The Day My Mother Left


It is a warm Georgia Fall the year my mother leaves us.


She is one of those people that is either high or low in life.  And she is low a lot.  Especially after my two brothers are born.  She cries a lot.  Screams a lot.  Cries wolf (suicide) a lot.  Tries a time or two.


Then one morning when I am eleven, before the school bus, she sits on the couch.  Face a wet swollen mess, I see her there, littered with tissues.  She tells me to sit down and then, more incoherent than not, she tells me she is leaving.  Her sky-blue eyes are glossed over in crimson as she asks me to take care of my step-dad, my 3 year old and 7 month old brothers.


This is what I remember.  The couch.  The red, waterlogged face.  And being told that my mother is intending to abandon me.


I go to school emotionally shell-shocked.  My mother has just confessed to the 6th grader that she is running away.  I am both anxious and numb. I do not cry.  


When school ends my heart is in my stomach. By the time the yellow school bus pulls in front of my home I am a nervous wreck.  I do not know what I am going to find; I walk to the door slowly, cautiously.  Inside, I find my worst fear – my step-dad, swirling with tension and panic.


My mother is gone. 


I tell him the little I know and we spend the afternoon in a blur of heartache and disbelief.  But my mother, she seeks one of her friends, or sisters.  By the end of the day she is secure in a mental health facility.  On suicide watch.


In the months that my mother is gone my step-father and his mother are frazzled, stretched thin, broken.  And me, I am the step-child. Only in hindsight, do I feel badly for my step-grandmother.  Her husband passes away a month before my mother’s breakdown. She is in no emotional state to deal with what is happening to her son’s family.  It causes her to be severe towards my adolescent weaknesses.


My mother eventually comes home but things remain fragile and she forever loses my trust. The cycle of her emotional roller coaster continues to affect me for years until I move out of my parents home at seventeen.



My daughter is eleven now and I think of these memories when on occasion my face is a wet, swollen mess and my green eyes are glossed over in crimson. The times when life is hard and the simple act of leaving seems so appealing. When I lean too heavily on the eleven year old to help in raising her little brothers.


I remember that I was eleven the day I consciously pulled away from my mother, the day the hurt finally went deep enough to emotionally detach. I remember that 18 years later that bond is still severed for that and similar reasons.


I remember that the window of opportunity we get with our daughters is slim and it closes so easily. And this more than anything else helps me to pull it together, to heal, to engage, and to stay.



*This post was originally written two years ago and has been edited and republished.


  1. P.S. I'm supposed to encourage you all to share your story about compassion from your childhood that encouraged you or helped shape you into who you are today.

    Check out this link for more info:

  2. shaungroves says:

    Well done! So thankful for that one "beacon." Wish there'd been more for you, Jessica.

  3. Phaw! It takes an understanding of darkness to truly appreciate light.

    Besides, immediately after I turned 17 God gave me a husband with an overabundantly beacon-ful family. So it all works out. ;)

    • So grateful for the gift of your husband and his family, Jessica – but please don’t make anything ‘light’ out of what happened to you. It was horrific and hard and shouldn’t have been. Yes, God has redeemed it in wonderful ways, yes the insights you have gained are priceless and so helpful as you mother your own children. But THIS – this is hard. And it’s okay to acknowledge that along with the good that has come from it. Thank for doing that in this post – beautifully done.
      Diana Trautwein recently posted..31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 7My Profile

  4. What a wonderful, heart breaking yet joyful story! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Donna Cox says:

    The only words I have are from a Steven Curtis Chapman “Out of these ashes beauty will rise”. I don’t know if this phrase is biblical or not, but I like it, and at times you can find me clinging to it. Please continue to bless the rest of us with your intelligence, humor, and heart!

  6. I read another blog post this week about sharing the difficult parts of our stories as well as the pretty parts. I think you just did that. Thank you for your transparency and inspiration to not just say I love but to show I love.
    Stephanie’s Mommy Brain recently posted..Snow Children’s BooksMy Profile

  7. I have a whole blog dealing with this side of my life. I too, look at my daughter, my sons, and compare notes. And again I am reminded to hold them close, tell them I love them and as you so perfectly said ” pull it together, to heal, to engage, and to stay.”

    Engage and Stay
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  8. Oh Jessica, I cannot imagine what that would have been like. But I can imagine the feelings as a mother as I was close to walking away when I had post natal depression when my first two children when born. I am so thankful I did not and chose to stay and do the hard work of healing, but I do understand those feelings. I will add also that now 15 years into the parenting journey I do not have those feelings any longer.

  9. After reading your post, I sat trying to find words to type in response. What comes to mind is GOD’S GRACE. His grace covered you then and is covering you now. The scar of your childhood is a part of who you are but hasn’t defined who you are. If it had, you would have not stayed on the couch.
    Stefanie Brown (@stefanieybrown) recently posted..31 Quotes in 31 Days :: Day 8 ~ Life…My Profile

  10. Sally Roach says:

    Wow, Jessica. That is such a sad story. We are all so fragile, even when we think we have it all together. And our children, how much we love them and how easy it is to use and abuse them.

  11. My heart ached reading your story. The picture of you on the couch made the story all the more vivid and relatable.
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  12. I was eleven when my dad left. Reading your story broke my heart.

    You’ve become such a strong and courageous woman, even after that painful situation.
    Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies recently posted..I am in Shock!My Profile

  13. Jessica, although it did not damage my relationship with my mother, m mother had two breakdowns when I was 7 and 8. The first one was in second grade, and I went to stay the rest of the school year and summer with my grandmother (which I am actually grateful for). The second, when I went back to live with her and my new stepdad, I got one month into third grade and she had another one. This time she sent me to live with foster parents, a childless couple that her best friend knew. I lived with them for three years. They were abusive and volatile because they could not handle my “erratic” behavior. Finally, I went to live with my mother again, and this time it was better, but not perfect. I have had so many ups and down, lived with different people… was homeless with my dad for a while, all resulting in leaving home at 16 to get married to a drug addict abuser. Thankfully, God was with me all along, and I never got into the drugs myself, and eventually I was able to leave him (after 5 years and two kids). I am glad to say that God provided for me a strong, faithful, Godly man, and two more precious children.

  14. Jessica,

    Your post – my heart breaks for your 11 year old self and that day on the couch. It breaks even now with the still severed bond with your mom. I don’t know if we ever grow old enough to not need and want a mother. Sharing your story is a gift and I’m so grateful for your heart poured out over the keyboard to speak to our hearts today.

  15. Reading this breaks my heart. *I* am one of those emotionally unstable mothers and I know it. I have gone to the ends of the earth to get better, to heal and be the mother they deserve and yet I fail again and again. I pray everyday that they remember how hard I tried more than the hot mess that I am. But I know I have hurt them and continue to do so everyday. And they see me struggle to make it all better… I am open with my flaws and trying to make it go away.

    To this day I don’t know why I am the way I am. I do know I have survived much trauma and do receive counseling and therapies for it and I am getting better… but too little too late.

    I pray… BOY do I pray that I do not do this to my kids. And I thank you for sharing your story of strength and survival and how you have used it to be a better mom yourself! <3

    • Oh Heather, my heart is breaking for you! I, too, am one of those struggling mama’s…struggling with depression and anxiety that bleeds over into every aspect of my life. I am adding you to my prayer list, because I know at the end of the day God is able to Heal us both. He can carry you, even when it takes almost too much energy to even cry out to HIm, He still knows your need, and I pray that you can feel His presence in your life in a mighty way!
      Crystal @ Serving Joyfully recently posted..Our Frugal Meal Plan 10/8My Profile

    • Heather, First of all BIG HUGE HUGS! ((hugs)). I know because of my childhood, life choices etc, that I have my share of depression. It’s not easy, I know it isn’t. I wish I could do more. I think sharing and talking about it, just as Miss Jessica shared her story as well, helps. On some level it helps. Keep on praying momma, I will add one for you and your family tonight. (HUGS)
      Garden Tenders/Kim recently posted..Amongst the weeds…My Profile

  16. I know I’m going to say the wrong thing here. And I do have to say that my heart breaks for you and what you endured…that even though your mother sought help and treatment and came back to you, those months in time were too hard to overcome. Such a sad situation, and I’m so sorry for you. But at the same time, as I have suffered throughout my nearly 30 years with depression and anxiety, as I’ve seen those symptoms get worse after the birth of my children, my heart also breaks for your mother. Because I can very well imagine the pains involved in those highs and lows, and the pain in knowing what they cost her–her relationship with her daughter. I live in fear that my own illness will one day hurt those I hold dearest–my husband and my sons. I pray that God will help me, heal me, and keep our family because I know that it’s only through HIM that we can overcome the illness that is depression/anxiety. My heart breaks for your family, even your mother because I know the despair and the darkness that depression brings.
    Crystal @ Serving Joyfully recently posted..Our Frugal Meal Plan 10/8My Profile

  17. My mom is a wonderful grandma. She did the best she could as a mom. She did her best with the skills and knowledge she had and the depression and hurt she expierenced in her early years; years of abuse and heart ache (sexual, physical, and verbal). I think she was a better mom than her mom. I say this because it wasn’t until I had children that I really understood some of the stuff my mom went through. None of us are perfect. We strive to do the best we can and each day we make that choice.

    Yes there are bad parents, we all hear stories of horrible abuse beyond what we can imagine, but most of us really try to be better. As a survivor of a childhood that wasn’t the greatest (my mom suffered severe PPD that went undiagnosed for years… back when it was just all in a woman’s head) I can look back and see where, through my forgiveness and accepotance, that my mom did her best we now have a wonderful relationship, it just took 40 years for me to see it.

    Thank you for sharing your story…..
    Garden Tenders/Kim recently posted..Always LearningMy Profile

  18. “the day the hurt finally went deep enough to emotionally detach”

    oh, you just beautifully summed up so many children’s experiences in those 11 words.
    missy @ it’s almost naptime recently posted..Celebrate!My Profile

  19. Kimmi Nerveza Stacy says:

    Awww.. Like! Can’t find the like button. You are awesome .. No matter what , you keep it together for you & your Ohana. So happy for all of you.. Love & hugz .. ( ps saw some well muscled calves recently & thought of you.. The one who’s not afraid to post anything !! You go girl!) <3

  20. Somehow I missed this post. Glad to hear more of the story. It’s heartbreaking!!!
    Aprille recently posted..P is for pumpkin!My Profile

  21. I was 7 and my sister was 3, and when my own children were 7 and 3, I looked at their faces and the evilness of it all hit me for the first time. That’s the only way I can explain why a parent would abandon a baby-faced child. His was no breakdown, though, only another woman.

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