Complex Feelings

When I wrote Confessions of a Trauma Therapist I was filled with anger for my mother. She was the adult who hadn’t protected me when I was a helpless child being sexually abused by my father and his father. I didn’t feel nearly as angry with the perpetrators.

Rage for those who failed to protect us when we were vulnerable children is a common response. I know it’s usual to feel this for the non-abusing parent. I’m told that Roman Catholic and Anglican victims of child sexual abuse by priests generally are angrier with the bishops who were in charge than with the parish priests who actually abused them.

Strangely I felt far less anger for the adult men who betrayed my child’s trust. My rage was reserved for my mother who was too caught up in having a “nice family” to notice her child’s distress.

My mother died and I was still filled with bitterness and anger for her. I regret that – and yet I needed to be true to my feelings at that time. My personal goal in life was to be authentic. I wasn’t going to betray myself and tell her I loved her before she died, even though I knew I might regret my decision.

Now years later, I am no longer angry with her. In fact, my heart is filled with tenderness for her. The anger that blocked my love has melted away over the years allowing my love for her to flow freely. I remember all her acts of caring such as the afghan she made for me in her 70s and the special occasions she marked throughout my childhood with her surprises and her celebration of any occasion. She was a loving grandmother to my son.

Should I have pretended love for her when she was an old lady and I was drowning in the depression and horror at knowing I’d been sexually abused? I suppose I could have pretended. But being authentic, being true to my feelings was more important.

Question: Do you have a similar experience to share? How did you handle it? Perhaps you are a professional and have some theoretical knowledge you could share about this enigma. I sincerely hope you’ll add to this discussion.

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