I read a quote recently that punched me the gut because it described what I have been feeling since my oldest daughter moved back home with me six months ago. The quote is, ” A Mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” This quote has sat at the back of my brain since I read it the first time. This is what I feel at the core of my being. Sadness, grief and some anger mixed in there as well. There is so much to unpack. None of this she owns or is on her. None of this is “her fault.” She has never asked me to carry it. These are my feelings.
She is struggling. Deeply struggling. Her sadness is overwhelming.
I don’t handle this well. I am a fixer and want to figure out a way to make it better. I would stand on my head if that helped. Instead I react with ways to fix stuff which is not what she needs or wants and we fight. This all comes from a place of love and worry but it’s not what she feels. Last night, Christmas, it came to a head and I told her she needed help. She yelled and cried and when I finally went to my room, I did too
I don’t know why I can’t just let her be sad. It’s been days of sobbing and I worry but why are my suggestions the right way to go? Who am I to tell her how to manage her grief? I thought about this all day today. My Christmas Eve and my Christmas Day were so horrible. Why does her grief affect me so deeply. She is a grown woman, why can’t I just go about my day, my life, in spite of her struggle.
After hours thinking today I realized why.
I was the baby in my family. When I was old enough to really know my dad he was ill. He had extreme OCD and suffered from depression. My dad was not the dad that coached hockey or baseball like he did for my brother. My dad was sick. My mom filled his place. She coached every team I played. I would see my Dad cry when I went out, thinking I would get hurt. I saw him cry and pleaded with my mom to take him home, when we dropped him off for a long term hospital stay. Many days I walked in the house and wondered if he would be alive. Then I got married and my husband suffered from bipolar depression. The cycle repeats. Days locked in his room, job after job, tears so often I became numb to them. Times walking in my house I wondered if he would be alive. Driving around our subdivision to coax him into the car so I could admit him for his own protection. This is why I can’t just let her be sad. I am so afraid to let her be sad because for everyone I’ve known, sadness could have been deadly. I automatically put her sobbing for days in the same category. I want to make her better because I can’t bear to repeat the cycle again.
She woke up and went to work today. She has sobbed all night. We leave for Denver tomorrow and I forced her to pack her bag because I can’t do it at 6am and I can’t leave her here alone for five days. I should have just left her be and if she could not do it by the time I left tomorrow then she would be left home. That’s what I should of done. It’s not what I did. I don’t even know if I could get on a plane tomorrow knowing she would be here, not working, sobbing for five days.
I have to figure out a way to stop being this mom. She is grown. This is her life to figure out. These issues are not skinned knees. They are deep wounds. They far outweigh my mother’s “make it right” degree. I need to live my life and maybe by seeing a happy mom, she will one day be happy too. Maybe she never will and that will be entirely up to her.