Cathy has not decided what do to about their relationship but she is clear about one thing: "This has nothing to do with me. I didn't really get that when I was a child but now, looking past the hurt, I realize that I have done nothing to deserve her or her treatment. It's her problem."
Therapists, it should be said, generally also adhere to seeing maternal cut-off as the choice of last resort. Many therapists believe that resolution or healthy attachment needs to be accomplished within the mother-daughter relationship, not outside of it. While some therapists will advise their patients to go on a temporary break, few will ever initiate the recommendation that a patient break with her mother. Even self-help books tend to advocate that daughters be "fair" in their assessment of their mothers; as one writer puts it," The danger lies in tipping too far, either toward blaming the mother or toward dismissing the daughter's suffering. An important task of a wounded daughter is to see the mother-child relationship from both sides."
But for some daughters – myself included – "divorcing" my mother was the only way I could move forward into a healthy future.
Most daughters who've broken with their mothers acknowledge that this is less a "solution" than a life-saving strategy which only offers partial healing. Whether the separation from a mother's ability to hurt and inability to love occurs because of "divorce" or death, the result falls very short of perfect. Terri's mother died when she was eighteen, ending what had been both a reign of terror and emotional deprivation. But even the abrupt ending wasn't really an ending at all. Her voice low but insistent, Terri tells me," There is always a hole in me that needs to be filled, and can't be. Not the love of my four kids or my husband of twenty-odd years, or my friends fills it. It's always there, like a tear or a hole in fabric. You can put threads in to repair the weave – the threads of other relationships – but the hole is still there."
I know precisely what she means: I will go to my grave, still grieving the mother love I never had and wishing just as hard that I had been born to someone else.