There is a calm after the emotional storm, and I realize I was only trying to connect with the only mother I ever knew.”

Was there ever a time when I felt the love and protection of Mom?  It’s difficult to recall ….. Mental illness claimed my mother when I was eleven years old.  She lived another forty-five years, but from age eleven I witnessed her living in the shadow of schizophrenia, and my memories are of her in bed or lashing out in angry fits of rage.  At forty-five she was admitted into a nursing home, and remained there until her death at age seventy-six.  

As a teenager, I did not realize I was missing anything.  Those years seem to be spent trying to shed any control parents have over you, so living life without mom seemed freeing.  It wasn’t until I experienced the pain of relationship rejection at nineteen that I realized there was no one to call — no one who really understood my emotional DNA.  

A few years later I was standing in my wedding dress waiting for the photographer, when I realized she wouldn’t be there to place my veil on my head, and give me those last remarks a mother whispers to you just before you say, “I do!”  

I was lying in a recovery room as they handed me that gorgeous, wiggly, bundle of joy when I realized she wouldn’t be waiting outside to be the first to hold him or fighting with the nurse to get into the recovery room.  

I was writhing in pain from the removal of four wisdom teeth, with two little boys jumping on my bed, and realized she wasn’t coming over to take them so I could rest.

I was emotionally lost when my husband left for the summer to “find himself.”  I picked up the phone repeatedly to dial (800) mother but there was no such number.

I was devastated during my divorce, but there was no mother to hold my hand or tell me that life would get better, and I could raise these kids and not be homeless.

Until my thirties, I was an emotional wreck and did not understand why.   Through therapy and God’s grace, I began to understand what was missing from my life — a presence that most people take for granted.  They take it for granted because they aren’t missing it — they aren’t having to miss her – the individual that looks you in the eye and you just know you are not alone.  She is still standing there when the rest of the world turns their back on you.  That lovely, feisty person who will chew you out if you make one more bad decision.  The one who sits in the car as you walk into school for the first time — kindergarten, elementary, middle, high, and college, and cries as if she just lost her best friend.  The one who says, “sure I”ll send that to you,” and gives up her personal piggy bank.  That person who will go cross country with their last dollar to make sure you are eating well and no one is hurting her baby.

How do I know what I missed?  Because I am a mother. 

In my thirties, after a complete emotional breakdown, I had two choices.  I could continue the victim mentality for what I was missing, or I could have a dogged determination to accept God’s unconditional love in my life and let Him pour His love through me so I could give wholeheartedly to my children the mother I did not have.  I would never be able to do it in my own strength, but with God’s love, I could accomplish anything.  It was a process and God graciously brought two “mother figures” into my life who made the journey with me.  God will truly restore what is missing if you ask him, and they modeled a mother’s love for me.  They could never be my mother, but they could, and did, make themselves available to love me during life’s trials, get in my face and threaten to chew me out if I made one more bad decision, and remind me of who my Savior truly is.  As I was willing to accept their love into my life, the mother void in me became smaller and smaller. 

Every once in awhile, that void reopens.  Thank goodness it is a rare occasion, but a situation will occur and I feel completely alone.  I find myself going into an internal blind rage and it seems the world is coming to an end.  Then there is the calm after the emotional storm, and I realize I was only trying to connect with the only mother I ever knew.  For a brief moment, she was with me — rage and all.  And then a peace comes over me, knowing that she is with God now, and it would be better for me to connect with His peace then her rage. He is the only one who can truly fill that void. Then I am whole again.

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Pictured here with two of her four grandchildren, Cindy Jacob Southworth is a marriage and relationship coach, certified through the American Assn of Christian Counselors and a member of the International Christian Coaching Assn.   She is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach.  She and her husband David are the owners of Breakwater Coaching.  You can visit her website at www.breakwatercoaching.com