The child does not question, the child believes in the supremacy and the certainty of the parent, the child trusts. The child does what she is told. ~ Lori Schafer in On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened (Kindle Loc. 456)
It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.
Then came my mother’s psychosis.
I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.
My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.
But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.
She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.
(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)
Publisher: Lori Schafer
Published: November 7, 2014
Kindle Edition: 85 pages
Lori Schafer is an expressive and passionate writer. Considering the subject of her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, the reader would expect expression and passion. Yet, the essence of Lori’s writing is not based in the subject. Lori is a gifted writer. It does not matter what she is writing; her gift is in the craft and she is expressive and passionate about everything she writes.
On Hearing of My Mother’s Death … is a herculean and intense read for such a short book. A mother who is a professional marrier encumbered with mental illness, something a child doesn’t grasp, leads a life burdensome and frightening for her children. An older sister has left home, and Lori is left to fend for herself. By age 17, she is living on the streets.
Lori addresses the structure of her storytelling in a foreword. But it is the only structure I believe would have worked with Lori’s story. Told in flashbacks and present day, alternating as memories fluctuate, Lori organizes her story in the way a child would remember. Often Gloria, whom I believe is Lori’s inner child, tells much of the story making the structure reasonable.
The reader joins Lori as she watches her mother sink into the depths of mental illness, a specific diagnosis never given. It could have been any one of a number of mental illnesses, but the never-changing impact on the lives of her children were neglect and cruelty resulting in fear, side effects of the ravages of their mother’s untreated mental illness.
To hear the level of fear and the horrid conditions in which she lived is to join Lori on a most difficult journey. Years after leaving home Lori receives a letter from her mother:
That fear, it never quite went away. And when my mother wrote to me the second time, a decade and a half later [circa 2006], I was almost more afraid than I had been the first time. I’d just begun dating a man who had two young children. I had nightmare visions of her appearing on his doorstep with a butcher knife or worse. I sent out warnings to everyone I knew. Judy Green-Hair is back. Watch your step. Because you never know; you just can’t ever predict what someone with an untreated psychotic illness might decide to do. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 865)
This is only one example of Lori’s continuing fear surrounding her mother and her untreated illness. It is hard to imagine living this way for so long. And yet, Lori survived.
I cannot leave you without sharing one last quote from Lori’s book:
… And while our individual experiences vary, the emotions are the same. We all hurt. We all have fear. We all have pain.
But we all, too, have strength. We have power. Even the weakest and meekest show us glow and shine with the light of hope, the light of life. We try, we fight, we strive. We endure. We survive. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 1559)
If you are writing memoir or want to write memoir, I urge you to read this one. Lori’s writing style, character development, and scene building is exceptional. Her passion and expression when telling her story is real. These are the tools of your craft if you write memoir. Or if you simply enjoy reading the life stories of others, Lori’s memoir is for you too. To read of Lori’s life and know that she survived it is inspirational and encouraging.
Meet Lori Schafer:
I’m a very eclectic writer, by which I mean I’m all over the place. My first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Agedand Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged are humorous and genre-bending amalgamations of women’s fiction, romance, and erotica. But I also write memoir when the mood strikes; this is how On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, a book commemorating my adolescent experience of my mother’s mental illness, was born.
In addition, I’ve had a ton of short work published in a wide variety of print and online venues – more than thirty pieces in the last year and a half – so if you enjoy flash fiction, short stories, and essays, please check out my publications page, where you’ll find links and a complete list of my credits. I have also published selected works as FREE ebooks on Amazon, ITunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, Smashwords, and Lulu, so feel free to download whatever strikes your fancy.
(Image via Goodreads)
Where to Find Lori’s Book:
Currently, Lori’s book is featured in a Goodreads giveaway. You can enter the giveaway right here.
Note the list of distributors in Lori’s bio above.
You can also buy Lori’s book via:
(These links are affiliate links. Please read “Affiliate Links” under the “Disclosures” tab above.)
Today it is my pleasure to introduce my guest, Susannah Birch. Thank you, Susannah, for sharing with my followers.
In Susannah’s own words,
I’m passionate about women’s rights in childbirth, support for families of those who are mentally ill and domestic abuse prevention, particularly against men and children. I’m a freelance journalist, online marketer, blogger and content creator.
I am also a qualified birth doula. I’m an activist and survivor of childhood trauma & I’m currently preparing to publish my memoirs. I run a local writing group and manage the website and social media for the Toowoomba Writers’ Festival.
I’m going to change the world – watch me.
Join me in welcoming Susannah Birch to the blog.
It took me 25 years to forgive my mother for trying to kill me. It took me 11 of those years to realise that I had something I needed to forgive her for.
When I was two years old, my mother experienced her first bipolar psychotic episode and believed that she had been told by God to sacrifice me just as Abraham had been called to sacrifice his only son in the Bible. Unlike Abraham, nothing told my mother to stop and I sustained such serious injuries that my life hung in the balance. It was only because she came out of her psychosis enough to realise something was wrong, and ring the police, that local emergency services were able to get to me in time. [Trigger Warning]You can listen to the full story here.
My mother spent a year in a psychiatric hospital and then came home to live with my father and I. My father was assured that my mother was fine and although we lived with my paternal grandparents, I felt that my life was normal and that my mother was too. I could remember the event; I just assumed that because other adults accepted my mother’s current mental health, it was a onetime event outside anyone’s control, even my mother’s.
It wasn’t till my mother experienced a breakdown when I was 13, taking me to the other side of the country and changing her entire fashion style, beliefs and social habits that I started to realise something wasn’t right. My teenage years were confused attempts to find the mother I’d never had and at the same time push her out of my life for what she’d done to me.
I rushed into a relationship, marriage at 20 and then just a few years later, I had my first child. Instead of making me understand my own mother, it confused me even more. I didn’t understand how my mother could have done what she did, but I experienced graphic images in my head, imagining what would happen if some part of her was somehow in me. It wasn’t till years later that I’d realise this was just a facet of OCD and other issues that became more obvious after entering motherhood.
My relationship with my mother followed a pattern. I’d try and make contact in an attempt to find the mother I so very much wanted in my life. It’d always end in tears. Over the years I had a screaming match with her in the middle of a downtown area, hacked her Facebook account and messaged all her friends, refused to talk to her and yelled and swore at her.
I kept hearing how forgiveness would make me feel better, lift a burden off my shoulders, allow me to let go. All I felt when I thought of forgiving my mother, though, was that I’d be condoning her behaviour and admitting my own weakness.
In 2013 I read a book called Mummy is a Killer by Nikkia Roberson. It told the story of how Nikkia’s two siblings were killed by her mother. I finished the book in two days but the part that amazed me the most was that Nikkia had forgiven her mother. The first tiny piece of me started to question how I could take the same journey.
The day I forgave my mother came and passed without me even realising it. The first few tendrils of forgiveness didn’t feel like anything more than compassion, like walking in someone else’s shoes. My thoughts subtly changed from being about what she’d done to me to how she must feel, having done what she did. My anger started to change into something else. I thought of all the issues my mother had had over the years as she buried that traumatic day, tried to rewrite history and slid deeper into her illness in an attempt to erase her awful memories of what her own hands had done.
There is no simple journey to forgiveness. No one can tell you how to feel or how to forgive. It’s just something that happens, either as a culmination of learning and thinking or from slowly looking at the events that require your forgiveness.
I never believed that forgiveness was more about me than her, until I felt it. It’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t condone my mother’s actions and I still don’t have contact with her, but I’m at peace with what happened. And for the things I did to her on my journey to forgiveness, I feel that she needs to forgive me too. While what she did to me was outside her control, what I did to her wasn’t outside mine. Maybe, at some step on my future journey, we’ll both be able to find the answers and the forgiveness we’re both looking for, even if it’s not together.