The better life, the money, “stability” etc…it is the “before” that causes the trauma. This can’t be loved or bought or guilt forced away. Taking children in the first place is what causes the trauma, not how you treat them after. Nothing un-dos that first wound.
When I was unable to financially support my daughter and her father refused to pay child support, like my maternal grandmother before me, I sought temporary care for her with her paternal grandmother who she had been cared for by since infancy as I had to go to work in the outside world. So that is who I turned to, when I tried to make some significant funds to cushion my intended reunion with my daughter. I was driving an 18-wheel truck with a partner. I didn’t even know whether I could do that work (turned out I was relatively good at everything but backing that big rig up) or how long I would be doing it. I didn’t have a long view and I didn’t know what I know now about mother/child separations.
It didn’t turn out to be temporary. She ended up with her dad and he remarried a woman with a daughter and together had another daughter. A yours-mine and ours family life I was not able to give her during the period of her childhood. She is now nearing 50 years old and I only recently found out that her life in that family situation was not as good as I imagined it to be – though she loved her step-mother (now deceased) and loves her dad still regardless. We once shared that her circumstances make her in many ways subject to the same deep emotional wounds of separation that adoptees experience. It does make me very sad that I inflicted that on her in my ignorance and belief that as long as one of the two parents were in the child’s life it was equally good for that child.
Here is someone else’s story taken from the Daily KOS and the source of my image for today – My Family Separation Trauma: A Wound that Never Heals. Excerpts, you can read the entire story at the title link.
I was separated from my primary caregivers, my grandparents, when I was five; thirty years later I was separated from my four-year-old daughter. Now she is 19 and we are estranged. None of this is of my choosing. I fought it with all I had. I ended up with no family at all.
Lots of people have a family-separation story, and they’re all heartbreaking.
For my own self, the effects have been similar to how this woman describes it below for her own self. I will add, for me, it was always difficult to pick out a “daughter” birthday card because the words never fit the relationship I had with her (thankfully, as adults we are loving and close, though at times the wounds shine through as they should so I never deny what was done).
I seldom got to see my daughter as she was growing up. I was prevented from being a part of her life. I’m having a hard time grappling with the enormity of all that I lost—from her first day of kindergarten, to picking out her prom dress, to what’s going on with her right now—the depth and breadth of experiences that I missed. The richness of bonding with one’s growing child and seeing their personhood evolve. I missed it all and I can never, ever get it back.
She goes on to write – “I always thought, “At least my daughter is fine.” By all reports she has been happy and thriving. But this happened to her, too. I understand that now; she has trauma of her own. She was only four.” Mine was 3 and I thought the same. At least, she is a generally upbeat and happy person today.
I carry my own wound. There were no role models for an absentee mother in the mid 1970s. I always felt that others must be judging me as some kind of monster of a mother not to be raising my own daughter. The writer says for her own self, “In the meantime I carry this wound. I must move forward with it, accounting for it, dealing with it. Most of the people who see me every day have no idea of how badly I’m damaged. It’s taken a long time for me to figure it out myself.”
My daughter seems to forgive me and understands I was doing the best I knew how to at the time but I seem unable to fully forgive my own self for inflicting an abandonment on her (even if I never thought of it as “that” until very recently, since learning about the practice of adoption more deeply, as I uncovered my adopted parents (both) origin stories. First, I came to accept this about my parents and their original parents, only later realizing the effects on my own life and my daughter’s life.