Severed Ties: The Grief of Losing My Abusive Parents on the Path to Healing

The reason DID exists is so that someone can continue to live a relatively normal life in extremely difficult circumstances. I was depressed and anxious all my life, but I had parts that did well in school, made friends and dated, and played sports. For most of my childhood, until my depression worsened as a teen, I was amnesiac of the bad things my parents and other adults did. When I was a teen, parts of me started writing about their experiences in my journals. The walls of amnesia broke down a little. I was severely depressed and suicidal. My relationship with my parents got a lot worse, but I still didn’t remember the bad stuff. Therapists and psychiatrists who interviewed me always asked what happened to me. They always said I had PTSD symptoms, but I told them I didn’t remember anything. A lot of therapists seemed frustrated, as if I was hiding something. I sat there feeling awful because they were so convinced, and yet I had no memories of anything. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the memories started breaking through in my journals, but I didn’t understand what I was writing about. Parts showed me flashbacks of my parents’ abuse when I was 18 and moved out of my house.

Even before I started having flashbacks of my parents abusing me, my relationship with them was rocky. They weren’t happy with me for being depressed and ending up in psych wards and day treatment. One day my mom was called to my high school because I got caught cutting myself again, and they wanted me taken to the ER for an evaluation because I was suicidal. My mom was angry when she picked me up. She yelled at me in the car on the way to the hospital. She said I was selfish for upsetting the rest of my family and for worrying them. She said to think of my sister, father, and her, and what my behaviour was doing to them. She was pissed off that she had to leave work and drive an hour on a busy highway to the hospital that took kids my age. (I was too young for most psych wards). She had to do this multiple times. Once, we were walking through a hospital parking lot towards the ER, and we got into an argument. She said she wished I was never born. I’ll never forget that. I remember where I was in the parking lot, and I remember that it was sunny that day. It’s ironic that the hospital where this happened was the place where I gave birth to my daughter 20 years later.

During one of my many psych ward stays as a teenager (I eventually ended up in adult wards when I was 16), a social worker knew what was going on with me. Although to be fair, most therapists knew, but they also knew I was too scared to talk (and the amnesia further complicated it). But this woman really wanted to uncover the abuse in my family. She was an eccentric British lady, and she wasn’t charmed by my parents’ accents, intelligence, and polite manner like most therapists were. She saw right through them. It helped that I spent many weeks in the hospital, and she had plenty of time to observe me. Sadly I would start to feel safe in there after I adjusted. I don’t know how they kept me there for weeks, looking back on it; I don’t know how my health insurance agreed to cover it. My high school even paid to bus me to and from school for half days while I was inpatient. Most of the kids who saw me in class didn’t know I went home to a psych ward. The psych nurses were nice sometimes. There was an old guy who would take the patients with good behaviour for walks around the grounds. Some took a liking to me, and they’d save me a lunch when I came back from school. They always asked me how my day went or how I did on a test. And so this social worker got to know me pretty well. One day she asked my parents more directly if they had abused me. I don’t know what was said, but my mom told me a little bit about it years later. She complained to me that the social worker was terrible and had asked her some horrible questions. She then said she got chest pains and had to go to the ER because she thought she was having a heart attack. Her heart was obviously fine. I’m sure it was a panic attack.

I obviously didn’t like my parents as a teen, but when I moved out and remembered everything, I became fearful of them. Once I started realizing, parts got scared and paranoid. They thought they’d come after us. Some thought they’d kill us. But like anyone who’s abused by their parents, there are conflicting feelings. With DID, there are parts that feel differently about my parents. Some are very fearful, others are angry, and there are even some that are friendly with them. This causes conflict internally, because the parts that are angry or fearful don’t trust the other parts. It’s taken a lot of work, but it helps to explain to these parts that the ones who are friendly with the parents are doing a job. It’s how we made it out of that house alive. We had to have parts to relate to the caregivers to survive. It doesn’t make them bad. This understanding among parts has helped a lot.

Contact with caregivers if you’ve been abused by them is always a very difficult decision. It hurts to lose your parents, no matter what despicable things they’ve done to you. Since I moved out of their house at 18, I’ve struggled with this a lot. I’ve gone for years without any contact. But there have been challenges. Sometimes parts will miss them and contact them again. This happened when I was pregnant. I missed my mom, and a part of me did too. So I told her I was pregnant because I wasn’t in therapy and was in denial. My daughter is now attached to her, so it’s very difficult for me when she asks to see my mom. It’s very hard for me to be around her. It’s the same with my dad, but I see him even less… maybe once every few years. The last time I talked to him is when he offered to help me out with my house when I got divorced. I said on the phone to him that I need the help for my daughter’s sake, but it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll talk to him. He said that he understood, and that I “need time.” Sometimes time doesn’t heal everything. Being around them makes me severely depressed, and I dissociate a lot. I get nightmares, physical pain, and intrusive suicidal thoughts that I have to fight back in the wake of seeing them. This is why I barely talk to them.

They know what I’ve accused them of. They’ve never once come to me and said, why are you saying this? If they say I’m a liar, why don’t they say that to my face? I’m guessing because they don’t want to hear my response. I’m certain that my dad wanted me to bury and forget this stuff forever. Unfortunately I can’t, I wish I could. And now all of the parts of me who are sad about losing our parents and not having a family have to grieve. We have to accept this sad reality. It’s not easy. My dad used to do weird things to try and get me to talk to him. Once in my twenties, he came to my apartment and looked through the blinds when I didn’t answer the doorbell. I was scared, and I froze in my chair until he went away. They often try to use money as a way to buy my forgiveness. They’re learning that it won’t work though. I took the money for my house because they owed me, since I’ve struggled to work my whole life due to mental illness caused by trauma. I wanted to have a stable home for my daughter, and I wanted to keep her in a good school district after my divorce. But I’ve made it clear that money won’t guilt me into having a relationship with them now. My dad knows not to show up at this house ever. He knows I’m much stronger than I used to be.

My therapist said she was proud of me for setting my boundaries and sticking to them. It’s hard because certain parts feel guilty and are afraid they’ll do something bad to us if we don’t see them. I remind them it’s 2020, and they can’t hurt us anymore. But my mom still tries. She complains about me to both of my aunts, and now my aunts don’t talk to me as much. I think they even told their daughters about it, so my cousins haven’t been as friendly as they usually are. I have a really nice cousin who I love very much, but she’s been surprisingly cold towards me lately. I know my mom texts her sometimes. It hurts a lot. I want to say to them, if you don’t know the whole story, don’t judge me. They’ve only heard her side of the story: I’m an ungrateful daughter for taking their money for my house and refusing to see them. In England, loyalty towards family and especially parents is important. I understand that, but it can be dangerous because it helps bad parents cover up abuse. I will teach my daughter to respect adults, but that they have to earn that respect, it can’t be given blindly. I wish my cousins would stop and think that maybe the mental health struggles I’ve had my whole life, and the fact that I won’t talk to my parents, might be because I’ve suffered a lot. It’s painful for me to be seen as the bad one in my family, the black sheep, only because I stand up for myself and call my abusers out on what they did to stop another generation of trauma. I wish I could tell my aunts and cousins even half of what I’m saying here. But they probably wouldn’t listen. They’d see me as dramatic and disloyal. They’d never believe me, which is what my parents said to me when I was little. I’m sure it didn’t help matters when I called them out for abusing my nephew, and my sister had to put him in daycare instead of their care. My mother loves to play the victim, and has probably told the story like I’m horrible for saying these things about them. I don’t care, I know I helped my nephew.

My mom just texted me today. I haven’t seen her in several months. My daughter has asked to see her, but I told her we can’t because of the virus. I guess that’s the only good thing about this pandemic for me, I don’t have to figure out how to let my daughter see my mom without it doing too much damage to me. My mother betrayed me in so many ways and abused me. But she’s also my mom. Another part says my parents are gone. I’ll probably have my daughter video chat with her, even though I hate it. It’s my fault for having her in my life when my daughter was born. Now my daughter is preschool age and has established a relationship with her. My daughter would think I’m the bad guy if I keep her from seeing her grandmother. I’ve seen this happen before. I knew someone in their early twenties who had been kept away from his extended family because his mother was abused. He ended up resenting his mother for not knowing the rest of his family. It destroyed their relationship. So I’m caught in a tough situation where I try to do what’s best for my daughter while still trying to maintain boundaries as best I can to protect myself. And obviously I’d never ever leave my daughter alone with my mom.

Dealing with your parents if you’ve been abused as a child is ongoing pain. It’s true that if you still have contact with them, it will hurt you and exacerbate your PTSD or dissociative symptoms. The important thing if you have DID is to make sure you can have all parts (the ones that can talk or at least listen) to communicate with each other and understand the reality of the situation. The more that parts realize we’re grown up and safe, and that our parents did bad things, the safer we all are. It’s also important to teach the parts that went through the abuse that the parts that miss their parents aren’t bad, and in fact had a difficult job when we were a child. They had to find a way to bond with monsters in order to survive. We all have to understand that as painful as it is, we must reject the guilt that our abusers try to manipulate us with, because we deserve to feel better and heal.

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