Many people in this world have been abused. Too many. Often by individuals they can never wholly sever ties from, no matter how much they might like to. Many of us have been abused by family members that are attached to other family members we actually like, and who are important to us. Some of us have never found the strength to confront our abusers, and have found it easier to pretend that it never happened. Even when that person starts dying. Don’t judge us.
In my case, my dad had an explosive anger that he took out on his children. He was verbally abusive, using both insults to shame us and screaming combined with violent gestures and a terrifying stature to cow us.
Because he never physically hit us, I didn’t recognise it as “real” abuse until I entered therapy at 16 for a mysterious anxiety problem (ha). By the time I was anywhere near ready to even think about confronting him, I had moved out, was living on my own, and only seeing my parents at holidays and family events.
LISTEN: Robin Bailey and Bec Sparrow speak to a woman who severed all contact with her toxic father. Post continues after.
It was hard to think about disrupting the family. I was afraid of not being able to come to family gatherings, one of the few places I get to see my busy siblings and their amazing children — nieces and nephews I adore and admire. At the same time, in his old age, my dad has calmed down considerably. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen more than a hint of the volcano of a man he used to be. This doesn’t erase the damage he did, or make up for the fact he never apologized, but it does mean he’s easier to be around. For a few years, our relationship became bearable, albeit built on lies and denial. I paid a lot of money to therapists to work through my anger, my grief, and my disgust at both him and myself. I decided that I didn’t need a confrontation. I was okay.