My estranged father died the other day. After 20 years of a toxic relationship with him I decided to cut all communications and focus on breaking the cycle. I felt I needed to do it for a better quality of life. I made it clear to him that if he wanted to continue our relationship, he needed to treat me differently and go to therapy together.
He declined. Three times. So I moved on. It was easier than I expected. Most people who heard I was estranged from my father at a young age felt I would change my mind. That once I was married, had kids, etc that I’d realize blood related family is important.
When I was pregnant with my first child I did decide to take the time to reconsider the relationship. I mean, did I have a right to keep a grandparent away from their grandchild? Ultimately, I decided yes and his absence continued. I decided to continue without him in my life and focus my efforts on breaking the cycle of a toxic relationship.
While pregnant with my second child, we had our last communication. He was drunk wanting to know if he had any grandchildren and reminding me that our failed relationship was my fault. In that moment, after 10 years I knew I made the right decision. Relieving myself and my children of his destructive nature was the best choice.
Now a year later, he is gone. Absent from my life and now absent from this world. Treading through the feelings is difficult. Identifying how I feel and why I feel that way keeps my mind racing. I continue to be confident in my choice but there is something I’ve realized. He has been absent from my life BUT he is apart of me. Even in the last 10 years he’s been here all along. He is half of me and always will be.
I see him when I look in the mirror and criticize myself. When I don’t feel good enough about my efforts. When I drink too much and anger rages inside me; makes me feel regret for my words the following morning. When a man yells and my heartbeat races instinctively worrying what he might do next. I will spend the rest of my life knowing he is half of me and using all of me to fight it.
THAT makes me sad. THAT makes me angry. So I ask you, instead of sending condolences for a lost family member today…take a look at your relationship with your child. Don’t just tell them you love them, show it. Make them FEEL wanted and loved. Lastly, If you are ever in the same position that my father once was, think hard. Even if you don’t feel you’re in the wrong, your child feels it and that is valid. That is worth exploring and working on to someday have the relationship that you both deserve.