Forgiving My Parents
The topic of this post is a very personal story. It’s taken me a long time to come to know this story and to voice it. It feels dangerous and scary to bare my self in this way, but here I am, naked in front of the crowd:
I remember when I told two of my best friends. We were cutting through a neighbor’s backyard and I stopped them. “I have to tell you something . . . my parents are getting divorced.” There, I said it. Out in the open. For some reason, I had a huge smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off. I was not happy, but my facial expression had taken on a life of its own and I had no control over it. That was that and we didn’t really talk much more about it. I was fifteen.Life went on. I became even more obsessive with my school work than I already had been. I involved my self in several extra-curricular activities and picked up extra hours at my job at the local public library. I was the star student. I made long lists of things to do to make myself feel busy. I grew depressed. I moped around, cried a lot and occasionally completely broke down. I would suddenly burst into tears while hanging out with friends. I felt ashamed of my dark emotions and my inability to be happy like my friends seemed to be. Somehow I did not connect those feelings with my parents’ divorce, and I thought I had no right to have them.
Time marched on. I moved away to college. I chose a major that initiated me into a journey of self-exploration. At the end of my junior year in undergrad I got engaged, and all hell broke loose. The shelf on which my family issues had been neatly tucked away came crashing down. A sequence of events led to my father writing me a long letter basically blaming me for the distance in our relationship and telling me he would put no further effort in. He threatened that if I did not do certain things he would not attend my wedding. In addition to my family pain, priesthood leaders said and did some things that in my perception were abusive, adding to my misery. The wedding day came and went, and life moved on. Now that I was married, I was in a safe place where I could face my past. I spent nights crying in my husbands arms as I grieved the ideal father I wished I’d had. So many times I wanted to scream at him “You left me, I didn’t leave you!” I was tired of being the “grown-up” in the relationship and was angry that he didn’t step up.As I continued my education in being a therapist, I began to see how depressed I had been in high school. I was angry at my mother for not seeing the problem and for not helping me. I was angry at my father for leaving me, and telling me it was my fault we were distant. I felt angry and hurt about a lot of things.Forgiveness is sweet. I have come to realize that my parents did the very best they knew how. My father wanted to be a good father. He has his own emotional pain to deal with, and did the best he could given what he was dealt in life. My mother had never dealt with her own issues, and had six other children at home. How could she have seen my pain when she couldn’t admit to her own, and was much too preoccupied with her daily caregiving tasks anyway? They did their best. They love me. I really know that. Things aren’t perfect, but I have now grieved the loss of what could have been, and forgiven them for not being perfect parents. Somehow grace has worked its miracle and I’ve been able to let go. It’s freed me of many of the burdens of my past and I look forward to my future with a more open heart. Now I only hope that my parents can forgive me for not being the well-behaved Mormon girl that they had hoped to raise.