A mother’s words can be so black

Black Bird

bird flies from willow tree

These are a mothers words:

“Of all the daughters I could have had, why did God give me an ungrateful one like you? Everything I endured for you! How dare you! How dare you abandon me like this…”

Then she tried guilt.

“I’ll die if you go…”

These timely words, from the novel I am reading, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, mix into the rip tide of similar discourse that is swirling on the surface of my current mind. Lately, in my life, as in Hosseini’s novel, I am dealing with the heroic and not-so-heroic ways in which characters are struggling to survive. And experiencing how one can be consumed by anger and maliciousness, grief and yearning. As I am steeped in the wretchedness of this relationship that I have (or don’t have) with my mother. Still, the pecking at my heart, the subtle carping… Why do I go on waving my arms and screaming in a frenzy at her verbal smacking? When I need to be still.

Right after my sons funeral (in 2007), she picked apart what people had been wearing. The style, the wrong colors. “Did you see her? She wasn’t even wearing black.”

What difference does it make? My son is dead. No. Wait…yes…I had seen her. And thought, Thank you for not wearing black. Why…why are you saying this? Go away. Stay away from me!

That morning, I had struggled with what to wear to my childs funeral. My childs funeral! Black? Why? Because it is appropriate? Conventional? But he was colorful—full of color. Black is colorless, a sky without a moon. This childs favorite colors were red, like fire engines and Valentines Day cards. Green and blue like the earth and the sea. Orange like the sun and sticky-sweet oranges. Black was never, never on his list.

I didn’t want to wear black to my sons funeral, though I did. Would anyone have criticized me if I hadn’t? Besides her? My child was dead. Who should care then about the color of anyones clothing? But this raven kept cawing in my ear about the wardrobe choices of others! And cremation! How pitch-black is that?

“Why did you choose to cremate him?” she tortured me.

Nothing is darker than this. To be clear, I wanted him. Not ashes, not gravestones. Him. Alive. Instead, I had to make heinous decisions with reasons only I could reason. Leave him in a cemetery all alone? In the dark? Or burn his precious and perfect body to bits and ashes? The choosing and deciding permanently injured my mind.

Because I couldn’t keep him, hold him, his body, tuck it into bed, and kiss it every night! Go away. Stay away from me!

And this is just a sampling of the huge damming force that is my mother.

March 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Sams funeral, and I am tired. So tired. Drained by this emotional vampire. This one ruinous woman who, I can only guess, was fated to be my mother. But I am wiser now and less tolerant of inexcusable behavior, of wicked words.

Raven: “And what kind of daughter are you? What have you ever done for me?”

Daughter: “I’ve gotten you to a hospital to get you the help you need.”

Raven: “Yeah? And I’m worse now than I was eight days ago. You’ve done nothing for me the past six years!”

Daughter: “Im sorry for you. Youre right. I’ve done nothing for the past six years…”

My child has died. And I will not let the incessant flapping of the ravens wings continue to black out my world. I’m exhausted, hoping for change, wishing things were different. There’s no peace in the wishing. Don’t you see? Wishing only drops you down the well; it drowns you.

It’s what she does. She lives in the wishing: I wish you were a better daughter…I wish you weren’t like your father…I wish you weren’t so unladylike…I wish you were sweeter, like other daughters I’ve known…I wish you’d wear a nicer shade of lipstick…

And how would someone so colorless know what a nicer shade is? You never even knew his favorite colors.

The question I always want to ask is: “Could I have been adopted?” Because then, I would not be biologically tied to her. But I was not adopted. I know this. Though I feel, and hope, that I am not of this woman.

“Remember. Children do not belong to you. They only come through you.” This is what a family friend once told me as she cooed over the face of my newborn son—as if she were foretelling our future. No. No, he is mine, I thought. He belongs to me. 

But he wasn’t mine to keep, was he? Through me…to death. My worst fear…to smoke, ashes and dust.

Today, when I remember these words, “Children do not belong to you. They only come through you,” I find hope. Clearly, if my son did not belong to me, and only came through me; then I do not belong to her and have only come through her. A crumb of comfort.

Okay. Enough. I am tired. Dizzy tired. I have worked on these words and whittled my rage into this sharp piece. To arm myself for the coming days—Yes, yes, one day at a time, I’ve written the following reminders to counterbalance the raving thoughts swirling in my mind:

  • Be everything that is not the raven.
  • Be the opposite of judgmental, of contentious, of selfish, of virulent, of empty…
  • Be better. Learn from her, who not to be.
  • Love, and like, unconditionally. Without motive.
  • Remember her, and be the opposite.

Black Bird

I need to be still now.

NOTE: This post is a spilling of anger and grief onto the page. These are my feelings, my memories, my words (accurate or not), and my side of the story. Edited, perfected conversation, and counsel, with the only one who can pull me back…and save me.

Quote Source: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

By Deanna

Rewriting life after the loss of a child.


  1. So sorry that your pain is compounded by the things your mother says to you. It clearly hurts you a great deal. What a shame for her that she can’t see what she is doing and how she is wasting the opportunity to support you. I know you would give anything and everything to have the chance to be a mother to (the living) Sam again.

  2. When Philip died, people came to my house, before we even waked him. My mother complained that there were no curtains on the window. She kept torturing me about the funeral arrangements. I’d left them to my husband – I could not deal. “Why aren’t you saying something? Do you know what he’s doing? What, he won’t let you have a say?” Jesus f—–g Christ, Philip was dead; I couldn’t, couldn’t function. And at the wake – bitching when my husband took a break from the main room to sit in another with some friends. If my sister-in-law didn’t stop her, she would’ve gone into that room and blown up at him.

    That’s just a smidgen. My mother cannot help herself. But she made me a better mother because I refused to be her. I am graced with the relationship I have with both of my children; and it’s the bond I have with Philip that helps get me through.

    Love and peace to you, Deanna; I’m both sorry and glad to walk this path with you.

    1. Wow, Denise. Our mothers would make great friends! I’ve come to this realization too, that she cannot help herself. In the meantime, I am grateful for the other minds that I am connecting with on this path. Love and peace back to you.

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