how to be an orphan

One of the things I love about blog comments is that often they lead me to somebody new, somebody who has his or her own understanding of the experience of being mothered or fathered by a narcissist. Today I read a bit of When the Ring Swings Forward, a blog maintained by Cassandra Squared. In her most recent entry, written last November, she writes about a letter she gave to her mother; in it, she refers to childhood experiences and beseeches her mother to give some thought to what she says, stating that if her mother is unwilling to take her seriously and treat her with the respect due to her, "I'll give up. I'll learn to be an orphan."

How often in the past three or four years have I described myself as an orphan? I have a biological mother with whom I lived until I was in college. She is still living. My biological father is still living, as well. But with regard to the nurturing aspects of parents, having people who know me deeply and love me unconditionally, I have nothing. I have a mother, but not a mommy. The problem is, I didn't understand my orphanhood until a few years ago, so I have to learn, as Cassandra does, how to be an orphan.

I traveled out of the country last week. After arriving back in the United States, the woman next to me (one of my travel companions) made a series of phone calls to her parents, her brother, her sister, her husband, her best friend. Each of them had been eager to hear from her. Each of them had tidbits of their daily life to share with her and words of love to give her. I almost cried. My siblings are barely aware of the things happening in my life, and would think it strange if I let them know that I had returned. There is no warm, welcoming, concerned family group waiting for me, outside of my husband and children. While I can create - and have created - a tribe of friends for myself, it's not the same as an intact, loving extended family. It's just not the same. And I long for it even while I know that I will never have it.

What do orphans do on Christmas? Whom do they call when they need maternal nourishment? Do they ever stop missing what they cannot have?


  1. You really get to the heart of the matter, and I can relate so very much. I've considered myself an orphan for many years, even though my NPs are alive and well, and even pretty close by.

    I spend the holidays with friends, or traveling - sometimes to see relatives who are not like my NPs.

    It is hard. I've had mini-breakdowns in the past. I've cried many tears. The tears don't come by much anymore, distance and time have had positive effects. But I still get sad and wistful at times.

    I remind myself that my NPs don't care what I do, and are so judgemental that if we were speaking and I wanted to share good news, or tidbits of my life they would do nothing but criticize.

    Not having the NPs in my life can be lonely, no doubt about it, but it is also peaceful. I'm living a life without their constant criticisms.

    I don't know if this helps in any way, but I surely understand every word you have written here.


  2. This orphan spends Christmas alone and loves it. It is WAY better than being with the NFOO. I get some movies, do some crafts, do some yoga, and cook myself a nice meal.

    As for maternal nourishment, I never really got that, so the adjustment was to stop seeking it and being disappointed. I guess I either give it to myself or I've trained myself not to need it.

    This has in some ways made me a less sympathetic person. I have very little patience for people who complain despite having loving, supportive families and other advantages.

  3. Pinkpearl, I agree, Christmas alone is WAY better than with the NFOO! By "alone," of course, I mean with just my husband and children, rather than with a big extended family. What I wish for is something I never had, or something I *thought* I had when I was still enmeshed, but was wrong. You're absolutely right that the maternal nourishment didn't exist. Knowing that doesn't remove my very human need for it, though. It's hard to know that I have a need that will simply not ever get filled.

    E., yes, if I were in contact with them, it would not be a good time. At some point I realized that I NEVER felt good about myself after talking to my mother on the phone. No matter how interested I had been in her life or how excited I had been to share my own, I always ended up feeling tense, criticized, and misunderstood. Not speaking to her is wonderful! In that way, orphanhood is a very good thing.

  4. By "alone" I mean alone. No husband, no kids, no friends.

  5. Yes, I gathered. You are never completely alone, though, because you have many kindred spirits out there who understand!

  6. Very recently I told my wife that growing up, I was an emotional orphan. I had the biological mother and father (and even step parents) and a mass of people my mother knew and surrounded herself with, but there was no one around to nurture Little Me as I needed. I was a desloate emotional landscape, a desert as it were.

    So I know exactly what you're saying.

  7. Yes I miss the family, but no contact is so much better!!! 5 years on xxxx