Today I am pleased to join Gwen Plano on her blog, From Sorrow to Joy–Perfect Love. Last week Gwen visited me, and now I have the privilege of visiting Gwen. I hope you’ll come over and read my post and take a look around Gwen’s blog.
Silenced Voices of Abused Children
A little spoken of tragedy in our world is the silenced voices of abused children. Voices silenced for a variety of reasons are a hindrance to well-adjusted lives and justice for these children. Their scars are invisible, etched in tiny hearts and minds forever.
I was born in 1946, the first year of Baby Boomers. Our parents adhered to firm rules of 1940s and 1950s etiquette and discipline. Mama and Daddy were firm believers in proper behavior from their offspring.
Some likely familiar phrases heard on a regular basis in our home included:
Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should not speak unless spoken to.
Children should stand when an adult enters or leaves a room.
Children will not talk back or sass their parents or other adults.
Children will not begin a conversation with an adult; always wait for the adult to start the conversation.
These are only a few of the rules laid down for children in our family and culture to follow. Some of these often heard rules instruct children to be silent in certain situations involving adults. These instructions lay a perfect foundation for silencing children who are victims of abuse.
In posts here, here, and here, I have written on the topic of writing and its healing benefits. Today I want to share a cautionary tale with you. Something happened in our family two weeks ago today casting a different light, at least for me, on the subject of memories, writing, and healing.
I am a proponent of the healing benefits of writing because I thoughtI had come close to healing from scars and memories of my past related to my mother’s parenting skills and my ex-husband’s similar abuses. I now know this is only partially true.
The incident bringing this understanding to light occurred in our home and involved our eldest child, a son aged 43. Coincidentally, he is the son of my first marriage and later adopted at age 18, at his request, by my second husband. The details of what happened are not important to my post. However, I will say that Bob and I were stunned at their occurrence.
What is important for you to know is that I was alone here with our son when this happened and mid-point through the incident, I felt as though I had time travelled decades backward. My emotions kicked into high gear, and I immediately found myself wanting to put space between the two of us.
As soon as I did, the incident took on the heat of a glass blower’s furnace, and I felt my emotions accelerate into what felt like a nightmare. I could not be living through this again! And yet I felt as if I were staring at my mother and ex-husband rolled into one.
The reaction I was having to our son’s behavior was familiar to me — a tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, a need for air, a need to close myself off from what was happening. As a child, I would run and close my door and lock it when Mama treated me abusively. With my ex-husband, it was a different story; he was bigger and stronger than I and so I rolled into a fetal position and cried.
Finally, I walked to our entry which prompted our son to leave. And then all of my past emotions and feelings came surging forward and out. I cried the next three hours until my husband returned home.
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What I have learned from this experience is as follows:
Although this incident brought back unhappy and painful memories, my recovery from them has been quicker. For the past two weeks, my husband and I have talked about what happened but less and less each day. Bob has yet to speak to our son about his actions but will in due course.
I realize that my emotions were the result of seeing in action what caused my pain before, and I began taking steps to remove myself — standing up from the kitchen table where we sat, walking step-by-step into our kitchen, and then into our entry. I placed myself at a distance from the person hurting me with his words and emotions.
Initially, I haven’t been able to write here or on my memoir. I realized yesterday I was ready to write again because writing is what brought me far enough to take the steps listed above. This morning the subject of this post came to me, and here I am. Later today I plan to begin work again on rewriting my first draft of my memoir.
Based on all of this, I have learned that yes, writing is a healing agent from whatever pain, abuse, unhappiness or loss we have experienced. However, not all of those memories disappear. They are a part of who we are forever. They make up our being, the person we have become, for we have learned from them. And yes, like in PTSD and other similar emotional situations, there are triggers which precipitate memories surging back quickly.
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Be cautious as you write to remember we cannot wipe away our memories by writing, but the writing itself with its cathartic nature will teach us how to handle the resurgence of those memories should something or someone trigger them.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ∼ Rose Kennedy
I am honored to be with Sue Mitchell at An Untold Story sharing a portion of my story. I do hope you’ll follow me over to Sue’s blog to read the rest.Note: As Sue and I discussed this guest post and using an excerpt from my work-in-progress, I expressed thoughts about a memoir I had just read. In that life story, the writer’s experiences somewhat paralleled my own. The author’s words opened up new avenues of thought and reflection I’d never expected to experience. I’m writing my story hoping to touch others so that they too may begin to think, reflect and heal.
Living with Fear
Young children scare easily—a tough tone, a sharp reprimand, an exasperated glance, a peeved scowl will do it. Little signs of rejection— you don’t have to hit young children to hurt them—cut very deeply. ~ James L. Hymes, Jr.
For a child, living in fear has to be one of the worst emotional states to find in one’s environment. Living isn’t living when it’s done in fear of something or someone. And that’s how life was in my childhood home.
Fear was an everyday occurrence. Not the fear of physical harm. Instead, the fear of words, another’s emotions gone wild, punishment, the unexpected. A child is supposed to be happy, carefree. This is impossible under a cloud of fear. Like waiting for the thunder to roll, the clouds to burst open, then drenching, chilling rain falling on you.
a: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b (1): an instance of this emotion (2): a state marked by this emotion.
Imagine living with these feelings day in, day out. Never knowing what to expect. Always on guard for that moment when tensions rise, tempers flare and you become the focus of anger and temperament.
July 3, 2012
I wonder if you remember anything special about cherry Jell-O. Probably you remember making it quite often. After all, it was Brad’s favorite!
BUT do you remember an afternoon when the worst thing that could have happened to a mother happened to you?
Lovingly, I’m sure, you had prepared another of those “humongous” pans of cherry Jell-O. And you had carefully placed it in the refrigerator to do that gelling thing it was so clever at doing.
I don’t remember where you had gone after that, but little eyes were watching and big ears were listening. As soon as they had perceived you were nowhere near the kitchen, Brad went to work.
Despite the fact that he was just passed three years old, he had somehow managed to learn how to reach up far enough to open the refrigerator door. His eyes spied that pan of Jell-O, and Brad was going to have some. And onto the floor it went!
As always, the minute you heard a crashing sound you were right there to see what one of us had done. And there it was — red Jell-O all over your kitchen floor!
I have added another installment to my draft memoir under the tab “Memoir in Progress,” if you would like to read and follow it. Remember, it is a work in progress and therefore very rough indeed. Entries are dated, so you’ll find today’s at the top of the page labeled “July 23, 2012 Entry.” Previous entries appear below in reverse chronological order.
For those of you who have written or are writing your memoir, I’d love to have your feedback.