You hear a lot about grief, but not all grief is associated with death. Today as I sit here wondering if I’m going to have the courage to put my feelings into words, I struggle to paint a picture accurate enough for you to understand. I struggle to speak about a topic that doesn’t seem too popular, that seems quite shameful.

I’m grieving the loss of my mother and my father, my parents.

I’m grieving their loss while they’re very much alive.

I’m grieving the loss of a loving family.

I’m grieving the loss of a happiness that is my God-given right.

I’m grieving the loss of joyful family events.

I’m grieving the loss of an attachment I once longed for.

I’m grieving the loss of a relationship that’s never been and never will be.

I’m grieving the loss of suppressed memories that have become faint because they never existed—memories that have only ever been part of my imagination. Memories of could haves, should haves and would haves.

With that, I speak to you, to the mama who doesn’t have her mama to turn to, not because she’s passed away, but because she can’t relate.

To the mama who came from a broken home.

To the mama who came from upside-down family dynamics or a lack thereof.

To the mama who doesn’t have a dad she longs to call to pass on something funny, not because he’s passed away but because it’s too painful.

To the mama whose parents were the ultimate mess.

To the mama whose parents weren’t the notion of comfort and safety.

To the mama who looks at other families and feels an emptiness.

To the mama who wishes she could miss her parents when they don’t call.

To the mama whose parents are toxic.

To the mama who knows deep down it’s too late for her to have the family she’s always wanted.

To the mama who knows family dinners and birthday parties will never be “normal”.

To the mama who had to learn how to do life on her own.

I see your pain, and I feel it deep down in my soul. I ache for you. And when I cry for myself, I cry for you.

Saying it’s hard is most definitely an understatement. But these are the cards we’ve been dealt.

Having toxic parents drains every ounce of my soul. It makes me feel awkward when I see other families. It makes me envious when a friend rambles on about how much she loves her mother or how much she enjoys her father’s company. It makes me dread the phone calls I have to make. It makes me avoid any contact that is unnecessary. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, to say the least. And for lack of a better word, it’s torture.

After all these years, if there’s one good thing that can come out of this, it will be the way I raise my family. My parents and my childhood taught me exactly what I DO NOT want for my children. It taught me how I DO NOT want my children to feel. And so help me God if I ever make a child of mine feel any less than a king or queen. Help me, God, to be the most supportive mother, to drench my kids in love and affection, rather than criticizing and belittling them. Help me be the source of their happiness not the reason behind their anxiety.

My parents may have given me life, but they robbed me of my happiness. But here I am telling myself the most difficult people in my life were my greatest teachers. They pushed every one of my buttons and frustrated me with their antics, yet now it’s become clear: because of all this pain, I was able to grow. Because of all this pain, I see the brightest future for my children. And with all this pain, I say thank you.

You may have broken my heart, but you’ve strengthened my spirit.

So, mama, I see your pain and feel it deep down in my soul, but know you’re not the only one. Know that I, too, am broken, but I, too, will push through. You’re not alone.

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