Complexity of incestual love…

Earlier this morning I came across a post that a friend in England shared on Facebook. It was a post from 4 years ago. I had gone home to England for the Christmas holidays and a bunch of the Avenham Gang – as we called ourselves – met up in a pub for drinks. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for years, yet the bonds between us couldn’t be denied. We were family. It didn’t matter your religion, which school you went to, how much money you had, we loved each other, we were friends, we played together, stayed over at each other’s houses, defended each other, fought with each other, went camping together. We were defined by the area we lived in. Proud of being from Avenham. Knew our friends parents, knew all the shopkeeper’s, the priests at church!

The night was magical for me. Old boyfriend’s, meaning boys I loved and dated, and also claimed as friends. Kisses on the cheeks, hugs, laughter… so much laughter, so much joy, so much care and compassion for each other, the love still there for all of them and they for me.

They were all my heart and soul during those years in Avenham; all of them. They each meant something to me. I knew them. Knew who they were going out with, knew what their home life was like, knew their siblings, their pets, their aunts and uncles. I valued them. Treasured them. Felt safe with them. Trusted them, and know they would have guarded me with their lives, if only they had known what I needed to be protected from…

Looking through all the photo’s that were shared in the post, my mind catapulted back to so many memories of those years. One in particular was of a Sunday morning in Carmel and my Dad’s bedroom. Carmel (my step mum) was sat up in bed and my dad was playing donkey rides with me and my three sisters, Anne, Karen and Sarah. My brother John was living in Blackpool with my mum at the time. Laughter filled the room, tears running down Carmel’s cheeks, all of us wanting another turn at a donkey ride, true happiness, family times, love, safety and preciousness.

During this morning’s memory, I could hear my dad’s laughter. It was a hearty laugh, a full of life laugh. He was fun. He was funny. He was kind and sincere. He was caring and compassionate. Thoughtful and witty. He worked hard for his family, would do anything for anyone. People liked him. The Avenham kids liked him. He would come out and play games with all of us. He would have the kids come to the house and play games. He was welcoming and inclusive; didn’t want for anyone to be left out. I was proud of him. Proud that he was my dad.

The complexity came to mind just thinking of how much my Avenham friends liked my dad. How so many people liked him. It was hard not to like him…

As an adult, and as I’ve grown through therapy and awareness into the full realization of the impact my incestuous relationship with him has had on my life, I thought this morning of my struggle in earlier years with sharing with anyone the truth of who he was and what was really going on in our household. What I struggled with was people disliking him because of what he did to me. I might have been protective of him, even though he abused me, and so if I shared anything about him and the reaction was negative then I wouldn’t share anymore with that person. I thought a lot about that this morning…

How I loved him so much. How much I miss him since he died in 1988. How the absence of his laughter and playfulness left such a huge void in my life, and I wonder do other incest survivor’s struggle with the same things? Do they see the harm that has been done to them, the internal battles, the relationship issues that it’s caused, the shame they might still carry, the addictions they might have, the fears they face, the isolation they feel? Do they see and feel all of this and question how and why they could still love and care about the person who harmed them?

That is the complexity for me. I am certain that had my dad lived until this time in my life, the forgiveness I gave him before he died, might not have been offered so easily. The parts of me that I reclaimed during EMDR treatment for PTSD would have demanded that he truly hear and feel my pain and anger for all that he robbed me of – a normal life, husband and children, trust and safety – not to say that my life would have turned out that way anyway if he hadn’t abused me, but I will never know. He put his own needs and desires first and for that I will always believe there was a price to pay!

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