A Letter to Mum: A Poem by Niao Yu

Editor’s Note: Niao Yu is a caregiver to his mother who suffers from mental illness. In this poem, he shares his raw feelings of loss, grief, hope and acceptance. A heartfelt moving piece that’s worth the read to the very end. 

A Letter to Mum

Dear Mum,

What have you not done to me?

It is easy to remember “events” that had happened,
Your cryings in the nights
Your anger outbursts and lashings
Your abandonment
Your belief that you have saved many souls
Your belief that the TV news anchor was speaking to you
Your inability to rest and staying up all night
Your sleepless chantings throughout the night
Your teary sniffings

Oh no, you’re not well again, would you be thinking of taking your own life again?

Have you been taking your meds?

I can’t rest and sleep in peace.
I feel safer, for you and for me, if you are resting in a hospital.

A carer or a carrier?

Why do I feel like a kite with a broken string?

I feel like something is missing in my life, there is an emptiness I cannot put a name to, which means I cannot share with people even if I want to.

How does one remember something that didn’t happen?

I don’t know where you were when I was sad.
I can’t remember where you had been when I was angry.

It is close to impossible to remember happy moments with you.

But there are,
I felt loved and cared for when you nursed me when I was down with an illness.
Albeit filled with falls, bruises and blood. I felt happy and had fun when you teach me how to cycle.

You seem so apathetic
Your face is so flat and blank

Do you care? Do you care about me?

“Blank begets blank, absence begets absence. No mother, no self.” ~Jasmin Lee Cori

What have you not done to me?

I don’t know what my needs are
I don’t know what my feelings are
I don’t know what my identity is
I seem to be like an unmoored boat in the wide ocean, drifting aimlessly.

“You can’t heal what you can’t feel”

With life’s disappointments,
I realised that I have difficulty coping and needed medical attention.

With therapy,
I learnt to verbalise my feelings, get in touch with my emotions.
I learnt to express my anger and cry out for my losses.
I learnt to affirm my likes and my dislikes.

With introspection and meditation,
I notice how my feelings and mood shift with each change in thought or environment.
I become aware of my stressors.
I accept rather than ignore my feelings.

With reading,
I come to realise that the message from you is that “I don’t matter”.
I finally find a name to the unnamed; it is “emotional neglect”.
I find that I am not alone.

“When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near truth.” ~Rumi

With that epiphany,
I settle into a deep calm.
I feel peaceful.
The mystery is solved.
I have found the answer.
There isn’t anything wrong with me.


From here on,
I realise I am independent from you.
I am a person separated from you
Your relapses no longer affect me as much as they did.
I enjoy being myself, in touch with my feelings and senses,
I feel whole and in harmony with Nature.

You could be an unloved child
You can’t give what you don’t have
You can’t be what you are not.

You are as you are, apathetic or not.

I would like to see you smile, joke and laugh
I would like you to be happy.

I want to be present with you.
I want to enjoy wholeheartedly the happy, laughing moments with you.

I have no expectation of you to be better than you are now.

People may not understand,
Why you have a blank face
Why you are lying in bed so much

You may not be intelligent but you are kind at heart
and I’m glad that i have inherited that goodness from you 🙂

I am from you.
You are my Mum and will always be.

Niao Yu


Niao Yu is a regular guy trying to find his footing on this little Red Dot. Throughout life’s bumps and roadblocks, he has experienced shelter, refreshment and nourishment from kind souls, alive and ancient. In taking stock of life, he sees that roadblocks are there to help him appreciate what life is and isn’t.

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