Healing From Traumatic Parent-Child Relationships
People continue to suffer when they keep longing for what they should have had but didn't.
Sometimes, people endure lifelong pain for what happened to them as children that shouldn't have happened. They may have suffered abuse, deprivation, abandonment, and all sorts of physical and emotional torture.
The lingering desire for the loving embrace of an unloving mother, or gaps created by an absentee father could become a source of trauma way into adulthood. The bitter aftertaste of a tumultuous childhood does not rinse off easily.
Consequently, people hold grudges against those who failed to love and care for them, or perhaps abused them. Even the death of the abuser or a failed parent or guardian may not ease the pain.
When people start reminiscing on their past abuse and deprivation, they tend to judge the past based on current realities and standards.
You may never fully understand why your parents divorced and threw you into years of hardship. You may not understand why your mother walked away when you were just a baby. You may not know why your father was always angry and violent.
The people from your past had their personal struggles. Some of them were incapable of loving, caring, and providing the love, care, and safety a child needs. Many were victims of abuse themselves, and products of the prevailing culture of abuse and shame. They could have been bleeding from their open emotional wounds and not know how to stop bleeding all over an innocent child.
The power of perspective
Oprah Winfrey had a difficult childhood. She was abandoned by her mother and for a long time, she felt unwanted. Her mother only came into her life when she became a public figure.
But Oprah had a change of heart about her mother. That happened when she allowed herself to slip out of her sense of deprivation and entitlement. She took on the perspective of her then 17-year-old pregnant mother with no education or job.
On her mother's death bed, Oprah thanked her mother for not completely giving her away as a baby despite the odds against her as an unemployed teenage mom.
"I knew you did the best you knew how to do", Oprah told her dying mother.
That's perspective. That's accepting what had happened as the worst and best outcome at the same time. It is showing gratitude for the grace that brought you to where you are and leveraging the same grace to withhold judgement.
Healing is possible
The key to being free from the trauma of childhood abuse and abandonment is to be kind to yourself.
Being kind to yourself is an acknowledgement that you were not responsible for what happened or failed to happen. You couldn't have done anything to deserve to be abused or abandoned as a child.
The next step is to let go. Holding on to the pain will only hurt you more and set you up to perpetuate the cycle of abuse and pain.
Never settle as a prisoner of your past. To be free, you must forgive.
Forgiveness doesn't mean what happened to you was okay. Forgiveness is giving up the longing for a different past. It means you have accepted that it had already happened. It does not exonerate the perpetrator, but it gifts you a new baggage-free life.
We pray you find healing and the power to be gracious to those who let you down, if not for anything, for your own sake.
If you are affected by issues raised in this post, please seek both pastoral and professional help as soon as possible.
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