by Joan Martin
(Alexandria, VA)

I am 52 years old and do not think very often of my father any more. He died at 57 after a year-long battle with metatastic liver cancer way back in 1980 when I was a 19 year old college student. He worked long hours, usually 7 days a week, and had a frosty relationship with my mother. However, in those dark moments when I confront my true self, I often wonder how different my life and my sister's might have been if he had lived. I also wonder if he consciously worked all those hours just to separate himself from our narcissistic mother without much regard for what my sister and I were going through. I am sure that death is very traumatic for people in healthy families, but I cannot begin to explain how bizarre it can get in a a deeply dysfunctional family such as ours. My sister has not spoken to my mother in 18 years and she feels contempt for our dad because he "left us to hang out to dry." I guess being the oldest I felt the brunt of my mother's psychosis more directly and therefore identify with my dad and the pain he must have felt being married to such a disturbed person. So I have chosen to maintain my love for him and my belief that he was a good person stuck in an impossible situation doing the best he could. I don't believe he wanted my sister and I to be in the pain we were while he was alive or the pain we have been in since. He just could see no way to solve the horrible situation we lived in. Immediately after he died I thought (though I had seen his deterioration from cancer) he had concocted the whole thing simply to get away from us. My mother was unable to separate herself from her anger over his death (and his life) and I spent a summer in an almost dream/nightmare state in her house with no air conditioning and windows closed in 90 degree heat. She would lock me out (of no fewer than 9 doors) every time i left the house, no doubt hoping I would never come back. I definitely got the message and moved out within a few months time. When I think of how happy our life seemed when I was little and how somehow it became this horrible nightmare ending in an ugly and despairing death it destroys my soul. So I usually don't think about it. Why tonight I am I do not know.

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Jan 16, 2013
Dr. Martin
by: Doreen U.K.

Joan I am so sorry for this nightmare you are in and can't escape from. It is with you all the time. I know what you are talking about. I used to dream about all the normal families out there who were happy while we 5 girls and one boy was miserable. I wanted to die all my waking life. Growing up silent in a hearing world being told "Children should be seen and not heard." So we had to keep quiet. Mental illness is a common problem today. It was stigmatised when I was growing up so you daren't even hint that you were depressed or suffered this way.
I got married. Had 3 children and started my own dysfunctional family. I didn't know how to resolve the unhappiness of my past so I put up with it. I got lucky. In my 40's I took myself off to a counsellor and spent a painful few years resolving my pain, guilt, unhappiness, everything. I started to feel better like nothing I had ever known. I GOT MY LIFE BACK. A life I had never known before. Happy for the first time in my life. I made the latter years better for my husband and 3 children. I did it for them. I got a BONUS. I got to feel the benefit also. I then was able to relate on a daily basis that was so healing and positive for my family. Family was important to me and still is. But I did something about this. I GOT COUNSELLING. Anyone can do this and it liberates you to be the person you were meant to be.
For your parents sadly counselling was frowned upon and rarely heard of. Now it has become a Lifestyle with benefits. It has many benefits. You can become a happier person. You can and will have compassion for your mom, and your dad. Who knows how they suffered and passed this on to you and your sister. Locked into their own world of unhappiness and passed this on. But you don't have to stay this way. I paid a lot of money for counselling. But it was worth the INVESTMENT. I hope you give this some thought. You can become a happier person in time with the right support. You will also grieve the loss of your childhood. The loss of your parents. DEAD but still living when you were growing up that has left you so very LOST. Go and find yourself. You will be glad you did. My dad spent a lot of time at work to escape my mum but he also put in a lot to time to nurturing us. The nurturing you missed, you will get in counselling. You can come out of this unhappiness and find a reason for living.

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