Reconciliation: A Caution Based on What I’ve Learned

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You begin to heal when you say, “No more.”  It took me a long time to recognize that – to feel the efficacy within “No More.”  It happened gradually  — when I realized the balance of power had naturally shifted because I had grown up. Eventually, I shut the door and never went back.

For me, no contact was the answer, and I maintain I had no choice, but many abuse survivors don’t walk away – for whatever reason, they hold on to dysfunction, often enduring a lifetime of abuse.

The attempt at reconciliation with Ed was a mistake on my part – people do not change.  I still believe people can change, but it takes a level of focus and commitment few possess.  It’s hard enough to make subtle changes – to lose weight, or resolve to save more money; changing the whole of who we are is damn near impossible.  And when dealing with an abuser, the need is a change in everything they are.

So I’ll amend that; I believe we can change aspects of who we are, but we cannot change our essence or our core.  A man who can beat his child – brutally and without mercy, will always be that man …

Real change begins with deep personal reflection, devoid of any and all denial, and progresses to the assumption of full responsibility for what you did and for what it caused. Finally, it entails making amends – not just with yourself, but with everyone you have hurt.  This last part can take the remainder of an abuser’s lifetime …

and those imbued with the capacity to abuse aren’t the kind who invest themselves in taking care of the wounds of others – they remain readily able to inflict pain, but not to soothe it.

Reconciliation with your abuser is a risky proposition, and it almost always fails.  In the trial, we are reminded of the pain – it can be a living hell.

I went to dinner with my father, sat beside him at a ballgame or theatrical production; spoke of trivial things, and not so trivial things, but it never felt right – or OK.  I was always his child in those moments – something I did not want to be, something I never wanted to be, something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy; he was, and ever will be, the father who beat and tortured me, the man I so feared and despised.

I learned a great deal in our correspondence, the written word so revealing of who we are inside.  He was candid, very matter-of-fact in his narcissism and grandiose belief in who he is today – so delusional in his own certainty in who he is:

Excerpt – 10/25/2014

“I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, has much meaning to my life with Janet. (Janet, my sister with developmental delays) I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and Rachael (my daughter) can follow along.. I’m thinking Janet and myself as the characters the ex prisoner and the woman’s small child. If I hadn’t stepped up to take care of Janet she would have remained in the State Hospital system and would have died simply a lost sole and her beauty and love cloistered from the world.”

Very determined to make me believe he was different, he played upon my compassion and empathy – he tried desperately to manipulate my feelings:

October 12, 2014


I came back early from my retreat at the Camaldise Monastery at Big Sur, I usually go off for a retreat at least once a year and alternate between Big Sur and the Monastery of the Redwoods, west of Garberville.

I usually go to get away for a few days where I can just be alone – fitting for the Introvert I am. The first day is mostly meditating and falling asleep as I meditate and simply catching up on needed rest. So why is this important?

During one of these sleeping meditations I woke up and realized I was crying. At 1st, I thought I was happy because of the wonderful “family” e-mail I had received before I left for the monastery. It took only a few seconds to realize that was not it at all, I was extremely sad. It was because into the middle of the ideal family e-mail spanning 20-30 years, there was a period of horrific pain, anger and mental distress for which I was responsible, and the pain hurt


I got up, closed the door to my room and sat with that pain, crying some more, then sat there and thought how I was going to say this to you. I came home a day early, thinking the long drive would help me decide how to tell you and arrived late last night. I was too emotionally drained and tired to put this down in words last night so I went to bed and am writing it now. This is how it came out.”


When considering reconciliation with an abusive parent, there is a ten-point check list to determine your own readiness, but perhaps the single most important consideration is this:

  • Have we both experienced significant emotional growth and change since we estranged? Or, are we the same as we were at the time of our estrangement?


I will say that it is crucial that you have grown and healed, but it is far more important that your parent has grown – and this growth MUST include the ability to accept without comprise all of what they did, all of what it caused – and they must be willing to make it right, whatever that entails FOR YOU! And all of this must be sustained throughout the course of any relationship that follows.  

Be careful if it seems too easy – never have the words “if it seems too good to be true it probably is,” been more true.

Be alert and ready to recognize false remorse, manipulation and gaslighting.

And don’t feel like you have to forgive until you are ready – and if that time never comes, understand that that is OK.

Just as it took time and contemplation to understand exactly how damaging my abusive childhood was, it will take time to fully process the impact of my failed attempt at reconciliation with my father:

It’s painful to realize your parent is a monster …

but it’s even more devastating to recognize that in the years of estrangement, all they have done is sharpen their claws.










Down the Rabbit Hole: A Candid View on What it Means to be Estranged From Your Child


A few days ago, Rhonda and I were discussing why a woman would marry a man – any may, who had spent time in jail for acts of sexual depravity against a young girl.

The woman who married my father had a child of her own; he was eight or nine when I met him, and not much older when his mother married my father.

I have no idea when or how Ed shared with Marie, his wife, that he had raped his daughter’s friend, but it puzzles me how this was not a relationship breaker.  As a woman, and a mother, the fact that she put herself, and most especially her child, at risk in this way horrifies Rhonda.

Of course this particular act, as terrible as it was, is only one of Ed’s atrocities.

Ed knew the reason I turned my back on him – although he has lied and claimed for decades he didn’t know. I told him outright – I was angry at the time, and I probably swore at him, but I told him.  This was in 1993. And never forget that he has always known what he did to me, and my sisters, when we were children.

He has hidden and deceived and lied and pretended for a very long time, and he is so good at it he now believes his own lies.

I was doing some research on estranged parents/children recently and found this site: Down the Rabbit Hole:

Great information, solidly researched by the site’s owner/author – I had no idea how typical my situation is within the world of estranged parents and children.

Points To Consider:

  1.  Adult children DO NOT estrange themselves from their parents when their relationship is what it should always have been.  This just isn’t the way the world works.
  2. Minor problems do not, and cannot, account for decades long estrangements.
  3. A girlfriend, fiance, wife, boyfriend, husband or any other Significant Other cannot come between a parent and child if the relationship between the parent and child is loving, supportive, valued and viable. Be very wary of any parent who tries to explain estrangement from his/her child by blaming someone else’s influence on their child.
  4. If a parent who is estranged from his/her child tells you they have no idea why their child turned his/her back on them, that should be a HUGE red flag.
  5. If a parent feels betrayed by family members who have a relationship with their estranged child, or demands that friends and family members choose sides, or seems upset in any way when their estranged child has a relationship with extended family, it is because the parent lives in fear of family and friends learning the truth.

Again, I am not qualified to diagnose Ed or Pat, or anyone for that matter, but analysis of parents who are estranged from their children is eye-opening: parents estranged from their children tend to be classic enablers and/or abusers …

and they are very good at finding people who will cloak their sins.

They are master manipulators …

So that might answer the question of why Marie married Ed:

It is entirely likely she believed whatever story he told.




I Did Not Teach Her This – Ed, Pat Do You Know What You’ve Done?




Untitled Work, written by my seventeen year old daughter yesterday, left me in tears … and deeply contemplative.

My daughter is a senior in high school, and she is home schooled – there are many reasons for this; the demands of her rehearsal/training/performance schedule top the list now, but there were other reasons in the beginning; our desire to travel frequently, and the fact that she has dyslexia and needed one-on-one attention chief among them.  We don’t home school outside the system, which can make getting into college difficult, so we have access to incredible classes and resources; on Friday mornings she attends a writing workshop for high school juniors and seniors called, Finding Your Voice.

Finding Your Voice is a nationally acclaimed program, and all instructors must go through an involved training and certification process before they are given access to the curriculum –  it is actually much more than just a college-prep writing class; all the prompts and all the lessons are designed specifically to get teenagers to access and work through their complicated thoughts, ideas, feelings and beliefs through the process of writing.  The curriculum was written and designed by educators in collaboration with adolescent therapists, and for many kids it is extremely therapeutic.

Yesterday’s lesson was aimed at getting the kids to think about someone who causes problems in their life, someone they don’t like – someone they may even hate.  The prompt that followed was simply to address those feelings via the written word.

Before I got sick, my kids knew very little about my family.  They knew I hadn’t seen my parents in many years, and they knew why in brevity; my parents were abusive and I chose not to have them in my adult life because of that – but I didn’t give them details.   I didn’t give details to anyone then, but even if I had I wouldn’t have shared them with my children – that just wouldn’t have been the right thing to do …

My mother, if she dislikes someone, devotes herself to doing all she can to ensure everyone in her life dislikes this person too – she has no loyalty to anyone, no concern for who gets hurt, or  for whose life she turns upside down – and even though I’d have been telling the truth in speaking of her (and Ed) negatively to my children, I did not want to be like her; catty, petty, shallow and vindictive.

And this unwillingness to be like my mother – to model her ridiculous, reprehensible behavior for my children, was in addition to the fact I felt I had to protect them from the very disturbing details of my childhood, which was the right thing to do … until I got sick.

At that point, I could no longer protect them – no one could.

I knew my daughter had been deeply affected by my illness, and  that she now, due my illness, knows the details of my childhood, but I didn’t realize she actually hated anyone until she shared her writing, tears and feelings with me yesterday.  This is the sweetest, kindest child in the world – she is absolutely precious, and to hear her speak with such conviction of such terrible things as hatred was heartbreaking for me.

I did not teach my daughter to hate.  The cycle of abuse – the multi-generational denial and silence and acceptance did that.

I live this life and I am still baffled and confused when faced with the far-reaching, in fact never-ending, affects of child abuse in a family.

I broke the cycle; my daughter is valued, loved, pampered, spoiled, adored – she has been given every advantage in the world, and  her physical and emotional safety has been protected to a degree I cannot begin to describe.  She has been taught to love, to exemplify tolerance, acceptance and compassion …

but even with all that I couldn’t protect her from knowing what it is like to hate people, or from feeling the impact of child abuse in her own life.

Where does the madness of abuse end?