The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

On Grieving the Loss of a Parent Who’s Still Alive

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Last year I turned 41. I am now officially middle aged. Apparently this is the point in time when my generation’s parents start dropping like flies. In the past two years, I have lost count of how many of my friends, neighbors and acquaintances have lost a parent. Each time, I have watched the ritual unfold. Condolences are offered, funerals are planned. The sordid mess of sorting through a lifetime of possessions and settling wills is dealt with. And everywhere the bereaved adult child goes, they hear the words “I am sorry for your loss.”

Whether their relationship was loving, strained, or a mixture of both. Whether the parent was nurturing or neglectful. Still the words “I am sorry for your loss” are offered up. A benediction for mourning. A recognition that the passing of a parent marks a particular shift in one’s life journey.

I have watched as space is made for the adult child to grieve. How it is understood that it will take a while to return to “regular life” after such a loss. I have watched as the bereaved talk openly about their grief, which comes in waves, over the course of years. And I have been jealous. Because this kind of understanding will never be given to me. And it’s my fault, isn’t it? Because it was my choice.

The decision to permanently cut off contact with my parents was almost anti-climactic. After years of trying off and on to figure out how to have a relationship with them without sacrificing myself, I realized that I was trying for the impossible. I was embroiled in yet another abusive drama, in which I was somehow to blame for a parent’s alcoholic misbehavior. This familiar ebb and flow of dysfunction had played out so many times in so many ways that I realized I wasn’t angry any more, I was just sad. I looked into my future and saw it play out for the rest of my life and I knew I just couldn’t do it anymore. My husband and I were planning to have a child. Was this what I wanted my child to grow up watching? Were these people going to have a positive impact on my child? No.

In the 10 years since I made that decision, I have never once regretted it. I am a happier person without them in my life. It’s sad, but true. However, there is no rite of passage for the child who has had to make a choice between her mental health and a relationship with her parents. There is no supportive community gathering around offering up condolences and casseroles. There is just a long, lonely adjustment to the reality that you are, in a way, an orphan now.

When my parents pass away, I will get a call, or an email, from some relative. I will be asked if I will attend the funeral, but I will not, because I have already done my grieving. I have grieved the parts of that relationship that were good. I have grieved for what could have been. I have grieved for all the ways I needed them to show up for me that they were not capable of. And I am done. And I am angry that I did it alone, with no one to turn to me and say “I am sorry for your loss.”

I am angry that in addition to losing my family, I lost out on the rite of passage, on the support of community, on the acknowledgement of this very significant transition in my life. There is no ritual to support a child who has lost her family in this way, and there should be. It takes incredible bravery to do this in the face of cultural backlash, to give up the comfort of the known pain for the unknown.  To believe in spite of all previous evidence that I deserve better, and to walk away from people who will never love me the way I want them to.

I will never regret the decision I made, but I wish that it wasn’t such a lonely choice.

 

The writer of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.

 

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The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Happy Anniversary to Us

trigger_points_book_givaway_ig_image_2To celebrate the one year anniversary of the Trigger Points Anthology, we are giving away the Kindle version of the book on Amazon for FREE November 18-20!

The Trigger Points Anthology sheds light on a topic most parenting books never address: what is it like to raise children when you were abused as a child? With contributions by 21 writers, this anthology and workbook covers the common triggers that arise as parents navigate everything from pregnancy to the teenage years, and helps to let survivors know that they are not alone. As Brene Brown says, the two most powerful words when we are in struggle are “Me too”. This book is a me-too for all the parents working to break the cycle of abuse.

Buy now on Amazon US at: http://amzn.to/2fRMwGC

Buy now on Amazon CA at: http://amzn.to/2eTCNLy

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Trigger Season

Still awake at 2:43 a.m.

Third night in a row.

I could easily stay up all night until dawn, but I have to try and get a little rest, at least, so I can be the mom that I need to be for my children tomorrow. When I do finally fall asleep, it is restless and disturbed, full of half-lucid dreams and recurring nightmares. I get up several times to check the lock on the windows, the front and back door, as well as the porch light.

Before I can go back to bed, I have to make sure that the curtains are drawn, the kids are okay, and the phone is within arms’ reach. It is a task.

A cool draught blows through the room.

I am reminded that summer is nearly over and start to cry in the dark. I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. On the wrong side of myself. I feel ugly, exhausted, out of sorts, on the outside of everything.

I bumble through my morning routine in a fog. Easily exasperated, far too impatient, I sigh and mumble under my breath as I rush the kids to get ready for daycare, my words stumbling over themselves in an effort to appear normal, whatever the hell that is. It is bad enough that I had to leave the sanctuary of my bedroom today at all, really, but is it truly necessary for me to be normal, too?

If so, I think, epic fail.

I smile harder, because I do not know what else to do, and keep going.

I take my meds. Remind myself that a bad day is just a bad day and not the end of the world. Keep going. Keep going, yes, but with a belly full of fanged butterflies determined to escape. Usually, the medication settles the rush of wings, but today—these days—it barely takes the edge off. On the balcony, catching the last rays of the summer sunshine, I try to figure out why.

 

Then it occurs to me. Fall is on the way.

It’s in the air, at night, I can smell it. Trigger season.

fall time

After a number of incidences in my childhood involving various forms of sexual abuse, I was raped at the age of seventeen, in autumn, by a boy I had previously dated. Every year since then, without fail, as soon as the first leaves begin to fall, the first chill touches my nose, the first hint of pumpkin spice arrives, I start to feel it, all of it, again, in my throat, my chest, my breasts, my guts… all over. Anxiety, panic, fear, depression, sorrow, angst, a sense of impending disaster, an urge to run, hide, avoid, disappear.

One by one, they arrive, like uninvited guests to the worst party ever.

And I’m the unwilling host, shackled to the floor and gagged, unable to get rid of them.

Oh, they will leave when they are ready, I know. By December, the dreaded gang will have gone, for the most part, leaving only a few stragglers behind—nothing I cannot manage with help from the Christmas Spirit—but for now, oh, for now, as my PTSD symptoms start to slowly worsen day by day, I find myself holding my breath, waiting.

Maybe it won’t be as bad this year, I tell myself noncommittally.

Guess we’ll see, I reply.

Since opening up about my experiences and sharing my own story, I have come to know countless other survivors, many of whom also experience a Trigger Season, a particular time of year, associated in the recesses of the mind with a past traumatic event (or events), which leaves them feeling unusually vulnerable and susceptible to flashbacks and triggers. For some, it is the high heat of summer; others find discomfort during the colder days of winter.

I feel paper thin from late-August through to late-November.

If you know someone who suffers from PTSD, please be aware that certain times of the year may be more challenging than others, and while we may not be able to express what we need, you can still ask.

Understand, we may be utilizing every ounce of available energy just to get through a day. We do not mean to be short, snippy, cranky, or rude, so if it happens, we probably feel worse about it than you do. Forgive easily. Since we are used to feeling less than and not enough, remind us to be gentle with ourselves, and be gentle with us. Show your love and support by checking in.

PTSD can be very isolating and lonely, and it helps to know that, even on the days when we do not want to face the world, we are not alone and we are loved.


This post originally appeared on Lilacs in October.

Bio: arwen park

Arwen Faulkner currently resides in Canada with her husband, their four children, and a few family pets… but she still hasn’t given up on the idea of moving the whole family to a deserted tropical island one day.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, adolescent date rape, and intimate partner violence, Arwen has begun to overcome the legacy of fear and shame left behind by her abusers, and to share what she has learned along the journey from victim to survivor. An emerging writer and dedicated warrior in the fight to end violence against women and children, Arwen is hard at work on a biography of the late Canadian poet and social activist, Bronwen Wallace.

 

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Male Survivors to Speak About Fatherhood.

Excitement is building as we get ready to share the Fathering As A Survivor series with you next month. Men openly talking about challenges of fatherhood is somewhat rare in our culture. To hear from men who have had to overcome traumatic childhoods, in order to become the kind of father they may or may not realize they were meant to be is unheard of.

That is why this particular series is so important to us. We are so encouraged by the fathers who are willing to share their answers to our questions. It is our hope that a connection with their stories will be made, and will offer validation for those who can identify.

Here’s a sneak peak at what’s to come.

byron hamel.jpgByron Hamel of Trauma Dad was one of the first fathers I thought of to include in the series, because of his raw, honest and empowering voice on the topic. When asked, “Before becoming a father, did you look forward to becoming a parent?”…he answered:

Before becoming a father, I thought long and hard about the decision. Most of what I knew about parenting came from very broken people. I felt that, because of my horror of an upbringing, my children could potentially have an awful childhood too. I loved them too much even before they existed to put them through that. For awhile, I did not want children at all.  That’s something I’m going to recommend. If you don’t want to have kids, DON’T HAVE KIDS.

shatter boysRay Charles of Shatter Boys UK replied to our question, “What acts of parenting have led you to be triggered? Examples could be disciplining, bathing, showing affection/touching, etc. Have you learned anything from these triggers about your own fears, or the parts of you that still need healing?” with this:

Can’t say I had issues with any of these. I was/am strict which at the time seemed harsh to them and their mother, but they didn’t know what I knew.

“… but they didn’t know what I knew.” I thought that was so powerful. I think even for those who have been able to talk to your partner or loved ones about your experiences leading up to parenthood, it may still feel or be impossible to help them understand. And so we’re judged. And that’s tough.

jeff gloverLastly, I’ll share a quote from Jeff Glover that struck such a chord with me, for its vulnerability and ability to speak to something so many parenting survivors have in common. I just love his answer to the question: “What has surprised you most about parenthood?”

What surprised me most was that I was good enough. It surprised me that the do over was possible and that because I knew so much of what not to do it helped me to know what to do. It surprised me that even though I would freak at ANY imagined inappropriate touch or anything like it, I could play with them and wrestle and give them the attention I so wanted. It surprised me that there are ways to keep myself sane and still see them grow and be healthy.

If you are interested in participating in the Fathering as a Survivor Series, there is still time. To learn how, read our original call for submissions. We have extended the deadline until June 10th.

Joyelle and I know how craved and important this discussion is to have and to share. We are honored to bring these brave dad’s voices to our readers, and those who are searching for voices that reflect their own.

You can help us pass the mic and give father survivors an opportunity to offer their insight for new and fellow dads by sharing our call for submissions. Here’s a shortened link for easier sharing: http://bit.ly/1M8jjCJ.

We can’t wait to share these highlighted interviews in their entirety, along with the other interviews we have lined up with you through out the month of June.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

The #FacesOfPTSD campaign launches today!

Today we are launching the ‪#‎FacesOfPTSD‬ campaign to raise awareness and start a conversation about survivors mental health. When we can talk about it, we can heal.

How you can participate:

· “Attend” and share the #FacesOfPTSD event scheduled for Friday, May 6 th

· On May 6 th , share an image of yourself—or if you don’t live with PTSD but still want to show support, share one of the images posted on our page—and be sure to include the hashtag #FacesOfPTSD

· Use any of the #FacesOfPTSD campaign images if you publish a blog post or any articles about PTSD

· Know the facts. Women and children get PTSD. Women get it twice as often as men. Children get PTSD.

Men get PTSD and women in the military get PTSD, too, typically from sexual assault rather than combat.

Let’s make a change!

It’s important to accurately represent the thousands of women and men living day to day, while doing the best they can to manage flashbacks, constant triggers and the debilitating medical and mental health effects of this disorder. It’s time to recognize the many #FacesOfPTSD.