Curses, Redemption, and Death: A Cinderella Tale

Michele Couchot June 13, 1944 – March 9th, 2016

My stepmother died Wednesday March 9th, at about 2:40 in the afternoon. My feelings about this are…complicated.

She was beautiful. She was also treacherous.

I remember the first time she came to our house for her first date with my Dad. Her hair was a little longer than in this picture, but other than that she looked just like this. I was captivated by her beauty. I had been without a mom for 2 years. I was 7. I looked up at her and said “Are you going to marry my dad?” She smiled, a dazzling smile.

She married my Dad.

I think my Dad was eager for his daughters to have a mother. Possibly he was too eager. Possibly he rushed in when he should have been cautious.

My stepmother was many things. Beautiful. Seductive. Talented. Vulnerable. She was a ballerina. She was a teacher. She knitted beautiful sweaters. She was extremely graceful. When she was happy, she radiated an ethereal light.

She was also a narcissist. And very certainly bipolar. She and my dad would have raging fights that could last for weeks. Sometimes these fights turned physically abusive. My sister, stepbrother, and I would cower in our bedrooms.

This abuse would also get turned on us kids. My stepmother would make it very clear that my sister and I were not her real children, and her cherished son was favored above all. I kept my head down and tried to stay out of the way. In this way, I avoided physical abuse. Mostly. Mostly the abuse was verbal, and that was constant. You would never know what you were going to get when you got home from school. Being ignored was the best you could hope for.

Sometimes there was kindness. Christmas was a time of joy. (Usually after an epic fight). Love was expressed with an absurd number of gifts under the tree. Christmases at our house exemplified the “Me” generation in grand fashion. Stuff was a token of love. But there was also kindness. Loving words. Laughter. My stepmother radiating her ethereal light. My dad elated to have this light shining on him. From Christmas Eve through Boxing Day, we were a real family. Almost three whole days of good will, before it would all start again.

My stepmother was sickly. She was in and out of hospitals always. She became anorexic. My Dad turned the other cheek at the abuses she heaped upon my sister and I, telling us we should be patient with her, she was sick and needed our support. He abandoned us to her abuses, which were sometimes sadistic indeed. No marks were made. Child protective services would probably not have taken us away. Humiliation was more her thing.

Usually it was my dad who lost his shit and turned to physical abuse. I do not ever remember him like this, until he married my stepmother.

I ran away from home when I was 15.

But first I tried to negotiate with them, to allow me to become an emancipated minor. I would stay in school and get good grades, I promised, and I would work after school, and get my own apartment nearby. I would still be in their lives, just not living under their roof. This was a legal arrangement you could make at the time, to be recognized as an adult at 16 instead of 18, if you met and maintained certain requirements, like staying in school.

They wouldn’t have it.

I could no longer bear to live with them and their horrific fights. I felt overwhelmed by feelings that if I didn’t get away from them I would turn out like them. So I forced the issue. I had to run 6 times before they would finally leave me be.

I thought it would be uncomfortable for 6 months, or even a few years, but once they saw I was getting good grades, working, and being responsible, once they saw I wanted to spend Christmas with them, that I wanted them in my life, they would come around. They would realize that it wasn’t much different, that I just moved away from home a few years earlier than normal.

That’s not what happened. They held a grudge for years. They got me fired from every job I got, threatening my employers with legal action, telling them I did not have a work permit. Which I didn’t. Because they wouldn’t agree to sign one for me.

I didn’t stay in school. I lived on the street. I slept in parks, storage units, garages, laundry rooms, friends’ cars. Sometimes men offered to let me stay at their houses. But not out of the goodness of their hearts. I usually chose the park. This went on for two years. Then I fell in love and moved in with my boyfriend. I was 17.  When I turned 18 and was able to participate in adult society, things got better.

My parents didn’t speak to me for twelve years.

My sister also ran away. She was 13. Things were harder for her than they were for me. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that without her big sister at home, she would feel even more vulnerable and want to run herself, but it didn’t. In my own panic, I abandoned her, just like her mother and her father had. I have carried guilt about this my entire life.

My stepbrother didn’t fare well either. My perception was that he was the spoiled child so he would get whatever he wanted. This was not his perception. The family pretty much came unglued once my sister and I left. The aftermath was not awesome for my stepbrother. The violence escalated dramatically.

My parents ignored all attempts at reconciliation. This was excruciating for me, for, despite the abuse, the humiliation, the cruelty, they also created a beautiful home. With normal things in it like ballet lessons and road trips and visits from grandparents. Like tea time and warm cookies and British comedies on the telly. There was a middle class when I was growing up, and we were in it. There was the possibility of a loving home, like the Brady Bunch, if only I could be good enough. But I never was. Christmases without my Dad were so painful I can’t even begin to express. I remember one Christmas, when I was about 22. I came home to where I was living at the time – I can’t remember where I’d been, with my sister maybe – and the entire house was empty. My room mates were all with their families. My boyfriend was with me, but he went to sleep right away. And the darkest loneliness and abandonment washed over me then. I thought it would crush me, snuff me out of existence entirely in its utter despair. I felt outside of everything good in life, a loving family completely unavailable to me. I have felt this many times since.

I remember another time, living on the street, when I was about 16. I had been sick for a month. Somehow I heard my parents were going to be away for Thanksgiving, and I snuck into the house. It was raining and I needed to be warm and dry, and to eat real food. A house sitter came, and I freaked out, and hid in the closet beneath the stairs. The house sitter freaked out too. Different lights were on. The dog was in and he was sure he had let the dog out. The house sitter – a friend of my brother’s – and I had a good laugh about this many years later! Living on the street was rough, but I was far more afraid of my parents, and what they would do if I came home. So I never did, not when they were there.

My parents finally began to come around when I got married. Yes, in case this tale sounds familiar, I did marry the handsome prince. I invited my parents to the wedding, and they came. The first step in healing began that day. The doors were open for me to resume a relationship with them. I was so grateful. But also cautious. For a few years we visited them and had Christmases with them. Things seemed better. The violence seemed to have subsided. Then they moved to Portland. Because it was more affordable. But also because my stepbrother was there. For my stepmother, everything was about her son, (whom I’ll call James), and my dad blindly followed. He was the good child, the one who did not run away. Of course they would move to Portland to be with James, even though my sister and I had only been renewing our relationship with them for a few years. All the old hurts were so easily triggered, the reminders that my sister and I were second best.

I was glad to come back into their lives, and so was my sister. But my stepmother still monopolized so much of my dad’s attention, we rarely got any time with him. All visits were constantly consumed with her medical needs. Even when we made it up to Portland, Dad was so distracted catering to her that there wasn’t much time to just sit and talk.

Then my Dad got cancer. He died 5 years ago, on February 10th.

Shortly before he died my stepmother was away in a convalescent home for some illness. I had a few days just with my dad. We talked about everything. We cried a lot. We forgave each other. We were both filled with regret that we hadn’t done this years earlier. Late though it was, I am so profoundly grateful to have had that talk. He died a few months afterward.

Fast forward to the current era.

Winter and I rented a cabin by the sea for a few days, a much needed vacation after a very busy season. The minute we returned to the land of cell reception, there was a message from my sister, with “bad news about our stepmother.” I figured she had some sort of medical event, maybe a stroke. I did not expect to be told she was dying.

Winter and I immediately turned around and went to Portland to be with her. No one had thought to call her son, James, who is now living in Boston. Or even message him on Facebook. I did. His phone was disconnected. He hadn’t posted anything on Facebook in a month. I sent him Facebook messages anyway. I didn’t hear back. I stalked his Facebook friends. I found someone I vaguely remembered him dating. I contacted her. Luckily I remembered correctly, and she is now his girlfriend and I was able to get a message to him through her. I arranged money for him to fly out. I needed to negotiate this with my mom’s power of attorney agent, who has no love for my brother. She said if I was sure this is what we wanted, she would release some money to get him an airline ticket.

I wasn’t sure. Is this what Michele would want? Or would it cause agitation for her? She and James have had their own issues over the years, and were not entirely on good terms. Was I interpreting her desires correctly? Or was I projecting my own self-importance onto the situation, thinking I knew what she’d want? Was I projecting what I would want? How can we be sure we are interpreting the wishes of the dying correctly? She couldn’t squeeze my hand. She could barely open her eyes. My brother wasn’t sure he wanted to come. He wasn’t sure he’d make it in time. We agreed we would check in the next morning.

That night I saw her Advance Directive paperwork on the table. In the section where it asked who she wanted with her when she died, my brother’s name was listed. My name was not. This should not have blindsided me, but it did. Completely. All my abandonment issues came flooding back, threatening to drown me. I am nothing, I don’t matter, I have no family, no mother who loves me. She didn’t even want me there. What the hell was I doing there? Trying to make myself the hero? The good child? Trying once again to get approval that I will never, ever attain? James should be here, not me.

I began to second guess her expression when Winter and I arrived the evening before. When we arrived we announced our presence – the dying can hear right up to the end, even if they can’t do much else. She opened her eyes a bit and looked glad, but then bitter, as though she were angry or afraid. I thought it was that she became aware of her situation, but now I wondered if she was disappointed that I wasn’t James.

I tried not to make this into a thing, but by the next morning I was so triggered I could not find my center at all. I was afraid to go into her room. I considered just going home. I felt ashamed, like I had no business being there and it was just my ego, thinking I am some great “Midwife to the Dead” and I was making her death about me and I should just go away. I was interjecting myself where I wasn’t invited. I decided I would try and talk with her one more time so that I could let James know her condition, and he could decide whether to come or not. And then I would go home.

I went up to her room. I asked her if she wanted me to get James out here. All I could do was try and read her energy, what little expression she was able to make. I felt something in her surge, as though she were trying to scream “yes, yes!” Even though her PoA agent was saying “I don’t know know how you can interpret anything from her, she is just lying there” and the nurses saying “It’s hard to say what she wants”, I felt strongly that she wanted James to come.

I called James and told him I thought he should come. His name was on the list. It was his mom. And everything she has ever known or loved is going away, forever. She hadn’t seen him in three years, and of course she would want to hold his hand one last time.

We bought the tickets. He would take three different planes, and be traveling for about 10 hours. Would he make it in time? Was I interpreting her correctly? Or would there be angst between them? Was I being irresponsible with my mom’s money?  Was this the right call?

I wasn’t sure. And meanwhile I was struggling with my own emotions. My own fear that I was meddlesome and unwanted.

I tried to just be present with her, and throughout the day, I began to calm down. I sang to her and she seemed to appreciate that. I talked to her, telling her about various family members and what they were up to, and that seemed to bring her comfort. I began to feel that, even though I hadn’t been on the list, she was grateful for my presence. My sister’s daughter called her, and she was visibly glad to hear her voice. She sent pictures from New Zealand, and my stepmom tried to sit up and look at them. She wasn’t able to but this made it clear she could hear and understand what was being said. A hospice nurse came in for the night. My mom’s vitals were stable, and I felt I could get a few hours’ sleep. I was staying in a spare room at the assisted living center where she lived, so I was right down the hall. At this point, I thought she would make it until James arrived, and I felt much more relaxed about things. I told her I was going but that I was right down the hall, and got the distinct feeling that she really didn’t want me to go. A slight flicker in her facial expression. I promised I was close and the hospice nurse would call me if anything shifted with her. Perhaps she did want me there, after all. Perhaps my emotional scars are not the sum total of reality.

I went to bed at 10pm. They woke me up at 12:30 am. Her oxygen levels were falling. My brother wouldn’t arrive for 11 hours.

Winter and I went to her. We wanted to make sure she had family with her, even if she couldn’t make it until James got there. She had definitely taken a turn for the worse. I talked to her. We had been telling her James was coming but at this point we felt we needed to give her permission to go, that she didn’t have to hang on if she wasn’t up for it. So we did. We sang to her and held her hand. All the nurses said she could go at any time. Around 5:00am I went back to bed. She was completely out of it and she had the hospice nurse until 8am. So I set my alarm for 7am, got a bit more sleep, and returned before the hospice nurse left. I sat with her, sometimes talking, sometimes singing, sometimes just holding her hand.

Sometime between 8am-9am, her breathing became considerably more labored, more agitated. The nurses said her systems were shutting down, and automatic functions weren’t happening automatically so much any more. Like breathing. It seemed to me that she was forcing herself to keep breathing out of sheer will. It was still at least 5 hours until my brother would arrive. I told her once again we would all understand if she needed to let go, and that we all loved her. She just kept breathing. Incredibly labored breaths, like she was running a marathon. For 5 hours. I would tell her each milestone of James’ arrival. “James is in Seattle now mom”. “Less than two hours to go mom”. “Well you’ve made it this far, you may as well hang in there at this point”.

Watching her in this state, breathing like that, as though it was taking everything she had to hang on, for 5 hours, was excruciating. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, holding space for her while trying to keep my own emotions grounded. Trying to be the psychopomp and the family member at the same time. By now it was very clear that yes, she was hanging on for dear life to see her son one last time.

James arrived in time. We spent some time with her all together, and then I left them alone. She died an hour and 20 minutes after he arrived.

At this point, I allowed myself a moment: I fucking called it.  If I wasn’t confident it was the right decision at first, I most certainly was by the end. My willingness to trust my judgement went a long way toward facilitating a good death for her. I say this not so much to pat myself on the back, as to remind myself that facilitating death is something I can do. And something I want to do for others.

So now it’s done. I served in my role as psychopomp. I was able to interpret what needed doing even when those around me didn’t know what to ask for. And now I can deal with my personal emotions.

Is it terrible to admit that relief is part of it?  And not just relief that her suffering is over. Seeing her at rest after hours of labored breathing was a relief, certainly. But also, I realize I have been holding my breath since she married my dad all those many years ago. I remember their wedding day, and I remember a sense of foreboding. It seemed too fast. There was a “be careful what you wish for” quality in the air. She married my father, as I had asked, and a nightmare ensued. A nightmare that destroyed our family.

I loved my dad more than life itself. And I lost him the day she married him. I know that her cruelty toward my sister and I was jealousy. She wanted all his attention for herself. And she got it. I am certain she fueled the fire that kept him holding a grudge years longer than he would have on his own. Losing his relationship with his daughters destroyed him. I believe it put him in an early grave.  He told me, that day a few months before he died, when we finally had some time to talk alone, that he probably shouldn’t have married her.

So there was relief. A sense of  “It’s over”. My stepbrother echoed this, unbidden by me. He said “Is it wrong to feel that the curse is broken”? In a way, the terror she wrought did feel like the doings of a beautiful, evil witch out of a faerytale, who ensnares a man and holds him in a trance for years while the stepdaughters are slowly eliminated, while their father is driven to madness and ruin.

Her own son was hurt too, slowly withering from a poison not meant for him, but leeching out into his air nonetheless.

So yes. It does feel like a curse was lifted.

But it is too late. It is too late to resume my relationship with my father, for he died first. There is anger here. Anger, and loss, and regret.

These are the emotions that have compelled me to write. A curse lay upon our family; a curse of heartbreak and betrayal, of ruin and madness. A curse of guilt and regret, of abandonment and worthlessness and black bottomless despair. A curse of failure and wrong choices and hopelessness, of never belonging. A curse finally broken on the merciless wheel of death.

Do I sound heartless in the face of death? I am not dancing on her grave by any means. Compassion won out. I know she suffered too. She had her own childhood horrors, and unless we come to terms with our damage, we pass it on. She apologized later in life, more than once. She mellowed out considerably after my Dad died, and I came to enjoy who she was in the last few years. I forgave her, of course I did, though I can never get those years back. I had genuine compassion for her in the end. I did not play the martyr. My desire for her to have a good death was sincere.

I did love her, as I loved my dad. When she was joyous, she was beautiful. When she was dancing, she was beautiful. When she was excited about one of the many trips she took with my dad, she shone. She was capable of sweetness. She was capable of remorse. Her apologies were genuine, and I accepted them wholeheartedly.

Healing was possible, with both her and my dad, before they died. I am very thankful for this. Now, both of the parents who raised me are gone. I don’t know that anything has ever made me feel more like a grown up. I don’t even know what this means yet, or what this “It’s over” feeling will grow into over time.

I do know that my sister, my brother, and I can now be free of who we were in relation to them. We can be free of the grasping for approval, the never feeling enough. We can define our lives on our own terms. We always have, of course, but we were compromised. Those hooks were always there.

I know that I like who my sister and brother have become. Survivors. Strong. Compassionate. Committed. These are people I want to know, people I am proud to call family. I know that something has come full circle, and that the feeling of brokenness I thought I would never be free of has begun to heal. I know that I am capable of doing “family” after all. This is something I thought was simply not available to me. For the first time in many years, I see a glimmer of possibility, that it may not be too late for me to experience a healthy, loving, supportive family. Even the bleakest pit of despair can eventually turn in upon itself and be swallowed up by hope, light, and love. There is always a chance for redemption, though it may be years before we can see our way through.

If you have read this far, I am moved. I don’t know that this will have meaning for others. But I know I needed to write it.


34 thoughts on “Curses, Redemption, and Death: A Cinderella Tale

  1. Feeling with you, Sharon. Powerful time of transition, powerful musings. I am glad you shared, and though my story is different, there is plenty to resonate with in what you’ve said. Peace to you as you find your way through this time.

  2. Sharon, Kim just shared this with me because she knew how closely your experience parallels mine…so close that I could have written the same story. It definitely had meaning for me! Compassion is a magical thing, isn’t it? And I loved what you said about feeling that a healthy, loving family IS possible. Thanks for writing this. Cris

  3. I see you. I hear you. I love you.

    Oh Sharon, thank you for sharing your story…..and in the echoes, hearing parts of my tale. Loving the idea of looking at parts of this as a curse…..Tho for some of us it was not step-mother but rather birth-mother who was of the curse: perhaps carrying it down from the family line.

    To which I say CELEBRATE. Celebrate the breaking of that curse, the time you were able to spend with your father, you’re family’s freedom. Blessings.

    Blessings on those who break that chain. Blessings on those still enchained. Blessings of freedom and healing. Blessings of knowing that they were wrong, that you are of great beauty and worth. (that we are of great beauty and worth).

    I see you. I hear you. I love you.

  4. It had much meaning for me, and though my own stepfather was not as bad your stepmother and thankfully left our lives twenty years after he stepped in to try to ruin them, still you are braver than me. You continued to offer love and compassion to that person who took so much, something I have not and will not do. I’m sure that I hear that strength and warmth in every word you sing. Much love to you, Sharon!

  5. Thank you for this. I’m losing my father to Alzheimer’s and its important to remember what little time we have to do what needs to be done.

  6. Sharon, just read your story and am filled with feeling as I also had a very narcissistic mother – birth mom – and have spent my whole life trying to heal from a very fucked up family. I stopped living with them at age 14, although in my case I was sent to a boarding school that turned out to be a creative hippie haven, but I still felt very messed up, unloved and unlovable and had a very hard time fitting in. I came out to CA from PA alone when I was 17 and have been working to find my way since then. Your story was very healing to read, making me feel less alone from having a messed up family that left me unsure if I was worthy of love and that made it so hard for me to feel okay. Thank you so much for sharing what you wrote. I was thinking your stepmom was lucky to have you at the end, singing to her.

  7. Oh, Sharon, but a heartbreaking story. I cannot imagine the complicated emotions you are going through. I remember when my German grandmother died, there were some similar moments. My mom, aunt, and uncle (who was the only one who was ever good enough for her) were free at last. My aunt started whistling to herself after the funeral, something she had never done before. She whistles and sings to this day. The relationship between the siblings is better than it had ever been. Sometimes redemption comes late, but it comes. Blessings as you integrate this experience and find your place in this new reality. You are loved.

  8. Wow, that was incredible. Thank you for sharing it. I’m glad you’ve found peace around all of this – well, at least it sounds like you have. And I’m sorry for your loss. Blessings.

  9. Thank You Annika! Sounds like your family knows this one. I so appreciate your friendship, and your love!

    I am closer to my siblings than ever, also. Even though, to us, my stepbrother seemed the favorite child, it hurt him too. He was pitted against my sister and I and must have felt very alone.

  10. Hi Sunny!

    Thank you for reading and writing. Yeah, it has taken me 50 years to even begin to imagine what being a functioning member of society might feel like. :+P I so wish I had had more time with my dad, but what’cha gonna do?

  11. Hi Molly!

    Wow, we do have some things in common, don’t we? I so understand wondering if you are worthy of love. I think this is part of why I was compelled to write; because on some level I have always carried a feeling that if people really “knew” about me, they would see, as my family did, that I am not worth anything. I was so scared to post this (but then I figured “well heck I spent the entire freaking day writing it” ) and have folks see that my own family didn’t even love me, but I also knew that is the mindfuck and not reality. I am so thank for for the support I have gotten writing this. Thank you for reading it, and for sharing your own resonance with it.

    This I know – you and I are both worthy of love!

  12. I’m so sorry Basalt!

    It hurts bad to lose a parent. Alzheimer’s is a particularly cruel one, too. I hope you have a chance to tell him you love him, and to heal any rifts that may need healing. Love to you!

  13. Thank you, that is kind to say. I am sure you are plenty brave as well. Each situation is unique. I had some good moments with my stepmother too. The last time I visited her, she was genuinely glad to see me, and we have had several years of knitting back a relationship. It was always a cautious relationship, but it felt safe enough to maintain. I can imagine other scenarios where I would not have let her back into my life. Some people are 100% toxic and stay that way forever, unfortunately.

  14. Thank you for this, Helen!

    I am sorry you had this with your mother. It is so hurtful.

    I know my stepmom got it from her mother. Blessings on breaking the chain indeed!

  15. Thank you Cris!

    If you could have written this, then my sympathy and compassion to you! Not an easy thing to live through!

    We both turned out to be strong women though, eh?

  16. Thanks Sharon, yes I think you are right and that my stepdad is still toxic. I think there is good in nearly everyone and I try to remember what he taught me and brought to my life that was good, but I also don’t want him in my life in any capacity any more either.

  17. Thank you, Sharon… I am engulfed with love and gratitude for your being. My mom died in September at age 98. Three years before I woke up one morning loving her unconditionally. My body simply felt that. The next time I visited that dangerous breaking point that always happened..I told her. She was happy. She didn’t change. It didn’t matter to me for I had freed myself. I encouraged her to create her own memorial service. In charge to the end, she did, the entire Lutheran service, including our eulogy and a final gotcha by designating me to write the Thank You cards!

  18. I am blessed in that I have been able to make peace and even build a friendship with my mom now that we are both adults. Living with my mother was just like living with your stepmom, except that my father was never physically abusive. He was, however, emotionally distant, and since my mom was always closer to my brother, this left me without a defender. I too ran away from home early and struggled to finish school and eat.

    But my mom *was* diagnosed as bipolar, and that permitted a lot of healing. I was able to forgive much of what had transpired when I was a child because she was sick. Later I found that she had come from an abusive home with a father who was an alcoholic, and I could see how her damage had damaged me. Now that we are adults and she has taken responsibility and made efforts to make restitution, we are friends. Genuine friends. She’s on meds and has a regular psychiatrist now and she is neither the supernaturally bright and glowing angel, nor the abusive demon, anymore. She is a real person who is sometimes sad and angry and loving and compassionate and courageous and afraid and hopeful and all those normal things.

    But I often find that I have strange ideas of how to behave in a “normal” way, even now. I keep tripping on what I think is normal, but I was living in a house with a madwoman, and then I married someone who was schizophrenic and undiagnosed until years into our relationship. The things that help you to survive in such a situation often confuse people who are not crazy and they don’t know how to read you. And until recently, I kept somehow attracting bipolar women who were in some kind of position of authority into my life, perhaps seeking that ever-elusive approval. Only when I was able to act as a caregiver for my mom (when she had a reaction to her meds and I had to assume responsibility for her care for a time) was I able to put that behind me. I hope you don’t fall victim to the same issues. I found learning about codependence to be helpful. I’m what they call “anti-dependent” and I’m in the process of healing now.

    It’s good that you also had a chance to get some of that healing, though it came so late; almost too late. I hope you can now build a real relationship with your siblings. Thanks for writing about this, Sharon. It was moving and you give me permission to do the same by doing it.

  19. Hi Sable!

    Wow, thank you for sharing your story! Indeed, ours are familiar. I am glad your mom did get a diagnosis. Mine didn’t until I was long out of the house. I am thankful to say, I have had pretty healthy adult relationships, and am happily married, for almost 22 years now. I attribute this to leaving hem when I did; that feeling that if I didn’t get out now I would end up like them. My stepbrother, the one who did not run away, seems to have the most damage, even though as kids, he seemed like the “lucky” one.

    Such strange tangles we can get into in our human relationships eh?

    I am thankful you have found healing. It takes time, but it can happen, I have found.

    Much love to you!

  20. My heart goes out to that innocent girl, so dazzled at 7, so desperately betrayed. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Sharon}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    You survived and learned how to thrive. You are amazingly strong and courageous.

  21. Hi Sharon. I did read it; how could I resist a title like that?

    My challenges were different, although I did have the challenge of an emotionally abusive mother who later reformed herself. It astonishes me that I managed to forgive her. I could because she isn’t the same person anymore… but somewhere very deep inside, *I* am still the same person–absolutely enraged, outraged–and so staying in forgiveness is often difficult. I have had to deliberately table the emotional work of dealing with my own damage in order to allow myself to keep her as part of my life. It isn’t that I haven’t done any of the work; I’ve done most of it already. I just decided that finishing this work *right now* is not as important as having her in my life while she’s still alive.

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