September 23, 2009


Can You Fathom A Family?

Update: This post was written as a submission to this month's Family-Themed Edition of the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. It is up now over at Paul's blog, Mind Parts. If you haven't already visited, please do. And won't you please leave supportive comments for these brave bloggers participating? Thanks!


Whenever I speak of my "family" of origin, that's what I do: I put the word family in quotation marks. I don't consider myself as a person who had a family growing up.

Whenever there was some strife or "upset" at a holiday gathering or the "family" dinner table (which inevitably there almost always was), my mother liked to lament, "Can't we just be a family?" So surprised you have the nerve to even ask that question, dear old mom. But it's a good one. I don't know. Can we be a family? What makes for a family anyway?

What Is a Family?
What Is a Family? by Marj aka Thriver on

Let's see. Do you make a family by getting Grandma to buy frilly, fancy clothes for your children and then parading them around to the homes of relatives to sit still and proper, with their mouths shut and their hands folded in their laps? Hhmmmm...I think that's called "keeping up appearances." No, that doesn't quite seem to be enough to cut it to me.

Maybe you make a strong family by neglecting to get proper medical treatment for your children when they are deathly ill or have been severely injured. Nope. Don't think that's it, either. How 'bout calling your child "bad, dirty and evil" after you allow their father to have sex with them? Nah! Don't think so. Prostituting your daughters out to other men? That definitely doesn't work. I know! Claiming a child as a dependent on your taxes after they've been working to earn their own money since they were 11 years old and completely on their own (so they can't file their own income tax)! No, that doesn't define a family either.

Do I sound angry? I hope so! You may have noticed--if you've been reading my blog for a while--that I was able to sneak in a new detail there that is quite heinous. It's something I've been working my butt off on in therapy lately. I'm quite motivated to resolve this hideous, new area of retrieved memories so that maybe, some day, I can relax during the fall months and not freak out in dissociative dysfunction every year. Yeah, I deserve to feel my feelings of anger. I never deserved to be treated this way as a helpless, innocent child.

Do I sound sad? Probably so. I am doing a lot of necessary grieving. I certainly grieve over the childhood and the family I never had.

But, I am also happy and rather proud that I have the chance--and I am taking it--to break the multi-generational cycle of abuse. I can end the legacy I was born into. I've been able to create my own family with my husband and my beloved son.

I am not like my own parents who, at best, saw children as a bother and a burden. I can remember it like it was, literally, yesterday: The day I brought my tiny bundle of joy home from the hospital was one of the happiest days of my life. I don't remember being any more elated on any day before or since that time. It was a time of pure joy that I was able to claim because of my commitment to break the cycle of child abuse.

Has it been easy--trying to fathom a family and forming one--with no positive role models of my own to follow? No, it hasn't been easy. I would be lying to you if I said it was. All three of the members of this family are in therapy. I don't think there's any other way, when the person in the mother role has a severe dissociative disorder.

But, we are facing our issues and challenges, not just keeping up appearances. We love each other and we strive every day to show it and to keep our family communication open. My son will be 13 on his next birthday. But, he still asks me for hugs. The insightful bugger even said to me, just the other day: "You've made great progress on your disability. I'm proud of you, Mom." My heart swells. Yes, we are a family. I get to say that because of the commitment I made even before my child was conceived. We get to claim that because of the love we share, the words we use, and the action we take to be a family.

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" I'm quite motivated to resolve this hideous, new area of retrieved memories so that maybe, some day, I can relax during the fall months and not freak out in dissociative dysfunction every year. Yeah, I deserve to feel my feelings of anger. "

Oh. Wow. Yeah, so with you. So horribly, totally with you, hun. And yes, the angry is good. The angry is great, even. It's progress and it's sooo much better than the numb, hideous void.

*also with the big, safe hugs*
No, you're not like your mother. You've made the decision to work with your issues, get to the bottom of them--and give your new little "family" the right and ability to be a family in actuality.

Cripes! There's always the anger issue, isn't there? Haven't plumbed that one myself. Maybe you can give a clue or two as to how to tap into that fury?

Anyway, give yourself a huge pat on the back for rising above the foulness (is that a word?) of your childhood. You're so right: you didn't deserve any of that. And you're so much more than the abuses perpetrated on you when you were just an innocent.
CK & Beauty: Thanks for commenting and thanks for being supportive about the anger issue. Actually, just writing this post helped me feel like I got some of the anger out in a healthy way. The last time I really needed a physical anger outlet, I put on some angry rock music (with headphones) and I stomped around to the music. Try it!
This is just perfectly said. You are my hero. I need to let my words out, thank you for showing the way.
Also thanks for all of the support over at polyvore. I am beginning to see why you like it so much and I am so happy to see that your computer is doing better!!! YEAH!!
I ♥ You Marj,
(((((((((( hugs)))))))) this is an amazing post my friend. You reached deep and acknowledged some pretty tender issues with grace. You know... I would love to meet with you... Give you a hug and talk over tea. :-)

You are on an amazing journey my friend and it's awesome to see the growth that's happening.

Thank you so much for posting this. I've been reading this blog for a bit, and I've found it to be one of the better blogs on the topic. I am able to relate and not be triggered, which is unfortunately a rarity. Thank you again. This was a good post, and I feel you on grieving the absence of a family or childhood. It's been one the harder things for me to accept.
Vicki: I <3 you, too! (how do you get that neat little, solid heart on there anyway?) You're a hero, too, you know!

Jade: Thanks so much for your kind words and those cyber hugs. I'd like to give you a hug IRL as well!

Eli: Thanks for reading and leaving a comment today. I'm glad it wasn't triggering for you (actually I neglected to put up a trigger warning for this post--oops!) I went to your blog and i was very touched by the way you express your insights and experience. I hope you write some more.
Blessings as always to you dear one.
Thank you for taking the time to post. This post is such a great example! Your words are hitting the spot gently. Blessings and hugs to you!
JBR: And blessings and hugs to you. I always feel so cared for when you visit my blog. Thanks so much for that.
I hear your pain. I hear your sadness. I hear your anger.

It's good to let it out, all of it. We survivors can thrive - and we can give that gift to our own children.
can you please email us
Wow! I think it is amazing that out of those awful experiences you have been able to create a real loving family that really cares for one another - that is incredible.

You did sound angry - and rightly so (I felt angry too as I read) - and I'm so glad that you've been able to do the necessary therapy work to get to this place.

Your son is rightly proud. :)
You give me so much hope. Thanks for all you do.
Marj, you have every right to be angry. Once I was able to access my own anger, I think that I raged practically nonstop for at least 2 years. I am so grateful that my husband is so patient and loving that he stayed through it all. His support means so much to me even today. Writing out my anger and sadness always helps. Today, I can even cry when I need to. You are an inspiration to me.
It gives me so much hope to hear what your son said to you, and that he still wants hugs. I hope that will be true as my daughter grows up, too.
You have worked so hard to "make a different choice" for your own family. You have done a wonderful job *creating* your family in a healthy way. And it's ok to be angry and sad and to grieve. (I'm trying to learn that)
Keep on keeping on....
~ Grace
Marj, I hope you feel really proud of yourself and your family. Your family being your partner and son.
I am sure you do.
Wow! Look at all these comments. Thanks for leaving them. If you came over from the Blog Carnival and have an article there, I will get over and read it and comment at yours as well.

Thanks, Prochaskas, for visiting and leaving a comment. It's always nice to meet a blogger who is new to me.

JIP: Yes, I will e-mail you today.
I can only imagine how much courage, self-awareness, and determination must have been required to make the trip from where you began to where you are now. Congratulations on all your progress, on your family, and on your willingness to keep moving into new territory in your healing journey.
our family have become our internal alters nad our friends and children the rest can go to buggery
I have an award for you.
Came to receive it if you want.

Great collage!
Loved it Marj!
Rick: Wow! Thanks for saying that. I appreciate those kind, supportive words.

JIP: I'm not sure exactly what "buggery" is, but I think I'm with ya there, for the most part.

Ana: Hi! So nice to "see" you. Thanks so much for the award! Now, if I can only get it to load. Please don't be insulted if I can't get my cyber-klutzy self to figure it out. I only seem to be able to load those on my sidebar about 50% of the time. Pooey!
Good for you for breaking the cycle! That takes real strength and courage.
Thanks for being an advocate!
And thanks for stopping by with your supportive comment, Susan.
Hi, if you would like to see my blog on abuse and healing it is-
DMN: Thanks for visiting. I will swing by and visit your blog as well.
Thank you for this brave post. It is hard to fathom a family. When you come from abuse, it is impossible to just look at how other people do it and get it right. You have to learn and to teach yourself new ways of relating and communicating and living. Sometimes I have found that it is the things that other people find so very simple that I find so very hard. It is so good that you now have a loving supportive family. I will be praying for you as these fall months are happening that you would have a renewal, a peace and a joy like never before....because you deserve it!
Tracie: Wow! You have quite a way of expressing yourself in a comment. Thank you for saying this. And thanks for your support. Blessings to you!
how wonderful, brave and strong you are ~~

you do sound angry. but not in an out of control way or scary way. you sound angry in a healthy way. appropriate and justified anger. it sounds like you've dealt with so much and continue to do so. recovering new memories, and being brave enough to shed light on them by telling.

i'm so happy to have found your blog. thank you for writing.

safe hugs to you~~
mama: Thanks for coming back to this post. It took me a while to reply as I've been down with the flu. Thank you for validating my anger and for all your wonderful support. I appreciate you!
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