Have you ever wanted to run away from your family? I think many of us would say, “No! Never!” out loud to others, because that sounds so terrible, so selfish. But maybe some of us have had those feelings before. Feelings that well up from a deep and dark place within us that tell us that things would be better if we left. Run away, and don’t look back.
According to CNN, there are an increasing number of mothers who not only have those feelings, but who actually act on them. They run, or walk, away, and leave their families, their children, behind.
It’s not an easy thing to talk about. If we are the mother having those feelings, it’s not something that most of us would share with our best friends, or our families, our children, our husbands. Much less talk about to the world. And so my hands shake as I write these words, but I think it is important to share my story, because maybe in sharing, someone else will feel like they aren’t so alone in the world.
There was a day when I wanted to run away from my family. I wanted to leave, go away, far away. Where would I go? I had no idea. Would I return? I didn’t know. I just had an overwhelming desire to leave. To escape from the life I was living.
Now, before you judge me too harshly, let me tell you more of my story. Because I believe there is also probably more to the stories behind the moms who choose to walk away from their families.
Just over a year ago, after a 5 year battle with cancer, my beloved father passed away, leaving my mom, me and my two sisters, two sons-in-law, two grandchildren and one on the way, behind. I was 7 months pregnant with my third child. And the loss completely devastated me. In ways that I didn’t even realize.
My baby girl was born last year, in June, and our little family transitioned to a family of five. The transition to three kids has been especially hard for me. Was it the combination of pregnancy and post-partum hormones along with the grief over my father’s death? Probably, but I don’t know for sure. Having three kids is hard. Parenting is hard. Being a stay at home mom, and work at home mom, is hard.
But, I pushed down the feelings of grief and depression, pretending that everything was okay, like I was okay. Even as my life became increasingly chaotic and overwhelming around me. I thought I needed to be strong. But inside I was crumbling. Breaking under the weight of the grief and stress it was causing in my life.
The depression and grief would show it’s ugly head from time to time. Usually in the form of sobbing breakdowns when I just felt too overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities. These episodes would happen every few weeks or so, but we didn’t realize they were connected to my grief. I just thought I was stressed and overwhelmed and had too much on my plate.
My husband was, and has been, a rock for me through it all. Picking up where I have completely dropped the ball – caring for our kids, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, cooking; all things that the mom is “supposed” to do.
And so life has gone for the past year, but as we approached the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, something in me snapped. My extended family was planning to gather in Michigan for a weekend of remembrance for my father, and as our family was getting packed up and ready to go, I was so overwhelmed by my grief that I decided the best thing for me to do would be to leave.
As sobs wracked my body, the thoughts in my mind were swirling, raging, faster than I knew how to deal with them. I didn’t want to live this life without my dad here with me. I didn’t want to have to grieve his death, because I didn’t want him to be dead. I was hurting my family because I was so stressed and overwhelmed and depressed, so it would be better for them if I wasn’t around. If I left, I wouldn’t have to deal with the extreme pain and sadness that I had been pushing down and avoiding for so long.
And so, my eyes blurry and face swollen with tears, my hands shaking with grief and fear, my mind numb to everything else around me, I tried to take the keys to my husband’s car and leave. I didn’t know how else to make the pain go away. So I would run away from it.
Would I really have left and not come back? Most likely not. But in that moment I was blinded to everything else around me except my pain.
Maybe I just needed to drive around the neighborhood and clear my head. But maybe the act of leaving would have changed something in me. Maybe my selfish nature would have taken over and I would have told myself that I would be better off without my family, and somehow convinced myself that they would be better off without me. When the dark thoughts and feelings are overtaking you, it’s easy to see how it could be a slippery slope for some – from just needing a little space, to leaving for good.
Luckily, I didn’t get past the front door. My husband wouldn’t let me. Thank God.
Because really, I love my kids, and my husband, and my family, and this life we have together so fiercely. So much that it hurts. I would never trade my kids, or being their mom, for anything else in the whole world. Ever.
I didn’t want to run away from my family. I wanted to run from the pain. For that moment in time though, I couldn’t differentiate the two.
Over the last few weeks, I have begun the hard work of healing. Healing from my pain and grief, that I didn’t even know I had to do, and dealing with my feelings of stress and being overwhelmed, so that they don’t mask the pain of my grief.
I am healing for myself. To find a new normal of life without my dad. But I am also doing it for my family. And I’m doing it with my family. They are helping me. They are my rocks, my anchors when my boat is being thrown about on the waves. Instead of me being the strong and stable one, they are the support that I need as I navigate these rough waters.
I don’t pretend to understand what another woman who walks away from her family is going through. But, maybe there is more to the story than the way it looks on the outside. And maybe if she had support and a safe place to talk about and deal with her pain, she wouldn’t feel like the only way to escape her pain was to escape from her family. And maybe, even if only in some small way, by sharing my story I can help another mother, who is struggling, share her story too.