Forgiveness has been on my mind lately.  As I wrote about forgiving the individual who accidentally ran a stop sign that resulted in the death of my mom and sister, I started to think about my relationship with my Dad and my step-mom.

For the first time in my life, I realized, that while I love my Dad fiercely, I do not forgive my Dad.  I simply do not forgive him for everything after the car accident.

Let me be clear, I do not NOT in anyway blame him for the car accident.  He was driving my families car, but I have never and will never hold him responsible for the car accident that he had no control over.  That is simply not what I mean.

But, I’ve realized that I do not forgive him for many other things.

I do not forgive him for staying at my now step-mom’s home until 3 or 4 am multiple times a week while I sat at home in what once was a very active big family home by myself.

I do not forgive him for making and breaking more promises to me as a teenager then I care to count.

I do not forgive him for neglecting me as he put my step-siblings ahead of me “because they were younger and required more attention.”

I do not forgive him for yelling at me after his wedding for not being happy enough for him at the wedding.

I do not forgive him for calling me a bitch one multiple occasions when he was frustrated with me as a teenager.

I do not forgive him for forgetting to pick me up after my high school trip to Europe.

I do not forgive him for not being there for me when I needed him the most as I was actively grieving the loss of my mom and sister and family as I knew it.

I do not forgive him for taking each of my siblings on trips with him when they graduated from university but instead just paying for my flights to go on my own because he was too busy.

I do not forgive him for forgetting my birthday last year for the second time in my life.

I do not forgive him for saying no to us when we’ve specifically asked them to join us for an important adoption event that we wanted to share with them.

I do not forgive him for not even trying to work with our schedule and even talking to me about Christmas.

Simply, in the days, and years after the car accident I do not forgive him for continuing to treat me as a second thought and a problem he’s stuck with.

As I realized this, I also realized the reason I have not forgiven him is that I see all of this as his choice.  I could forgive the guy driving the car because I believe he didn’t mean to hit them.  I cannot forgive my Dad because I see all of this as an ongoing choice.

I realize rationally that a lot of these things were probably the result of how he was grieving.  I realize he likely turned to my step-mom and her kids because that’s what he needed, but in the process he chose to turn away from me.  I acknowledge that we grieved in different ways in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and that probably just made the situation worse.  I also am happy for him that he found happiness again with my step-mom.

But, I also realize he was the parent and he made choices that resulted in my neglect and feelings of abandonment.  The crux of all of this is that I see all of his decisions since the accident as just that – decisions and choices.  Intentional decisions and choices which all coming from the very man who helped instilled in me the power of choice and taking responsibility for our actions.  It doesn’t make sense in my rational brain that he chose to stop taking an active role in my life and chose to do all of these things.  And I know that when I cannot make sense of something I really struggle to accept it.

I cannot seem to be forgive and therefore accept all of the years of hurt that I’ve endured and still do, because I see most of it as a direct result of choices he made.  And as a responsible adult with at least an average cognitive ability, I cannot rationalize that he made these choices and still continues to.

And realizing this, and articulating it for the first time ever, has made me realize that maybe that’s part of why I just cannot let go of the hurt.  Maybe that’s part of why I continue to hold onto the Dad I once had.  Maybe that’s why I am struggling so much to truly accept him for who is he today.

I’m in absolute awe of this realization.  There is no doubt in my mind that their is significant power in forgiveness.  But, I’m also stuck and I have to admit, I have no idea how to move beyond this.  Yet, I also know I need to.  I may never have the father I remember from my childhood, and I know I will never again be a daddies little girl, but I do want to be my dad’s daughter in some meaningful way.  I want a relationship, but I have to figure out how to accept that it will probably never be the relationship I really want.  And I know forgiveness is going to be a big step in that direction.

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18 Comments on “Forgiveness

  1. Have you ever had an open conversation about most or all of the things you mentioned above? I can only imagine how difficult it was for the two of you to survive such a tragedy. I think from the sound of it he genuinely loves you but has made a lot of poor parenting decisions and maybe some underlying neglect down in there somewhere. I would highly suggest having a very open conversation about all of this. There’s always room for forgiveness, I think to say you will never forgive him is only hurting
    Yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to accept it, but sometimes forgiving others brings out the best in us. I hope you find the courage to talk openly about all of this with him. Regardless of the outcome, I think you need to get it off your chest dear friend!


  2. Your dad has really failed you in a lot of ways. It sounds like he was changed by the accident and went into himself and became very selfish. Have you spoken with him about your honest feelings? Maybe a heart-to-heart is in order, if you haven’t already done so.

    I’m willing to bet your dad loves you very much, but lost a big piece of himself after the accident. I’m not excusing him treating you like a second class citizen in any way – but maybe he desperately wants to get back to you but doesn’t know how. I think it sounds like he’s letting his new wife run the show/his life, too.

    It might be worth seeing him – and being alone with him for a couple hours to talk about it. Or writing a letter and writing it all out.


  3. Wow, what a powerful post. A lot of this resonated with me, since I also have a poor relationship with my dad and I don’t forgive him for a lot of things (mostly having to do with his alcoholism when I was growing up). I wish I had some wisdom for you — I mostly just have sympathy and amazement that you managed to grow up as strong and independent and loving as you are while having such a disappointing parent as your *only* parent during your incredibly difficult teen years. I give my mom a lot of credit for making me who I am today and picking up the slack that my dad left behind, so I simply can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I lost her as a teen.

    I recognize those feelings of wanting a relationship with a father figure… in my situation, I’ve eventually come to the realization that the father figure of my imagination and desire doesn’t really exist, and won’t ever. My father is never going to realize how much pain he infused into my childhood, or apologize for the very scary and awful things he did. I’ve lowered my expectations to the point that my relationship with my father is more like a relationship with a distant uncle that I don’t have a lot in common with — I visit him a couple times a year, he calls every few months to have a stilted conversation that reveals exactly how little he knows (or cares) about what’s going on in my life, and that’s about it. I’ve accepted that relationship, and I’ve poured my love and effort into the relationships I value more — relationships with cousins and friends that are more nourishing.

    I don’t think that I need to forgive my father; I just meet him where he is and don’t expect a lot from him. Maybe it’s easier for me because, unlike your father, he has *never* been able to form or maintain close personal relationships and so I’ve never had the painful experience of watching him be a better parent to stepsiblings than he was to me. That must hurt quite a lot. I hope you find some peace, and that you find a way to work him into your growing family in a way that feels authentic and positive to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Forgiveness is so hard–I think it’s harder to forgive someone we are in a relationship with than a stranger. I’ve struggled with this, especially when I look at someone’s choices that affected my life dramatically. But I am realizing there’s only so much of a burden I am capable of carrying; to lighten the load I’ve had to forgive. Even though that person didn’t ask, didn’t say sorry, didn’t acknowledge what havoc they brought to my world. It’s ongoing and sometimes I have to re-forgive. Great, great post, I bet many of us struggle with this, friend!


  5. Sometimes it feels like if we forgive we give permission for them to continue hurting us. Sometimes it feels submissive to forgive or permissive. But it’s not. Forgiveness is the most gloriously selfish thing you can do and it will make parenting your child a whole lot easier. I’m in awe of your will to survive and thrive through such difficult times.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is an awful lot to have to forgive ! You need to articulate all of those things to your fathe face to face or in an open letter, which you can later discuss. Let him know how he made you feel, what you perceived as abandonment and how he has hurt you. That is the only way you will be able to move on from this, either by him realizing his role and apologizing or him shutting down and not admitting it, but either way, a dialog needs to be had about this sooner rather than later. You can not move on into parenting with this gaping hole in your spirit. I cover you in prayer that you will find the strength to rip this bandaid off and let the healing begin….


  7. I don’t know what to say. To be honest, I cannot imagine my dad doing any of what you wrote above, or even how I would feel if he did it. It is very emotionally disturbing (not sure if that’s the right word, I don’t know, English is not my first language)

    A part of me doesn’t want to forgive your dad for all this, because we have a saying back home which loosely translates to “something that happens once or twice is mistake, something that gets repeated often is a habit”. I cannot believe that he was manipulated into doing all this, he is your dad, he should know you better. Also, I wont be nice here, but I don’t think great of his new wife either. If I were to marry a man whose teen aged daughter just lost her whole family and life as she knew it, I would be gentle and do as much possible to keep her link with her dad. the fact that she didn’t bother calling you up for your birthday either clearly shows she doesn’t care either.

    I am sorry, I have no words, I know this must be heart breaking.Also, I am not sure talking with your dad is really going to resolve any of this. He has moved on well and beyond, I think you shoudl move on too, no matter how much it hurts.


  8. I don’t want to ply you with platitudes because you deserve more than that. What I can tell you is that I used to carry around a lot of anger for people who hurt me – I mean, a lot. Like the crying-if-I-thought-about-it lot. And I realised over time two things:

    For those who intentionally hurt us – that the best revenge is living well, like the old adage goes. Holding onto hurt and anger only hurts ourselves. Annoying but true.

    For those who unintentionally hurt us, through negligence or ignorance – that they’re only human. That I’m older now and probably no wiser and that adults especially of whom I asked standards involving not hurting me were only young. They didn’t know; they didn’t mean it.

    None of this is an excuse. A lot of platitudes are unhelpful and irritating so I wouldn’t ever presume to tell you what to think or feel. I can only tell you my experience, which is that letting go of anger is kind of freeing – and having the odd bit of residual anger for Internet rants is cathartic. Basically, I try not to focus on the bad stuff but it still gets me now and again. And you’ve had more bad stuff than a lot of people, so it’s totally expected for you to feel that pain. All I can say is: I hear you. As do many. And we all stand with you and support you (and provide hugs when needed!). N x


  9. Forgiveness. Ahhh, a topic I think about so much. I know that forgiveness is meant to be about you, and easing your feelings for yourself and how negative thoughts poison the thinker not the person who did you wrong… But like you, I find it almost impossible to forgive (in my case, my mother her mistakes). I have been trying to accept a level of forgiveness for ages, but it is SO hard!!! I know it’s where peace lies… but I’m still a way off. If you manage it, please tell all! xxx


  10. I don’t blame you for your inability to forgive. I think I would feel the same way. You were basically left on your own after such a tragedy. I do not think any of his actions were ever to intentionally hurt but they were definitely selfish and negligent. My thought is that you need to send this to him (or a slightly edited version). Until you share how much he hurt you, I don’t think you will be able to move past it and he will not have a chance to say sorry or explain or make you feel better. I think you include a paragraph saying you miss him and really want to be close but all this weighs on you constantly. My Dad left our family at a pinnacle time and I finally wrote him a letter that was rather harsh and therapeutic. To be honest his response wasn’t great but jut knowing he knows how I feel and I got it out and kind of put it on him instead of deep inside me made me feel better and we have since moved on and are a bit closer. I am just so sorry you have this hurt inside you. Xo


  11. To start – I am so appreciative of these posts and exploration. In our different ways, we both took the change to ttc plans to heal ourselves and position ourselves to have happier, more fulfilling lives come what may. Your posts of late are very healing for me because although the circumstances are different, the feelings are the same. I struggle with letting go, forgiving, making sense of what happened and then reconciling that with myself, how I treat myself. I take it all out on me. And somehow, when I read your posts it’s like I can see myself reflected back objectively through your story and feel so much empathy towards you, such a sense of wanting to tell you you didn’t deserve to have those things happen to you, of wanting to reassure that, like in this instance, your Dad’s choice to emotionally walk away was never because of you or about you. And by doing that, I see similar instances in my own life and realize I need to be kinder and more forgiving to myself.

    As for your Dad. Wow. Playing at chair psych here, but it seems like he found it easier to grieve by forgetting his past family, including you, and diving into a new one, head on, without any awareness that he was burying the past in a really hurtful, counter productive way. I can only imagine that someone would have to be in extreme emotional pain to do that. So I get it, but I also don’t.

    I also think his pattern, of moving on and not talking about things, sweeping everything painful under the carpet, is PRECISELY why you find it hard to have the honest conversation is so damn hard! He modelled that when painful, uncomfortable shit happens, you gotta run away from it ASAP, turn a blind eye and get on with moving past it (even though you never stopped to deal with ‘it’). I totally understand this pattern because it’s how I survived a childhood with a schizophrenic, alcoholic father and a mother with borderline personality disorder and long periods of drug abuse. I needed to be the adult to keep myself together and talking to those two was like talking to a wall, so I learned early on not not to ask for a lot and certainly to never hold anyone accountable for their actions, because I got the message early on that I wouldn’t line the answer… If they even bothered to answer.

    (Sheesh, I hope this is all making sense?)

    I don’t have a ton of great advice to offer and frankly I still hover between saying something and not saying something. Now though I do make conscious efforts to have small but important uncomfortable conversations with people I trust. It is helping and it’s something I’m encouraged to do as part of my step work for AA. Since both my parents are dead, in my case, I’m not building towards a big conversation (that I know of) but I seeing it as reparative work nonetheless. So that’s a really long way of saying I think your Dad is carrying around baggage and I’m guessing his forgetfulness around you is an unconscious way to distance himself from taking ownership of his role in what happened after, and what continues to happen. I also feel that al, this work you’re doing is leading you towards something – either having the conversation, more work around letting the acceptance flow into other areas of your life, etc. And if/when the time comes that it feels right to talk to him about you will do it with the grace, kindness and wisdom you show in all areas of your life.

    Much love, sorry this was the longest comment ever and sorry for all the typos, guessing this is gonna be a doozy! 😉


  12. I feel like the only way you are going to get any sort of closure in this, is if you talk to him about it. I know that we’ve talked about this before, and I know that you said you aren’t ready right now to open that door with him. I know how scary that can feel. But I also know that you will continue to feel this way until you get it all out in the open with him. Personally, I feel the best way is in a letter. That way you can write it out, and look it over, and rewrite it however many times you need to so that you get everything in that you want to say. And then he has it there in his hands, to read however many times he wants, however many times it takes for it to sink in, without him cutting you off or interrupting you and making you lose your train of thought. Even if you’re there with him when you present it to him, and ask him to finish reading before talking. Even if you need to do it with other people there, as mediators of a sort. Or if you don’t want to be there to see his immediate reaction, that’s fine too.
    I know that you’re afraid that it will push him further away. But I’m going to guess that he doesn’t realize that you feel this way, about so much stuff, from so long ago. (I’m not saying that it’s wrong for you to feel the way you do, just that he may not realize it.) And if he doesn’t realize how you feel, then he can’t do anything to help you change it, if that’s what he may want to do.
    I’m also going to guess that maybe you remind him of your mom and sister, and that it hurts him to be reminded of them, and that maybe that’s why he pushes you away. I’m no psychologist or anything, but that’s what makes the most logical sense to me in this situation. Doesn’t make it right, but it might be a big contributing factor. And maybe if that’s what he’s doing, he doesn’t even consciously realize that he does it. Some people don’t see these things, and they need someone else to rip their eyes open for them and give them a wake up call.
    Anyway…sorry this is so long…
    If you need to talk or hash things out, let me know. Sending you lots of love and hugs while you try to work through this. *hugs*


  13. I would find all that incredibly hard to forgive too. But as you say, there is power in forgiveness. I’d like to suggest you read “The Hiding Place”, by Corrie Ten Boom. It’s a powerful story in its own right – a memoir of the time that her family helped Jews escape from the Nazis, and subsequently her and her sister’s time in a concentration camp. But what makes me think of it is, it’s the most extraordinary book about forgiveness. Whenever I’m struggling to forgive something, I remember the lesson enclosed in that story. It’s beautiful, challenging, and powerful.


  14. Hugs, lady. I think forgiveness is hard when there is no sign of remorse, and no sign of changing the behavior. He is still self centered. He still puts your step siblings above your needs.

    Honestly, as hard as it is, I would take a big step back from your dad. While I more than understand wanting the big, warm loving family, it doesn’t sound like that is something he is capable of offering. It sounds like he brings more hurt than anything else.

    And I do NOT excuse his behavior after your mom and sister died in the least. ‘Grieving in different ways’ is one thing, but he was the adult and you were the child. There is no possible excuse that begins to make it OK to essentially abandon you.


  15. Oh honey. I am so sorry for all you have been through. I understand this place you are in. Its ok to feel this way. So many hugs and love to you-am glad to have come across your site.


  16. I honestly think you are not going to be able to move past this until you have an honest conversation with him. Whether it be through the written word or an actual conversation. I think you deserve to see what he has to say for himself. It may not be what you want to hear, but you may then be able to accept things and move on it whatever way is healthiest for you and your family. Love you!!!


    • Also, I disagree with the suggestions to talk it out with your dad. Sometimes it’s not about them at all. For me, talking with the ‘rents was never an option and that was okay. It was my own perspective that needed changing and once that happened I didn’t really need the convo.


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