What About a Holiday?

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m sure it was not like last year. But what it made me realize is that family is what is important and also that family can be extremely annoying and possibly cause nervous breakdowns. Still, they are family. But honestly, holidays can be stressful even without a pandemic.

So my Thanksgiving was quiet. But the food was nowhere as good as my mom’s. But it was peaceful. Sort of.

I had a couple of “firsts” this past week. It was my first time going to the emergency vet (with my mom’s dog) the night before Thanksgiving. He’s a sick pup. Still in the animal hospital slowly recovering. For two hours Wednesday night, my mom and I sat in the car, in the dark, in the rain, while we waited for someone to take the dog inside. Then we had the form. Then we waited for someone to come get the form. Then they told us to sit there until the vet checked him in…which if we had waited, would have taken another two hours.

We left. I told the vet assistant that I was going to get my mom home…she’s 93 for God’s sake….and that they could call her there.

It’s been a very emotional roller coaster the last couple of days and I have never prayed so much for a human being as I have for that dog’s recovery. He is my mom’s companion. Her world. In this crazy, pandemic don’t leave your house world. She is alone without him.

Then my friend’s father passed away. I have known the family since I can remember being alive and she is a good friend and I could not see her while she was up here from another state where she now lives and her dad was dying. I emailed her. Then I saw her in the crowd (outdoors with masks) at the graveside service. Was able to speak to her for a second.

There are many things horribly wrong right now. Too much suffering going on. But it’s tough when you know your mom is having her Thanksgiving dinner alone or you can’t properly comfort a good friend at a tough time. I know the reason for it and I am not going to complain because so many people have it worse. But by not having what you take for granted, it kind of makes you thankful for what you have always had and thought you always would have.

Things can feel really depressing right now, so it can be difficult at times to keep going and just doing the things that need to be done. I remember going to be evaluated for a college study of some sort years ago. I was interviewed and was then asked….”how long have you been depressed?” Huh? Depressed? Me? Hmmn. I’m not depressed. Well…maybe. I do cry a bit now and then. I do feel like everything is a chore. Not much brings me joy.

You can be depressed and not know it. So this is just a reminder….there are online services. National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s not just for when you are about to jump off the bridge. It can be for when you feel overwhelmed and find yourself crying or unable to sleep. There are also counsellors who are doing on-line work these days. So, please take care of yourselves.

Other feelings can sneak past as well. If you marry a narcissist, you may find that you aren’t the only one affected by the union. Your children will most likely carry on the unseen trait and be abused or abusive. Being able to talk to other survivors who have sailed in the same boat that I have, has opened my eyes. Doesn’t make me any smarter, but it does show me that other people out there have experienced similar things in their families and ask similar questions about life.

I see clearly my grown children and their patterns when it comes to picking romantic partners and what they consider “love” and “normal”. Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s normal either. All I know is that when I look back on my love life, the main common denominator is…me. And again, we don’t start out in the middle of the web, so….how do we trust ourselves to know what is really love and normal at the beginning of getting to know someone?

I keep telling my kids that if they want their lives to change, they need to change. Counselling can help. Sometimes it can. Sometimes friends can help even more by their knowledge and their example. But I have one son who doesn’t believe in abuse unless it’s physical. Perhaps that is just an easier way to not work on your problems. Because it is not easy. Way easier to blame someone else. And, the thing is, as one who has gotten caught in too many webs myself, I know that even when someone is emotionally and verbally abusive and abusing their power at your expense, there is that narcissistic/co-dependent dance that we do. And so we blame the other person because we can’t see where we end and they begin. Even when someone points it out to us. We have to see it ourselves. It’s sad. So sad. And so very hard to see past the web to realize it is not normal and that we can get out and be okay. It can take time.

This week, I spoke to a young woman who told me about a priest who was trying to groom her and her friend. I can’t get into the whole story, but when I look at that sentence, I see that these were young people who knew what was going on….and knew the name for it. And knew where to call to talk about it. I know that we all tend to get disappointed and disgusted with “the system” and how hard it is to get justice, but to me, this is huge. This is a start. Education. Coming forward may not bring justice to our stories, but it may help someone else. And that is what I told her as well. Did not tell her what to do, but told her that when someone makes a report, it helps others to come forward and do the same.

Last week, I spoke with a mom whose son had stayed silent about his abuse for years. He stayed silent until he saw SNAP survivors on the news talk about their abuse. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re doing nothing to change anything. That you are only talking about it. But these stories show that the work we are doing….everyone….all survivors….does make an impact and a difference in the world.

Four years ago, I had no idea what happened to me. I thought it only happened to me. I was ashamed. I did what I thought I had to do so I wouldn’t get a priest in trouble. It seemed to go against everything….and against God….to speak against a priest. And to speak against a priest who I thought had feelings for me…which must have been something I did….I felt all alone in the world.

I felt inside everything that society says on the outside when they victim shame someone. I was not a child. I should have known better.

And then, it took so very long before I believed that I belonged with other survivors. I learned about the term “grooming” and about cover ups within the diocese. I learned that adults are abused very often and that they are too ashamed to speak out.

And if this knowledge becomes more acceptable to adult victims of clergy abuse, perhaps we can heal more of those who are still out there living in the shadows and blaming themselves. Perhaps the time will come when there will be no more second guessing about whether or not it is right to make a report because we may get laughed at or told to come back when we’ve “got something better than that”.

Maybe with enough knowledge and seeing other people brave enough to talk about this issue….and believe me, it is terrifying to be threatened by the person who is abusing you and then to be torn apart by those who are supposed to help you. To be seen as someone who is trying to bring down the church. Maybe with enough knowledge and small victories…other survivors will begin to see that what happened to them has a name. And that it was not their fault.

Have a great week, please take the survey, and if you are an adult survivor of abuse by a priest or other religious person, remember we meet next Sunday at 7pm EST.

3 thoughts on “What About a Holiday?

  1. Are any of the members part of Voice of the Faithful, or Future Church or Call to Action? Those are all groups looking to reform the Church.

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  2. Many thoughts came to mind as I was reading this. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I see it as a day to recognize my gratitude for family and being who I am today. That’s important to me. Christmas? It seems to me that Christmas is all about “getting”, as opposed to ThanksGIVING. I loved Christmas as a kid. As I got older, I realized the real meaning of Christmas has been poisoned by the idea that it’s all about exchanging gifts. Christmas is all about materialistic items. It’s as if it forces us to feel obligated to buy gifts.

    I noticed the “L” word was mentioned a couple of times. What is love? I’m not sure. I understand family love. I can give it and receive it. Then there’s the other kind of love, relationships. This is the area of my life that is void as a result of being sexually abused beginning at 10 years old.

    I am 60 years old and have never had the experience of a woman looking into my eyes and telling me, “I love you.” That’s only happened in the heat of the moment during sex from my teen years into my forties. I’ve only been on the receiving end of “I love you.” I’ve never said it to any woman I’ve been with in my life because I don’t know what it means. Those three words pack a lot of power and can open up an enormously huge door. I’ve knocked on that door but I’ve never crossed the threshold.

    Then there is sex. I was told when I was very young that sex is between two people who love each other and it’s special. My sexual abuse shattered all of that. I learned that sex is just something to do with a woman I’m attracted to and feels good for both of us.

    There was a mention regarding the education about sexual abuse. For approximately 11 years I was the guest speaker in a class designed to educate and raise awareness about sexual abuse. The class took place at Our Lady of Grace Church in Encino, CA. Parents of the kids going to school there had to attend along with employees and volunteers. It’s important to me that everyone knows I volunteered to do this when I was asked. My speaking had nothing to do with $$, and yet it’s the most fulfilling and rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.

    The online sexual abuse recovery meetings has helped me beyond my expectations. No matter what my experiences have been, it’s still a hard subject to talk about.

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