Exposing secrets can tear families apart.
But hear me out, it can also bring them closer together.
I’ve lost a lot of family members – pretty much all of them aside from my sister and mother. It’s been a long and lonely and painful road but there are so many upsides.
It’s freed me up to build a healthy family of my own making. It’s allowed me space to heal without the toxic and ongoing damaging effects of spending time and maintaining relationships with sick people.
It’s allowed me to heal and strengthen the bonds I have with my mom and sister.
I remember showing up to a funeral (some distant relative with whom I was never close) and encountering my grandfather. I was 14 at the time and completely aware of what he had done to my mother. Up until this point, we didn’t have much contact with any of my grandparents. But almost as soon as my mother made eye contact with her dad, she was bringing him pie, laughing at his jokes and seemed to be on some eerie autopilot that nobody could turn off.
I was flabbergasted. I was angry. I was triggered. I knew why, I was educated enough at that point to understand trauma bonds and incest dynamics but I couldn’t watch it and ended up storming out of the reception and sitting in my mom’s car, crying uncontrollably.
After about 5 minutes, the car door opened. My grandfather lowered himself into the driver’s seat, pulled out a pack cigarettes and lit one calmly. He said nothing to me nor looked my way, he just sat in silence, blowing smoke straight ahead.
I jumped out of the car as though a snake had slithered in and ran back toward to building where my mother was.
My grandfather didn’t say anything to me that day but he conveyed everything he wanted to without uttering a single word. That’s how power and intimidation works in families. Sometimes it is loud and abusive and sometimes it is as insidious as a snake.
Today, I get to show up to holidays and family gatherings and actually enjoy every person surrounding me. No pretending. No ignoring, no surprises. Everyone is safe, trustworthy. I don’t have to be in the same room with people who I know have raped, tortured, and abused children and taken the lives of innocent women.