In part 4 of this post, I replaced my dad’s lies with truth. Today you’ll read about boot camp and a breakfast feast. It’ll make sense in a minute. I promise.
Let’s review my unpacking list as we get started.
How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss
1. Look honestly at what happened.
2. Identify the lies/propaganda involved.
3. Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.
4. Express your feelings then and now.
5. Replace the lies with truth.
6. Choose to end the negative impact.
7. Close the suitcase (i.e., the trauma/loss).
8. Walk forward in healing and peace.
9. Share your story with someone you trust.
10. Thank God for helping you on this journey.
Peaceful Readers, you may need the help of a great professional counselor on some or all of these 10 steps.
Steps 3 through 6
Sometimes—depending on the nature of our trauma or loss—we’ve worn a certain role, a certain way of thinking for so long that it’s challenging to send it packing. Take your time with Steps 3 through 6. Take your time acknowledging the impact and what was stolen.
Let’s review my discoveries from part 2 of this post.
What he stole
What did my dad’s words—his emotional abuse—steal from me?
♦ He stole my ability to have faith in people, to trust people.
♦ He stole my ability to relax and enjoy my childhood.
♦ He stole my ability to love and forgive myself.
♦ He stole my ability to have balance in my life.
♦ He stole my ability to develop wisdom and discernment.
♦ He stole my ability to feel comfortable around good people.
♦ He stole my ability to build positive relationships.
♦ He stole my ability to trust God.
♦ He stole my ability to speak the truth.
♦ He stole my ability to be courageous.
In the beautiful passage about the Good Shepherd, Jesus spoke these words:
“The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”
John 10:10, World English Bible
Throughout my childhood, my dad’s lies, propaganda and behavior stole from me. He was the thief. After I left home, God began to heal me. And I had no idea what was going on at the time. Now, as I look back, I’m beginning to understand.
God’s healing plan
How did God help me to reclaim some of what my dad stole from me—before I even gave my life to Jesus, before I was even talking to him?
In my first “real” job after college, I worked as a Child Protective Services caseworker. I did this job for 10 years. It was boot camp for discernment. I had to watch people, listen to people, look at environments, draw conclusions, document everything I did, testify in court. What did this teach me? To look for clues. To look, to listen, to write down what I saw, what I heard, what I smelled and what it meant. I also had to speak hard truths in this job—truths that people definitely didn’t want to hear. “You have not done what I asked you to do. We will be going to court and asking the judge to terminate your parental rights.” And I had to be courageous. I worked with the police, the FBI and with some very dangerous people—drug dealers, drug addicts, murderers.
Seeing the big picture
It wasn’t until I was writing this blog post that I realized how desperately I needed to gain these skills. Obviously, it was a very difficult job. But working as a Child Protective Services caseworker helped me to reclaim some important things that my dad’s lies stole from me. He trained me to pretend that there were no problems, to be silent, to never question. This job gave me very pivotal things—discernment, truth, courage.
I didn’t go looking for this job. It found me. I had two friends who worked there. One day, one of these friends was talking about her job. I thought I can do that. She had all the application forms in her car. I applied. I got the job. And I stayed for a long time. I learned a lot. Did I ever.
Did God give me this job? Was this a part of his plan for my life? Absolutely. It was Boot Camp Central. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m glad I did it. I met some great people and impacted some fragile, precious lives. I got to choose Forever Parents for children. What a privilege and what a blessing. I experienced God’s hand and his protection while I worked this job. I knew it was God’s hand and God’s protection at the time. And I never forgot it….
Pretty amazing, huh? Let’s move on to Step 4.
Step 4: Express your feelings then and now.
Have you ever written an anger letter? Think about some difficult relationships. Write down the top five most-difficult relationships in your life. Is it possible that you’ve carried some anger toward one or more of these people? Is it possible?
Try this. Choose one name from your list, and start writing. See what comes out. For a little background information about anger letters, see this post and learn about the Hour of Power—time very well spent. You won’t be giving this letter to the person you’re writing to. This letter is for you—to take anger out of your mind and body and get rid of it.
After you’ve written an anger letter, as you’re reflecting on both the impact that this person has had on your life (Step 3) and the lies involved (Step 2), you’ll probably find yourself identifying more of your feelings. This is a good thing. I’ve found daily journaling to be very therapeutic. If you aren’t already journaling, I hope you’ll add it to your life. I get up early in the morning and start my day with prayer, Bible reading (usually one chapter), journaling about the previous day and maybe doing some writing for this blog, as time allows.
Step 5: Replace the lies with truth.
Where truth is concerned, we have to do more than simply write the truth on a piece of paper. We have to drink it in and make it a part of who we are. See this post for more about hearing, believing and receiving truth.
We can’t really experience the power of healing—of going from darkness to light and from lies to truth—without God, without Jesus being the Lord of our lives. Our hearts must be focused on God, not on something or someone else. A heart pointed in the wrong direction won’t choose the things of God. Healing—true healing—isn’t just an emotional journey. It’s a spiritual journey.
In the first post of this series, called Why?, I wrote about layers of grieving:
We’ll talk about grieving in terms of layers, as we travel deeper and deeper in the grieving and healing journey. This is the digging process into the deep, dark depths of grieving.
It’s time to dig way down deep about my dad.
He wasn’t the only one who believed lies. I may not have actually stated mine, but they were inside me—lingering, lurking, misleading….
The silent lies
1. He meant well.
2. He cared.
3. He was normal.
The whole truth
1. He was a narcissist.
2. I was an orphan.
3. I had caretakers, not parents.
Usually, my lies and truths correlate with each other. In this case, the first truth debunks all three of the lies. The other truths flow out of the first one.
The truth about my dad whopped me upside the head when my friend Lindsey and I were talking on the phone last week. She’s my friend who came home with me for weekends and sometimes for holidays during college. Lindsey was reminding me about how my dad went on and on at the dinner table about himself—bragging, pompous, virtually no interaction with anyone else at the table. While Brandon and I were talking late that night, he asked me if I was an orphan like he was—with caretakers, not parents. After a very brief hesitation, I answered.
The next morning, I woke up really early. I read the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder with my dad in mind. The different voice when he was in public, the monologues, the rote prayer, the conceit, and what he gave to me—The Trauma of Perfection. Yes, indeed. I was raised by a narcissist (and his exceedingly-quiet wife—my mom).
Wow. That explains a lot.
Notice that two close friends—Lindsey and Brandon—and one resource (the Theravive website linked to above) were involved in this revelation, this essential truth. Who do you know who can speak truth into your life, your history, and the people you grew up with?
Start digging. Dig for the truth. It just might set you free.
The breakfast feast
After I finally acknowledged my silent lies and embraced the whole truth about my dad, I decided to celebrate with a breakfast feast before getting ready for work. I lit three candles—one for each truth. I ate scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese and a warmed-up, homemade piece of pumpkin bread. What a sweet time. I thanked God for the truth. I said out loud: “My parents didn’t love me, but you do!” And then I cried a little.
Lies are heavy. They muddy the waters.
I feel lighter today.
Coming next: In the final part of this six-part post, you’ll read about a book report, my favorite truth and stepping back.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12
Song for Healing: “I Was Blind” by Delirious? (The question mark is a part of their name.)