His shouts and insults still ring in my ears. I can feel the water from the shower washing over me, but I can’t distinguish the tears from the water drops. The water falls down my body but I can’t wash away the pain or the disgust at what happened yesterday. I try to wash my body, but the bruises he left on me are so painful I can’t even run a washcloth over them. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to escape this torture.
That’s who’s responsible for this pain. He pinned me against his bed and yelled at me to turn over so he could spank me. I’m 20 years old, too old for a grown man, my father, to touch me. I scream for help, beg him to get off of me, and do my best to fight him off. Of the 5 adults in the house, only 1 answers my calls. His girlfriend appears in the doorway. When she only sits and stares at the scene in front of her, I yell at her to get him off of me. She shrugs and says, “I can’t,” and closes the door so the rest of the house won’t be inconvenienced by my screams anymore.
They thought I was the issue.
That’s just the start. The lies, manipulation, and abandonment run far deeper than that one poignant anecdote. A lifetime of disappointment isn’t so easily described.
My parents divorced when I was a mere two and a half. Shortly thereafter, my dad married my first stepmom. She and I weren’t very close, but it didn’t matter anyway. They divorced when I was in 2nd grade.
I was a Daddy’s Girl then. When he and Deanna divorced, he promised me, “Kristen, I’ll never marry another woman. It’s just Daddy and Kristen forever. I don’t need any other girls in my life! I have the best one out there already.” 5 months later, he married my 2nd stepmom. Within a year, they moved to Indiana for a new job opportunity for him. That’s when it really shifted for me. I wasn’t special. His wives were special. Promises to me were only so valuable as they were convenient.
Things have only escalated since my childhood. My father and I don’t even talk. He didn’t attend my wedding or allow my half brother and sister to attend. He uses them as pawns in this game he plays to maintain control however he can. He’s thrown me, my mother, and my stepmom around like we were weightless. He’s made me cry, scream, and suffer.
And I know I’m not alone. There are so many women out there that are hurting, trying to heal from their own daddy issues. They come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all the same essentially. Fathers have the ability to hurt their little girls’ hearts so easily. They’re our first loves, our only example of what a husband should look and act like. We should be able to depend on them in all situations, but sometimes they fail us.
One day, I was faced with the reality that carrying around this pain was only hurting me. Enough was enough. I wrote my letter of forgiveness, cried, prayed about it, cried some more, got really angry, prayed some more, and ultimately, I was freed. I still hurt sometimes, but I’m not weighed down daily with guilt or the pain of the past anymore.
An Open Letter of Forgiveness
If you have any animosity toward your father, I encourage you to write your own forgiveness letter. You write it but do not send it. This is an exercise for you, not for him. It will be painful, but you will feel so much better when that dead weight has been lifted from your heart. You deserve it, I promise.
It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. You’re going to cry. You’re going to realize you haven’t forgiven your father for more things than you realized. You’re going to want to get angrier, more spiteful, and depressed. I urge you to dig deep, fight those natural tendencies, and find the peace that comes with the release of that disappointment.
I forgive you.
I forgive you for all of the hurt. For all of the times I’ve cried myself to sleep because of you. For all of the times I hated you.
I forgive you for letting me down. Even though you were the one I should have been able to depend on.
I forgive you for failing me.
I forgive you for the lies you told me and the lies you told about me.
I forgive you for ignoring me.
I forgive you for not giving me an example of what a husband and a father should look and act like.
I forgive you for the bruises.
I forgive you for trying to turn me against my mom.
I forgive you for using my brother and sister to hurt me.
I forgive you for the fear, for not stopping when I asked you to, even when I cried and told you that you were scaring me.
I forgive you for your vices. You were too weak to see how it affected me.
I forgive you for abandoning me.
I forgive you for how you treated Mom. I forgive you for tearing apart our family. I forgive you for ruining it all.
I forgive you for the embarrassment and the shame.
I forgive you for the betrayal. I forgive you for not defending me, for not choosing me, for not putting me first.
I forgive you for hitting me, for telling me not to tell anyone. I forgive you.
I forgive you for things I thought were unforgivable.
I forgive you because I deserve forgiveness. I deserve to have the skeletons removed from my closet and my heart opened back up to allow love and trust again. I am going to go live my life now; I am free of hatred and mistrust. I am free of your chains.
Finally. After all this time, I forgive you, Dad.
I have found a man to love and parent with that represents all that my father is not. Though they were painful, my father did teach me valuable lessons. Sometimes the greatest lessons are learned by seeing how not to do something. My daughter will grow up with a father that respects and values her, and that’s the most important part of my future. I’m leaving the hurt from my childhood in the past and learning to use my experiences to be a better mom now.
Kandy Apple Mama loves to promote the amazing, truly incredible experience that parenthood is, but we also understand that parents aren’t perfect and that sometimes Mamas are healing from deep wounds. If you’re looking to heal through writing as well as raise awareness for abuse or domestic violence at the same time, visit our Open Your Mind project.
Just remember: even if you don’t believe he deserves your grace and forgiveness, you deserve this.