So, it's Fathers' Day. And our hearts are so heavy knowing just how many of you are hurting today. ....who are conflicted, unsure, angry, scared, grieving, lost, or yearning today. For many of you, it's even a combination of all the above. Fathers' Day doesn't quite seem to have the same regality to it that Mothers' Day does - and, even societally, you're more likely to see posts of people acknowledging that they had absent or hurtful fathers. But, just because people are slightly more aware that not everyone has a wonderful dad, that doesn't mean this day is any less difficult for many of you. In fact, we almost feel like the fact Fathers' Day has been knocked down just a peg from the pedestal family members can be placed on, it actually allows for more of us to really feel our feelings. ...almost as if there is greater permission to acknowledge the pain once the expectation of warmth and gushing affections is lifted. Of course, that means we're more likely to be hurting today. So, all of us here at Beauty After Bruises just want you to be able to take a time out from your Sunday, sit with us, and know you're in the company of people who really really get it.
Before we get too terribly far, we want to make sure we acknowledge that dads in general can get a bad rap. They can be easily villainized and made out to be the bad guy in all kinds of situations, unfairly. For many of you, your dad may have even been your rock, your everything -- the only reason you're still with us today. We are so glad that fathers like this exist and always want to lift them up in the highest regard. With that though, just like we mentioned with mothers, we know that some of you have lost this special parent - your person. And, today is a day of heart-wrenching grief for you - a new trauma for your already broken heart. We want to help hold that for you however we can and empathize with your brokenness. Grief and loss are emotions that so many more of you may actually be feeling - possibly even all of you, really - and for reasons that may not include death. For so many survivors, your fathers have left, or were never there from the start. Others have lost their dads to addiction, mental or medical health issues, or other challenging behavior that - though he is still here - he is no longer himself anymore. He is not the father you knew, and certainly not the father you want or need right now. There's an inevitable, sometimes inescapable feeling of loss that comes with that. And, it's okay and completely normal to grieve a dad who was right there with you, but was just not a healthy man for any reason. And, if you never got to feel like you had a father - just someone to share a house with - of course you're bound to feel as if a big part of you is missing, too. We all want to acknowledge that hurt. Many are right there with you. For every shade and color of loss and grief, whether there are tears to be had or you're all cried out, you're not alone.
"Fathers' Day.... Man. My heart hurts most for little me - the one who had to celebrate, hand-make cards for, and love the violent, red-faced, short-tempered man who tore our family apart. It confused and hurt her to no end."
-- Morgan, 27
This week has definitely seen no shortage of the anticipated emotional commercials, quirky "dad bod" advertisements, entire series on popular YouTube channels centered to fatherhood, annnd the lengthy Facebook and Instagram posts from friends and loved ones reminiscing and telling loving tales of their amazing, hard-working, selfless fathers. Yet, here today, so many of you are alone, quietly hurting. The reality for Complex PTSD and DID survivors is that it's really common for 'a dad' of some kind to have been involved in the trauma somewhere (in big ways or small). Whether that was their own fathers; a grandfather or uncle; a teacher, coach or pastor; even a cousin or neighbor all grown up and now has their own kids -- knowing there's a day for them to be celebrated (specifically for caring for children) can bring with it so many unique and difficult struggles. It's hard to see fathers universally being revered, when a father you knew wasn't the least bit good to their own or someone else's children. And, for those who had only discovered in adulthood what happened to them as children, there can be such a visceral reaction and endless layers of emotion if ever face-to-face with photos of them now, holding or hugging their own children. ....what do you do?? Many feel fear, others just relive trauma, and so many more want to "do something" or "save them" or "protect them" but are frozen. Others sit with heavy, heavy guilt that they didn't say something then. For any of you in this position, we want you to know that we deeply empathize with allllll the anguish and inner-conflict that goes into it -- both from years past and any current relationships plaguing you in the present. You are not alone in this. You did what you could with what you had and what you believed to be safe at the time. You are STILL doing what is right for you, safest for you, healthiest for you, and what will ensure your wellbeing. You are doing what you need to be doing for you right now. We are here with you in all of those feelings.
"Every Fathers' Day I'm confronted with the reminder that he left us. He left me and my siblings with that horrible, abusive woman. He saved himself, but didn't think twice about us."
There are so many stories, so many walks of life and paths you could be on. Many of you have become fathers yourselves. For some, this is a triumphant accomplishment to be so proud of yourself for! Despite all the self-doubt or questioning, through it all, you found yourself in a family, or at least raising a child of your own. This can be so hard and scary to do, particularly when all of your examples were poor or even non-existent. For those of you worrying or wondering today if you're a good enough father to even be celebrated - or scared you won't be once you do become a dad - we want to be that vote of confidence that says... The very fact you're concerned about this, means you're leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. We are all just trying to do the best we can with the tools we have, learn more every day, and try to leave the least amount of harm behind us. And, if that's what you're doing, you're doing it just right! Yet, if you are truly concerned or know you need a little help to be able to do the best job you can, there are always resources and a helping hand available to you; never hesitate to ask. It's one of the bravest things you can do and one that requires such personal strength - not weakness. We are one of those places you can turn, who would love to help you however possible.
"Only when I became a father did I finally see how evil mine own was. I never saw it - never. It's hard to raise kids when you only just learned how blind you were to being treated like an animal. I'm so scared I wouldn't recognize it if I ever did the same - but hellbent on never coming close."
-- R.W., 39
The subject of becoming a father can actually be one filled with trauma for many other reasons in a certain group of survivors. And, we want to be sure we touch on this because we feel it's something that's missing in a lot of trauma outreach. A lot of survivors are men, and a lot of those men were made to be fathers against their will as well - just like those who became mothers unwillingly. Far too many have been trafficked, abused, manipulated, or even used for the sole purpose of bearing children. Some of you may be aware of your children, while others sit there with the tormenting question of IF you're a father knowing all the abuse you endured. This is something most cannot even imagine feeling, wondering or agonizing over. In each and every one of these instances, we ache for you. Just as we do for those who have also may have children they cannot see; those whose were taken from them in messy, unfair, and even abusive divorces; and those who've even lost their beloved children. All of your pain is so real. It is seen. It is felt. It is honored and met with such true compassion.
"Fathers' Day has so much trauma shoved into one cake I'm afraid to light the candles. It'll either explode or melt into a puddle with my sadness. And, I don't even know which would make the bigger mess anymore."
No doubt there is no way we could possibly cover all the various ways Fathers' Day and all its pain gets wrapped around the years of childhood trauma for many survivors. There are just far too many brave and hurting souls. Like, those who've lost a 'dad' in their own husband, the one who was a father to their children... Anyone left trying to comfort broken-hearted children today because their own dad left or hurt them deeply... All those whose fathers just do not accept them for who they are, how they live, or what they know to be true about their trauma.... Every adult child who was so let down by their father but is trying to remind themselves now they do have one and he isn't a terrible guy, but it still just doesn't feel right.... And, everyone else left so confused and torn by the role that stepdads, biological dads, adoptive dads, and so many other unique family dynamics can play, that manage to complicate things even further. No matter what - no matter why your heart is aching or is even just so conflicted and lost today - please know that we're thinking of you and so excruciatingly aware of just how many of you are out there. We even encourage YOU to give voice to all the things we couldn't get to here. Please share with us below, in our casual little circle of healing hearts here, what's on your chest today and let your experience be heard. Every story is important. And, we're all listening.
Please know, even on these "smaller" holidays, we care very much about what you are going through and all the ways it may be affecting you. Just like we mentioned in our post on Mothers' Day - oftentimes it's the smallest holidays that can do the most damage and leave survivors feeling the most alone. So, if you are a supporter, friend or loved one - we really encourage you to at least send them a thoughtful text or call them up to let them know you're thinking of them. Family relationships are almost always a challenge for survivors of complex trauma in some way - so, it can never hurt to let them know they're on your mind even if you know very little about their history. And, for all of our survivors: We still think these types of holidays really need to just become days for YOU. Days to take extra care of yourself. Do things that you love; celebrate all the ways in which you are an honorable and loyal person; get together with friends or other great people that you call your family and are proud to know. You can even enjoy some cynical or light-hearted comedy! Liiiike, tell us your favorite "dad joke" - it's okay if it's got some dark humor to it, that's how so many of us heal! Just, above all else, please just extra care of, and celebrate, YOU.
We will be.
MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:
- Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays
- Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
- Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201: Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
- Imagery 101: Healing Pool and Healing Light
- A Message of Care This Mothers' Day