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tinyfaery's avatar

Is it time for me to let go of the bitterness, or does he still warrant my bad opinion?

Asked by tinyfaery (36004 points ) March 16th, 2009 from iPhone

My dad was a horrible parent. He ignored us, hit us, emotionally abused us, and took off when I was 17, not to be heard from for 5 years. He abandoned my mom, who has MS, and left his children without a provider. That was almost 15 years ago.

For the last 10 years or so he has been taking care of my invilid mother. He bathes her, dressers her, changes her soiled linens, and is pretty much her only companion. My niece turned 16 yesterday and he got her a laptop. Know what I got for my 16th birthday? Fucken nothing.

Is it time to let it go? I have never received an apology for all the pain and trauma he caused me. In fact, I’m willing to bet that he believes he never wronged my sister, myself, or my mother.

Opinions? Suggestions on how I should/could move on?

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32 Answers

Dog's avatar

Yes- it is time to let it go. At this point you are only harming yourself. Bitterness can cause health issues and destroy YOUR quality of life while not effecting him in the least.

Let it go and get on with a better life.

How to do it- put your energy and focus on moving forward. Find out in your mind how surviving your past has made you a better person today and remember that you are in total control of your destiny now.

basp's avatar

Holding on to the bitterness will only hurt yourself.
I’m not suggesting you two will ever have a great relationship, just saying you ought to take good care of yourvown emotional health and let it go.

tinyfaery's avatar

I have no stress. In fact, I never think of him until I see him, and then I wonder if he deserves my forgiveness. Shouldn’t he atone?

Dog's avatar

Should he atone?
In a perfect world yes. Do people like him atone? Rarely.
Sadly life is not a Hallmark movie and to expect him to atone is unrealistic.

Yeah- it would be nice but do not let it hang you up if he doesn’t.

willbrawn's avatar

I bet that he hasnt apologized because he is ashamed of himself. And by doing good now is hoping that it will redeem him.

Just a thought.

essieness's avatar

Oh, you have to let it go. Holding on to those bad feelings is only hurting you. I wish I could remember where I read this, but chances are, he’s not dwelling on all those bad things from the past and your bad feelings towards him are not affecting him on a daily basis. Does that make sense? He’s going on about his life and you hating him (or feeling negatively towards him) doesn’t make a bit of difference. However, it’s poisoning YOU. When you dwell on those bad experiences and pain, you are just inviting more negativity into your life. It simply does you absolutely no good.

I had a really bad relationship with my mom for a lot of years and she would never own up to her part in it. She always blamed me. For years I hated her and it ate me up. Once I finally let it go and stop letting it affect my life, my life became so much sunnier. Now we have a good relationship. I just saw where you posted that you have no stress, but shouldn’t he atone… I see what you’re saying, but I’ve come to learn that you just can’t expect things from people. You know? You can only accept them as they are right now. What I had to think about was this: “If my mom apologized for all the shitty things that happened when I was young, what difference would it make?” When I thought about it, “nothing” was the answer. It wouldn’t change our current situations. It wouldn’t change the past. It wouldn’t change the future. So I just had to let it go.

May I recommend A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle to you? It’s such a great book and really explains this a lot better.

Good luck with this situation!

mcbealer's avatar

forgiveness is a decision

it’s not whether the other person deserves it or not
it’s about whether you are ready to dwarf his ill-doing in your heart with the relief and yes, love, only forgiveness will bring

When we hold bitterness against someone, it is ourself that has to live day to day with that negative energy. The other person is not weighted down in any way, therefore it is self-defeating. Hope this helps.

dynamicduo's avatar

You are only hurting yourself by carrying on with this grudge. You are certainly not changing his opinion. Have you ever asked for an apology from your dad? If not, then you have no right to complain about a lack of one.

You move on by learning from the situation and vowing to never act like that. I’m sure others will recommend other steps or books to read, and if those provide you with the power to move on then by all means look into them. But for me, the simple act of observing from a fly-on-the-wall’s view allows me to move on from most issues.

tinyfaery's avatar

Again, I hold no grudge, I hardly ever even think about him. And, I don’t believe an apology needs to be requested. What would be the point of that? I apologize to others because I want to atone, not because they want one.

marinelife's avatar

I agree with the wise words above about harboring bitterness hurting you rather than your father.

To let go, make sure that you have processed all of the anger and all of the hurt. You may even have anger and hurt at your mother that she let him back into her life. Work through the feelings the way that works best for you: writing, yelling, crying.

Whether your father is a changed and improved man, he still did the things that he did earlier that damaged you and your family. It also seems from your description that he has not made any effort to own those things. That is painful.

You deserve to be free of the bitterness so that you take back all of your power and any actions of his can no longer hurt you.

Please take care.

SeventhSense's avatar

Good points One and All:
I’ll add another.
Resentment is like peeing on your own leg. It feels warm at first but there’s really no payoff. That’s not to say that your feelings are not valid but our power is generally the extent of our reach, if even that. You can always detach with love of course. But ultimately acceptance is the answer to 99% of our problems.

casheroo's avatar

I know having people say “let it go” is easier said than done. It will take time, but it is in the best interest of your own emotional health. It doesn’t mean you have to love the guy, or pretend like it never happened. I personally would never trust him, but I would still let the bad feelings go and live my life without letting it overtake me.

gailcalled's avatar

One technique that I used in therapy was to write several letters to my dead father. I also wrote one to my mother that I subsequently mailed. She played the wounded innocent, but I felt better and never brought up the issues again, except with my therapist.

At my last session, he said to me, “Gail, you never mentioned your mother once today.”

SeventhSense's avatar

I had many issues with a father’s abandonment and tried to reach out to him on a number of occasions. I at one point wrote a long letter expressing my hurt and loss. He answered it as if it was an affront on his good nature and did not receive it in the spirit intended. I barely spoke to him for 5 years after that. One Christmas he planned to make the trip East and have a Hallmark moment with the family. I struggled for weeks of whether I should go and finally decided just to go for the sake of propriety and the rest of the family. We still did not see eye to eye but we got the Christmas photo with me, my two brothers and him. He went back to Arizona, contracted a virus and within a month he died.
Recently I found a copy of that 10 page letter I wrote to him and I just tossed it. I saved a letter that he wrote to me years before about how proud he was of me. We are human, we are frail and we don’t even know the extent of the people we affect and maybe forgiveness is our only function.

SuperMouse's avatar

I have been told many times over the years that I need to forgive my father and let go of my bitterness. While he seems to have undergone a transformation not unlike the one your father seems to have undergone, it is still hard for me to reconcile the man he seems to want the world to think he is and the man who raised me. He has never apologized for his behavior and I can honestly say I haven’t forgiven him.

What I have done is stopped letting it impact my life now. After all these years and lots of therapy the most I can say I feel for him is apathy and in my opinion that’s at least as bad, if not worse the hatred or bitterness. If it makes sense to say this, my life feels cleaner for letting go of those feelings.

TaoSan's avatar

I can relate. Let it go. I understand how it feels when people around you think you’re still hurtin’ on some level when in fact the whole chapter is simply closed, over with, done, forgotten. My childhood was fucked up beyond believe, so people always believed I carry that luggage, when in fact it’s only over, nothing more or less.

In that case, forgiving can add to your own sense of “greatness”, “completeness” or whatever you want to call it.

He’s making a good effort from what you describe, and taking care of an impaired person can take such a toll on a person, so it really seems he is a changed man.

You don’t know the reasons why he ran, but he’s making good for it, something you can’t say about many people choosing to “desert”.

From my experience, I can tell you that forgiving unconditionally was more rewarding than waiting/insisting on proper atonement.

Reason I’m saying is that I experienced both (my mother and father were both heroin addicts in the 70s, dropping me off at my grandparent’s house in a cliche “baby in basket” -move).

In my situation, attempted atonement by my mother was simply unrewarding, since I had closed that chapter of my life for so long, that it just felt, well, it didn’t feel like anything at all, so it was useless to me.

What I’m trying to get at, is that you really have nothing to gain by keeping the past alive, so why not give the guy a break? Sounds like he’s doing best he can. No one can turn back the clock, why waste more time then.

willbrawn's avatar

Gotta say all this makes me want to be the best father possible when I have a child.

fireside's avatar

I think if you still feel bitterness, then you still hold a grudge.

He’ll never be able to explain the way he was and no explanation or apology would ever make you feel as though eh understood what his actions did to you.

I would try to remove myself from the occasion and realize that he has just spent twice as long attempting to be a more humble selfless person because he probably recognizes that he was wrong.

ubersiren's avatar

Hold that grudge! He was, is and always will be a no good ass hat. If he’s never apologized to you, he doesn’t deserve for you to let go. Though, if it begins to interfere with you emotionally, you may need help telling yourself that he will get what he deserves in the fiery pits of Hell.

essieness's avatar

@ubersiren You said ass hat.

gailcalled's avatar

Holding a long-term grudge is by definition self-destructive. “He” doesn’t give a flying fig. It is “your” emotions and nervous system and stomach that are in knots.

tinyfaery's avatar

I think @TaoSan has best grasped what I am feeling. Imagine that. I do not hold a grudge nor do I allow it get me down or effect my life in any way, really. When I go visit my mom & dad it just gets me thinking. I guess what I want to know is that he recognizes the the harm his actions caused. I want to know that he understands that the effects of it continue to this day in the parenting skills, or lack there of, of my sister. I want to know that he feels like shit because of it.

Those of you who said that an apology will get me nothing, you are right; it won’t change anything.

Thank you all for the advice. I guess I’ve decided that unless I want to make the effort to confront him about what I think I deserve from him, I cannot expect him to give me what I want. Hmm…maybe someday.

gailcalled's avatar

@tinyfaery: “what I want to know is that he recognizes the the harm his actions caused. I want to know that he understands that the effects of it continue to this day in the parenting skills, or lack there of, of my sister. I want to know that he feels like shit because of it.” This part of your text is very telling.

marinelife's avatar

@tinyfaery You know yourself best, of course. I think, though, that if you are taking note and comparing a gift he gives to a niece to the gifts you never got, then it is affecting you.

I hope whatever your course, you find the peace you deserve.

TaoSan's avatar

@tinyfaery

of all people, eh? ;)

Seriously though, I think at some point it is healthier to let the past be the past. Maybe talk it over with him at some point?

augustlan's avatar

I was not only unable to forgive my mother, I had to cut all ties with her since it was causing me further emotional damage to be in contact with her. I had talked to her several times trying to resolve our issues, but no apology was ever enough. She just never really got it, you know? I finally had to cut my losses. I wrote her a letter, laying out all the many reasons I had to feel the way I felt and informing her that I could no longer maintain the facade. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most necessary, too. It’s been about 4 years now, and I rest easy with my decision. Only you can decide what to do in your situation, and you may need more time to make that decision. Therapy can help. I hope you find peace, whatever your ultimate course of action may be.

tinyfaery's avatar

Mulling this over, I realize I’m not totally over it, but it does not effect my daily life. Thanx august. Like always you have given me an epiphany—he will never get it. I feel good about my life, and I no longer blame him for anything going on in my life. I do blame him for my sister’s suffering and the suffering of her children as a result. Strange? I care more about his effect on others.

fireside's avatar

transference, maybe? but it sounds like you are on a healthy path.

Judi's avatar

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you put yourself back in a position to be hurt again. It just means you “let him off the hook.” The truth is, carrying him on “your hook” is an incredible burden. It is a heavy weight you have been carrying for years. Letting it go, forgiving, is a way to lighten YOUR burden. From a spiritual perspective , letting him off “your hook” does not mean that he is off “God’s hook.” It does not mean that he is totally unaccountable for his behavior, it just means that it is no longer YOUR job to hold him accountable. I sense the weariness in your post of carrying his abuse all these years. It really sounds like it’s time to let it go.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Judi
That’s exactly the point. It just releases one from the burden of having to rent space to someone in your head. The idea that one can hold onto grudges or resentments without being attached to them like an anchor is eroneous. There really is no hurting you without hurting me. And I would add that even an imagination of God’s vengeance is detrimental because it is a subtle way to still hold on. Especially as a Christian(directed at Judi) Jesus said after they nailed him to a cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. He didn’t say, “These motherfuckers know exactly what they’re doing and Pops, I would like you to fry their ass anytime your ready.”
Which of course is our triggered response.:)

tinyfaery's avatar

God is no comfort for me (I do not believe) but Karma is. So, may it be a bitch.

Judi's avatar

Many people feel like they can fly when they finally let go of the weight of bitterness and resentment.

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