Have you ever felt the need to heal from the painful memories of your father? Could this happen after his death?
My parents were of Eastern European descent, having been brought to America as children. Here they met and got married. My father was the head of the family and my mother succumbed to the role of the lowly woman in their relationship. Set rules and stick to them. He controlled the finances and dictated how the money would be spent. My mother was not allowed to work outside the house.
My father was not such a loving and affectionate father to me. My mom greeted me at the age of 40 – a complete surprise. I was the last of four children, and when I was a little girl, I feared my parents. He was a very big and noisy man. He always seemed to be yelling at my mom.
He favored my sister who was nearly as old, and he was constantly comparing me to her. I, of course, never measured, which was often referred to. During my middle school years, I grew up hating my parents. We did not speak. We did not participate in any activity. The wall between us rose. However, I had a roof over my head, my sister’s clothes, and food to eat. What do I need more? Much!
The affection shown by the parents to the child has a significant impact on their healthy development. It affects an individual’s self-image, self-esteem and self-love. I lacked all three. But somehow I worked, saved money, went to college, graduated, and got a teaching position at Tupper Lake. I still hate my father. And then, when I was 21, he died of emphysema. And he went…
But was it? I seemed to hold that hate for years and eventually became unaware of its existence and how it affected my view of myself and others around me. That desire to please my father and get his approval and make him proud of me “Which” The reason was never achieved. There was a gap in me, a vacancy that needed to be filled.
Questions plagued me. Did he love me before? Then why or why not?
I carried that negative memory through my marriage, and I felt like it weighed down on me from time to time. After all, why do we remember the wounds and torments of the past? I thought I was very successful in getting rid of those feelings, but they simply became ingrained in me. However, I somehow knew that forgiving what my father did or did not do was the only way for me to get rid of that hatred and what he was doing to me calmly. I had to forgive him for the person he was. that was “Mine” choice as it was “Mine” life. but how?
The opportunity arose in 1990 when I enrolled in an 80-day silent retreat recommended by a friend who had attended the previous year. There, Mother Nature unleashed her loving, healing energies on my willing and open heart. I was ready and you answered my call. The 70-year-old Jesuit father was my spiritual guide, who would listen to me for an hour every day. I was impressed by his insight, realist philosophy, and kindness.
It has been 20 years since my father passed away. I opened my diary every day as I sat by the calm waters of a nearby lake with hope in my heart but without expectation. I had no idea where my actions might lead. Every day I would write a letter to my father and make a memory of an occasion. I let the tears carry me through the harrowing hours as I pour out a detailed description of the adverse event. I asked him questions, and explained it all through my pen-to-paper adventure. I shared my deepest feelings, telling him how the event made me feel about him, how ugly I was, and what my needs really were at the time. It allowed all the deeply buried mischief to surface and for many of them, it was the last time. Because once I allowed the hurt again to fully experience, there was room for insight to move into that space inside of me.
That insight allowed me to see my dad with everyone “for him” Pain and trauma. As the middle son of three children, his early life was not a happy one. His parents kicked him out of the house at the end of eighth grade to make money for the family. His brothers hated him and he was very lonely. He had to discover his talents himself, survive and learn the carpentry trade. He himself has never experienced a beloved habitat; He had no indication of that.
I remember his brilliant mind for numbers. He can make measurements in his head for all of his functions. He even became a construction foreman for a bridge through New York State. But his jobs were only temporary and when the project was completed, he was again unemployed… and the controversy continued. This is what I remember the most – the quarrels between mom and dad. My dad was the top. Mom, quieter voice. But this happened a lot during my high school years.
My father’s jobs required hard physical labour. Being in his late fifties, he must have felt exhausted and trapped. He couldn’t start over. What else did he know? It was stuck. And he had another child who wanted to go to university – Anna. All the pressure…
My vision brought a bit of understanding to him and his frustrations. I was so focused on the pain I was feeling, I couldn’t see any of it. Then…the healing process…the forgiveness process began. It took time and a lot of messaging but it really happened; It started… over there by the lake.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, I was feeling myself becoming more accepting, more empathetic, more loving.
Now, when I think of my father, I feel a warmth that I never felt in real life. Sometimes I feel his presence and choose to think that he enjoys being with me in spirit now, enjoying my accomplishments, and enjoying the person I have become.
Now I can say, “I love you, Dad. Thank you.”
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Debbie Havas is a writer who lives in Jay. Her writing expresses her experience in the healing energies of Mother Nature.