mother than with me. But it is still so very hard to feel like I am worthy of love and acceptance.

It was just this past Mother’s Day (2010) that I finally was able to really cry and let go of some of the grief and anger and guilt I’ve been holding for over a year. It was not even something I could bring up in therapy because it was too raw, too painful to fit into a 45-minute session and then put my public mask on and go back out into the world.

There is more.

My mom’s live-in boyfriend was emotionally and verbally abusing her. I didn’t get it when she would tell me about their fights because she was always the instigator with my dad and I am sorry to admit that I thought she played some part in her fights with her boyfriend. But then he started in on me when I was there with my mom for those last two weeks. The nicest thing he called me was a bully. He threatened me with physical harm. He told me I was not welcome in the house and to never come back. He told me that my mom didn’t love me anymore and that the only reason she didn’t object to my being there was because she was too weak. He verbally attacked the hospice nurses and threatened to call the police. My brother finally convinced him to say his goodbyes to my mom and go on vacation until it was all over.

I knew even as he was saying these horrible things that it was him, not me. But it brought back all of the horrible things my mom said repeatedly to me when I was growing up and I wondered again as I had years ago, what if there’s some truth to it?

My mom’s rages always ended with my being beaten. Hearing her boyfriend rage at me immediately took me back to the same place, and I truly feared for my life. I also feared for my mom’s safety and it was a very weird situation to see my mom as the victim.

I confided in one of the social workers who was at the house when the boyfriend went into his worst rage against me and the hospice workers. He noticed I was wearing a Star of David and asked, You’re Jewish? I said yes. He said, But your mom doesn’t consider herself Jewish? I said no. He gave me two thumbs up and a grin and said, Rockin’! He was one bright spot in an otherwise abysmal day.

It has only been in the past month, maybe, that I am trying to move forward. I am trying to treat myself better, eat better, exercise with mindfulness. I am trying to clean up the mess in my house and my life so I can have the future I want, the future I think G-d wants for me. I am trying to open up and talk about the past a little more, so I can finally let it go.

I wondered recently why we are in the world. Some would say we are here to honor G-d, but that is too simple and too ambiguous for me. I believe G-d wants us to be happy. I believe G-d wants us to help each other. I believe G-d wants us to find the best in ourselves and each other and make the world a better place. I think that’s what the mitzvot are about, and believing horrible things about myself is not on the list.


  1. Scraps

    I am glad you posted again. I had wondered how you were doing.

    I'm sorry that your mother's last weeks were so painful for you. I think it says a lot about you as a person that you were so dedicated in staying with her. I think a lesser person would have said, "I don't have to put up with this," and left. I know I would have been tempted to do so in your place.

    Depression is a nasty demon. It gives me hope that you know that G-d wants you to be happy. Ali v'hatzlichi – continue in an upward direction, and may you meet with much success!

  2. Rivka

    You are very kind to say that, Daniel. It is hard to hear, much less accept. It seems to me a stronger person would be in a much better place emotionally. But I appreciate what you say and I will try to take it to heart.

    There has been much written and said about happiness as an important goal, as if we (general) must be reminded of it, or we never believed it in the first place. I wonder why that is, why something that seems so simple is actually so difficult.

  3. Daniel Saunders

    I think you are a very strong person for coping with all of this (and also other things you have said on your blog). I know you probably won't believe me, but it's true.

    I'm also glad that you say that G-d wants you to be happy. I know from my own experience of depression that admitting it is OK to be happy is a big step forward.

  4. Rivka

    Thank you. I'm glad not everyone has left. 🙂 I think the fact that I can start to put the past year+ down in words is a good thing and can only help me move forward instead of staying stuck in the pain. Nobody wants that.

  5. The Rebbetzin's Husband


    I'm glad to see you post again, even though the substance is so painful. I hope your post will be part of your recovery.

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