By Charity Tipton
When my best friend told me about the Gratitude Challenge and told me it was about forgiveness, I knew I had to write this. I am a forty two-year-old wife, mother, stepmother and grandmother and I have struggled with forgiving myself. It’s not something that I’ve spoken to anyone about. Not my husband. Not my kids. I don’t think I’ve even told my best friend about this but I have to forgive myself and I hope that writing this allows me to. Let me explain.
My mother and birth father divorced when I was two years old and he was arrested. He’s been in and out of jail most of my life for numerous charges. I remember different points in my childhood where I would get letters from him. One letter would say that he loved me and that my mom was a good mom and my grandparents were good people for taking us in and the next letter was telling me that I wasn’t his child and saying horrible things about my mom and grandparents. There were even some letters where he would tell me that my mom should have aborted me and that he would kill me himself.
When you grow up hearing that, it messes with your head and your heart. I spent a lot of time wondering what I did wrong to make my father feel so much hate towards me. I blamed myself. I told myself that had I not been born that he would have been happy. Then it depressed me because I let myself believe that his abandonment was my fault. Something like that messes with a kid’s mind.
As I got older, I had issues with trust when it came to men and had abandonment issues. I was always scared that I wasn’t good enough and that it didn’t matter who I tried to get close to that they were going to leave me anyway. Then I met my husband. He started showing me that no matter what happened, he was there. Every time I felt like I was falling, he was there to catch me and after almost twenty years together, I still have my moments of weakness but he’s still there and for that I am grateful.
After I married my husband and became a stepmom, I made the decision that my stepkids and any kids I had, would never know what it’s like to have a parental figure turn their backs on them. No matter how many times I heard my stepdaughter tell me that she hated me and I wasn’t her mother, or how many times she would turn around two days later and tell me she needed me, I was there. Since becoming a stepmom, I have a wonderful relationship with my stepson, my stepdaughter is slowly working her way out of my life for her own reasons, I became the mom of two girls, now fifteen and fourteen. They have never known a day where their dad and I weren’t there and they never will.
I know those are good steps to not making the same mistakes he did and I’m proud of myself for that but I still haven’t been able to forgive myself, not for not being good enough, not for being the reason he left, but for letting myself take the blame for what he did. For the decisions he made. I cannot blame myself for something someone else did. That’s not fair to me. My mind understands that but my heart is still struggling. It’s been four decades since he’s been gone from my life and I still struggle with it.
I have not spoken to him and I don’t know where he is. I don’t have a way to tell him how I feel to fully release myself from that blame and guilt. We are about to go into a new year and I will not let myself hold this blame and guilt any longer.
After the new year, I will sit down and write a letter to him telling him everything I want to say and everything that I feel to finally release that from my heart and mind and no long hold on to something that wasn’t mine to begin with because that is the only way I will truly forgive myself.