Clearing Space for Personal Growth
My mother’s death was one of the worst...and best...things that ever happened to me. I know, that sounds awful. But it’s the truth. I spent the first thirty-some years of my life so wrapped up in her pain and unhappiness; I was unable to experience my own personal growth.
There was simply not enough space for both of us in my life.
My mother was unhealthy physically, mentally and emotionally. Our home was a constant, never ending, one-sided angry tirade. It wasn’t until high school, when a friend asked me “Is your mom ok?” that I realized maybe yelling at anybody and nobody about everything and nothing wasn’t actually normal.
I learned to just be quiet because anything I had to say was neither relevant nor valued in our household. There wasn’t a safe space for me to speak.
I still feel the disappointment I had the first time I came home from college, once I finally had space to start the discovery of my own unique self. I was so excited to share my experiences with her, to tell her about the things I was learning and loving. I was looking for her to show the same interest and excitement in my life.
Instead, her response to the woman next to her…“Do you hear her psycho babble? She hasn’t been quiet since she came home!” I was swiftly reminded I had nothing of importance to contribute to this relationship in terms of words, feelings or thoughts.
As I grew into a self-reliant adult, I never stopped looking for my mother’s acceptance and validation, in any way possible.
I became a therapist so I could understand her better. Maybe as a therapist I could help her be happy and healthy.
I spent years in therapy myself trying to make sense of the angry words she directed at me, despite giving her everything I had.
I paid her bills because she couldn’t (wouldn’t) work.
I bought her groceries because she couldn’t (wouldn’t) go to the store.
I listened to her when she was frustrated with my sisters. She was, after all, a single mother of two teenage girls, both also looking for an acceptance she was unable to give. That couldn’t have been easy.
I spent 99% of my energy on my mother, trying to make our relationship better. Trying to make her happy. Trying to make her love me. As time went on, while she withered away to a tiny five foot nothing, 60 pound, spirit, the challenge to save her grew too big. There was not enough space for us both. My life became my mother. It was a sad, anxious, angry life.
I can still clearly remember the surreal feeling I had when she passed away. My sisters and I were there in her living room when she finally went to meet her Higher Power. Holding her hands, praying over her, letting her know how much we loved her and telling her she no longer needed to be afraid of living. We gave all of ourselves to her until the very end.
She took her last breath, and finally, I felt a sense of glorious happiness.
I wasn’t happy because she was gone. I was happy because she was no longer suffering, and we were no longer suffering. Now I could have the relationship with her that I had been yearning for my entire life. I could talk to her whenever I was especially happy, sad, or proud, without her discounting my feelings, arguing with me, or telling me to stop crying. My heart could rest, knowing my mom was proud of me, because now her pain was gone and she could see clearly the immense love we all had for her.
Now there was space for both of us. Now there was space for happiness.
It will be eight years this summer that my mom has been gone. I grieved the loss of her for a very long time. I didn’t grieve losing her as a person, but rather I grieved what I had longed for all of my life and was never able to have. I took the space though, to put in the work, and now I have a relationship with her spirit that is healthy and strong, which was built on my own terms.
I have never needed to go back to therapy. I have definitely considered it, but haven’t needed it. I’m growing and discovering me, with the help of friends, family, an amazing community of coaches, and my own resilience. I have a better sense of who I am as a human being than I’ve ever had in my life.
I have an amazing husband who loves and supports me in all I do. I have two phenomenal children who will never have to wonder if I love them or if I am proud of them. They only know their grandma watches over them and loves them from Heaven.
I’ve built the most beautiful life I could never imagine while somebody so toxic was still in it, because I finally had the space to do so.
Through it all, here is what I have come to know as absolute truth. You must clear space in your life if you want to promote healthy growth. And it can be Really. Incredibly. Freakin’. Painful. I don’t wish for anyone to lose a loved one to clear that space, that is just the way it happened for me. I also know, you don’t have to stay unhappy from the pain of clearing space. It’s ok, no, it’s necessary, to allow yourself to feel good about clearing that space.
Sometimes clearing space does mean eliminating an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes it means talking to your therapist to dump all of the crap out of your mind and heart. Other times it’s clearing the junk out of your fridge so you can create healthier eating habits. It also could mean pulling the weeds so your wildflowers can bloom. Whatever kind of growth you need to do right now, it cannot and will not happen if you don’t clear a space for it.