Deep in grief

by Sarah

My name is Sarah and I am the adult daughter of a life-long sexual addict, which I didn't know until 5 years ago, when I was 23. When my mom told the kids about Dad's problem (compulsive pornography use, and various acting out behaviors) and I began to realize the implications of this, my heart and life shattered.

My mother was broken by my dad's years and years of emotional abuse and she was so relieved that her children could now share her burden, that her boundaries completely disappeared. She used me as her best friend and told me horror story after horror story about her marriage. I didn't know I could say "no" to her. What I saw in front of me was someone I loved in tremendous amounts of pain, pain that I could help diffuse. I didn't realize at the time that helping Mom kept me from grieving for all I had lost. I got better at holding my own boundaries over the next year or so and now, five years later, I realize I need to grieve. I have been giving myself time to do that, but it hurts. It hurts so much.

I mourn for the home I thought I had. I grew up in a religious home and it hurt immensely to realize the depth of my father's hypocrisy. So much of what I built the foundation of my identity on turned out to be an illusion. I lost a father I could believe and trust. I lost the perception of my mother as capable, and instead came to see her as a woman who couldn't stand up for herself. I ache for her and am angry at her at the same time. She was in such a terrible and confusing situation, but I feel she should have protected me by keeping to herself some of the things she told me. I know things about my dad that a daughter should never know and I will never be able to forget.

Looking back, I see the signs of dysfunction in my childhood. Dad was always disconnected. Mom was depressed. This made for a burdened childhood, and I grieve for that too. I did more parenting than should have been required of an older child and young teen-ager. I was very responsible and was thus overlooked because my parents saw me as being able to take care of myself. But I desperately needed parents. I needed their love, their support, and their involvement in my life.

From the time I was a small child, I didn't feel there was anyone in my life who would protect me. My parents' actions left me feeling unimportant and as if no one will ever help me... perceptions I still struggle to shake of.

I don't have much of a relationship with my dad. I have told him how his choices have affected me and after that he never made much effort to have a relationship. I sometimes attempt to reach out and he responds well, but he does very little reaching of his own.

Despite repeated conversations with my mother about how much I need her support in my life, she has over and over shown she is incapable of even a once a week phone call. When I realized she simply isn't able to be a parent to me, it was as if something inside me died. I feel like an orphan. I have two living parents and I feel like an orphan.

Sometimes I have hope that things will get better, that I can work through the pain and leave it (or at least most of it) behind. I have seen myself make progress over the last several months, which is encouraging, but I still experience intense waves of hurt and sadness. I struggle to believe that someday I will truly be healed, because the pain has been there for so long. Knowing that others have experienced similar losses and have recovered reminds me of what is possible.

Hope and healing to all of us who suffer.

Comments for Deep in grief

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Mar 11, 2010
A note on sharing with children...
by: Sarah

First, thanks for your responses! I didn't really expect to hear from anyone, and it was really neat to feel like my story has meaning or impact on others.

So, a note on sharing information with your kids. Some of what my mother shared with me was necessary so I knew what was going on. For example, if I hadn?t know there was a problem with addiction and my mom had a very good reason for separating from my dad, it would have created more confusion and anxiety than the truth did.

With that in mind, I'm honestly not sure where exactly the line was crossed where it was too much information. In the beginning I actually wanted as much information as possible so I knew exactly where my parents stood in their relationship, but later I had huge regrets about asking so many questions. I guess the point is, there is no real hard and fast rule.

Your kids may ask for more information than is appropriate for them to know. Or they may tell you they don?t want to hear you talk about certain things or in a certain way about their other parent. If this happens, I think parents should respect that. But also keep in mind children may not be sure how to tell their parents such things, or may be too scared to say anything. They may feel they are betraying you by telling you they don?t want to hear about your experience. Just remember it?s not the children?s job to take care of their parent; but if they don?t know that or the parent doesn?t seem to have other people to take care of them, the children will frequently step into that role.

I know most parents are doing their best and any hurts inflicted are not intentional. Remember it's okay to make mistakes. Thank you for trying to protect your kids!

Feb 24, 2010
Dear Sarah
by: Deb

Sarah thanks for sharing. You said your Mom confided many details of your father's addiction and how this was not appropriate. I'm currently going through a breakup and wonder how much to share with my daughters. They are 17 & 22. I will try to find other outlets for my grief and hope I have not done irreversible damage.

Sending prayers out that you heal and are able to form healthy relationships.


Dec 28, 2009
by: Tami

Dear Sarah,
Thank you for posting such brave and honest words. I am dealing with the grief of discovering that my husband suffered from a sexual addiction which culminated in an affair, after 30 years of marriage.

I have four children from ages 27 to 19, near your age. They know that an affair was planned in July, but did not know the extent of his sexual addiction. They, too, have been struggling with the hypocrisy of his actions.

He plays guitar in the praise band, and was an elder and president of the congregation at another church. I can imagine that your father was extremely controlling in your life. Sexual addicts require perfection in the people around them to deflect others from detecting their behaviors. They become masters of deception.

I have been struggling with how much the kids should be told. Your words have helped me refrain. It's really hard to keep things from them. I feel at times they should know everything to understand what I have gone through. I do want to be honest with them, but don't want to bring more pain into their lives.

Luckily, I have developed a friendship with another woman in similar and even harder circumstances to share my pain with.

You have shouldered a tremendous burden in being your mother's support. You have a right and a need to go through the grieving process. You also have a right to receive healing and wholeness and comfort that only God can provide. I pray for you the real peace that passes all understanding as you work through your grief.

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