Nobody’s There

Some days ago, after spending some time in the pit, I wanted some maternal comfort.  I hadn’t heard from my mother for a while.  She lives on the other side of the continent and has never tended to call me very often.  (I envy those women who have close relationships with their mothers and talk every day or two.)  Instead she sends mass emails once every week or two to all her children and step-children together, listing the doctors she’s visited in the past week or mentioning a visit from a friend, nothing very deep.  But it’s regular news.

I realized I hadn’t heard from her in a while and then thought, oh, maybe something is wrong.  No mass email in several weeks.  Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention to her, and I should check in, instead of wishing she’d come comfort me.  So I wrote her an email, saying I was worried because I hadn’t heard from her.  Was she okay?   Was my stepdad okay?  And then I said I was more depressed than I had been in many years, but I was trying to take care of myself.  That was about it.

I have children myself, and step-children, of various ages.  I can honestly say if one of them let me know they were seriously depressed, I would be on it–calling, visiting, checking in to see how I could help.  Wouldn’t you?

Two days after I sent my email, I got an email back from her.  Oh, yes, she wrote, she had noticed that when she sent her family emails, mine had bounced back (because she had sent to an old email address that I stopped using two years ago).  But she is fine, saw her primary care doctor for a check-up and attended a band concert.  She was sorry to hear I was depressed.  She had read an article that said that people who take a lot of Tylenol can stop having both good and bad emotions.  Was that my problem, maybe?  Well, she had to go make lunch for my stepdad, so…bye.

No phone call (several more days have passed). No follow-up. No expressions of concern.  No bothering to even check on why her email to me had bounced back. No recognition that I have struggled with depression for over half my life (and I don’t take Tylenol). Maybe she doesn’t remember that I experienced sexual abuse as a child–though I told her.  Maybe she doesn’t remember all the other that happened either, perhaps because remembering that might be unpleasant?

LS Lothry Empty House

I feel I went knocking on a door only to find that no one’s home.  And I both berate myself for looking for something that isn’t there, and feel resentful that it isn’t there. Why can’t she acknowledge what my pain? And why do I keep needing her to do something she can’t?

In the end, I know, we have to find everything we need in ourselves. But when I’m as depleted as I am these days, it doesn’t feel like there is much there. That’s when I look for comfort elsewhere, and evidently not always in the right places.

Image: The Empty House, by L.S. Lowry, 1934


  1. Not having your parents care for you, I’ve been there. It feels so so alone. Trying to reach out and finding nothing but empty air where a hand should have been, it’s like a gut punch. And we keep blaming ourselves for it, both for the loneliness and for the vain hope we held on to.
    Maybe today you feel you don’t have it in you to hold on further. But you are holding on, second by second maybe, but holding on nonetheless. It’s not easy, running on fumes. If family isn’t there for you and friends aren’t either, then keep posting here. It’s not a complete substitute but it helps. There are many wonderful people here who are ready to listen, understand, accept. And they have much better words than I to help you through. I wish you strength.


    • Thanks for your wise and compassionate words. They made me realize that I do, in fact, look to comments on my blog or responses to comments on other people’s blogs as a source of support. I only started doing this recently, so the network is pretty small, but it does help. That’s especially true because so many of those that I follow or that comment really know what it feels like.

      “Running on fumes” is exactly what this past week has felt like. The good thing is that 11 hours of sleep last night and a sunny spring morning have lifted me up a bit. It makes it easier to realize I’m not the only one without a mother’s support, but I’m fortunate to have a very patient husband and a good therapist. I will indeed hang on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I’m not so sure anyone, male or female, ever stops wanting a mother’s love and comfort. When the mother is not forthcoming with love and support, one craves it even more. Who doesn’t want a cool hand on a fevered head?
    “perhaps because remembering that might be unpleasant?” I’d agree with you, she wants nothing unpleasant, so in shielding herself she loses out on a deepness, a rich and full life experience. Sometimes we receive by giving. Because you know, really ‘know’ the empty hole from lacking the fullness of a mother’s love, you will be a comfort to rely on for your own family, a rock, a soft place to go to, and you will know the riches that life has to offer because you are open to it and giving. She will live a safe and protected life, narrow, on the surface, dull. Yet you can still love her and receive what she is able to give.


  3. Hi Grace, I saw this reply yesterday but it’s so hard to comment back on my phone. I wanted to thank you though for your suggestion that sometimes we receive by giving. You are so right. And even a little effort to give takes me out of myself for a bit–always a good thing when the depression is weighing extra heavy.

    I agree with you that my mom is missing a lot, including a closer relationship to her daughter, because she doesn’t want to hear my pain. I’m a little too hurt and angry still to say yes, I can still love my mom and receive what she is able to give, but I know I will get there in time, asI start to feel better.


    • Yes, well Mom’s are a tough thing, or mine was. The betrayal, not being protected, etc. caused as much rage in me as the attackers. Yet I miss her. She died 6 years ago as of tomorrow, her 91, me 56 at the time. And I still want my Mom even though our relationship was a double edged sword. It was the hardest loss to go through. My relationship with her was very rocky, love/hate. I don’t wish a love/hate relationship on anyone, but that’s how ours was. Still, I do miss her!
      So if I sounded preachy, I think I was just thinking of my own Mom…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Later my sister told me that my mom talked to my aunt and my aunt talked to my sister, and behind my back, they are apparently all concerned about me… but nobody can talk about it directly. (And we wonder why it was hard for me to ever communicate anything that was wrong?!?) But I was glad my sister told me that, since at least I learned, indirectly, that she does care, just not in the way I wish she did.

      Liked by 1 person

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