When Parents Break Your Heart

Did you stop talking to your parents because of their abuse and/or fighting?

“My parents, both drunk, were having a fight. My father pushed my mother with enough force that she broke her pelvis and ended up in the hospital.”

I was sleeping on the couch. At least they thought I was sleeping. My parents, both drunk, were having a fight. My father pushed my mother with enough force that she broke her pelvis and ended up in the hospital. This was one of many crazy memories of that I have of my family. Even to this day some of the dramas of the carnage of alcoholism remain untold. At another time I, along with my two brothers and sister, were called from our beds in the middle of the night. My parents, again drunk, announced that they were getting divorced. We were asked to choose which parent we wanted to follow. Despair and sadness moved into my life like a fog. Even thoughts of suicide lingered for a season.

I am a survivor ((and many would even describe me as a success ).  I graduated from high school and university with honors. My survival has not been without some baggage. In particular there was a deep-seated anger and bitterness toward my father. That anger created a barrier not only between my father and me but it also affected other relationships. This effect I have now come to call “the theory of primary relationships” is an intuitive theory. I have no scientific proof. The theory goes something like this:  when there are significant unresolved issues in the family, it will affect all our other relationships.

I will never forget a conversation I had with a roommate at Colorado State University during a two week course I was taking. He asked lots of questions, and the topic of home life came up, centering on the relationship with my father. He said, “Mike, you need to love your dad.” I knew that I didn’t, and I was not sure I could. At best, at this point my anger had been mingled with pity.

Months later I looked my dad in the eyes and told him, “I love you.” He cried.

That was the beginning of a restoration work in our relationship. I’m not sure my father ever understood how his actions had affected me, but I do know how my actions affected him. I chose to give love as a gift to him. On Father’s Day I wrote him a letter telling him the good things he had done as a parent. I never heard back from him but my mother wrote me and said, “Your dad got your letter. He sat in his chair, read it and cried. I think it is what he needed.” (This was a significant note from my mother because her relationship with my father was fractured. I was afraid that she would somehow feel betrayed if I was kind to the person who caused so much pain in her life, but she didn’t seem to resent it.)

Somehow, dealing with the relationship with my dad set me free and taught me lessons the have made other important relationships better. As my father came to the end of his life, I had the satisfaction of knowing we were okay with each other, I had done and said what needed to be done and said on my part, so there were no regrets. For that I am thankful.

I’m sure you are wondering how I could go from anger and bitterness to love. It was only because I experienced love and forgiveness that helped me to understand how to give love and forgive others. This experience came through a journey in personal faith, which started when my sister began attending a youth group. Through her influence I began to understand that God loved me and had in fact sent Jesus Christ to die to demonstrate that love. Christ’s death was not only to demonstrate God’s love but to provide forgiveness of all my sin and to give me eternal life.  God promised once I asked Christ into my life that he would never leave me.

As I understood this love and forgiveness and experienced God’s presence in my life, I seemed to have new resources to love and forgive others. A significant test of this was the relationship with my father. If God could love me and forgive me how could I not do the same for my father?

I realized through this relationship and others there is a circle of “primary relationships” in my life. These are significant for good or bad. Pain and hurt in these relationships can be carried for a life time like the proverbial “ball and chain” resulting in multiplied misery. The process of dealing with the relationship with my father has turning the “ball and chain” into a building block toward health and greater capacity in my relational world.

by Mike Woodard

If a relationship with God is something you crave, it can start here and now.  God cares far less about your words than the attitude of your heart.  So tell Him what you’re thinking.  Here is suggestion:

God, I believe that you created me to know you.  Thank you for sending your son Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay the penalty that I deserve.  I believe that his death and resurrection has restored me to you.  Please forgive me for everything that has offended you.  Take first place in my life and help me become the person that you created me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

If you invited Christ into your life, please let us know by filling out the form and sending it to us.  We will send you an email with links to helpful information.  If you have questions, mention it on the form and we will connect you with a mentor.

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Read more about Mike Woodard

The Package! – dealing with unexpected circumstances

Dealing with Despair – Dark moments of the soul

Four Grizzly Bears – A story with a lesson about facing our fears