On forgiveness.

Dear Coquette,

I’m 27 and have been estranged from my father for nearly a decade. When he left us, he took off with the woman he was cheating on my mother with.

Life with him before he left us was hell. He was, and presumably still is, an abusive alcoholic. I vividly remember him picking me up by the back of my shirt when I was about 7 and throwing me down the hall. He would mercilessly beat the only dog I ever owned until I literally threw myself on the dog to make him stop.

I remember him getting hammered on more than one occasion and tearing apart furniture, then throwing the pieces at me and telling me I “ruined his fucking life.” When I was 16, I had my first boyfriend, and when I came home half an hour late after going to a movie with him my father screamed at me in the middle of the street, calling me a filthy slut, among other colorful things.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it gives you a general idea of what kind of person he is.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got a call from a police officer saying my father had gone in to put out a missing persons report on me. The officer explained that my father told him that what he really wanted was to reconnect with his family. No missing person report was made (because, as the officer explained, estrangement does not equal “missing”), but the officer did ensure my father he would contact me and pass along a phone number where my father could be reached, which he did.

I still have the number and am debating calling. The only reason why I’m on the fence is because recently my aunt mentioned she heard something about him possibly having pancreatic cancer.

While that’s a pretty awful hand to be dealt, I don’t really feel any sympathy for him after the way he treated me and my family. But for some reason I’m feeling guilty; like I should call him at least once before he dies. However, the more logical part of me is saying, “No, he doesn’t just potentially have cancer, he IS cancer and screw it if he’s your biological father. You never asked to be related to this jerk and you don’t owe him anything.”

Am I wrong for wanting to go back to pretending he doesn’t exist or should I call him one last time?

Like it or not, your father does exist. You don’t owe him anything, but it might be a good idea to say goodbye. If he does have pancreatic cancer, he’s not gonna be around for very long. If he dies without you getting some sort of closure, it’s gonna mess with your head for the rest of your life.

Consider making your peace with him. That doesn’t mean you have to let him back into your life. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Still, you need to forgive him. It doesn’t matter whether your father deserves it. The forgiveness is for your sake, not his.

Find a way. Take the time before you call. Dig deep, and truly forgive him. Let go of all that anger and resentment. That stuff is more toxic than he is.

Feel free to keep your distance from your father, but communicate with him to whatever extent you need to get the emotional poison out of your system. I promise, you’ll feel better. It’s a powerful thing to forgive.


One thought on “On forgiveness.

  1. Lo says:

    I don’t know…this is the one post I’ve seen on here that I deeply disagree with for the most part. When there’s that level of childhood trauma, the tiniest amount of contact can trigger the person into fight or flight. Unless she has thoroughly hashed all this out with a therapist, and processed it all to the extent that the ONLY thing left to do is forgive, I wouldn’t get in touch with him.

    If she hasn’t worked through it yet, I think that would be a better place to start than opening up communication with this asshole. If not, this could easily turn into a situation where the dam breaks on years’ worth of bitterness. It would be cathartic, yes, but it would also retraumatize her. That shit is like going through all of her worst days again, and all at once.

    I think her healing should come first. It’s a prerequisite to forgiveness. You can’t forgive while you’re still hurting. If her father happens to pass away in the meanwhile, at least she’ll know that she effectively protected herself for the rest of his life.

    Also, there’s no indication yet that anything has changed. He could be trying to get in touch to offer a genuine apology and make amends before his death, but he could just as well come at her with more of the same bullshit. Even in the best-case scenario, his desire to say goodbye does not justify her potentially putting herself in harm’s way. If he dies without ever having heard from her again, he will have deserved it.

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