“I have no childhood memories because my N-mom threw out my ‘garbage’.”


Recently I read that looking at photos of our childhoods can help us heal.   It can hurt to see how lost we looked or watch the real body language of yourself and other family members in reaction to you, but it can also shed light on the truth and prove to us that we really weren’t crazy.

I don’t have more than 8 photos of myself as a child and almost all of them are of me by myself.   A large pastel portrait of me at about age 6 my father proudly used to hang over the mantel has been lost for years (I suspect it was thrown away).  I remember sitting for it in Old Town, Chicago, wearing a yellow summer dress, and how proud I was to sit in front of that bohemian street artist.  It was one of my few happy childhood memories and was a special moment with my father.   I remember looking slightly sad in the portrait though, and remember my dad saying he rather liked the sad look in my eyes, even though I don’t recall being sad as I sat for that portrait and emotions that weren’t “positive” were always dismissed or scolded anyway.  I would really love to have that portrait now.  In fact, I long for it. I’ve even been trying to figure out how one would go about placing an ad asking if anyone had seen that painting (I don’t think that would be possible or that anyone would have seen it anyway).

No one seems to know where any of the old family albums that had me in them are, and I doubt they would want to hang onto them, so my guess is they were tossed at some point as trash (my mother always hated clutter).  I guess any memory of me is just clutter as well.  My emotions were not acceptable; I was not acceptable.  Why keep any reminders that I existed?

I have no family, no continuity to any kind of past or any roots.  I feel like an orphan and have felt that way for years.  Sure, some could say that I threw them away (moving far away from them, No Contact, etc.) but I was pushed away emotionally and every other way for years before I decided that any further contact with them, especially my mother, was just too triggering and painful.

Evidently I’m not alone.  There’s a whole thread on Reddit about just this.

Scapegoated adult children find themselves in this position a lot, without even any pictures or tangible objects to help them better remember their childhoods.  This is another way narcissistic parents hobble us — by not even allowing us to access photos and mementos that could bring us clarity into the role we served within our families and the reactions of other family members to us.   Tangible things that give us a sense of having come from somewhere, of having belonged to something, even if it wasn’t a very good something.  Tools to help us heal were denied to us, just like everything else.   It’s as bad as having your face ripped out of every picture your family ever had of you.   As if they were trying to erase you.


13 thoughts on ““I have no childhood memories because my N-mom threw out my ‘garbage’.”

  1. I just read all the reddit posts in that thread. Wow. I lost count of how many people said this happened to them, too. All their childhood possessions, and even pictures in many cases, thrown away.

    My mother threw away everything I owned after she threw me away at age 14. When I came “home” two years later, it was like I had been erased.

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      • Me, too… sad for them, but better for me. It does seem awful but so many people say they feel this way, so it must be normal. Feeling like the only one is horrible.

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  2. I have lost touch with most of my siblings, because after our parents died we just kind of drifted apart — turns out our parents were the only thing holding the family together. I have tried a couple of times to re-establish contact, because we’re not getting any younger (we are all in our sixties and seventies), so far without success. I’m going to try again, though, because one thing I’d really like to do while there is still time is to get copies of whatever family photographs they all have, and share copies of the ones I have with them. Very few childhood photographs exist of any of us, as most of our photographs were lost in a flood back in 1972; only pictures that were framed and hanging on walls escaped unscathed. I have three, and I know my siblings have others. It would be nice if each of us could have copies made of the pictures we have and share them with the others.

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  3. My mother actually came over one day prior to moving across the country and brought me every picture and baby book that was “mine.” A whole moving box full. Based on how many of your own mothers threw your pictures out, I see that I should feel like I received a gift but I actually felt like she was taking her garbage out and wanted to be sure I knew “I” was that garbage. My mother was also one who never threw anything away ever. She would bring her unwanted items to me and dump them whether I wanted them or not. As a result, I did a lot of her Goodwill donations or garbage runs. Both parents were N’s, with father being the MN for sure. I haven’t spoken to father in ten years and mother for 6 and have never looked back. Neither have made an effort to regain contact but the history of my family enters much worse territory than them simply being N’s. My mother brought the pictures to me so that I would “think” I remembered my childhood. If you look at a picture long enough, you think you remember. In my case, I do not. A good portion ot the pictures I have no recollection of even being that person, in that place, etc. So her bringing them here was not a kindness, it was another tactic to make me believe that “nothing bad happened.” Well, that is a lie. Both my parents need to be in jail but due to their positions in different areas of law enforcement, they cover their tracks well.

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    • Law enforcement is one of those fields where lots of narcs love to hide. I’m sorry that happened to you. I actually can understand why that would be even more painful than just never getting to see your pictures again, because something like that happened to me when I was livijng in my first apartment. My mother had (without asking me first — talk about boundary violations!) decided to come over and bring about 6 huge boxes of MY stuff. She came by taxi and I had to help her carry the stuff up. She said, very coldly, I’m clearning out my apartment and don’t have room for this garbage. Yes, she CALLED it garbage. In the boxes were all my old toys, books, schoolwork, Barbies, etc. No pictures though. I suppose she wanted to hold onto those a while longer. Who knows? I remember feeling very hurt, not that she didn’t want to keep my things, but the way she went about it, not asking me, and calling them garbage. I would up taking everything to Goodwill myself because I didn’t want that stuff either. Maybe today I would have liked to keep some of it, but back then I didn’t want to remember.


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