It is pretty common nowadays to hear about people having a toxic relationship with their parent(s). I realized this when I was healing the relationship with my dad. Growing up, I had a really hard time with him. He was narcissistic, arrogant, and non-compassionate with my entire family. He hurt me in ways I thought I could never forgive. Before he died, I spent a lot of my time healing from within from what had happened and ended up going from a victim in our relationship to an understanding person who saw his perspective and forgave him for what happened. For the year and a half before he died we had a relationship that I never thought I'd be able to have with him. We went from butting heads in a highly toxic and traumatic relationship - to one filled with unconditional love and lightheartedness. I noticed HUGE changes with him and myself on an inner level, which helped us both move forward with our relationship. We went out every week for a date that was fulfilling for the both of us - we talked for hours about our new common interests, and bonded in a way that was much greater than a physical earthly relationship. We had transcended our traumatic pasts.
You may think that this is impossible. Some people have really traumatic experiences from their childhood that has to do with their parents and how they were brought up. I totally understand, people may have had it "much worse" than I. But this isn't about competing for who had the WORST childhood ever - it's about healing those deep scars and changing the story so you are on a neutral level.
In this post, I share the 5 things I did to heal the relationship with my dad.
1. Self love - the pain you have with your parent could be a mirror of pain you have within. Self love was the biggest thing I worked on while healing the relationship with my dad (and later, my mom). We all have our basic needs, and they definitely vary from person to person. The best way to have your needs fulfilled is to fulfill them for yourself. If you're the type of person that needs a lot of attention - give yourself the attention! If you need acknowledgement for the hard work you do, give that to yourself first and actually mean it, and feel it. It is easiest to post that responsibility onto someone else, to require them to do that for you, but ultimately you're responsible for yourself first - as every person is.
A reason why your parent didn't give you the care that you needed may come from their parent not giving them what they needed. And that's totally okay. I noticed when I started giving myself what I needed on the deepest level, that was mirrored back to me with not only the relationship with my dad - but with other people closest to me.
It totally sucks that your parent may not have given you your needs growing up. I feel that and understand that from going through it myself. Feel this and let it go. True healing is in forgiveness.
2. Journaling - I am a huge advocate for journaling and writing about your traumas. You might think it's hurting you to go deep into this stuff, but if you journal in a certain way you can see things from a whole new perspective and end up forgiving the person who hurt you. After college, I left home and went on a healing journey. I ended up living in the PNW in an off grid cabin and wrote for hours a day. I filled up journals with stories of things that he did to me. Of my deepest wounds and traumas. Of MY perspective and MY story. It helped me to be heard - or at least rereading it over and over again to internalize what happened. I had intentions of publishing this into a book, so other people knew too. But you know what? Something transformed deep within me. Was this negativity serving anyone else? And more importantly, was it serving ME?
I decided to read the stories and add in the ingredients called COMPASSION and NEUTRALITY into them. WHY did he do the things he do? It clearly wasn't intended to hurt me. Every human is a divine being from source. So, what was it that created all this pain? I realized through writing that my dad had been hurt in his past as well - from his parents and from past relationships - that shaped who he was. He had NO IDEA that he was repeating an ancestral cycle that was hurting others. He had NO IDEA that he was replaying past scenarios over and over within his family. When I realized this, everything changed. My whole perspective changed and I began to heal.
Writing helped me through this part the most. You connect with your subconscious mind when you write more than three pages in a sitting. You start writing automatically, things you never knew could come out of you. You start to write down deeper inner wisdom that helps heal your innards. Give it a try, for 21 days, and share about it on your social media. If you want, tag me @adventuresacross to let me know that this exercise helped you.
In the end of all of this work with my dad, I ended up burning the journal I wrote all my traumas in, as well as the journal that I had a teen where I kept these things alive. Just like a phoenix, we can rise from the ashes and become reborn in burning things like this. I feel that this action was the beginning of the new relationship with my dad, as I was living close to home at the time when things began to shift.
If you're looking for a new journal to begin your healing journey with your parent, I have some new journals on my Etsy store waiting to find new homes! Find them here and until the end of September, I have a coupon code running for 11% off - PLANTSRFRIENDS - use it in checkout. For every purchase on my store, you plant one tree to a forest in need, like the Amazon!
3. Choose to see other perspectives and change the story. See their inner story and their life as if they were a friend. A big part of healing came from a neutral position and observing what happened. My dad loved to tell me his story when I was growing up... so I knew most of what happened to him. It gave me a greater understanding for why he acted the way he did to us. His parents were very authoritative, especially his dad, and violence and fear were always the answer when it came to conflict. A lot of times, parents will repeat their traumatic childhoods to their kids by using the tactics their parents used on them. Choosing to forgive and to break the cycle heals a lot of this. They don't know any better sometimes! Another thing I noticed with my dad was a pattern in his first romantic relationship. It carried into the relationship with my mom which caused a lot of trauma and conflict for all of us. He didn't know he was repeating a cycle.
Forgiveness is the one thing that can heal everything. People are just people, including our parents. Nobody is perfect. And that is totally okay. Realizing this and accepting this is super helpful when we're on the journey of life. It makes our lives a lot lighter.
4. Heart to heart conversation - Now, this can be really hard to do if we aren't healed from within. I learned this the hard way by meeting with my dad while in college and forcing my story onto him. He didn't have that same perspective as I had, and he believed he hadn't done anything wrong. It wasn't until after I did all the inner healing while away from home where this method worked with him. My mom, however, was open and receptive when I did this with her, and after our conversation I noticed a shift over time between the two of us.
If you choose to do this step, I recommend finding a safe place in public to talk, like a cafe or park. I found that this keeps everyone on a neutral level, even if conflict arises. A few times with my dad, I needed to leave to integrate what happened. Like, who is going to make a huge yelling scene in public? Most people usually wouldn't.
5. Separation and no contact - For me, this helped tremendously. I was pretty extreme though... I moved 40 hours away from home and sent an email to my family requesting NO CONTACT until further notice. You must do what is best for you. I was away for 8 months and occasionally talked to my sister and brother, but absolutely no contact with my dad. This helped me along with writing to integrate, accept, forgive, and release my traumatic past with him. It can be hard to go no contact with a parent, but if you absolutely need it, find a way to make this work. You can always reintegrate them into your life when you're ready, always remember that.
Some of you may know, my dad died in April. The last year and a half of our relationship was a dream and I'm so grateful for the closure and healing I was able to do with him before he went exploring the astral plane. Later, I found out that he always wanted to help me, financially and in other ways to better my life, but his past beliefs about money and how people attained things in their lives prevented him from following this heart pursuit. Learning this gave me even more closure about our lives together. I'll always miss him, but I know he's not too far away as far as I know!
I hope this post helped you in some way - for healing the relationship with your parents. I believe the relationship with your parents is one of the greatest ones you can have - they did create you after all! And you, my friend are a miracle.
Enjoy your beautiful life, friend. We are so blessed to be alive and to be doing this healing work <3