Dealing with Dad After Divorce: Jewel's Story

An excerpt from CHASING DOWN THE DAWN: LIFE STORIES

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.

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