The Long Goodbye

I miss you.

Not the way I missed you when your father and I went on our first date after you were born. Nana and Papa came up from Connecticut to stay for a few days. I had to pump breast milk just in case we stayed out too long. Your father took me out for a fancy dinner, and although I enjoyed being out in the real world relearning how to have an adult conversation, I wondered the whole evening how you were. I looked forward to getting home and holding you again. I knew it was good for us, all of us, to have this time apart, but I missed you.

And not the way I missed you when I dropped you off at preschool. And you cried, so predictably, as I left. I watched through the glass as your first teacher took you into her arms and comforted you. Then I sat in my car in the parking lot for another fifteen minutes so that I could have myself a good cry too. I knew it was good for us, but I missed you.

And not the way I missed you when your dad and I separated and we had joint custody, and suddenly 50% of your life was being spent somewhere else, out of my sight, out of my earshot, out of the motherly realm in which I had safely sheltered you. I had no idea how you were spending your time, and hated the not knowing. But it was my fault. It had been my choice to break up our family. We decided to divvy you up the way divorcing parents do. We believed it was the best way to handle being a parenting couple that no longer lived together. I thought it would be good for us. But I missed you.

And not the way I missed you when we shipped you away to Utah at the age of 15. It was too soon. I wasn’t ready to have you move out yet. I’d been preparing myself for your departure to college, but that was supposed to be a few more years away. The thing is, you needed help. Help that neither your dad nor I felt equipped to give you. We believed it would be good for you. But I missed you.

And not the way I missed you when you were in jail, which was torture by the way, because my imagination is not always my friend. I had no idea whether you were safe, or whether you were suicidal with no one to talk you down. The State of California had its own plans for you. The “authorities” thought it would be good for you. But I missed you.

And not the way I missed you when you were settled in your own place. Attempting to be a responsible adult, going to classes and work and paying rent. Close enough to get to you in an emergency. Far away enough that you could feel like you were in charge of your life and on your own. You were slowly making your life work. I knew it was necessary for you to launch as an adult. I knew it would be good for you. But, I missed you.

This time is different. This is permanent. All that physically remains of you is an urn of ash. You are not coming back. And oh, dear God, how I miss you. I remember requesting that we talk more often. You bristled, believing I wanted to invade your privacy (which you held so dear) when really all I needed was to know that you were breathing. Literally. You could have called and said, “Hey Ma, [inhale], [exhale],” and hung up. That would have been enough. I don’t think that’s too much for a mother to ask.


Except that now it is…too much to ask. People try to comfort me by saying, “He’s in a better place,” as if to imply that this is good for you. (Yeah, well…what do they know?) And here I am again. Missing you.


  1. This post moved me deeply. I have an only child, a daughter, who told me, when I dropped her off at college, that she would never see me again. That was August 2001 and she has not spoken to me since, except to call about getting my signature for financial matters to finance college. I was not going to deprive her of her education by refusing to release the funds.

    I know losing a child to death is much harder than losing a living child who seems to have cut me out of her heart completely. I have little hope she will change her decision but I have that hope.

    Last year, I saw on her FB profile photo that she was wearing an expensive gold chain of mine that she took (stole) without permission. She has it on in several photos on FB so I saw she likes it. I still had the matching earrings. I mentioned to a friend, a mother with a devoted adult son that grew up with my daughter, that I was going to send my daughter the matching earrings, at her place of work for I don’t know where she lives (and I only know where she works because the company website lists her). The friend said “When are you going to accept she’s gone? I can’t believe you’d send her gold earrings after she cut you off. What are you thinking?!” I said “I am still a mother, I feel all the maternal feelings you feel. I will send her the gold earrings because I am a mother. Because I love her.”

    It hurts that she proudly and frequently wears my purloined gold necklace, having taken so much from me, but she won’t have anything to do with me.

    I pray my long comment about my own heartache does not appear to diminish the pain of your loss.


    1. Tree, thank you for commenting on my post. And not to worry: other people’s pain does not diminish mine at all. It is, in fact, sadly reassuring to know that other parents don’t “get it right” with their offspring (I would guess many don’t in one way or another). When Julian first died, it was all my fault. Isn’t the mother always to blame? But the truth is, our children are their own selves; they are creatures of our making, but not of our controlling or keeping. Julian had a path for himself that looked nothing like the journey I had envisioned for him. And finally, that is OK, because truly, it was never about the path I wanted for him. Our children resist being close to us for many reasons, but sometimes it is simply so that they can be more themselves. For better or worse. I don’t know the circumstances of the schism between you and your daughter, but I imagine that in her insistence to not be connected to you, she is more connected than she even knows (consciously). She will always be “yours,” in a way she may never understand until she experiences motherhood herself. And even then, who knows? You can’t control or dictate what she feels for you. All that you get to control is how you feel about her. And love is always the better choice. Not for her sake, but for yours. Sorry, don’t mean to be so preachy. I know what it is to be in pain over my child. I have found a way that works for ME (and may not work for anyone else) to be with that pain in a way that doesn’t consume me. The pain is real. I don’t try to diminish it or hide from it or deny it, but I also remember the love that created him (even though I’m long divorced from his father), and the memories of love we shared as mother and son, and that always brings me peace. I wish peace for you too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.