Because my mom never finished high school she always worked menial jobs for part-time wages. I can remember several times having the electricity shut off because we couldn’t afford to pay the bill. We struggled but my mom always tried to make it okay, even though we never heard from our father. We would get birthday cards from family in Arizona, or occasional phone calls, but they never gave any indication that they knew where he was. I eventually grew out of my “I want my dad” phase, my sister joined the army, got discharged and got pregnant, my brothers matured enough to stay out of trouble (finally!), and I moved to Oregon with my partner. When I was 22 my mom finally got the first child support payment from my father. He paid for about six months before stopping.
When I was 23 my mom died unexpectedly. Losing her felt like losing a part of myself. My aunt told us that our dad had called her to say sorry for our loss and ask if we wanted to contact him. I was so angry; 20 years later and he only contacts us because our mother died and he’s sorry for “our” loss. I didn’t want anything to do with him. It’s been two years since then and all my siblings have had some contact with him and my half-sister has attempted to contact me. Everyone keeps telling me I should try to give him a chance, that he’s trying, but I just can’t. I can’t forgive him for everything he did. A part of me blames him for losing my mom. If she hadn’t had to work her whole life, if she hadn’t had to devote all her energy to taking care of us, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten so sick.
When mom died it was like everything was torn apart at the seams. I’ve been severely depressed and am just now finally working my way up. My therapist says I should try talking to my father — that it might help to resolve these feelings — but it hurts my heart to even think about it. It feels like a betrayal. I guess my question is: am I being unreasonable? My aunt says I’m being petty and holding a grudge to punish him. It’s probably true but I feel like I have every right to. Should I try to reach out to him? Try to forgive him? I’ve heard everyone’s point of view and I would really appreciate yours. — No Forgiveness for Father
First of all, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. I’m sure you keep her alive in your heart and memories and I hope that brings you at least a little sense of peace.
As for your father, screw what everyone else says to do in regards to him. If you don’t feel like reaching out to him, then don’t. If you do, then go ahead, but realize that he’s never going to be the father you wished he would have been. Nothing can ever give back the years you grew up without a father’s love, support and influence, and even if you did forge a relationship with him now after all this time, you cannot undo your childhood. Still, working on forgiving him eventually may go a long way in easing the pain in your heart. It doesn’t have to happen this week or this month or even this year. But it can be a goal for you to work towards in therapy. And maybe in time, you’ll feel ready to forgive him for for not being the father you needed. But forgive him for yourself, not for him. Do it because it may help you move forward with a lighter heart.
As for your half-sister, remember that she is not to blame for the way your childhood played out. Maybe it would be nice to have a relationship with her. Maybe not. But whatever you decide is best for you, remember that she is innocent here. She didn’t ask to be born and she didn’t ask to be raised by your father. You really don’t know what her life has been like and she may be carrying her own pain and disappointment. Maybe meeting each other could help you both heal. But only you can decide if and when you’re ready for that step. There’s no right answer here; no one can tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. Listen to your heart and only do what you feel comfortable doing, with the understanding that the only direction you can really move in is forward and that your past cannot be undone.
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