Mother’s & Father’s Day, The Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse

When you have been sexually molested by someone who is supposed to protect and love you (in a healthy way) or you have been physically abused or neglected, or you have been emotionally and verbally denigrated… how do you lovingly, appreciatively, honor parents who have allowed this to happen or have perpetrated the deeds themselves?

Some people try to forgive, making excuses for their parents. It had been done to them when they were growing up. And, perhaps that is true. We “learn what we live” is a concept we have known for quite a while now. The cycle of internalized anger and shame gets played out in the real world in relationships – home, workplace, raising children.

Many of these child abuse survivors want to rationalize that their parents did the best they could. While that may be true, the damage to themselves is often major in ways they don’t even recognize. It’s their partners, their own children, their careers that suffer, and, they come to therapy to figure out why they are so unhappy, or anxious, or angry. And, with the help of someone who has the skills and heart to heal, they can learn to trust. They can live the rest of their lives having the ability for true intimacy. They can actually move the apple far from the family tree while holding onto the positives they choose to remember.

Research today validates that we carry the scars of all kinds of negative experiences and those scars infiltrate our belief systems about ourselves and the rest of the world. Unresolved anger, abuses of every kind, alter the self leaving that inability to trust.

Trust. What is that? How can anyone trust when they have never experienced being safe – especially and even in their own homes? People who are supposed to love their children and guide them into adulthood were the very ones who crept into their children’s beds at night doing unthinkable things to their little bodies. Or they screamed things like “I wish you were never born.” “You are stupid and will never amount to anything.” And those who were hit or beaten, or watched other members of their families beaten, what world were they born into, and, what can they expect once they leave home?

These child abuse survivors work at being different from their parents, denying the emotional, physical brutality of their early experiences, and convince themselves that that was in the past. This is now. However, their internal scars – psychologicaly and physically from any of those abuses, linger and effect how they live and relate in the world. Brain studies, chemical studies of the body – on and on – too much for a short article.

But, the question remains, how do you find a Mother’s or Father’s Day card that they can send ? It is a very hard task and the heartbreak that happens inside when they are reading the beautiful cards writen for good parents…well the ache is unimaginable.

So, those who have suffered at the hands and mouths of their mothers and fathers will be in mourning for what they never knew – the safety and love that would have nurtured their innocense and guided them through the normal developmental stages into adulthood.

Over the past ten years, more than 20,000 American children were believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. Figures from 2014 from the Children’s Defense Fund’s Annual State of America’s Children report 1,825 kids are abused or neglected every day in the United States.

No wonder there is so much anger that gets perpetuated from one generation to another. Remember the song, “Where is the love?” We desperately need to touch each other with kindness and guide those suffering to help.

I am suggesting that when you are standing next to someone, or having lunch with a friend, or accepting a date from someone on-line who sounds terrific, don’t assume they came from loving parents and are well-adjusted adults. Many of those around us have suffered greatly. While it is true that most of us do not get through life without some suffering, we do need to raise our awareness to the possibility that others around us may be survivors of unthinkable abuse. They just don’t talk about it.

Another thought to keep in mind is that Mother’s and Father’s Days are really very painful to those who never had children. They don’t have memories of holding their own child. Nor do they know the frustrations, challenges and joys of guiding a little one through a healthy childhood. So, some sensitivity towards your childless friends would be a kindness they will appreciate.

Healing from child abuse of any kind is truly a necessity if people want to optimize their chances for a happy and love-filled life. Those wounds may not be visible to the eye, but they are visible in all that one does, thinks, and feels.. Healing is the sensible route to having the best years ahead.

I’m hoping that you will be celebrating your parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I just thought we needed to pause and think of those who truly can’t.

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on

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