Domestic abuse survivors don’t sit at home mulling over stats and which gender is worse than the other for violent behaviour. We sit at home thanking our lucky stars that we have come out alive and been able to nurture ourselves and our children back to something resembling a normal life even though he keeps trying to tear that life apart.
It started over thirty five years ago, beginning with small episodes of control which I didn’t recognise as abuse, they confused me more than anything, they were small things, punching holes in walls, he’s just angry, he will get over it.
My children’s father left our lives for a number of years. He returned six years ago and took a particular interest in one of the boys who was in the early years of teenagehood. Several months later, he took him out for a day and never returned him home.
I rarely see my son although he lives only 25km away in the same city. I have glimpsed him from afar but I have stayed away, too aware of the consequences and because we are all reasonably safe now. It is so hard to have to choose between seeing him and keeping us all safe. I have seen him in places that are considered “safe” for some birthdays, a christmas day recently. Safe is anywhere that is either public or well away from the knowledge or realm of control that my former husband has in our social circle
This letter to my son has sat in my computer for a while now but I still feel the same as I did six years ago when he left.
To my missing child
It is so hard to think of how things have turned out for us. I often avoid the thoughts, the ruminations, the what if’s because they all make me feel deficient and powerless as a mother but what else was I to do? Not even my strongest mother lioness act could have stopped this from happening. What a failure I sometimes feel myself to be.
I know you find it awkward to come see me now and you keep yourself at a distance from us. Once there was a time when you would not dream of leaving my side, when you chose me, without question, as the person you would always want beside you but that’s gone now. Just like you. Gone.
I still miss you so much. I feel the familiar physical ache in my chest and my stomach. A tightening of the chains that once bound our hearts together. Now they bind an empty, gnawing space where you used to be, crushing my heart. The chains tighten more as you slip further and further away from me. All the time, inexorably further and further away, especially as you grow older, something I will not have the chance to be part of now. And I really wanted to be part of that. It is the price I pay for you and us to have peace in our lives.
It isn’t fair. If I let myself think too long and too deeply about you leaving me, I am sure my heart will vanish completely, blown into smithereens by those f*cking chains that get tighter and tighter as though they have a life of their own. No matter how I try, I cannot control this pain. I have, amazingly, learnt to live with it every single day. Now and then, like today, I can’t imagine how I have lived with it. Today, it is like an indigestible chunk of gluey bread that sticks in my throat, refusing to be swallowed down and away and forgotten about.
We both know, although we do not say it, that you also feel deficient and as though you have failed me. You feel a deep and scorching shame that you chose peace in your life by choosing to go and live with your father so that he would leave you and the rest of your family alone. We both know that neither of us know how to cross that chasm of deficiency, of loss, of unfairness, of the harsh reality of the violence and mayhem that he created in our lives. We just can’t talk of it now. We just can’t. It would kill me more than it would you and you are acutely aware of this.
Our only hope lies in waiting. Waiting for the day when he has no power to charge recklessly around our lives wielding his destruction on our family. Waiting until the children are all old enough to be able to be free of his manipulations, his constant control and the violence, his endless bitterness and need to seek retribution. You have kept him happy. You have kept him at bay.
I hope that we can wait this out and spend more time with you. I live for that day. I still live for you, my son. I always will.