My Childhood Chaos

Elise’s* Story:

My parents divorced when I was 6 and I have no memory of them together. My Mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom, was suddenly a single working parent. It was a very big change for a very little girl. Both of my parents remarried within a year. This was a very confusing time, full of different people entering my life. My Mom remarried a very unstable, abusive man. She felt like her decision would give us stability; instead it brought more chaos.

My Mom couldn’t handle my sister and sent her off to live with my Dad and Stepmom. In the midst of the first 18 months, my Stepfather sexually abused me. My memories of that time are hazy. I knew enough to know something was very wrong with what he was doing. It made me feel very strange and uncomfortable. My Mom and Stepdad fought a lot. There was a lot of yelling. I think he left a time or two and came back. No one really liked him, but my Mom stayed.

I finally told my Mom about the abuse a few years later. Unfortunately, her answer was to sit me down with both of them and ask me if I wanted my Stepdad to leave. As a child then, and an adult now, I wished she had booted him straight out of the house. I was a timid child and couldn’t turn out a grown man crying in front of me. So he stayed. And my issues and the past were swept under the rug.

During all of this chaos at my Mom’s house, my Dad and Stepmom were such solid parents. They had a happy, warm home. The contrast created more confusion about my Mom’s house. Why hadn’t she stood up for me? Why was she still with him? Did it even happen? My yucky feelings about my memories continued for a long time.

I eventually told my Dad and Stepmom in college. It was very hard for me. No one had ever believed me. They immediately took care of me in all the ways that I had hoped someone would. It was very validating. My Mom finally divorced my Stepfather. And life moved on until I became a Mom which brought up a lot of emotions again. It seems to me that we judge our parents as confused children, young adults, and parents one day.

I was a new Christian when I went through those feelings again as a parent. I talked with my Mom, asking some very hard questions. She asked for my forgiveness. I even called my Stepfather hoping for validation, but he wouldn’t confirm anything. I went to therapy and worked through a lot of confusing emotions. I went to church where I learned so much. All of those things helped me to move forward and heal.

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These are my thoughts as I reflect on what happened: I am tremendously grateful for such a good example in my Dad and Stepmom. I needed a model of stability and love. I would remind another woman who has been violated of the importance of telling someone what happened. It is horrible to feel alone, weird, and sad. We all need to be heard and validated. Words are powerful and when I said them out loud, it released something inside of me.

I can’t change what happened to me, but I can change how I react. We can help each other by sharing our experiences. I grow a little every time I hear someone’s story. My faith has been tremendous in healing my heart. I didn’t have Christ in my life when these things happened to me, but God had a plan for me. He is a parent who will NEVER let me down! He is good and bigger than all of the sin in this world. Some bad things happened to me as a child, but there is real HOPE in Christ. He stands before me and I’m new. There is more than this broken world we live in and I’m so grateful for that!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

*Note: The author’s name is a pseudonym.

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