I want to live

processing abuse with the therapies of Stettbacher and Jenson

Prologue: A funeral

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July 2nd, 1994

My father – he is dead. Before, this would not have bothered me. I haven’t seen my father or talked with him for six years. Didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. But now, now I would have liked to talk to him. Five days ago I called him. It was a short phone call. We arranged an appointment for next week. Now I’m here, sitting next to his coffin. He isn’t going to answer my questions anymore.

The reverend speaks. “There was a secret in his life and he asked for forgiveness.” Afterward I ask the reverend: did my father tell him that he sexually abused me? “No, he didn’t. He was very much afraid, and said very little. He only told me there was a secret in his life, that he had done terrible things, that he was very guilty and that he needed forgiveness.”

Why didn’t my father leave a message for me? He could have helped me this way, if he had wanted to. If he had told his secret, if he had told anyone what he did to me, that would have helped me. If he had apologized. Or least mentioned my name. But even with these vague ”terrible things”, he didn’t have the guts to acknowledge that he did those terrible things to ME. He didn’t do that for me. Not even that.

I am left empty-handed. Scared, desperate and exhausted. I don’t know how to deal with my fragmented memories. Someone needs to tell me what happened, someone who was there — but apart from me, my father was the only one. He died and took the secret with him into his grave. How can I find the missing pieces of my life? How can I solve the puzzle, with the few pieces I have? I don’t know.

But I know I have to. I’ve got to know what the puzzle looks like. I must know the truth. I want to live, and I need to know the truth, so I can live.

Why didn’t I talk with my father earlier? Why did I wait until I was thirty one? Why did I wait until it was too late?

One thought on “Prologue: A funeral

  1. Dear Janet.

    I want to thank you very much for writing your story about your healing journey using Stettbacher’s four steps. I have been doing self therapy for many years in an effort to heal from my abusive childhood and the only thing that has made any difference is using that kind of writing therapy he (and Jean Jensen) descibes. Unfortunately I have not been as diligent as you have – fear of working alone and of what I must face have made me often stall – but reading your account makes me want to try again – and more intensively.

    I have gone to therapists from time to time, but have not succeeded in finding one who didn’t either manipulate or dominate me (often in subtle ways that were not obvious at first) or side with or excuse my parents (again, often in ways that were subtle and sometimes not even conscious I think). I have not found one who was able to voice anger and indignation on my behalf and to unequivocally take the side of the child I was.

    So I work on alone. It is not ideal – like you did, I long for support and understanding, but I also know that that longing is also an old feeling and an echo of the complete lack of understanding and support I experienced in my childhood. And I think it is better to work alone than, as you describe, try to explain what you need to therapists who simply don’t get it.

    My biggest problem is with Step 3 of the therapy. I find it really difficult to really accept that what happened was not my fault and to protest (in the therapy) to my parents. Somehow there is always an underlying conviction that it was me, that there was something terribly wrong and unlovable about the child I was.

    I have printed out your story and will use it to help keep my determination up when things get really tough – as I know they will – especially when I am trying to work through the huge fear which remains with me from the past and is so often triggered in the present.

    I am so sorry to hear that you are ill and will not be able to enjoy the long life with your own family that you so richly deserve after your brave, tenacious and successful struggle to overcome your horrible, destructive childhood.

    Thank you again for taking the trouble to share your experience,

    Warmest wishes,

    Sara P

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