Grieving & Celebrating Father’s Day

Jun 17th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Diablog--Multi-Person Blog

by Bethany, Christina Enevoldsen, Linda Pittman and Jennifer Stuck

Bethany: Father’s Day feels so empty to me–like one of those holidays like Flag Day or Secretary’s Day. Why should I pay attention to those? I don’t have a flag, a secretary or a father. My dad is in prison for sexually abusing me for most of my childhood.

Father’s Day for me has always been about going through the motions. I followed along even though I knew it wasn’t fair. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated a Father’s Day with my dad. After I moved to California, I made the obligatory phone call to him for the minimum fifteen minutes. But it was work to me. None of it came from my heart.

Why should I honor a man who doesn’t deserve honor? He contributed a seed, but after that everything he for me was destructive.

I remember writing Father’s Day cards that really gushed about what a great dad I had, but it was always what I thought I “should” have felt about him. I felt guilty for not being more sincere.  I thought something was wrong with me for not feeling closer or more loving.  I tried to work myself up to appreciation and admiration but writing those cards always felt hollow, as though I was trying to put something there that never was. 

Christina: I remember writing Father’s Day cards that really gushed about what a great dad I had, but it was always what I thought I “should” have felt about him. I felt guilty for not being more sincere. I thought something was wrong with me for not feeling closer or more loving. I tried to work myself up to appreciation and admiration but writing those cards always felt hollow, as though I was trying to put something there that never was.

Linda: My father has been dead since 1992. It has been thirty-three years since I last saw him. The last time I saw him he didn’t act as if he had missed me in my fifteen year absence. In fact, it was like I never existed. I never had a problem with Father’s Day because I don’t and haven’t ever missed my father. I may have missed the idea of a father who is loving and caring but I can’t wrap my head around that concept, much. My father sexually abused me from the ages of three to twelve years and maybe even earlier because my memories are pretty fractured.

When people talk about their fathers wistfully, I remember the fear, the hiding and avoiding the dread and pain and shame and revulsion. When others say they miss their dads, I can’t relate to that idea, in fact I never missed mine when I left my home at twelve….just wondered if he ever even thought about me.

Jennifer: Linda, I used to always find ways to judge and criticize people who were close with their fathers. As if it was easier for me to convince myself that having a good father in my life wasn’t even something I wanted. The truth is I have no idea what it would be like to have a healthy father figure and the image of a father brings to mind a crazy drug fiend, so of course I wouldn’t want one of those around. If my father had been different, or if I could even imagine what it would be like to have a healthy father I might feel differently. Although, I have had a few good men in my life and am very appreciative of them.

Linda: I saw some really sweet things written about dads the other day and it really affected me. I have been okay for years with not having a dad who loved me and I accepted that mine was an abuser. I got to thinking how nice it would be to feel what this describes …just once:

“Being loved by a daddy is like having the sun kiss your nose while you’re eating sweet strawberries, running through sprinklers. You don’t need it, but it can change your world.” Bonnie Gray

Bethany: When my mom married Don six years ago, I got a new dad – or a step-dad rather. Don and I worked together in the same church office and when news spread that he was marrying my mom, a coworker thought it would be funny to put together a list of “dad” related names I could call Don. It was meant as a joke, but the idea of calling Don my dad was uncomfortable to me. “Dad” was a dirty word in my book.

Don isn’t like the original dad. He is kind, respectful and truly cares about me. I feel safe with him. There isn’t the same threat of betrayal that had with my first father.

When I broke off my relationship with my dad, Don was there for me, fully supportive of my emotional health. Even though he took on the role of a traditional father, I didn’t like calling him dad. I didn’t want to call him something gross or disrespectful or invite him into the role of abuser, so I skirted my way around the term.

Christina: I can relate to that. I don’t want another father figure in my life. That feels threatening. It really hurts that my dad’s lifestyle so colored my view of that role that I don’t even think of it as a good thing to have. Yes, I honor men who are good fathers and I believe that they exist, but as far as it relates to me, it’s a concept like a fairytale or some scientific formula that I can’t comprehend. Either way, it doesn’t make sense.

Even before getting my memories back, I thought the people who idolized their dads were so foreign—like from another planet.

Linda: Yeah Christina, I had trouble identifying with the ones who idolized their dads too. My neighbor (playmate) lost her dad when she was really young to a brain aneurism and I could not understand why she was so upset that she couldn’t even talk about it. I couldn’t fathom what a good relationship with a dad was.

Jennifer: Christina, that’s exactly how I felt. I either couldn’t relate to them, or wondered what they were hiding.

Christina: I wondered what they were hiding too or when they were going to remember what REALLY happened. While they were in disbelief over the things my father did to me, I was in disbelief that their father was so great.

Bethany: I grew up with friends who had great relationships with their fathers. They still talk about their fathers like they are their heroes and dream of marrying a man just like him. They run up to their fathers and give him great big bear hugs that seemed to last forever. And I think to myself, “Woah! Where are your boundaries?” The physical affection and admiration bothers me.

I don’t have too much of a problem hugging men, but I do have a problem hugging someone who is in a father role. For me I saw the physical affection between fathers and daughters as an all or nothing thing. Either he didn’t touch you at all or he hugged, molested, and raped. It was hard to comprehend a father who would just hug his daughter because he loved her.

Christina: I feel that same discomfort when I see father/daughter affection. It’s not only that I suspect there’s more to it, but just seeing genuine love from a father feels uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if it’s with their son or daughter.

I know great men who are excellent fathers. My husband is one of them. So I know they exist and I applaud them. I can’t think of anything in life more important than being a good parent to the children you have.

I’ve been cleaning some things out lately and found a silver chafing dish that my parents passed on to me at least ten years ago. It was a gift commemorating a party to honor my dad. The lid is engraved with his name, the date and “In Appreciation.” I was too young to attend and I don’t know the occasion, but I’ve always imagined a large party at a country club where lots of “important” people gathered to pat my father on the back.

The thought of people gathering to celebrate my dad used to bother me. I resented him being treated as though he was a good person. I hated that the person who used to sneak into my room at night was so well-loved and admired. I wished that I could scream the truth about him or show a home-movie about the secret things he used to do to me.

I don’t feel anything right now. I’ve already accepted that he will be honored and supported by some and they will never believe that he sexually abused me during my childhood or if they believe it, they excuse it as something that happened too long ago to consider it important. They can feel and think about him the way they choose and I will do the same. I don’t have to honor him anymore or have a relationship with him.

I’m content working through my process. I don’t know what other feelings may come up toward him or because of him, but I’m done with him.

I still am someone’s daughter, I exist, and no amount of denial will make me disappear. I am here until the last breath and here enjoying life in spite of the missing parts. I am enjoying watching the good fathers in my family and grateful that their children never have to experience what I went through. They get to enjoy hugs and play with their dads and experience their dad’s protection. It is okay to watch from the sidelines and I am content to do so now.

Linda: My dad gave me life and then he systematically took it away until I was left with no identity. I struggled through the years like a plane on autopilot with no one at the controls until the fuel ran out. I had to rebuild myself from my childhood onward through my 20’s and 30’s. The childhood I had to face was gruesome and cruel. The shattered remains of a little child were scattered everywhere showing up throughout my life and relationships.

I am still that little girl inside, the one who believed in fairytales and princes and make believe. The little girl that wanted to be a ballerina, and loved music. Sometimes that was all I had to hang on to because my reality was too horrific to look at.

I’ve had to look at that reality many times over the course of many years on my healing journey. If I told you I don’t feel cheated, I would be lying. But I’ve accepted the reality of what my childhood was like and my dysfunctional parents and family.
I have survived and grown without what many people will celebrate this Father’s Day.

I still am someone’s daughter, I exist, and no amount of denial will make me disappear. I am here until the last breath and here enjoying life in spite of the missing parts. I am enjoying watching the good fathers in my family and grateful that their children never have to experience what I went through. They get to enjoy hugs and play with their dads and experience their dad’s protection. It is okay to watch from the sidelines and I am content to do so now.

Related Posts:
My Parents are Dead (To Me)
Unfriending My Abuser
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 1
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 2
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 3
The Myth of Unconditional Love

Bethany is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print.

  

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

 

 


Having experienced healing from sexual, physical and verbal abuse, Linda Pittman has found joy in encouraging others in their healing journey and tells people that it’s never too late to start. She’s been married to her husband for twenty-one years and has four adult children.

  

Jennifer Stuck is whole heartedly pursuing physical and emotional health and is determined to heal the wounds of her childhood sexual abuse. She loves to write, especially poetry. She has an open, accepting personality, and is always ready to crack a joke. She is currently studying for a career in Physical Therapy. When she isn’t in school Jennifer is at home spending time with her two beautiful daughters.

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