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Mothering Myself: The Unexpected Healing Power of Distance

Elise's stories

How does it feel when the #1 person who is supposed to love you unconditionally walks out of your life at the time when you actually need them the most?

2010: it felt like a dagger in my heart.

2024: it is the greatest gift my mom has given me.


At first I stumbled to find the ground beneath my feet.

My mother’s actions completely went against nature.

I remember declaring in therapy, “No mother in their right mind would leave their daughter at the moment they, too, become a mom.”

Calmly with affirmation, she replied, “Yes. She was very likely not of sound mind.”

Then it all made sense. 

I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t a bad daughter. I wasn’t a bad mother to my son.

She had unmet needs. She was not receiving proper care of her physical and mental well-being. She was not caring for herself the way she needed to feel whole, vibrant, and free.

And me, becoming a mom, triggered her.

The first few years of her absence, birthing my daughter, and figuring out how our family was going to break the cycle of dysfunction I made a commitment to therapy and physical self-care through yoga and strength training.

These were the tools where I found the steady ground beneath my feet.

Mama Bear mode ON

Through my mom’s absence I had the opportunity to step into Mama Bear without fear of what she would think or say. 

In these moments of solitude I discovered strengths I never knew.

I no longer acted out of guilt or waiting for someone else to tell me what to do.

I made (and still make) daily decisions, and occasionally difficult ones, without her words of wisdom. 

When she left my life I put up high walls with thick bricks all around me. After all, if my own mom would leave me, who wouldn’t? 

I felt utterly alone… even though I was anything but alone.

The men in my life are amazing. My husband, dad, and brother are my biggest cheerleaders. They respect my purpose and encourage me to be me.

I have incredible girlfriends who have been patient with me, to let them into my heart.

On this Mother’s Day, it is nearly 15 years since she left, and a decade since we reconnected after she had a life-altering medical event. 

By having time without her I was able to step into my full sense of self as a woman and mother. 

I showed up for her

With unconditional love I showed up.

Something inside me would not let her be alone. She needed to be seen, heard, and felt… kind of like a baby.

By caring for her in ways she will never be able to do for me, I have healed our maternal and spiritual lineages. Her mother and our grandmothers’ grandmothers can all rest in greater peace. 

My daughter and I have a fresh path to explore without inherited dysfunction as our guiding light.

While I care for the health of my mom from a distance we get to FaceTime once a month.

In the beginning I dreaded it. It was awkward. I didn’t know what to say. The calls lasted 5 minutes max.

But I had to see and hear her speak. I had to know she was safe and comfortable.

I fully acknowledge she would likely have not stepped up to care for me if roles were reversed. I processed those emotions, and faced them head on. (And do so today when they surface.)

About three years ago our calls and visits actually shifted into fun. We laugh about silly things she remembers from my childhood, and are slowly engaging in my current life with my children. She used to call them: “the boy” and “the girl.” Now she says their names and is letting herself become more emotionally open to what she has missed.

The last 15 years have been extremely complicated and there were many times where it felt like I was taking 10 steps back to take one step forward in healing the hurt she left me with.

Today I am grateful for the opportunity she gave me to heal without her being around.

I know every mother/daughter in a dysfunctional relationship has the potential to feel this free and loveable. It takes courage to start, but it is possible. 

Healing is always available; but prevention is priority.

My hope in sharing my story, modeling practices that work for me (which may work for you, too), and within my business of supporting mothers there are ample ways to be supported through healing and prevention of the need to heal.

Being a mother is the ultimate role in our society. 

When we take this role seriously with extreme compassion for our mother’s and their mother, and for our own journeys we will be able to embrace one another with unconditional love for the path each mom leads.

Sending love to all of you this Mother's Day.