After my mother’s sudden demise, while my sister and I were still grieving, my father revealed that he had a mistress and a child with her too. Though he reassured us that the mistress and child would not be made a part of our life, it created a crack in my relationship with him, which I haven’t been able to mend. I couldn’t grieve the loss of my mom with him, and I have not been able to trust men that I have dated. I feel I lost two parents together and I feel like an orphan. How do I heal from this trauma as it is affecting my relationships?
Ans: A deed may invite blame as it brings with it scrutiny and shame. Your father had a life apart from the one he shared with your family to address certain needs in his life. Human beings often look for answers to questions that they haven’t learnt to ask yet. This is why ‘enough’ is never ‘truly enough’ for some people. The timing of all this coming out into the open is understandably unfortunate. At the same time, one must not ignore this revelation as just something one has to cringe over. I’d like to help you contextualise how you are possibly feeling – a little bit.
It is a known fact that children are conditioned and socialised to see their parents as role models and a successful yardstick against which they can measure their own success as human beings and social creatures. As a child grows up and learns more about the world, the child begins to see his parents as fallible and idiosyncratic. Suddenly, they don’t seem to have some answers or the solutions they offer seem less than satisfactory in the moment.
A child may pin his/ her hopes or dreams on a parent’s ability to shade and chaperone him/her only to realise that the parent had one eye shut all the time. This realisation causes chagrin and confusion in the child. Seeing a parent as a leader offers a great deal of warmth and security to a child. Contrast this with that sneaky feeling that one’s comfort was all based on a lie.
This can lead to estrangements and a crisis of identity, and faith. To expect your father to have acted as a father first and as a man second would be to expect your father to rise above and beyond the many desires of men. Your father’s parallel life fulfilled a part of him you may not yet understand.
This doesn’t justify the fact that you feel cheated by him. Let your grief process stay focussed on the loss of a person rather than the loss of an image you were taught to believe in about a parent figure. Grief has a certain weight to it that is often processed in a solitary manner but when the burden gets hard to carry, it can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed.
To heal from a trauma would mean to give yourself time. Every man you meet will be different from the previous one. So, it is crucial to judge each man as an individual rather than trying to classify and cluster men under a certain arbitrary label that matches your mood or your prejudices. Such generalisations about an entire gender lack accuracy and authenticity and will simply make you feel bitter and hurt. The default state of every human being is that of an orphan.
We are born alone and we die alone. It’s the rigmarole in between where we are endowed with cultures and families where we learn to survive while having our needs met.
Embrace this bitter-sweet truth about having nobody but yourself to rely on while that doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the company of others.
See your father as just a man with whom you share a biological connection. Understand that every person is flawed in ways you may not approve of.
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