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May 3, 2016

Changing the Face of Childhood Trauma: A Daughter’s Story.

Spirit Fire/Flickr

Childhood pain can often be the most difficult to accept.

Over time, the stories we tell ourselves about what happened to us, how we were hurt, build layer after layer of a pain foundation. We can even find ourselves looking for pain and hurt where there is none.

While it can be addictive, I wonder if there’s a way to turn pain into something positive. What, in fact, is the point of pain, if not to motivate us to find a different way of being?

I was 13 years old, and full of pain and shame, when my father died. Over the years, I tried different techniques to relieve my pain and its accompanying layers, to destroy it without allowing it to destroy me. Finally, I turned to my father himself—I imagined him listening, quiet, patient, offering love and acceptance.

A deep sense of sadness overwhelmed me and I began to sob—but then there were no more tears. There was an end to my sadness, an end to my shame. A life-changing release.

Coming to terms with pain is hard, but once we accept and surrender to an emotion, its power over us is lost. Telling my Dad goodbye with love was a profound way to accept and surrender.

Below are the words that finally set me free:

Dear Dad,

It reads “accidental death” on your death certificate, but in my mind and perhaps yours too, there was nothing accidental about it. For uncomfortably enclosed in brackets lies the shameful word “suicide.” Just beneath the box that states your age (38) and right next to your method of death (hanging).

When I realized what happened I could scarcely breathe. I couldn’t understand how, for everyone else, the world just continued as normal when you detonated such tragedy in mine. What were you thinking? Why death? Did deciding to die take more or less courage than continuing to live? This tiny word held so much importance for me. But you left so many unanswered questions behind.

I tormented myself by imagining your final thoughts, your final moments. I held onto the guilt of not being able to stop you, not being able to save your life. By blaming myself, I became imprisoned by your act of freedom. I tortured myself with doubt. I started believing that I wasn’t good enough, that you would’ve never left if you truly loved me.

Later, seething with anger and self-hatred, I raged a war over you. I began to hate all Dads and every un-abandoned daughter.

Did my world need to become painful, just because yours was? Was I allowed to be happy when you were so sad? More afraid of love than loss, the child in me chose not to cry for more than 20 years.

I chose a lifesaving profession because my inability to save you, pushed me to save somebody. I had plenty of relationships where I played the role of rescuer in a desperate attempt to be good enough for loving, instead of leaving. I was scared when I reached 38, wondering if the ability to commit suicide was the legacy you left me.

Those years were emotional, for me and my children, but this moment is not. But I know the next moment may feel completely different. Is that how it was for you? Did you forget to remember that the routine of life goes up and down? That there is good and bad, that some days you want to die, but it doesn’t mean you want to be gone forever.

Today I give thanks for what you taught me—the lessons learned from life and the path you chose to take help me on this journey of mine. Your death planted a seed of curiosity in me, a desire to find wonder in the “why” of things. It took years to realize the gift you gave me:

Your choice was never about me, for I am not the center of the universe. In choosing what you felt was right for you, Dad, you set me free to choose what is right for me. No longer bound by what I should, could or ought to do. No more blame or self-sacrifice or wallowing in trauma from the past.

I forgive you. What happened was not a reflection of me and has no relevance to who I am, apart from how I choose to respond.

You taught me courage, strength and resilience. And today, when moments arise where I feel abandoned, insecure or rejected, I try to remember that this pain is not connected to me. It is simply a whisper from the past, bringing deeper understand, further acceptance and the opportunity to let go.

With tiny steps, I’m slowly learning the wonder of an open heart—a heart free from fear, punishment and pain. You offered me the firm foundation to begin my flight of freedom. And for me, freedom comes from letting go of the need to have someone else prove that I am loved and accepted. To truly know that I’m worthy of love. Only when I begin to treat myself with kindness, support and love will I find true happiness. It has to come from me.

Thank you for teaching me that joy comes from accepting life just as it is—in this moment now. Resistance is futile; nothing needs to be any different than how it is. Peace is her, in me. In the stillness and the silence.

It is in every single one of us. Always. And as best as I can, I choose love.

Sending peace and joy to you, Dad.

Your loving daughter

 

 

Author: Evey Morgan

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Spirit Fire/Flickr

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