Dealing with Dad After Divorce: Jewel's Story


Join Jewel and her mother, Lenedra Carroll, for a live chat on November 14 at 9pm ET!

My early years, and especially those following the divorce, were years of great conflict within my dad as he struggled to correct ingrained patterns, resolve his confusions about parenting and learn new methods, as well as heal the considerable wounds of abuse he suffered as a child. Unlike his father, he rarely lost control and hit me; more often he raged and harangued at me emotionally. His disapproval and criticism of me was so intense that eventually I internalized that harsh critic's voice. I came to drive myself mercilessly, seeking an approval from others that I wasn't willing to give myself. I have carried a deep loneliness and sorrow. The confusion and fear from this important relationship led me to be a chronic worrier, to have a high need to control whatever I could, and led me in and out of a number of unfulfilling relationship with boyfriends. Gradually I have come to understand the source and the antidote for these issues. I've learned to ask for help and support, and to receive love. I've grown in self-esteem and confidence, learning to be gentle with myself -- less judgmental and mean to myself. I'm learning to open up and be more trusting in relationships; I am feeling whole and far more satisfied with myself, and patient with my shortcomings.

My relationship with my dad was less about nurturing and guidance than about boundaries, acceptance and struggling toward self-love. It has been a path of pain, and ultimately victory. He did not give up on this struggle, consistently requiring himself to grow and change. This has been a gift to me in my own healing process. I no longer feel anger or blame, because he has taken responsibility and made amends. We've both learned that people are not irreparably damaged by their experience, that we do grow strong in areas where we were weakened. I was hurt but not damaged. I've had things to work through, and sorrows, but I can say to others who have suffered that we are whole no matter how broken we feel, and we can recover the experience of our wholeness, no matter what our age.

When I was sixteen, I moved out on my own into a cabin across the canyon from my dad. Neither of us had telephones. If he wanted me to come over, he would yodel across the canyon. If I yodeled in response it meant I was on my way.

One day, my dad called me over and said he had a song to play me. My dad and I had not yet spoken of what had passed between us. I couldn't help being touched at the realization that this was my father's poetic way of making amends.

My father was in no way a mean person. He was wounded, and acted out of his wounds, and for the younger years of my life he was almost like a child who was in over his head after the divorce. I think a lot of parents can relate to that. He did not try to act like abuse was acceptable behavior, or our fault, or refuse to let us talk about it. It troubled him deeply about himself and he very bravely and tenaciously set about working on himself. I respect this very much because so often patterns learned in childhood go unbroken. This is very heroic to me, and I am proud of my dad for the man he has become. I am so pleased to go home and see him happy, with his horses and his music and his continuing healing. It is a miracle.

My father and I have discovered what we value in each other, we've learned what to leave alone -- we have a past that no longer continues to constantly rise up between us. It makes me very happy that he now respects and enjoys me, and I him. It pleases me to see him satisfied in a new marriage and gently fathering his new family. At times we are still awkward, occasionally we feel like strangers, but we are more comfortable with the gaps and differences between us. I'm proud of our work together and it feels good to know that the unhappy legacy of the previous generations ends with us. When I see my brother Atz with his two-year-old stepson or watch my brother Shane playing patiently with his four children, I know it has.

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