Two and a half years ago, with tears in my eyes, an ache in my heart, and an eight-month pregnant belly, I walked off my mother’s porch for good, and I never looked back. 

The month after I left was probably one of the most chaotic times of my life. My husband quit his job, I packed my house up into a 14-foot cargo trailer, moved into a new home that I bought online, then drove 2,100 miles to it with my husband and our 18-month-old daughter. I immediately hired a brand new OB-GYN and had my C-section birth alone because my husband had to stay home to watch our daughter and we knew no one in our new area. Our baby boy was born, I had my tubal ligation, and then I briefly had a cancer scare when my doctor found a suspicious mass. Thankfully, it was nothing serious. 

Even amid this absolute insanity, I felt a new sense of peace. 

I had never felt safer in my life. I did not have to delicately choose my words before speaking, I did not have to tiptoe around conversations, and I didn’t have to pretend to forget the horrors of my childhood to maintain a relationship. She could not guilt or gaslight me to the brink of my insanity.

I severed our relationship; I was finally allowed to be myself.

I don’t think she even knew I had moved at this point, let alone how far away I was or where I had gone. She wouldn’t show up at my door, and she wouldn’t write me any guilt-inducing letters about needing forgiveness or her signature, “someday you’ll thank mes.” 

A few people from my hometown messaged me and asked what had happened. I opened up a little and even showed a trusted few the photos of my bruises from her when I was a child and then a teenager. Most were horrified, and a few finally felt like they understood the oddities of our family and why certain things strangely unraveled the way they did. 

RELATED: I’m Walking Away From My Toxic Mother

Then her friends began trying to get in contact. They weren’t even remotely interested in my experiencesthey felt I had deeply betrayed my mother. Nothing could ever justify estrangement from a parent. I gave the first few friends my reasons, but it didn’t take long to realize they didn’t care about me. It became easier for me to say no, and without justification.

Of course, this began to wear me down.

After a while, I wondered if I did owe her. Her appearance in the public eye was incredibly important to her, and I was marring it by not being around. She gave me life, and she did house me until seven years ago. I was 19 when she abruptly kicked me out of the house. No, in her words, I had not been kicked out. I simply came home from a commute college class to find all my things (except for my cash) strewn outside and the door locked. She didn’t force me to leave, that was entirely my choice. 

Rumors spread through the town I left behind, and I did not care to correct them. Some were nearly accurate while others were feverishly outlandish, but none were worth my peace. 

I used this clarity to dissect my jumbled thoughts and identify the emotions I felt. I picked up many psychology books, leaned back into journaling, took a good long look at my actions, and thought about what I wanted my life to look like moving forward. 

I thought about what kind of a mother I wanted to be too. I considered how I wanted life to be when my children were grown, and I paid great attention to how my unhealed “mother wound” could potentially harm my children if left it unchecked. Dr. Karyl McBride’s Will I Ever Be Good Enough? taught me that narcissistic traits are heritable; I am not absolved.

I have to actively work on staying present and aware of my own thoughts and behaviors. I have to wholly accept the responsibility for my mistakes as a mother and do my very best to be a good parent despite my flaws. More than anything, I hope my children want me in their lives even when they are adults. 

I looked at my mom’s circumstances and felt a new softening in my heart.

Her life hadn’t panned out how she wanted at all. She had struggles of her own, and she didn’t get adequate support for her needs. My dad’s murder was tough on me, but she had lost her partner and sense of security, not just someone she loved. 

The more I practiced mentally putting myself into her situation, the more I understood. Forgiveness came in at a trickle. Love filled the void of apathy, and a quiet understanding took the place of my pain. 

But did I want a relationship with her? 

Of course I did. I desperately longed for the kind of relationship that all my friends seemed to have with their mothers. I felt so envious at times, especially with my two children under the age of two. 

Here’s the most challenging part, though, my healing does not heal her hurt. 

Nor does it help her, nor does it give her the tools to be the mother I needed. It does not fix my childhood, and there are no do-overs. My children are now two and almost four–I survived their babyhoods without her help. I have had to navigate so many uncharted waters entirely on my own. Now I don’t need, nor want, her support. Even if she radically changed overnight, which is unlikely, what’s done cannot be undone. I needed that change more than a decade ago, not now. 

RELATED: You’re Still Allowed To Grieve the Loss of a Toxic Mother

Though I love her and miss her, I know it would not be wise to return. Reconnecting would undo so much healing and growth. I am finally living the lifestyle I have craved for so long. I can’t slip back into accommodating her desires too. And I can’t help but believe that her life is better now too. I did not make her happy, and in many ways, my presence was detrimental to her. 

Stepping away has allowed her to reclaim her life and sense of identity as a person. She has the freedom to reevaluate what she wants from this life. She can finally be selfish and guilt-free about it. She no longer has to worry about her children. All of us have moved away, and the painful storm of being a single mother has passed. I hope she finds peace.

I love her, but I don’t ever want to go back. 

Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays pass. There are no gifts to exchange. No cards to send. No dinners to scramble around prepping.

The first snow falls, and I watch it from the window of my mountain home that she has never stepped foot in, holding my son, who she has never seen. He acts so much like my dad, the man who made her a wife, a mother, and then a widow. I think of her love for the snow. A twinge of sadness tugs at my heart, but I shake it off. 

Unlike the sudden crushing avalanche-like pain of losing my father, the loss of my mother is slower. It hurts, and it is slow and agonizing, but I can process it as it falls, flake by flake. I trudge and wade through this wet, waist-deep snow, knowing that spring will someday return. 

I hope other women who consider going no-contact with their mothers realize that this estrangement and distance is not the result of hatred or apathy. It is love from a distance. And I believe it is sometimes the best solution, albeit imperfect. 

If you’ve been considering going no-contact for a while, that’s probably because it’s something you should do. No one chooses something as painful as estrangement without good cause. Your hurt is valid, and it’s okay to distance yourself to heal and rediscover who you are.

Life is different, but I have to believe it will be wonderful and beautiful once again.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Sarah Hamelman

Sarah lives 4,200 feet up on a mountain in northwestern Montana where she homesteads, raises her two toddlers, and writes professional SEO content. She enjoys reading, hiking, kayaking, fishing, trail riding, and exploring the Kootenai National Forest that surrounds her cabin.

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