hen I first thought about writing an article for my Girl Behind the Fence: Grief book, I didn’t know where to begin. I have had so much grief in my life that finding just one story to focus on was super difficult. To invite a distraction, I then hung out with some friends with less than five hours left to submit this story.
The theme of the evening started with conversations about the bacon-wrapped dates my son made for us, then onto legacy (pre-death) photography, then someone needing volunteers for an art project in the park, then onto medical issues and upcoming surgeries, before ending with mother and daughter relationships… specifically, the most imperfect ones.
Alas – there it was. The topic of my story revealed.
This is stage 1.
In my autobiography The Initiation, I talk about much of this so I will spare you the repetition. Instead, I will share with you how our mother-daughter relationship had locked me into grief starting in 1987 and finally ending Christmas Day several years ago.
I had often heard about the “terrible twos”, and felt I was well-prepared when the time came. I expected Jayme to have mood swings. I expected Jayme to be clingy one minute and run away from me the next. I knew she was torn between dependence and independence. I realized she was eager to do things on her own and would ignore my rules. In essence, I expected inappropriate behaviors, and I expected to be frustrated with her out-of-control tantrums and stern defiance. I knew this was a normal part of childhood development. I knew she was undergoing significant motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes, and that she understood far more language than she could express.
I knew it was up to me to remain calm, redirect her behavior, and distract her when she was misbehaving. I knew to avoid the known and potentially-challenging environments that would set her off – especially during her naptime, and I knew to praise her for good behavior (although that was quite rare). In my mind, I did the very best I could. No regrets.
But these examples are not the type of abnormal behaviors I was initially referring to.
I did not expect, know, or understand why my two-year-old daughter was making sexual advances toward teenage boys and married men. Or why I had a daughter who would throw herself off of the slide on the school playground when she didn’t get her way only to tell the teachers I had beat her. I was not expecting a child who was oh-so-advanced at playing the victim and manipulating people, and I certainly did not expect to feel as though I had given birth to the Devil’s child.
So, when I first realized that the extremely abnormal behavior of my daughter appeared to be pure evil, I was in 100% denial, shock and disbelief. I was numb, yet I tried to figure out what I was missing. Was it me who screwed up somehow? Is this due to her being pronounced dead twice during her birth? This can’t possibly be normal behavior! What the f*ck is happening!?
This stage seemed fairly short-lived in comparison. After seeing her do these things over and over, my denial and shock wore off rather quickly. However, each time I reached out for professional help – to get her evaluated – I was berated by my parents as they attempted to guilt-trip me. I was then ridiculed and judged by professionals who blamed me for being a single parent, even though I had left her father who damn-near killed both of us. No regrets.
However, being in trouble with my parents and being judged by professionals as if I was an incompetent and uncaring mother made me very angry – at Jayme, at my parents, at myself, and at the very systems designed to supposedly help us.
Enter Stage 2.
Even with all of this, I still kept trying to be a good mother. Yet as Jayme’s mother, I was utterly miserable. Being a psychology major worked against me, and in some ways, even sabotaged me. How could I become a good mental health professional if I can’t even figure out my own child?
For me, the anger stage never really had a chance to come to an end because the behaviors that victimized me also never ended. This continued on with Jayme as she transcended through elementary and high school. During this time, I was trapped in a world filled with anxiety. Every day I was walking on eggshells… every day I was in fear wondering what lie she would tell next that could possibly put me in handcuffs or ruin my career. This anger stage lasted for DECADES!!
Because I was angry for so long, I don’t remember ever going through the other stages, such as depression, reflection, or loneliness. Maybe I did but they were short-lived, or the anger masked or instantly consumed them.
Jayme’s extremely abnormal behavior continued off and on until 2013. Jayme asked for my help with something very important and personal to her. I agreed; a few days later, I found something on Google to help streamline her efforts. I thought she would be excited but instead, she became out-of-control with anger, paranoia, and suspicion. She accused me of trying to sabotage her and ruin her life… I was confused. Amid her screaming and vicious emotional abuse, something snapped within me. I was done.
Calmly I said to her, “Now that you are well over 18, I am done with my responsibility for you. I will not tolerate any more disrespect and abuse from you. Consider yourself blocked from all access to me”.
Luckily, she lived 2.5 hours away from me and never had a truly dependable vehicle, so I felt confident she would not show up at my home.
This is when Stage 5 (or 7 depending upon which model you use) – Hope – started. It was as though I skipped over all the other stages because, for some reason, I was actually hopeful.
I reminded myself that by not being in her life, she can no longer blame me for everything that goes wrong. She would finally have to become accountable and accept her role in her happiness or lack of it. She can then focus on taking care of her responsibilities and feel good about achieving success.
So, with nothing but love in my heart, I blocked her. No regrets.
In 2015, I received a letter from her. “Mom, please call me”.
It had been two years since we had any exchange whatsoever and I felt certain (and still hopeful) that she had matured. I called.
She asked me to meet her for lunch. I agreed but suspected that she needed something (money, tires, food, a new phone, etc.). When we saw each other, there was a bit of awkwardness but there was no animosity. If anything, she was very humble. Upon sitting down, she immediately said, “I’m sorry mom. Didn’t I have a soul?”
Turns out, she needed forgiveness.
I accepted her apology and, albeit still not fully trusting her for fear history could relapse, I forgave her. It wasn’t just her words but the sincerity in her voice and her body language. I knew that I had never met this woman – this version of my daughter – before.
We then became best friends. We both had marital issues at the same time and we got each other through some tough days. We talked on the phone for about an hour each day, and I was very happy with our relationship. We were two mature women – no longer a mother and daughter.
Then Mother’s Day came and it was the absolute WORST ever. Not because of her and I, but because it resulted in her throwing her husband out of their house like she had done so many times during their 12-year marriage. But this time was different. When she found out that he actually left state and moved in with his family, her income source was gone. In trying to be supportive just as I had for years, I realized very quickly that I was no longer talking to my adult daughter. Not only had I lost my best friend, but history relapsed, and my volatile CHILD just spiraled me right back into a deep grief and hopelessness.
As a trained crisis therapist, I have always been heady enough to catch myself at the very start of an emotional unravel and thankfully, with great success. However, this time it took me almost two full days to pull myself through. When the crisis therapist within me finally had enough, she said to me, “Okay, okay… this is not going to help you or Jayme. Wake up, MOM. Your little girl needs you to teach her some new survival skills”. I snapped out of it instantly and became ultra-pragmatic.
“Jayme, you have a business license for a Bakery and Nail Salon. There isn’t either within 40 minutes of you. You already own the property, so let’s reopen your business! I will buy your start-up supplies, marketing materials and ads, website, and even do a bulk mail blast to homes in your area. I will also teach you how to find and be a vendor at events too. You don’t need him to support you. You got this”.
Her husband had been the sole breadwinner and, even though Jayme had opened her business once before, her husband refused to allow her to work. He was very abusive and jealous. Now with him in another state, nothing was holding her back. She agreed and, although she couldn’t see her new gift of freedom quite yet, I was happy and excited to help her get started on this new journey.
I drove to her town the following weekend. Mark went with me so he could fix her car and buy her four new tires, and I purchased all the above as promised. By the time we got to her house, the graphics, website, business cards, mailers, and other items were done and / or ordered.
I had also already paid for a booth for her to be a vendor at three upcoming events with the same Event Coordinator. These events were within 2 miles of her house and offered great exposure for her business. I took and set up the table, chairs, signage, and fliers. She was late getting there. Once there, she complained the entire time. Unannounced, she left because “not enough people showed up” at her booth. I lost the vendor fees and in her small area of 300 people, her reputation took a hit. I was so disappointed in her. I reminded myself that she is also in grief so I quietly packed up everything, apologized to the event coordinator, and went back to Jayme’s house to drop everything off. Once there, she didn’t even acknowledge me. I tried to say goodbye but it fell on deaf ears.
I quietly left.
I didn’t talk to her again for a few months. Except for Halloween, holidays have been a huge source of struggle for me as I share in The Initiation book. I’ve never been allowed or invited to Mark’s holiday gatherings which have been somewhat of a pain point in our marriage, so I wanted to invite a distraction. I emailed Jayme to ask if I could bring food and cook a vegan meal for her, myself, and my grandson for Christmas. She said “Sure! That’d be great! I want you to meet someone anyway”. Unfortunately, I almost instantly regretted my visit.
I had just driven 2.5 hours to Jayme’s house. After the formalities and hugs from my grandson, I was soon introduced to Jayme’s new boyfriend, Billy. Instead of making a good impression when meeting his girlfriend’s mom for the first time, he lit up a bong in the house – right in front of my 13-year-old grandson. Jayme said, “He used to be a meth addict but he’s been clean for 8 years”. For all the sources of frustration that Jayme has been for me. I knew I never had to worry about alcohol or drugs. She was always a very strict but considerably protective mother to my grandson. So, imagine my shock when I saw this. I am no prude and I try not to judge adults on their extra-curricular activities. However, I do have very strict moral and legal values, and I care deeply about the imprints she and her cohorts leave on my grandson.
Deciding to try and make the best of it for several reasons, I got the food out. Without getting into details, I was made fun of for bringing “no meat”, told they were “not going to eat THAT”, and even Billy aggressively mocked the ingredients.
I finally said… “You know what? I just drove nearly 3 hours to see you and….” but stopped midsentence. I realized that the words I wanted to say would be insignificant to them. So I very calmly and quietly said, “I’m leaving” and turned to walk out.
I heard Jayme say, “Okay, bye” with a somewhat sassy tone. She sounded both like a teenager saying bye to her friend, yet also like an adult woman saying bye to a neighbor she’d catch up with later. It was almost surreal. My grandson ran out and asked me for a hug. I gave it to him knowing full well that this would be the last hug I gave him for a very long time.
THAT’s the moment when my grief and my acceptance (the last stage) came together. THAT’s the moment I finally accepted that this tumultuous relationship with Jayme was finally over.
I cried all the way home; I cried harder than I had ever cried before during our crazy relationship. While driving at 75 mph and hardly able to see through the tears, I recorded her a final but remarkably non-emotional goodbye message, and sent it to her via text. Immediately I realized that my tears were not of pain or sadness. My tears were not of grief. My tears were of joy because, for the first time in 30 years (her age), I was finally free.
Jayme never bothered to specifically respond to me about that day or the recording. I also didn’t block her. I guess I knew there was no need to because the best Christmas gift we could have given each other was to break that codependent chain.
Years ago, I told her that I believed we were struggling because of karmic debt. I told her, “No offense but I don’t want to come back with you in my next life”. She agreed and we both laughted.
I told her that “I think we lived many lives together before and we tried to destroy each other. I believe that our assignment in this lifetime is to learn to coexist. We don’t have to talk, but we mustn’t avoid either because avoidance prevents our success in this assignment. So, let’s just love from a distance instead of making each other’s and our own lives miserable”.
Thankfully her relationship with Billy only lasted a month but, since then, we have a one-time very brief catch-up email exchange. Without having to speak, we know that we have forgiven each other. It’s obvious that neither of us carry any more pain or anger because each email ends with “I love you”. And that is how we love from a distance.
Of course, I called child protective services (CPS) about the bong incident but to my knowledge, they did nothing. I would have known too because every other time I called CPS, they either told her it was me or she ranted to me about it, not even remotely thinking that I called them.
I feel 100% certain that we won’t be seeing each other in the next lifetime, at least not as enemies. I believe in my heart and soul that my grieving process is now 100% complete.
If you struggle with grief, I recommend Girl Behind the Fence: Grief.
Ms. Mozelle Martin, FMHP, FHWE, PhD.
- 35-year International Forensic Handwriting Expert
- Author: What I Learned From Watching CSI
- Contracted Forensic Mental Health Professional for Jails & Prisons
- Creator of The Housecall Analyst forensic book series
- Forensic Consultant since 2007 – FindMeGroup.org
- Former Forensic Consultant – Criminal Minds TV show
- Media Commentator for ABC, NBC, TruTV, Crime Watch Daily, etc.
- Plantologist, Pianist, Photographer, and Artist