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.
Time is simply time. Time waits for no one. It is the therapeutic work we do that assists in healing the traumatic wound.
-Dr. Micheal Kane
My Dear Readers,
What goes through the minds and hearts of fathers who walk away and abandon their children? How does one deny the anguish they put their children through, knowing the psychological devastation that is created by their actions?
Clinical traumatology is my passion. It truly is a gift to sit with my patients and help them work to balance their suffering. I take pride in being a guide and companion, assisting them to find the light and to hold to their paths even during the most painful of experiences. The times that are the most difficult for me in this line of work is when I am working with children and adolescents who are struggling with the trauma of being abandoned by male parents. Seven in 10 children living with a single mother are poor or low-income, compared with less than a third of children living in other types of families.
Today, nearly one-fourth (24%) of the 75 million children under 18 in the United States live in a single-parent family. Of the 18.1 million children in single-parent families, 9.2 million are under 9 years of age. The likelihood of having a single parent varies widely across different racial/ethnic groups:
- White children – one-sixth or 16%
- Latino children-one-fourth or 27%
- African-American children-one-half or 52%.
This is the story of one adolescent, Michelle (not her real name), who speaks from her heart about the lies, broken promises and dashed hopes of her broken family.
This is her story…..
September 29, 2015
My name is Michelle. I am 14 years old. I attend a school in the Puget Sound region. Today is the second time that my dad has canceled his visitation time with me and my sister. Everyone tells me it’s going to be okay, but it’s really not. I don’t have a dad, and my life sucks. This is the worst time of my life.
Every time he texts me to say he can’t see me, he comes up with these corny worthless excuses. I still remember the first time that he told me that he has four children. I was shocked, mad and confused. Honestly, I’m still in shock about everything.
All day every day, I sit in my room and think about the damage he has done to my family. I don’t like to talk about my dad or his second family. The thing that pisses me off the most is how he can just walk out and leave us. I am so angry about the drama and crap he has brought to my family. I hate him. I am ashamed to call him my dad. I wish he wasn’t my dad. I wish I were never born. I want to die. Why can’t my life be normal? I am angry, concerned, embarrassed, and confused.
I am thankful for what family I have right now because if they weren’t here, I don’t know what I would do or what I would be without them. The thing that hurts me the most is how my dad and I were so close and how he was the funniest BEST DAD EVER. Now he is the worst dad ever. I can’t even call him my dad at this point. I’m just disgusted with him and his decisions. My dad is sick. He has ruined my life and brought permanent darkness to my family.
He used to be a great dad. He always supported me at my games and now, he won’t even hang out with me. He has abandoned my sister and me.
He has put my mother in jail for domestic violence. I will never forget the first time the police came at night and took my mom away from me for nearly two weeks due to a restraining order he requested. I cried every night.
I am going to show him that I can be successful without him. I am going to finish school and one day become a surgeon. I will never trust him or another man ever again.
Michelle, age 14
The therapeutic work of trauma
The forced removal of her mother and abandonment by her father has created the unresolved fear of chronic impending devastation in Michelle. Following intense anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks of her mother being taken and fearing powerless and lacking control, Michelle retreats into her private world, one in which she could control and block others out.
The focus of our trauma therapy sessions are to provide Michelle a safe and secure space to release her feelings. Since she was unable to release her anger at her father, we had many intense sessions where I, as the therapist, became a safe target for her frustrations.
Michelle is responding to confusion and conflict. She does not understand why her father would abandon her, whom he used to call his “copilot”. She is conflicted; filled with both anger at his behavior, and the love for her memories of her good times with him. In our sessions, I focus on helping Michelle to process her feelings of denial and disbelief and assist her in moving towards accepting and healing from the abandonment of her father. Her writing represents a willingness to let go of her anger towards her father as well as the trauma of her mother being taken away by the police.
However, Michelle’s remark about wishing that she’d never been born, alarming though it may be, is a response that is normal in therapy, and an appropriate response to her scattered feelings:
“Why can’t my life be normal? I am angry, concerned, embarrassed, and confused.”
The statement of “I want to die” is as a serious response to the trauma and damage which has been done by feelings of betrayal and actions of abandonment. The suicidal ideation is then balanced with Michelle’s futuristic insight i.e. the desire to finish school and become a surgeon. Although suicidal wording was verbalized, there has never been a gesture or attempt by Michelle to end her life. Currently, the focus is on her success as a way for her to respond to her father’s rejection.
In therapy, we focus on Michelle advocating for herself, and in doing so, attain inner balance and calmness in her external environment. In directing her energies towards her future success, she will, in time, achieve that balance with her anger towards her father.
“You can run, but you can’t hide from Self.”
There is no free lunch. Others are paying for your meal. In this case, many children and adolescents like Michelle are paying the cost for those fathers who simply walk away from their families. Sadly, many of these children continue to suffer in silence, blaming themselves for their fathers’ actions.
Michelle, however, is doing well these days; working towards her goal of becoming a surgeon. Will she fully recover from the trauma? No. Trauma is a permanent scar on the psychological self. These feelings will never ever go away. However, Michelle is learning to balance these feelings in her life.
How will she respond to the actions of betrayal and abandonment? Sadly, but understandably, Michelle has a lingering distrust towards black men. Other men in her life may have to pay for the actions of her father. If she continues to focus on her therapeutic work, however, she may be able to develop healthy relationships with men.
To Michelle’s Daddy:
You have no one to hold accountable except yourself regarding your decision to abandon your children. Your daughter, your former copilot, will succeed and fly on her own in spite of you. Your daughter will achieve in spite of you.
She will fly high, far and long; free of the pain and suffering left in your wake. In spite of you.
Until the next crossroads….the journey continues.