Thoughts: Sunflowers on Water- A short story of losing a dysfunctional mother

This piece is a short narrative I wrote about my biological mother right after she passed away. The names and events that took place are all true. This is not the current thoughts of the author and purpose is to share a story for healing. All rights reserved to Natalie Neece

Sunflowers on Water-  A short story of losing a dysfunctional mother 


I just lost my mother. I lost her a long time ago. What does lost even mean? The opposite of lost is found, so are things lost ever really found? And then for a solid quick moment I had her again. Her voice sounded bright and she was so delighted to hear from me. I’d like to think I made her last week. Shortly after that friendly conversation, she was gone but not forgotten.

What did I lose her to?  I could wash it all down with a cold one like she did. This story isn’t just about the ups and downs of a mother/daughter relationship. Every mother and daughter relationship has ups and downs. Every relationship does. This relationship fell deep and hard because of the twisted mind of a woman whose mind was drowned by her mental illness with alcohol and prescription medicine This story isn’t a happy one. It is, however, a chapter that has been closed in the  book of my life.


We don’t know exactly when it happened. We as in me, my dad and everyone we knew. We don’t know when she transitioned from this wonderfully smart, beautiful, ambitious women to a mess. She was mentally ill with depression and undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  Always a party girl, she later hit the bottle too hard. The mix of prescription medicine washed down with booze created a self medicated remedy that did not work.

I had two childhoods. One full of adventures, laughs and love. I never knew my parents when they were married, they divorced at the early age of 2. I spent my life wondering what it would be like if they hadn’t separated, if they parented me together. Looking at pictures they looked so fun and full of life. I know my mother and father did care for one another. It’s strange to find out that my mom was the one that called for the divorce. A few years after their divorce, dad met and fell in love with my ex-step-mom (they since have divorced) Judy. If I didn’t have my dad and Judy, I don’t know where I would be. I was lucky enough to be raised by such great people. Judy is a strong and mighty women. She had a career as a flight attendant and had a son of her own, James. I’ve known Judy since I was 4 years old. She is my mother. She is the one who stood by my side against my biological mother. She taught me responsibility  and integrity. For her, I am forever grateful of the person I am today.

But I somehow loved my biological mother even though she hurt me with her harsh words and drunken nightmares that were reality. My friend Andrew, who is a therapist broke it down to me like this: my biological mother gave me life and Judy raised me. Just because she is my “mother” doesn’t mean I had to put up with her negativity.


It is so weird to think that she has passed. It is always a strange thing when someone passes. I’m so angry. I don’t mean to be angry. Their behavior annoys me. Don’t they care? Of course they do. They wouldn’t be with you if they didn’t care. Why am I not satisfied?

I’m mostly angry at her. She’s the one who caused all of this. Why do I let her affect me so much? My anger is fucking everything up. I feel so lost, so different from everyone.  I’m in that special club of adults without a parent. And though she was never a parent, she was both someone who loved me and someone who didn’t know how to love me the right way.

This whole situation could have been worse if I knew her. If I knew her in the way that most people know their parents. Not every parent relationship is great. I didn’t even get one.  I’m so angry. I’m angry that she didn’t fulfill her role as a mother. I’m angry that I thought it was my fault all of these years. We had a beautiful, forgiving last conversation but for some reason I’m still trying to find closure in that conversation. What did it mean to talk to her?

I keep trying to process that conversation. The one thing that struck out the most to mean in that conversation, other than apologizing for what she had done and how much she loved me, was she asked me a simple question: Are you happy? Which I answered I was. She finally showed that she actually cared about my wellbeing.   She was so thankful I sent her flowers. Her favorite were sunflowers. When I asked if she had received the flowers, her voice perked up in excitement and she remembered fondly of what I said about her eyes as a child.  My mother had incredible eyes. They were blue grey with yellow surrounding the pupil. I would always say her eyes were like sunflowers on water.

Then I think how quickly she died after that conversation. What was really wrong with her? She was sick in her mind, body and heart. She put me and my family through hell. My last memory of her is her chasing me and my grandparents out of the house, yelling and screaming obscenities. The verbal abuse on the phone and through countless scribbled letters telling me what a horrible person I am haunt my mind. Talking to her was impossible I know what she said wasn’t true. It took years to understand that she never meant to write that to me. She was writing to me about herself. It was a reflection of her unhappiness and how she knew that she had messed up.

My mom was good. She was a good, loving person at one point in my early life. She told me to work hard, go to school and have fun. I have carried those words with me in my life. I do work hard, I did go to school and continue to learn and I make sure I do have fun. She taught me to be accepting of others and be yourself. Like I mentioned before, I don’t know when she changed. The  good memories I have of her was when she was “normal”. Unfortunately, the bad memories outweigh the good. I’m trying to focus on the fun loving and smart women I sort of knew. I don’t want to remember her as this monster that she had become. I don’t let her actions define me as a person. I am my own person and she was hers.

I know I had nothing to do with it. What if I had forgiven her earlier and she changed and we were able to have a relationship? Or what I have simply wanted…to be on good terms. But good terms weren’t good enough for her. Nothing ever was. I wanted her so bad to be the mom she could have been.  I believe she held on to talk to me. I believe she didn’t want to continue any longer. I have a right to be upset, sad, happy, hurt, lost. She left me with all of those. I thought I let her go a while ago. My heart cares to much. That’s what frustrates me about myself. I hate caring so much and not being appreciated for it.

That’s what an addict does. They string you along with falseness. It’s not your fault. Their problems are never your fault.  If they only knew. The moment you hear your parent, whether close to them or not, your world stops. My mother was the first human I ever loved. How could I not feel hurt and sadness? A part of my past is gone.

I’m now feeling all the hurt that I had blacked out. It is slowly but surely fading away. Like what people told me about loss. 1. It takes time to heal and 2. You have to take each day at a time. I am working on those steps.

You cry the first few days after. You cry a lot and hard. Even if you weren’t close you still feel hurt and sad. Someone died. Even when you hear in the news about someone dying or a friend of a friends parent you think it is sad. When it happens to you, it stings.

You find yourself feeling depressed doing the things you love. I started to tear up during a dance class and by the time I got to my car, I was bawling. We were dancing to a Christmas song and it made me think of my mom. We had very few Christmas together but she always made me feel special during that time. I talked to her for the first time in years two years ago in 2014 on Christmas. I then called her again on September 30th when she was in the hospital. I had two great last conversations. I keep wishing we had more.

If people could understand all of this, then they could maybe be there for me better. Maybe it takes time for them to process what I’m going through too. When the person dies, a part of you is lost. I’m trying to find my way back. When I found out about her passing, I was oddly relieved. I was relieved that she was no longer suffering. She is in a better place. But I’m still here.

I want to live without the burden and guilt she put upon me.  I want to live boldly and live courageously for what I believe in. I want to love without boundaries, no conditions just pure deep love. And I want that in return.

I want to live fully and happy in my days. I want to feel special. I love myself but it  is hard when I lost someone who created me. I am not her. I am the good parts of her.  I want to live. I want to breath in all the great opportunities that life presents itself.

I want to cherish the relationships I have. I want them to be good and grow out of love and respect.  I want to be alive. I want to do more than she could. I want to dance my heart out. I want to write so many stories that people can connect and relate to.

I want to fill the void and push the pain out.  You have to feel the pain but don’t let it consume you. You have to go through the motions of grief. Pain is weakness leaving the body. You have to enjoy the silence when you’re by yourself.  You have to forgive yourself and know you’re not alone.

I got to be with her for such a short sweet moment. 5 days later she was gone.  I have been strong and I know I can continue to be. I will get through this. There’s a lot to figure out and well, that’s life.

One thing I do know for sure, my mother loved me.


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