The Pain of Forgiveness

As a parent, what wouldn’t you do for the well-being of your kids? Most of you would do just about anything if it meant that your child grows up safe, happy and has a chance to be a little better than you. It’s what we’re meant to do as parents.

The biggest thing that I have done to ensure my son’s safety was to abruptly remove my parents from my life. Could you do that?

The world tells you to respect and obey your parents at all costs

Over the past ten years, I’ve wrestled with thoughts of guilt, shame, anger, sadness and loneliness. In a world preaching forgiveness, I’ve felt that I’ve denied it. When deep down, I have forgiven my mom and dad. But the world doesn’t see it that way. You’re supposed to have a relationship with your parents, and I have chosen not to.

In case you are not familiar, I was sexually abused by my father when I was ten years old. Put away those thoughts of a mean, aggressive and distant father. He was quite the opposite. My father cared for me, took pride over me and was my world before and after the abuse took place. My mother always looked after me, ensuring that I had a calm voice to listen to. For most of my life, I loved my parents.

So why not forgive, forget and rebuild a relationship?

Well, I’ve been struggling with that question for a decade.

Who is my father?

For lack of a different term and one that I like to use for people that I do not relate to, my father a “different bird.” He has a dominant narcissistic personality. While it can be charming to many around him, it is inescapable for those under him. Whether or not it is because of who I am, the after-effects of sexual abuse, or just growing up with such an all-consuming personality, I could never say “no” to my father. Whenever I did go against his wishes, I’d felt physically ill.

How could I ever effectively parent with that kind of influence?

Call me a coward, but the only way I knew to get out of his spell was to bring the most painful thing he has ever done to me to light. In a world where you are supposed to honour, respect and obey your parents, I was going against the grain of society. With sexual abuse, I knew I would get people’s attention -and their help. And I did.

Don’t get me wrong here. From day 1, my primary purpose of breaking free from my father was to protect my son from any potential abuse. I could have never forgiven myself if he came to me later in life and told me that his grandfather had sexually abused him. However, as the years moved on since I protected my son from that scenario, I realized that I needed to be able to parent in peace and free from overwhelming unresolved pain.

I knew I couldn’t be a father with my father’s influence over me.

Dirty secrets everywhere within my family

There is a significant cycle of sexual abuse that has run rampant in my father’s family. I’ve heard stories from cousins in that family at just how sick that family home was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. I can only imagine how many other dirty secrets are floating around.

As I keep hearing of these painful stories coming to light, I am comforted knowing that my son is not growing up anywhere near that vicious cycle.

My father tried his best, but failed

Deep down, I feel as though my father had tried his best to get away from his demons. At a young age, he moved away from the town he grew up in and never looked back. While repeatedly, he expressed his love of his family back home, I never understood why we never discussed moving there. Aside from my mother’s family, whom my father strongly disliked, nothing was keeping us in the town that I grew up in.

My father had to have been sexually abused early in his life; the signs are all there. While never proven, he had shared with me that a cousin sexually abused him. But I have my suspicions that the sexual abuse was much closer to home by someone much more special.

I have forgiven my parents

To forgive means to understand, and I understand my father. I forgave him many years ago. He is dealing with trauma from his past, but the way he chose to heal is entirely out of alignment with how I deal with the trauma he gave to me. Easing pain by passing it on is a cycle, a despicable cycle that ends with me. Regardless of where I got it from, I own my pain, only I am responsible for it. My son’s inheritance (albeit small) will NOT be my pain.

Maybe someday I will speak to my parents and form a relationship. Maybe not. Time may run out before I get to do that, but I’m honestly OK with that. I have forgiven them, I appreciate them for giving me life, and I am grateful that they must have raised me the right way -even though it may seem to the outside world they didn’t.

One thing is certain, rebuilding a relationship with my parents will never be attempted during these formative parenting years with my son. I am only strong enough to process the weight of my own pain without the overbearing weight of my parent’s. For if there is too much pain, it will spill over, and the cycle will continue.

I would rather die than let that happen. The cycle of pain ends with me.

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