Monday, 12 November 2012

Visiting my father's grave, redefining "me"

My father, my abuser, died last year.

His sister called me and asked me to the funeral. I didn't go. I have never felt anything but fear and hatred for him. I had no desire to spend the day surrounded by people who had loved him, who thought he was a good man.

This weekend, I went to visit his grave for the first time.

I expected to be angry. I expected to be overcome with a desire to vandalise his head-stone. To piss on his grave, so to speak. Instead, I stood quietly, devoid of any raging emotion. I read his name on the head-stone, and I felt that it was a stranger's name. The surname is the same as mine, but that was where the connection ended. The inscription didn't even mention me. It said only "beloved brother..."

Fitting, I suppose, since he disowned me years ago.

But I couldn't help wondering, where was the anger? Where was the explosive rage that I had always treasured so much? How could it be that the most extreme emotion seeing his grave had triggered in me, was contempt?

And then a thought occurred to me - What if I have been clinging to the remains of the anger, long after it had burnt itself out, simply because I was afraid to let it go?

I have been defining myself as an abuse survivor for so long. How would I know who I am if I let go of that label? How could I hang on to the label of "survivor", without the anger? Who would I be if I stopped hating my abuser? Could it be that the answer to my loneliness is to find a new identity, that I wouldn't want to hide?

Last night, I sat down with my journal, and started writing a new list of labels with which I can define myself. Here is what I have so far:
  • Single father. (Then I scratched out "father" and wrote "daddy". I like daddy better. I hope that one day when she has grown up, she will say that I earned it.)
  • Programmer / geek.
  • Nature lover.
  • Marathon runner.
  • Writer / blogger.
  • Christian?
  • Twin.
  • Man.

I will keep working on that list. Perhaps, one day, it will be long enough for me to feel safe to drop "abuse survivor". Perhaps, then, I won't feel the need to hang on to the anger any more.

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