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My Mother is A Ghost


I wanted to do something different today and share some writing based around fantasy. The great Betty Jean Lifton coined the term ‘ghost kingdom’ to describe the complex ghosts that reside in adoption. They exist for natural families, adoptees and adopted parents.

Here is a brief picture of the ghost kingdom:

A birth mother lives with the ghost of the mother she could have been to her relinquished child. She also lives with her child’s ghost which often may not age. When or if reunion occurs years later, the disparity between the baby she knew and the adult standing in front of her can be hard to reconcile.

In closed adoption, an adoptee lives with the ghost of the mother she never knew. Her mother resides in her but is hidden and unknown. She could see her mother every single day but never know. To cope with their loss and pain, adoptees often fantasize. Mother can be whoever they want her to be flowing with unconditional love and promise. When an adoptee reunites as an adult, the ghost mother and the natural mother must be reconciled. In some cases, though, the dissociation is too great, and the split cannot be bridged.

Adopted parents also come with their own ghosts. Who would they be as parents to their own biological children? What would their own children be like? Most fantasied about their prospective children, so these children now live within them like the spirits of unfilled dreams. Some adopted parents also had an ideal adoptive child. If these ghosts can’t be worked through, adoptive parents will not raise their adopted children from a place of acceptance and belonging but from a place of hurt and denial.

My Ghost.

I am the Cypress tree in Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ but not the flame depicted between heaven and earth. Instead, I mourn with the trees in a landscape of black and white with no ritual grave.

I am Botticelli’s Venus, but I never walked out of the waves. Zephyrus’ breath didn’t unite me in love. There was no homecoming. Instead I scored the depths of the water hoping to find a reflection in a passing sun.

I am Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ but I have only had one pose, not sixteen. If you look at me from certain angles, my lines disappear. There are gaps in my silhouette. My body can’t hold me, my shape can’t sustain me. If you found me in a notebook, I would be a smudge.

I am Warhol’s Campbell’s soup. Without the label.
I am Mona Lisa without her smile.
I am ‘The Woman Reading’ without the book.

You cannot change the composition of a painting and expect things to remain the same.
I can never forget but neither can I consciously remember.
There were mysteries in my past.
Is my mother a film star?
Is she a poet?
Does she think about me?
Will she hold me?
I didn’t have the answers.
So, mother is a ghost now.

She resides in the spaces she should have filled.
You can’t break the composition of a life and not expect ghosts.
I’ve had too long to live without her and now my phantom mother holds my hand and says goodnight.
My ghost, she lives in my mind.
Resides in the split.
Holds me with whisper.
Soothes me with fantasy.
Loves me not so imperfectly.
Softens the blow.

We travel together.
Ma Donna and me.
Hail Thee.
I am home.
At your bosom.
Soaring above
in our hearts vibration,
that we both remember.
We are beyond this world.
We share something….

It’s beyond language, logic and rational comprehension; beyond prosaic conscious understanding; an innate connection, primal and transcendent, more akin to a cellular imprint carried within us, there but hidden and unknown.

I’ve returned to Gaia. Grass grows over my wounds. Soaks up my sorrow.
I lay flowers at her feet.
Mother I’m in balance now.
I can see the eternal feminine and not weep.

Adoption creates a missing person but you both left the scene.
My mother left and took me with her.
We exist together.
As ghosts.
But in a pre-birth state.
Am I still unborn?

I found her, my mother.
But she’s still a ghost.
This mortal woman isn’t her.
Stories have grown over the space left behind.
Fantasy has held my heart and claimed my days.
I can’t bridge the split.
I’ve had too long to live without her and now my phantom mother holds my hand and says goodnight.
You can’t break the composition of a life and not expect ghosts.
They live in our minds, they reside in the split.
They hold us in whispers, soothe us in fantasy.
Love us not so imperfectly. Soften the blow.
My mother.
My ghost.

My Mother is A Ghost


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APA Reference
, . (2018). My Mother is A Ghost. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adoption/2017/09/my-mother-is-a-ghost/


Last updated: 19 Feb 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Feb 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.