One of the most difficult aspects of facing the full impact of child abuse is the conflicting feelings that go along with it. The parent-child connection is hard wired into us, so when the people who literally gave us life become the ones we have to protect ourselves from, it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting work. I think this is why people remain in denial about child abuse. Every cell in our bodies want a positive emotional bond with our biological parents, so it becomes extremely difficult to admit the betrayal. Sometimes it’s just too much to think that yes, actually, they did mean to hurt you.
Most challenging of all is that I still love my parents. It doesn’t make what they did excusable or right. Not only is it deeply painful to admit what they did, but also that they were incapable of loving me back. It’s a hard line to tow, to choose to love them and release them at the same time.
I am continuing to work with the ways I shielded myself from the betrayal of my abusive parents. I have been conditioned since birth to protect them instead of myself. In the process of detangling that pattern of behavior, I feel guilty for not living up to their unrealistic expectations, shame for outing them, anger at myself for my faulty thinking I should protect them, anger at them for what they did, sadness for the way it is, sadness over what was lost and what will never be, and then finally admitting that this whole thing is really jacked up. Sometimes I feel impossibly broken and hopeless, sometimes I feel tiny bits of power returning to me as I reclaim my true feelings.
The five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance are often happening all at once. Conversely, I might be hung up on one stage for a while when another one blindsides me. I am allowing myself to feel my feelings. It feels rebellious to do so. The thoughts that I am “too sensitive” and “a whiner” and “no one will like me if I don’t act positive” always come, and I always have to send them away. They are not my thoughts.
I had to come to terms with the fact that honoring my parents didn’t mean abiding by their wishes, it meant putting up boundaries so they could no longer abuse me. The best way I can honor them is to not make the same choices they did. Disclosing their abuse is one way to keep their lies in the past, instead of allowing them to perpetuate in the present.