I first started this blog to help myself through a particularly difficult time in my life. I wanted to be more open and transparent about some of my personal struggles. I have always found writing my thoughts down to be very therapeutic. It helps me organize my feelings and process them better. This is by far the most vulnerable story I have shared. I struggled on whether or not to share it, but it is my current truth and I need to be able to work through it. I have spent the last few weeks feeling like a zombie. Feeling numb and detached while out in public just so I could hold it together and get through my day. But I am finally ready to talk about it, so here we go...
It all started with a text from my friend, “Are you ok?” At the time I was doing well. In fact I had been doing so much better lately. I had finally been feeling back to normal after a rather tough year dealing with grief, loss and heartache. I asked her what she meant and she sent me a screen shot of a news release announcing how they had arrested a 67 year old man on 25 sex related charges….a man with my Dad’s name.
At first I thought no, this can’t be my Dad. Someone surely would have told me if he was arrested! There was no picture, so I thought this must be a mistake, there must be another man with his same name. I scoured my family’s Facebook and no one was saying anything, everything was business as usual. I started messaging my family frantically trying to find out what this was all about. I finally got ahold of his wife. She said yes, it was true, she had reported him on behalf of his victims (who were minors) and had him arrested. She believed the allegations to be true. My stomach just dropped. I could not wrap my head around such a thing…
My initial shock
My Dad! My loving, supportive Dad….the one and only man in my life that ever made me feel like I was good enough.
The same person who always told me how proud he was of me. The one man who I never questioned his love for me. You see my parents were not together when I was growing up. I grew up with my Mum, but I still remained close with him. He made me proud of who I was and of our family. His knowledge of our culture was so inspiring, and I loved learning from him. He was one of the most generous people I knew. He would help anyone that needed it, even when they were at their lowest. Never judging, he would help people get back on their feet without expecting anything in return. He literally gave his own kidney to my brother who needed a transplant. He was a good man, and a good father. He had struggled with alcoholism in his younger years, but I had grown up with him once he became sober and got his life back in order. I was very proud of him for his sobriety and setting a good example for all the children he raised.
But in that moment everything I thought I knew about my Dad felt like it changed. How could the kind, loving soul that I knew do something like this? Something that as a woman and a mother of girls is my worst nightmare. If he was guilty, what does this mean? Was he not the man I knew? Was his whole life and all the good things he did a lie? Did this destroy everything I knew and loved about him? It was just so hard to comprehend how such a good person could be accused of something like this.
You hear about these cases in the news and it is so easy to think wow that person is so evil, thank goodness he is rotting in jail now. But you have no connection to them, you don’t know what kind of a person they really are. I know my Dad, and I know he is not evil. I know he has a caring and loving heart. But, knowing that makes processing this news even more confusing. How does one move forward? How does one continue to have a relationship with a person knowing this? If he is found guilty, how can I support him without supporting what he has done? How does this affect my own identity? What does that mean for me and my family as a whole? What about my kids? Did they just lose their Grandfather forever? Should I never have trusted him with my own children? The questions just swirl in my head like a huge tornado, and turn into even more questions!
How I felt...
There are no words to properly explain how I felt. Mostly it was deep, immense, sadness, but also betrayal, hurt, shock, doubt, guilt, regret, and loss. The father I knew and loved was gone. The pedestal that I had put him on was gone. He was not the man that I had known my whole life. Everything that I knew about him changed literally from one moment to the next. Growing up I never once caught a glimpse of the man that he was accused of being. I felt guilt for this. My therapist called it survivors guilt, the fact that I was never affected when others were. Guilt that I was safe. I grew up with my mother. I visited my Dad usually once or twice a year. I was not always there. I can’t help but wonder what my life would have looked like if I did grow up with him. Could I also have been a victim? What would have happened to me if I was? I think it would have changed my entire life. I am so grateful that I did not have to endure such a thing, but I also feel guilty for feeling so “lucky.”
At first all I could do was cry. I felt emense sadness. Sadness for the victims, my father, myself, and my entire family. This affected so many people! My 12 biological siblings, my 4 adopted, his wife, my aunts, my cousins, his many grandchildren, and our whole community where he lives. My heart just shattered into a million pieces. I knew my family would never be the same again. I knew my life would never be the same again. I knew my relationship with my father would never be the same again.
I also felt angry. Angry that my father may not be the man I believed him to be. Anger that he could be capable of hurting someone. Anger that if he was hurting and had been hurt, that he never got the help he needed. Anger that he was not strong enough to stop the cycle of abuse. You see my family's story is not unique. Sexual abuse plagues our Indigenous communities, and I don't think it is talked about enough! It is swept under the rug but that is not helping to stop it. The cycle that was created when our kids were stolen and taken to Residential Schools. Children who were robbed of their culture and identity, denied the love, nurturing and affection that every child needs, robbed of protection and safety. They grew up without knowing what a normal family looked like. Having to endure physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse. These many traumas have intergenerational affects, and I believe this is a big reason why our communities are still struggling with issues like lateral violence, abuse, suicides and addictions. My heart was bleeding for my family but also for our people as a whole.
So much uncertainty
I don’t know what the future holds for my family. It is a great loss for all of us. And it is going to be a very long road to healing. I worry that it is going to leave my siblings divided on who wants to maintain their relationship with him and who does not. I worry that from this point forward this is all my Dad will ever be known for, that all the good he has done will be forgotten. At 67 years old, I am worried he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail. I am worried and scared for his safety. I also don’t know yet how my own relationship with him is going to look. I am still having difficulty processing it all. My therapist told me to be prepared to go through all the stages of grief. "You will be angry, you will be sad, you may feel denial. This is a loss, a great loss for you and you will grieve it." Unfortunately I am no stranger to grief, loss, betrayal, and heartache. I have been battling all those feelings head on over the past year. These issues were the very reason why I started this blog in the first place. Click here to see my very first post
The irony of it all is that I finally felt like I had healed and was ready to move forward. I had reached the acceptance stage of my grief. And now I am facing starting back at the beginning.
Or maybe I am not starting all over? Maybe I am better off this time round. I have been working hard on my healing: my mental health, my spiritual health, and setting boundaries. These things are already a priority in my life. I have a therapist, I have a stronger support system than I did a year ago. I had previously felt broken and lost, but I learned how to piece myself back together and build myself stronger than I was before. That is what I need to remind myself of!
I believe all the heartache, betrayal and hurt that I have experienced up until this point may have been preparing me for this. The ultimate heartbreak. So even though I feel like life has knocked me down after finally getting up on my feet again, I realize I am stronger than I have ever been before. And for that I am grateful. I can and I will get through this! I know that the trial and hearing the truth of everything that happened is going to be awful. I know that I am going to go though stages where I am very angry with my father. There will be times that I am ashamed of him. But I need to remember that his actions and his choices do not define mine. He gave me life and he is apart of me, but he is not me. I hope that after I heal from this, I can get back to a place where I have a good and trusting relationship with him again. Up until now he was the only man in my life who had never hurt me or let me down. And I need that back more than anything.
I know this is a heavy topic and one that people find very hard to talk about. If you have ever gone through this yourself I would love to know how you did it. Were you able to repair a relationship after something so damaging like this? Thank you for your time and listening to my story, your support is so much appreciated!