grieving the loss of a normal childhood
June 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
I am still wading my way through Paul Gilmartin’s interview with Susan Hagen on the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast # 128. What stuck out for me this time was allowing ourselves to ask ourselves (and empathetic witnesses), “What [mother][father][sister][brother][other significant family member or guardian] would do this to me (a powerless child)?” Susan Hagen points out that one of the significant tasks of re-parenting our inner child is to grieve the loss of a normal childhood. Of course, this is blessedly difficult to do, because the childhood we had is what we considered ‘normal’ even though the benchmarks for common normality were pointedly absent. The corollary statement to the above question would be, “A normal [mother][father][sister][brother][other significant family member or guardian] would not do that to a powerless child.”
What has taken so long for me to identify, to name, to pin down, is the absence of the normal comforts that a child needs to grow up to become a secure, confident, trusting adult. Remember the crime scene investigations on tv when they deduce what happened to the victim by the void left by blood spatter? They are able to trace an outline, and finally fill in the missing information by the evidence that surrounds the void, leading them to discern the content by the surrounding features.
That is what it has been like for me figuring out what happened to my childhood and why I do not feel safe to be with family members to this day. There is much that I cannot remember from my childhood, in terms of exact memories of significant events. The memories I have have been well worked over in therapy sessions over the last 23 years. I wish I could remember more, but I am yet to get my siblings to share their memories, to help me recall more of my formative experiences.
One of the splatter voids that gives me a clue as the that missing ‘normal’ childhood is the fact that I have not been able to get any of my siblings to talk to me about our formative years. Ever. And now, because I have been trying since I came into recovery in 1996, they pretty much avoid me completely because they know I want to talk about it and they are singularly purposeful in avoiding any meaningful conversations.
This is the grieving work that I am processing now. I am processing my loss of a normal childhood, wherein both my parents caused deep psychological scarring. I am also processing the loss of my sibling relationships, wherein none of my siblings will actually talk to me about anything of substance. I am also processing the continuing issues of family cruelty perpetrated on me through a willful ignorance to deny that anything harmful has happened to me through these relationships in recent years.
Yes, I have the urge to call my Brother 1 and ask, “How did you experience anger in our family?” But, just for today, I will not call, and in so doing, protect myself from perpetuating the harm of dismissal, deflection, and invalidation.