Once while I was still mourning the loss of my family, my caregiver told me that I was fortunate that my dad was a criminal instead of my parents being divorced. Their point was, if my parents were divorced, I would still love my father so it would hurt more.
Before going further into this, first let me explain what I mean by “still mourning the loss of my family.” My dad had been taken to prison which was absolutely appropriate, and I am thankful for that. In fact, his sentence should have been much longer. For my safety, I was sent to stay with relatives hundreds of miles away from my mom. This was before the time of text messages and FaceTime, and our correspondence was very limited. While the adults in my life believed they were doing what was best for me, it was the absolute worst time for me to be separated from my mom. After years of trauma and forcing pain and emotions deep inside of me, so many things were surfacing within me – far too much for a young person to navigate alone. But I was alone.
“At least, you don’t love your father.”
Family was designed from the very beginning to be a father, a mother and children. The family was meant to be a place of love and safety. And with this design, all of us are born with an internal need for both parents. Everyone longs for a healthy relationship with both their dad and their mom. Anyone who says otherwise is stifling some deep pain from the loss of a parent relationship – they are in denial. I also longed for a healthy family; instead, I had a psychopath for a father. Worse, I had a father who did not love me because love does not do what he did to me.
In divorce, the loss of relationship is typically between the parents and does not destroy the possibility of relationship between a parent and the children. Of course, pride and anger can make this a lot harder, but there is still hope. And there is still pain, but love is not completely destroyed. It is true that I did not love my father. To this day, the thought of him fills me with fear and nausea. That does not mean that I do not acutely feel the loss of what our relationship was meant to be.
My fear of my father destroyed other family relationships as well. For my eighteenth birthday, I asked to visit my grandmother, my father’s mom. We spent a few hours with her and an aunt. That is the only contact I had with that entire side of my family since my father was taken to prison. When I graduated from high school, they were not invited. When I joined the military, I did not tell my grandmother. In fact, I was grateful to be stationed elsewhere and didn’t share with them where I was – harder to find me that way. When I married, I only sent my grandmother a picture and did not tell her my new name. When she died, I was unable to attend her service. I lost her, and I loved her deeply. I also lost aunts, uncles, cousins and even siblings.
To the one who made that comment so many years ago, you have no idea.
While it is important to understand our losses and the pain they have caused, it is more important to heal and move beyond the losses. It is healing for me to let out the pain and frustration that has been buried so deep within me for so long through writing. I hope that it encourages you to do the same. We can’t leave it buried within us. We must release it and take that next step.