A puzzle without all the pieces

This post is part of an ongoing series created by Jana at An Attitude Adjustment called Spill it!, where bloggers wear their heart on their sleeves and share parts of themselves they might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing.

A puzzle without all the pieces

I have fewer than a handful of memories of my mother. In fact, even the few that I have I can barely recall. They are so hazy, they have no distinct edge. They are barely real.
Because I have so few memories there is nothing to hold on to. I have no knowledge of who she was, and how that translates into the person I am. It can be a lonely, confusing place to miss that part of myself.

As my children develop their own personalities, my husband and I can clearly see parts of ourselves in each of them. Both demonstrate personal attributes, beyond just the physical, that are obviously from us. To see ourselves reborn in them in these little ways is really quite extraordinary.
So it makes me wonder more intensely than every before what parts of me come from her? What connection do we have? I have no idea. My dad doesn’t talk about her. Ever. I don’t come from a family of good communicators. Painful memories, confrontation, anything awkward makes my father uncomfortable. But even if it didn’t, I’m not sure what he would have to offer. It’s not that I don’t think he loved her, it’s just that she is so much a part of his past that I think he has simply forgotten. Or maybe I do underestimate him. Maybe it really is too painful to talk about. Either way, we don’t. And I admit I haven’t found the courage to ask.
But it’s more. My mother had family. I have aunts and uncles and a grandmother. But I am physically and emotionally estranged from them. We have no relationship, we aren’t in touch with one another in any way. That is partly to do with how they treated my sister and I as children. They didn’t hurt us, but I wouldn’t say they loved us either. They’ve said and done things that are unforgivable. And so I can’t ask them either.
Can you imagine how painful it is to not know anything about my birth mother? To have no memories of the woman who birthed me and who most certainly loved me. One thing I do know is that just before she died she made my father promise to take care of her girls. And he has. Of that, let me be perfectly clear. But how I long to know how that love feels.

And how I long to know who she was. What did she dream of? What was her favourite colour? What music did she like to listen to? Did she read like me? What were her hobbies? Did she like the cold or perfect the summer heat? What were her hopes? What did her voice sound like? What she emotional, like me?

Nothing. I have nothing. No connection.

Without it, I don’t believe I will ever completely understand myself. I truly believe that because I lost her at such a young age, I lost a part of myself. The part that connects me in a primal way to my very existence.

Already I’ve outlived her by more than eight years. This further complicates my emotions. I find it odd that at such a young age, I’m already forging a path beyond the boundaries of her very existence.
And so here I am. At an impasse. Ready to move forward, but finding it so hard because I don’t know what doors to close, or even how to close them.

As a mother I know the importance of bond and connection. I offer it with complete conviction to my children. They must feel it, because I do. And yet I have no pieces of my own to put together. How can I solve my own puzzles without all the pieces? 

Perhaps our mother’s don’t define us. I agree, we all eventually forge our own paths, but most of us do that based on the foundation of our mother’s love and guidance. A love that is honest and true and full of support.

I have no memories, positive or negative. I cannot conjure any feelings. There is no music, no smell, no sensation that brings her back. I can’t help but believe that if I were able to define her, my life would be so much richer. I think if I could I would be more whole and could move toward a place where I could accept myself completely.


29 thoughts on “A puzzle without all the pieces

  1. Nicki says:

    Wow! I don't truly know what to say. I know that not having a connection is hard but I can't imagine what you must struggle with. *hugs*

  2. TKW says:

    I think it's absolutely understandable that you grieve the loss of your mother, that you feel like maybe something is missing. I think a lot of people who are adopted struggle in much the same way.But maybe, just maybe, you will come to a point in your life where you find it freeing not to have any restrictions on your parenting, no blueprint for the kind of mother you grew up with or "should be." Does that make any sense? ((you))

  3. Jana @ Attitude Adjustment says:

    What a heartbreaking post, Christine. I don't know what to say. I do think that once we have children, we think about our own childhood in a much different way, we relive it, and any pain we experienced seems to be a bit more immediate. I would ask your father. What do you have to lose? It will make you feel better, and I can't imagine him not telling you, especially if you explain how dearly you want to know about the woman you came from.

  4. Kate says:

    Oh Christine! Thank you for sharing this. You write achingly beautifully about something that would leave me speechless.I hope you can find some peace. Maybe there are some friends you could seek out who could give you some of the pieces? And for some reason this makes me think about my mom who told me recently she still has imagined arguments with her long gone mother, trying to sort through their very complex relationship.

  5. Amber says:

    I am at a loss for words. I can only imagine your pain.

  6. ShannonL says:

    Oh, Christine! You had me in tears. I didn't realize how very little you know about your mother, or the fact that your father doesn't discuss her.It breaks my heart, probably mostly because of how close I am with my own mother, how alike we are. I can't imagine never knowing that, and my heart hurts for you.I really think you should ask your dad about her. I don't think he has forgotten her whatsoever. It's just too painful of a memory to bring up. But I'm sure he would tell you about her if he knew just how important it is to you. And it is important. Maybe he doesn't realize the impact it had on you because you were so young. But I think he needs to know. Perhaps you could write him a letter (or show him this post) and give it to him to read on his own if it's too uncomfortable in person. You will never get the answers you long for if you don't ask. And the worst he can say is *I don't want to talk about it*, although if you stress the importance I'm sure he will. Hugs to you, dear friend. xo

  7. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  8. Leslie says:

    Those are wise words from the forward-thinking TKW. I'm glad to read those and the others here, because I don't have enough. Depending on other people for answers to your most personal questions can be so hard, so impossible.

  9. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I wish I had the words to help take away your pain. Or to give you the answers you are searching for. Family I'd a funny thing isn't it? Sometimes that bond ist enough to break through all of the hurt and pain. I hope that you do find peace in your lose one day.

  10. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I wish I had the words to help take away your pain. Or to give you the answers you are searching for. Family I'd a funny thing isn't it? Sometimes that bond ist enough to break through all of the hurt and pain. I hope that you do find peace in your lose one day.

  11. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I wish I had the words to help take away your pain. Or to give you the answers you are searching for. Family I'd a funny thing isn't it? Sometimes that bond ist enough to break through all of the hurt and pain. I hope that you do find peace in your lose one day.

  12. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I wish I had the words to help take away your pain. Or to give you the answers you are searching for. Family I'd a funny thing isn't it? Sometimes that bond ist enough to break through all of the hurt and pain. I hope that you do find peace in your lose one day.

  13. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point says:

    Christine, thank you for sharing a deeply personal part of you with us. Your post reminds me of a Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet:"…to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."

  14. Eclipsed says:

    Beyond beautifully written. I can't imagine not having my mother in my life. It must have been very difficult growing up. I wish I had some sage advice to offer you, but I'm afraid I don't. I hope that you're able to find what you're looking for

  15. Charlotte says:

    This post was so touching. An can't even begin to understand the hole you describe. Even losing my mother now would feel like I've missed so much she has to teach me.

  16. becca says:

    I can't imagine the feelings you so beautifully illustrate here and the hole that is in your mind and your heart. I can't try to make you feel better or help you move forward any better than you're doing on your own. but I can tell you in the short time I've KNOWN you that you are an amazing individual. One who puts so much of yourself into finding yourself and that is making you a better mom and friend to those around you. One day, I do hope you find peace with this but for now, just know that from the outside, you're doing an incredible job… xo

  17. Aging Mommy says:

    Oh my Christine – to lose your mother at the age of four, that is such a dramatic and life affecting event. Your post shows how clearly you feel this and how very much you would like to know more about your mother. Could you try and talk to your father or is there some other family member you could talk to about her? If so I think it might be a great help to you. Beautifully and poignantly written. I am not a hugger but am sending you hugs right now 🙂

  18. Hyacynth says:

    My heart hurts for you. Not just because you've endured a really traumatic loss, but because the things that typically sustain us during the mourning of the loss — memories — are something you don't have. I want to encourage you to do some research. Find some people who will lend you their memories. When I lost my father, I felt like I didn't really know the real him. So I talked with his friends. I asked for stories. I asked for pictures. I dug through his boxes. I got to know him in the only way I could after he died. And it's been good. I know it's not the same, friend. I know. I know your situation is different. But, perhaps, you really could build a portrait of her in your mind. Perhaps you could find little gems about her hidden in boxes or in other people's words. The treasure might be worth the journey. Or maybe the journey itself might be worth it. I hope this comes across as encouragement. You wrote such a gut-wrenching, honest post, that I don't want you to think I missed the point of your sharing. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. You are such a beautiful writer.

  19. Blissed-Out Grandma says:

    Christine, I read this last night and couldn't think what to say. Your words are clear and powerful…you can't move forward without knowing more. I think your answer will eventually be to talk to your father, and also to your mother's family members. They've hurt you, but they might also be the keys to your well-being. Perhaps there is one whom you could approach first? (Also, a therapist once advised me to try to talk with my dad while sitting side-by-side, both facing forward, rather than face-to-face, as a way to minimize his discomfort.) I hope you'll find ways to move forward and will share your progress and insights.

  20. Theta Mom says:

    I cannot even begin to understand what this feels like for you – and having you write the words that there is no connection must make it even harder…I have nothing of value to add here except that I think blogging may be a wonderful way for you to explore these feelings further and help you to move forward.(((HUGS))

  21. Missy says:

    Heartbreaking and beautifully said. I'm sorry for your loss and am sending you warm thoughts. I pray you find some peace, and maybe even some answers to your questions.

  22. IASoupMama says:

    I am deeply ashamed when I read posts like this — I have my mother, but she's a very, very, very difficult person to love, though I have no doubt she loves me. I am ashamed because I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had a different mother or even none at all, then I read something like this and realize that there are wonderful women who would trade nearly anything to know their lost mothers. Many, many hugs…

  23. Maria @BOREDmommy says:

    Christine, seriously, I might just have to come over there and squeeze you for a while. Your post made me weepy for so many reasons. Your writing is so damn good, and reading about your mom makes me think about my mom and myself as a mom. Really beautifully written.

  24. Justine says:

    Christine, my friend, I have no words. Even when my own mom is not the kind to talk, share or bond with me, we developed something together that worked for us. And I have memories. I can't imagine being without them, and your post makes me thankful that while she's not perfect, she tried her best, and she was there. Please don't take this the wrong way – I'm not trying to rub it in for you. Your words made me re-evaluate my feelings for my own mom, who I often take for granted. My dad, on the other hand, makes me wish I didn't know him at all. So for some of us, even when there is a parent available, it's not often peaches, which I'm sure you know too.*Hugs*

  25. Suzanne Jeanette says:

    Wow, I can't imagine what you have gone through. My mom is such a big part of my life and I don't know who I would be with out her. She lost her mot her when she was 5 years old, and I know she feels the same way you do, unable to really know what parts of her are also like her mom. I think that has made our connection stronger. I'm sure you will have that much better of a bond and connection with your children. Because you know what you missed out on, you can appreciate and strengthen it that much more with your own kids. Wonderful writing, thanks for being so open and sharing your thoughts.

  26. Stacia says:

    How impossibly tough, Christine. I ache for you. I know that doesn't help, but I do.If you can muster the courage, I'm with Jana. Ask your dad. Or send letters to your mom's family. Surely they feel regret and remorse for how things turned out. You don't have to forgive them to learn about her, the woman who most assuredly loved you and longed for more time with you.

  27. Kelly says:

    I don't have much to offer. Just my heart, breaking and singing for you — that you were so brave to share this with us, that you are forging your own path without the most natural guide, that your boys are so tremendously lucky to have a mom who's willing to examine her losses so as to be stronger for them. Breaking and singing.

  28. Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog says:

    I am so sorry. I cannot imagine having such a large hole in my past…This is a common issue for children of adoption or parental loss. Have you looked into finding a group or community that understand what you're going through? Perhaps it might make you feel less unusual and validate your feelings?You have my love…

  29. Mae says:

    Hello, I'm somewhat new to your blog and have been catching up on reading. This entry is so powerful and so beautiful and I am so sorry for the pain and emptiness that you feel. I wish that I can offer you words of advice but I don't have any as I can't imagine your situation. Thank you for sharing and I hope that you find strenght, love, and comfort in your own journey through motherhood.

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