For the majority, Mother’s and Father’s Day is a joyous time where families gather together to celebrate the parents. But, these holidays are not so joyful for all of us, in fact for some, they are torturous. In recent years I’ve seen more acknowledgement that these days are hard for some; but I have not seen conversations about how Mother’s and Father’s day really affects those who grew up with abuse in their home.
Growing up, abuse and addiction filled the room and eventually ended up taking my father. Now removed from that place, I really struggle around these two holidays. It is a constant reminder of what I endured, a reminder that I never was able to experience the “norm” of a family. Here in this space I have to constantly fight the questions and lies that I have worked to overcome. And once again, I am left feeling like this piece of garbage that no one wants. The two people who were supposed to love me the most are the ones who hurt me the deepest.
Then, there is the actual word association that those who grew up in abusive homes have to face around Mother’s and Father’s day. We are wired to picture our parents, or lack thereof, when we hear words such as mom, mother, dad, father, etc. Constantly hearing these terms as we prepare for these holidays naturally brings up memories of our parents.
For some, however, these “memories” are not good ones and may often turn into flashbacks. It is a constant replay of the abuse even if they are not always at the forefront of our minds. Which means at some level we are constantly reliving it. Grasping at straws, those who have experienced abuse often put themselves in someone else’s shoes, they adopt an alternate reality.
Putting yourself into another family works for a moment, but returning to reality is met with more loneliness.
Once again you are on the outskirts looking in.
So, we’ve talked about it (or as much as you can in 342 words), but what do we do with it? There is no magic spell to make the pain go away, but here are three pieces of advice I have for anything who resonates with the above:
Freaking acknowledge it:
much of the pain comes from shoving the feelings deeper and deeper. We do not want to “ruin” these special days for others, but that breeds isolation that only makes it harder. It is okay to express these feelings and speaking them out loud is the way to heal.
Two summers ago was the first time that a friend had reached out to me on Father’s day. acknowledge that she knew that this day was hard for me. And honestly, I lost it. Celebrating Mother’s and Father’s day is not a bad thing by any means. Those of us who struggle with it, generally do not want everyone to not celebrate it, but having someone acknowledge our pain speaks volumes.
And remember to give others grace despite their ignorant remarks or tendency to pull away, there is a good chance that they are really trying.
Give yourself and others grace:
I admit that sometimes I avoid the store, social media and even people around these days because of all the advertising or talking about their Mother’s or Father’s day plans. Often the natural reaction is shame and thoughts like “I’m being dramatic” or “I shouldn’t feel this way.” But you must give yourself grace, you are reliving your trauma. You are in survival mode. Your feelings are valid and it is okay to not be okay.
See this as a testament to what an amazing survivor you are:
I know, I know, this is so cliche and you may want to punch me. But these moments show that though the people that were supposed to care for you hurt you and tried to tear you down, you rose again. The pain shows that you did not give, you are alive. And that is strength and that will help carry you through.