Estranged Family and Survivors of Childhood Abuse
Should incest survivors reconnect with family?
In the beginning, I confronted my mother first and the role she did not ever play to protect me. She was so hateful and cold and uncaring at first. I hated her so much, almost as much as I hated my father. I could not cope with my brothers and my grandmother had beaten the crap out of me for reaching out to her for help. I hated all of them. At 17 years old I moved out of home… out of town… out of the state. If it had been possible I would have moved off the planet. I never spoke to anyone in my family for over NINE YEARS. They never knew if I was dead or alive or anything.
I went with the idea that I needed to be far away from people who could live in a home with that insanity and abuse. Even though my mom and dad divorced, and he eventually left town, I just couldn't deal with them at all on any level. I had to escape them and clear my head. Like other incest survivors, I needed to figure out the right from the wrong and be healed. Then – maybe – try to talk to them. My instincts told me that the Family Ties and Family Lies were a real poison so I left. I left them to that private hell.
Looking back on that decision I might now say: “Maybe I should have stayed somewhat in touch”, but I am not convinced of that. I think I did what I felt needed to be done but I feel a great loss over that huge gap of time. Over 9 years passed, almost a decade of silence. A decade of inter-relating that was lost… my marriage… the birth of my children… my healing journey. All of that occurred without any loving family hugging me, without my mom being there with me or my brothers. I regret the loss of being connected to my family. I am not promoting that level of disconnection to all survivors of childhood abuse, but I do promote taking a break and getting out from under the family control. Moving away from the dysfunction and then reconnecting if – and only if – you can remain safe from harm, which also includes your mental health.
Families have a way of relating to each other that tend to keep a person locked into patterns that can’t be changed without creating hurt or anger or drama. So many times I have seen a person’s incest recovery completely thrown into relapse after going back into the home where the abuse had occurred. This was because while she had been in recovery, the rest of the family had not. The rest of the family expected her to resume her pattern of behavior that they were familiar with. So when she went back to her family, they got upset with her and she meekly fell back into the same old pattern. Then she comes back into our incest recovery sessions and she is a complete emotional mess. I have seen it many times, in recovery, through friends. I have often said: “Why do you need to go back? For what? They are crazy and they will hurt you, just as sure as they declare they love you, they will hurt you.”
But the worm did turn… and the day did dawn when I finally picked up the phone and dialed a phone number from memory. It rang and rang and finally was answered by my grandmother. I was so emotional and my head was swooning in waves of dizziness. I had to tell her who I was and ask to speak to my mom.
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, you will rise up again whole and renewed!