Unpacking My Grief: the betrayals of my father

Recently I published a Journal Prompts piece focused on processing grief. I wrote the prompts because of the deep grief work I have been doing recently. I needed to get my head straight.

I don’t often share the prompt pieces I write, a girl has to have a private journal too , lol – but I felt this one was important to share.

Grieving the wounds caused by our parents is some of the heaviest lifting we do as survivors because they affected our relationships with ourselves so incredibly – yet many of us feel a primal draw to love them in the same space we hold such betrayal, and resentment.

Some of us get lucky with parents who make a choice to eventually heal and grow. For me the grief is compounded by my father’s early death after years of estrangement, and the lack of any type of reconciliation, closure, or justice.

What am I grieving?

There are so many things I grieve daily as I heal my childhood of trauma and abuse. The betrayals, the loss, the fear that I lived with. So much was taken from me, so many things I didn’t even have the opportunity to enjoy.

And I never truly got to meet myself as a child. 

How do I pinpoint what I am grieving? I cannot. However, some fountains of grief bubble over more than others and the one that feels like a constantly broken spigot is the well that holds my grief over my father’s abuses and betrayals.

It overflows into my life regularly, in nearly every interaction that triggers my traumas to surface and respond.

It weighs on me heavier than the sexual abuse I endured. His lack of approval, support, and protection caused wounds so deep and painful that even as I heal, my inner child tries to shields those areas with disconnection and avoidance if I am not mindful.

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Where in My Body do I Feel it?

My grief always begins in my head. A whirlwind of thoughts that feel as physical as emotions that I allow my body to connect too. A movie reel of memories plays in my head, of all the things I have forgotten that I remember.

Then it catches in my throat, sometimes causing me to physically gasp for air because it cuts off my breath, full stop. 

My eyes burn as tears fall freely with intention down my face to my lap. They get cause in my lashes and sometimes brush the inside of my glasses. 

My hand normally finds its way to heart, and I calm my breathing under the comfort of my own touch.

What Are My Thoughts Telling Me About This Grief?

This has been the most difficult part of my grief over my dad. His affect on my sense of self is as deep as my very DNA. 

These deeply rooted beliefs that I am not worthy, lovable, or deserving of respect and consideration manifest into my emotions and beliefs so easily if I am not constantly mindful. 

His emotional abuses and betrayals are the root of my self-doubt, of my struggle with proper boundaries, and of my emotional disconnection for life.

That is what I am countering as I heal, and I have spent more of my life believing all of the negative things I internalized due to his maltreatment, than I have fully aware of my worth.

It’s a mindfuck.

Are There Times of Day this Grief is More Amplified?

Not really. 

Anytime I have a free moment to allow my thoughts to wonder, anytime a song or conversation evokes a memory of childhood … really anytime my mind decides it’s time to think about dear old dad – my grief surfaces with ease. It feels deep, dense, eclectic. It’s intimidating.

My counselor has mentioned forgiveness a couple times when I bring up the depth of this grief and how heavy the pull is on my very soul. In my adversity to forgiveness, I have realized a couple things.

Forgiveness is not necessary for acceptance. I don’t have to forgive shit to reach full acceptance of my childhood. Acceptance however, I believe is necessary in order to reach forgiveness. Which is why I get angry when forgiveness comes up – I am still working on acceptance.

To believe we are fully accepting yet resistant to forgiveness “because it isn’t necessary”, I believe is to fool ourselves. At least that is what my healing journey is teaching me about myself through my grief.

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What is One Good Memory From this Situation?

I actually have many good memories from childhood when I really give it a good moment of thought. I have memories with my father, moments where I am certain his love was real. We used to bike ride, hike the local waterfalls, he taught me how to do a headstand against the freezer, and he took me roller skating often.

I have pictures that show him lovingly holding me, smiling proud as a father can. I think that is what hurts the most. Sometimes I remember what could have been.

Sadly most of my memories of childhood are covered in a protective blanket placed there by a terrified child who grew into an adult still in survival mode. I sometimes fear the time between the memories and now is too vast for me to fully recapture many pieces of my young life.

And then there is the guilt over the few good things I do remember. It’s hard to shake the feeling that I do a disservice to the terror I went through if I remember or relish in the good things.

Again, mindfuck!

What Does My Support System Look Like?

In this regard I am very lucky and equally grateful. It is because of my amazing support system that I am able to face off with my grief and work through the complexity and overwhelm.

I have an amazing husband and partner who is actively and receptively learning what my healing means for his life, for our life, and for him as my partner. My husband understands that our relationship doesn’t fit into societal norms. He is learning that it is the strength and safety of our relationship that helps me heal.

Let’s be honest, partners of childhood abuse survivors are made up differently. They have something special in them that is so pivotal to the relational healing we survivors need.

I also have an amazing community of survivors that walk alongside me as I heal (you can be a part of this community too, find me on Instagram) and I have family that I can rely on.

How Am I Coping with This Grief

I have cried a lot. Just letting my tears flow when they surface, no longer repressing my emotions and riding the waves of overwhelm until then subside. Which has made it quite the ride. I keep telling myself I have many years of bottled up tears that need to fall and working to counter my own judgments of myself through this process.

It is hard to accept that I can completely fall apart, for an entire day if I need to, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to cry, then laugh, then cry, then laugh again – over and over until I am physically and emotionally exhausted from expressing. It isn’t a negative reflection of me, it is a human reflection. I have experienced unspeakable trauma.

I am also sharing through my writing. Writing always helps me put things in order and unpack them until they start to make sense.

Recently, an idea about a more focused and long version of my journey through this grief caused my father’s betrayals has bounced around in my head. Perhaps writing a book version of this grief will help me move through it more directly.

Coping with this has been difficult. It has also brought me more fully face to face with my inner child than before on this journey. I have a new awareness of myself as a small child who didn’t know what to do with her emotions, and how they are bleeding through now. My trauma responses are no longer an “abstract” from my past. I fully realize my responses are me.

Through reflection, relation, personal growth work , and allowing all of the emotions – that is how I am coping.


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