Until very recently I could think of only two possible endings to resolving my estrangement from my family.
Sitting in therapy year after year, I put a huge effort into doubting my memories. Out of a need for my family's love and acceptance and out of loyalty to them, I defended them, and kept myself stuck.
I was hoping and praying that I would come to discover that they were right and I was wrong. I was hoping that my therapists would help me figure out that I am indeed mistaken, crazy or evil. I was hoping my therapists would be able to help me understand how this whole nightmare was a mistake. I was not really a victim of incest in my Torah family. I was not really molested by my grandfather, a Rosh Yeshiva in his Yeshiva. It was not possible. I would apologize to my family for my insanity, for my chutzpah for imagining such a crazy thing, and presto, I would have them back.
After all, that's what my family and the rabbonim promised me. If I would just stop talking about this, If I would stop saying that my father and my grandfather sexually abused me, I would have them back.
In the second imagined scenario, I learned to trust myself and my memories. I realized that no one in their right mind would want to remember and experience the things that I remember and experienced. No one asks for the kind of shame, pain, fear, loneliness, and rejection that I had to deal with. I imagined that eventually I would somehow be able to prove to my family that my memories are true. Eventually, they would understand that we all need help. My family would believe me, embrace, accept, and support me. We would all go to therapy together, just as I asked and needed them to do all along.
In both imagined scenarios, I had my family to help me.
I could not begin to imagine it any other way.
I just couldn't give up the dream of having a family.
My family, who I loved and needed.
Neither fantasy turned out to be true.
In spite of trying desperately for years to convince myself and my therapist otherwise, I now know I am not a bad person. I am not an inventor of stories, of false memories, not a dreamer of hurtful fantasies, not an accuser of innocents. I am human, limited, maker of mistakes, lover of people, determined, and very honest with myself.
Where I once only knew that I was not bad or crazy, I now accept it on a deep emotional level. I gave it a really good effort, being bad and crazy, and it simply didn't pan out.
I now know that my family is not going to believe me, embrace me, nor offer me the acceptance and support I crave.
Where I once only knew this I now accept it on a deep emotional level.
The reality I am living is neither better nor worse than my fantasies.
The difference though, is that it is real.
What actually is happening, is that I am learning to embrace and accept myself and my family as we are, and to offer myself the unconditional love, support, acceptance, and validation, that no one in my family can offer me.
I am learning to accept the loss of the family of my fantasy, and accept the family that I have. Each person in my huge family is an individual. Each one with their own story, their own challenges, their own struggles, their own pain.
I learned in Bais Yaakov that HaShem doesn't give us any challenge that we can't overcome. I believe it because I experience it every day. I'm learning that I'm OK. I can handle this. I have HaShem always, helping me, loving me, supporting me, holding me, healing me.
And I have myself always. I pray every day for the wisdom and strength to love and accept myself the way HaShem loves and accepts me. The way I, and every person, deserves to be loved and accepted; Fully and unconditionally.
This was not an easy prayer to believe at first. I want to invite you, my readers to try saying this tefillah for yourself:
"HaShem, please help me to love and accept myself the way You love and accept me. The way I deserve to be loved and accepted; Fully and unconditionally."
How does that feel? Do you believe it?
Not believing it does not make in untrue.
The more I said this prayer, the more I felt Hashem's love, and what followed was this: I now pray every day that HaShem give me the wisdom and strength to love and accept my family, the way HaShem loves and accepts them. The way they deserve to be loved and accepted; Fully and unconditionally.
Loving and accepting does NOT mean loving and accepting hurtful behavior.
It means loving their inherent goodness, their humanity, and accepting their limitations. Although, they won't speak with me, I have my family of origin always within me. I love them. My siblings are not bad people. They are doing what they need to do to survive, just as I am.
For my family survival means denying my truth, refusing to revisit the past, and treating me like I'm dead.
For me, survival is remembering and speaking my truth, trying to help others heal, and living a happy fulfilling life in spite of my family's rejection.
I could easily have gotten stuck in the past. Sometimes, I did get stuck for a time in the pain, the shame, the rage, that comes from abuse.
But always, with Hashem's help I got out of the rut and kept moving. I am so grateful. I truly feel and know that I have been very blessed.