What My Mom & I Never Had


“There is no bridge that crosses the sea of sadness separating me and my mother. To this day the woman in those faded black-and-white photographs seems like a stranger. I carry a deep sorrow about what my mom and I never had.” – Jim Palmer

This is Rob, Susan’s husband. When I read this from Jim Palmer it resonated with my heart. Neither of my parents are alive, and my relationship with my Dad was especially difficult and distant. I wanted to share Jim’s entire comment with you today just in case this was a tough Mother’s Day for you…

Neither my mother or father are alive, and I’m typically quite conflicted about the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day holidays. I had a turbulent, painful, and estranged relationship with my mother, which I wrote extensively about in Divine Nobodies. I’m guessing there are others who woke up this morning with a heavy heart either because of the mother you lost and miss, or the mother you are not close to because of a lifetime of wounds and scars.

This is the day we say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” But maybe it’s not so “happy” for you. Perhaps you’re one of those people who will play the charade of giving a gift, sending a card or making a phone call out of obligation or guilt. Maybe you carry deep heartache from your relationship (or lack thereof) with your mother. Perhaps you’ve suffered from the disapproval, rejection, absence or abandonment of your mom. Maybe you will try to drum up some positive demeanor toward your mom on Mother’s Day even though you really feel nothing at all.

I understand.

There is no bridge that crosses the sea of sadness separating me and my mother. To this day the woman in those faded black-and-white photographs seems like a stranger. I carry a deep sorrow about what my mom and I never had. As I wrote in Divine Nobodies, “Some memories you carry around inside you like pieces of broken glass.”

In more recent years I’ve come to understand the sorrows and heartaches of my mother’s life that I was born into. No little girl says: “When I grow up, I want to be a mother who hurts and wounds my children. I want to reject them, abuse them, abandon them and damage them for life.” The truth is that damaged, wounded and hurt people often damage, wound and hurt others. That’s not an excuse, but it means any child could have been inserted into my place, and the damage, wounds and hurts would have still happened.

In other words, it wasn’t me.

These understandings have created feelings of compassion inside my heart for my mom. “Healing” for me has meant releasing myself from the false messages I adopted about myself as a result of the hurt experienced with my mom. “Healing” may not mean your relationship with your mother is fixed, restored, resolved or gets any better. Instead, “healing” may mean realizing that this fact is not preventing you from being at peace and free right now.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.”

8 thoughts on “What My Mom & I Never Had

  1. Hey Rob,

    really weird.  I woke up this morning sad about my mom and I…   not often do I miss not having a close fun relationship with her, but usually around mother’s Day at some point I feel sad about it– today was the day, then I read this.  Good post, thanks so much….   Bless u!  

  2. Yes, I needed to read this. I ignore Mother’s Day like it does not exist. I will not pretend or be fake about it like I had done in the past. Thanks.

  3. Thank you! While I have a decent relationship with my parents and have also experienced healing in that relationship, I am always bugged by the church lifting up Hallmark holidays as Holy Days… Praying that estranged folk can get to the place Buechner talks about!

    • I like the way you put that, Michael. It’s part of “acting like good Christians” instead of drilling down to the reality of the relationship — good, bad or indifferent. It’s part of looking like things are together instead of letting them fall apart and letting God rebuild them more amazingly than before! Thanks, as always.

  4. Thanks Rob, Mothers’ or Father’s Day can be so painful for so many for so many reasons. For me it is being a mother and wanting so desperately to want to have a relationship with my son. It is always good to be sensitive to other’s pain but still try to celebrate what blessing we do have. This helps keep me close to God.

  5. Mothers and Fathers of gay children…how you respond will directly impact what these holidays mean to them. This is your opportunity to make a change for the better. Embrace them with love as soon as you can! Don’t just say “I love you” like you have all their life. Go a step further and let them know you embrace their uniqueness as well!

    My own mother has yet to do that after almost 17 years. It still hurts. Don’t let your own children have a similar experience.

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