Handling Family and Initial Reactions

A distressful thought crossed my mind earlier this week. My niece is planning her wedding, and I am happy for her, and looking forward to the event. Until something made me wonder if my father, her Grandpa, would be invited.

I was surprised by my own reaction to this thought. I’ve been feeling so strong and peaceful lately, which has been indescribably wonderful and different from most of my life. I know some of this peace has come from me finally knowing I am worth something, and that my feelings do matter. This past Christmas was the first one where I requested not to have to see my father. So I think I have not seen him now since the Christmas before. I have not spoken to him since even longer than that.

So I was surprised at the jump in my heart, the fear inside at just the thought of being in the same room with him. Why is it so scary now? Because my cloak of denial is gone. I know who I am. I know who he is.

I emailed my brother, this niece’s Dad, about my concerns. I said I am not trying to control anything, and the niece is allowed to invite anyone she wants (she does know about our past, she can make her own decision), but I asked to be warned if my father might be coming. I’m not sure I would decide not to go, but I wanted to have that choice.

My brother’s response was soothing to me, mostly because he understood. I was not alone in this. He said that he would be surprised if my father was still alive by the time the wedding comes around. He is in the final stages of emphysema, unable to stand. (his funeral is a topic for another day – will I go to that? How will his death affect me and my family?) And that he has been disrespectful to all of them lately, insulting and angry, and may come if not invited, and may not come if invited, and that I should not allow him the power to keep me in hiding from such a beautiful family event.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Then I examined my initial reactions further. What is the fear? I broke it down. I’m afraid I will be triggered into having a flashback or panic attack. So what if I do? I have them at home without my father here. I know what to do now. I know how to get through them. Am I afraid of being embarrassed? Maybe a little. Am I afraid to take attention away from the bride and groom? Maybe a little. Am I afraid I will have a complete breakdown and lose myself again? Yes, that is the one. I haven’t known Me very long, and I’m afraid I will resort to hiding and pretending and resume all my old bad habits again.

So what? If that is the worst case, well, I found my way out once, I can do it again. I will not let fear drive my decisions. So I attacked my initial reaction, reached out to my brother and my husband for support, and found that I am strong – outside of my castle. No need to hide. My father has no power over me.


My father has no power over me.


11 thoughts on “Handling Family and Initial Reactions

  1. Additional input about the fear reaction: It’s an old habit. Congratulations on breaking it further. Fear may always be a first reaction regarding him, but it no longer holds you prisoner. Go you!!

    • I almost felt ashamed and trapped by that fear – almost. I have so many tools now that even if the first reaction is fear, and that slippery slope of shame and guilt, I can reframe it and go on. I hardly believe what I’m writing, even now, but I did it again. I gave myself the power.

  2. The sign of a strong woman? Being strong outside our castles. It’s hard sometimes. We are without doubt emotional creatures, but knowing the war is coming is the first step in being victorious in the end. Knowing yourself is the best defense you can have! Congratulations on being the driver of your own destiny and accepting that though there will be battles, the war is yours to win!

  3. Warriors feel fear. I learned to look at fear as a early warning signal. I address what seems to trigger the fear and I feel better prepared for what is coming. Interesting thing is that almost subconscious jump in fear is fairly accurate when the trigger is identified. Planning ahead, establish your support system, knowing an emergency exit plan, all help to manage what used to be unmanageable. You have changed, therefor, the situation will now be different. Cheering you on from this computer. 🙂

  4. Sounds like ol’ dad isn’t going to make it by the sounds of his health, but it’s always nice to have plan B ready. Can you have a close friend or relative stick by you at the wedding, someone who understands the situation? Someone who could hustle you off to another area if dad is there and decides to intereact with you. Usually the narc creeps vent their poison on their victim when they get them alone, so don’t be alone ever at the event. and have someone who can back you up if you get the ‘deer in the headlights’ thing.

    • Excellent advice all around. Thank you. The wedding is still many months away, and my father’s health is very poor. But it has been very poor for a few years now, I think his anger alone keeps him alive now. Yes, I now actually trust my husband and oldest brother and can lean on them if needed. So true about being alone, wow, what a terrible thought. No, I have not been alone with my father for many years, possibly a decade or more, can’t recall too clearly.

  5. Oh sweetheart! First of all, thank you for referencing my post “His sad reality”… I guess you know I understand. I haven’t been following your blog until now so I’ll have to catch up on what’s going on in your life.

    This is what I know… forgive me if I’m not clear but your post really affected me because I can really FEEL your pain. The ONLY way I was ever able to deal with my dad or mom is to hand it over to God. I don’t know if you’re a believer? Religion doesn’t matter but there IS a higher power and that higher power created YOU for a very specific reason. Your parents don’t matter. They were “just the vessel” to get you here. He only has the power you give him and to not show up to your nieces wedding would be to hand him that power all over again. You’ll be missing out on something beautiful and your niece and brother would love to share this day with you. Here’s another thing… my kids know how my parents are but they don’t know them the way I know them. They see 2 complete different people than the people who raised me and my brothers. I guess I’m telling you that because your niece might KNOW what your history is but she doesn’t know it the way you do. She’ll never be able to feel your pain.

    I could talk about this forever and have SO very much to say. I guess the important thing is that I want you to go to that wedding most of all so that you can prove to yourself that you have the power now. You’re gong to leave that day knowing that nothng hurt you and you were in complete control. God has his hands on you and will protect you. Meditate and give it all to God before you go and I promise you that you’ll have a peace and the confidence that you haven’t had before.

    When I used to avoid my parents and dread them being at an event, it made me physically sick. I’d run to the bathroom (wherever we were) and literally throw up when my parents would arrive. NOW, I realize it’s THEIR problem, not mine. They have to live with their decisions and their actions. I’ve forgiven, not for them, but for my own peace of mind. They don’t make me afraid anymore. I pray that this happens for you to.

    God bless you my friend. You’re in my prayers because I absolutely know where you’re at and that this is a very long and painful journey into YOU. You’ll get there though and you’re already on your way. (((HUGS)))

    • Wow. Thank you so much for this uplifting comment! I can tell you do understand. I love what you wrote, that “a higher power and that higher power created YOU for a very specific reason. Your parents don’t matter. They were “just the vessel” to get you here.” I have started to understand that is true. There is a powerful feeling to say my parents don’t matter. I’m still me.

      I have decided I will go to the wedding, my brother convinced me of that. There is nothing to prove though, as my father would likely not even know if I was there, if he happens to be there. I am sure I would get a jolt of fear if I saw his face, because I am still so affected by my past with him that seeing any skinny, old man makes me jumpy. But I know I can trust my husband and big brother to lean on if needed. And I also know the fear will pass, as I realize I am safe, and not a scared little powerless girl any more.

      You are also correct about my niece. She does not know the pain. Only recently has my husband even started to fully understand, and he is just starting, as it is too devastating to know the pain of someone you love.

      I am only beginning to get out of the grips of fear. I do believe I will though.

      Thank you for all of this. Truly, thank you.

      • Oh wow… your comment has me in tears. I completely feel everything you’re going through because I’ve been there. I’m 47 though and I think a whole lot older than you.

        My kids don’t understand either. They think my brother and I over exaggerate what happened in our lives because they haven’t seen the same people in my parents that we saw. They think it COULDN’T have been that bad. All they see now is two old dear people who are grandparents. My husband is completely clueless and can’t understand why I’m so jumpy sometimes or why, when PTSD kicks in, I act freaked out. Different things trigger. But mostly, you’d never know, unless I told you what all I went through. People are shocked to find out that I was so severely abused because they think I’m normal… even my kids, for the most part. I guess that’s a good thing. Hubby was raised in a “Leave it to Beaver” type of family. He was very loved and I think he really doesn’t understand that people like our parents really exist.

        Good luck sweetie. Keep us posted!

  6. Pingback: Dances With Pedophiles | Roots to Blossom

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