I have the feeling that there is a commonality in this story for all mothers, if not all parents. A mother, who is very dear to my heart, has a 16-year-old daughter who recently told her that she has tried to commit suicide twice. Now, dear reader, know that this youngster has support. What this post is about is managing the opening and closing and (hopefully) opening again of a parent’s heart.
This mother, (let’s call her Mary), has been through the ringer in her mothering experience. Shortly after she gave birth, the father of the child had to leave the parenting team due to substance abuse combined with severe depression. Mary rolled up her proverbial sleeves and has done her best to raise her daughter by committing to her role as a parent to be her priority. When her daughter gave her the news of her suicide attempts, Mary was shocked. She had not at all picked up on any signs of trouble. Her daughter, at this point, chose to leave her mother’s home and move in with her father; who is actively estranged from Mary still. Needless to say, this individuation transition was abrupt.
The strange optimal truth around parenting is the best case scenario is that your children, (at some point between the ages of 15 and 35), individuate from you, leave the nest and live a self-sufficient life. If you are lucky, this life passage is filled with heartfelt connection and with more sweet than bitter.
It appears, though, that this transition is more painful than not. How can it not be? If you have chosen to be a conscious parent, you have been focused, dedicated and passionate about being present in raising your child. You have put your all into this wondrous, and rigorous long-term task. She is the manifestation of your creativity for goodness sake!
As a woman on the other side of this part of life’s journey, I do wish that there was a way to instill a piece of strength into each mother at the time she undergoes the labor of birth so she may understand that she will, (most probably), get to undergo a similar pain, (albeit metaphorical), again when it is time for her and her child to individuate. But it appears that not knowing this wisdom concretely at the get go is part of the Mystery of life.
So, if you were willing, close your eyes and send a blessing to the part of you that is a mother in this place and to all the parents in the world in whatever stage of parenting that they are in: May you, them and all of us be blessed with the Grace to be able to cultivate self compassion; so, in the painful moments, to be able to have the strength to let go and grow.
Below is a poem that articulates this blessing so well.
God Be With the Mother by Michael Leunig
As she carried her child,
may she carry her soul.
As her child was born,
may she give birth and life and form to her own, higher truth.
As she nourished and protected her child,
may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence.
For her soul shall be
her most painful birth,
her most difficult child and
the dearest sister to her other children.