A Letter to Daddy

I am on a voyage of self discovery.  I have realized that a great deal of the pain in my life stems from emotional and physical abuse that I endured from my father growing up.  In order to heal myself, and in hopes of finally having a healthy relationship with my father, my sisters and I wrote letters to him to explain why we feel that we have an unhealthy relationship with him and why we are so hurt by the things that he did to us.  Here is my letter:

Daddy,      Over the years, you have had the ability and opportunity to address your emotional scars from the way that your father treated you when you were growing up, which would have prevented the cycle from continuing when you had children of your own.  However, like most people who are mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive, you have chosen to deny it. In confronting you, I am painfully aware that you might very well never accept the reality of the abuse that you inflicted on us, but I feel that it is crucial for the sake of my own emotional healing to let you know how much the way that you treated us affected and is still affecting me. I continue to feel angry, disgusted, sad, and abandoned by the way in which you’ve chosen to place blame for your actions on your profession or your circumstances or whatever else you can possibly cast blame upon besides yourself.  It hurts me that you refuse to step out from behind the comfort of denial in order to face the reality of your abusiveness. Moreover, I believe that your willingness to seek psychiatric help is an attempt to solicit someone to assure you that your daughters are confused at best and that our memories can be dismissed and discarded. So, I have structured this letter in a way in which I can hopefully accomplish several things. First, I will remind you of instances from my childhood in which you were abusive in order to illustrate the pain that you inflicted. Secondly, I will inform you of the results of such an upbringing, which will probably ring true with you as well since you were also abused as a child. Finally, I’ll address what I would like to see happen in order to heal our family.    One of your favorite sayings is “Actions speak louder than words”, and I do agree with that statement for the most part. I also believe this to be true of your interaction with your daughters, as your actions have spoken to me. Through your actions when I was growing up, you conveyed to me that you blamed me for the difficult times in your life. That you hated me and considered me a disappointment and a failure. That you blame me for not being born a boy, although I’m so thankful that you didn’t have a son because things would have been even worse for a boy growing up under your roof than it was for us. Through your actions in later years, you’ve “said” that you care more about feeding your ego and hating yourself than you do having a healthy, respectful relationship with me.     I remember that you always used to call me a crybaby and ask me if I needed a “sugar ***” to suck on whenever I would get upset about you yelling at me. One time when I couldn’t have been more than twelve, you and Mama left me in charge of my sisters. I don’t remember what happened, but T had done something that I didn’t approve of, so I yelled at her and threw her up against the wall, raising my shirt up and asking her if she needed a “sugar ***” to suck on. I had no idea what that meant, and it scares me so much to realize that those were your twisted words coming out of my mouth. I was a very disturbed child because of the constant belittling that I endured and I feel that I narrowly escaped with what sanity I have. There is no way in this world that I would’ve treated my baby sister like that if I had been able to think for myself or even knew what I was saying, and I feel that I was acting like the only representative of authority that I had, which illustrates what a dysfunctional example you were for me.    For a short time, Mama would wake us up early to do the Jane Fonda workout with her before we went to school. One morning during our workout, I sat down because I was tired and didn’t want to do the workout anymore. Mama started fussing at me to get up and continue exercising, but I was being a stubborn child, like any teenager, and refused. I think that must have woken you up, because you came storming into the living room screaming at me. When you screamed at me, though, it was never just screaming. Your face and neck would turn deep red. You would get about a half an inch away from me, yelling at the top of your lungs, while spit flew all over my face. I didn’t dare look away and I didn’t dare wipe my face. I would sob so uncontrollably that I would sometimes gag from it. In this particular situation, after you yelled at me, you walked up behind me and kicked me in the back so hard that I fell down, shouting at me and calling me a worthless fat ***. I don’t think that you have any idea how much that affected me. I was already a confused and depressed child, and events like this further reinforced the low self image that I had of myself and the fact that I would more than likely never be the person that you wanted me to be.    Do you remember that poster contest for the deaf that I entered? I remember sitting at the kitchen table working on it like it was yesterday. I had been working hard on it, trying to make everything perfect. I was almost finished drawing the city bridge when you walked in to inspect what I had been doing. You asked me if you could show me something and took my pencil and ruler from me and proceeded to show me how you thought it would look better if I did it a different way. I started to try to tell you that I couldn’t draw it the way that you wanted me to because I was planning on drawing hands forming sign language below it, which wasn’t possible if I did it the way that you were describing. You didn’t even let me finish talking before you threw the pencil and ruler and screamed at me that you were just trying to help me so it wouldn’t look like ****. I remember crying as I was erasing all of the marks that you had made and thinking that I couldn’t do anything right as far as you were concerned. I even convinced myself that my poster wasn’t any good because you said it wasn’t, even though I ended up winning the contest. This was a relatively tame circumstance in itself, but it was almost an every day occurrence that in some way you would make me feel like I was and never would be good enough.     Do you remember teaching me to drive a stick in that green Ranger? I know that you do, because I’ve heard you fondly recount the memory recently. However, I remember it a lot differently than you do. That was an extremely traumatic experience for me.   I wanted badly to do a good job and to make you proud, which was a constant struggle because nothing that I ever did was ever good enough for you. It was raining outside, and you had me drive down a curvy country road and stop on the upslope of a steep hill and try to start off without rolling backwards into the ditch and without stalling out. How could you ever expect a high school kid that had never driven a stick before to be able to pull something like that off without making mistakes? You screamed and yelled at me so much for every little misstep that I began to cry uncontrollably, at which point you got out of the truck in the rain and walked off to crouch beneath a construction trailer. This was a reflection of how you treated me every day of my life. Your expectations were impossible to meet and when the inevitable happened and I was unable to measure up to your expectations of perfection, you would scream at me as if you hated me and then walk away from the situation as if disgusted, leaving me to torture myself for not being up to your standards.     I remember one instance when I was 16, I had submitted my menu for dinner to you for approval, and you said that instead of baked potatoes, you wanted me to make new potatoes. I didn’t have time to make new potatoes as I was preparing the meal, so I decided that I would go ahead and just make baked potatoes since it was quicker. When dinner was ready and you found out that I had made that decision, you screamed at me, throwing beer cans at me and stormed out of the kitchen to eat in the living room. I was crying sitting at the table with Mama and C and T, saying that I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal that I made a different type of potatoes and that I didn’t understand why every little thing in that house revolved around you and what you wanted. I didn’t know that you had walked up behind me as I was saying this, and you pulled my chair out from under me. I hit the floor really hard, and as I was getting up, you bellowed at me that you didn’t want me to call you Daddy anymore and that I was no longer your daughter and you wanted me out of your house. Then, when I walked back to the living room after getting my purse from my room, you hit me, which caused Mama to jump in, at which time you grabbed her and had her crouched on the floor as you were hitting her. I remember sobbing and screaming for you to stop, which you didn’t, so I started hitting you in the back as hard as I could, screaming for you to get off of her. Finally, you walked away and Mama told me to get C and T and get in the car, circle the block, and come back to pick her up. I drove around the block as fast as I could, and when we got back to the house, Mama was not outside. I was terrified that you had done something horrible to her, but I was also too scared to go back inside to find out, so I circled the block again. I remember that a lady on the next street threw a garbage can at the car because I was driving so fast, but I was so worried about Mama that I would’ve run over that lady if she had gotten in my way and I certainly didn’t care about her yelling at me for driving too fast. Mama eventually came outside and informed us to our dismay that we were staying. I’ve never understood how you could treat someone that you supposedly love more than anything like you treated us.    There were also countless times that the three of us were forced to sit in our room and cry as we listened to you throw Mama around and hit her, calling her names and screaming at her. How do you think that affects children to hear that kind of thing going on and to feel completely helpless?  We always wondered which time was going to be the fight when you would kill her, and maybe kill us, too. Your rage was so unadulterated and violent that we never knew exactly what you were capable of, and I still believe that we are all lucky that someone didn’t end up dead during one of those arguments. I’ll admit that during these times, I wanted you dead. I wanted to walk in there while you were beating her, put a gun to your head, and pull the trigger in order to protect my sisters, my mother, and myself from you ever hurting any of us ever again. Back then, that was the only way that I could think of that I could put an end to the misery that you were putting all of us through.    When you were not yelling or belittling us, the extent of our relationship with you consisted of very little contact whatsoever, unless you were calling us to get you a beer. You kept yourself separated from us at almost all times, unless we had all gone somewhere together. It felt as if you didn’t want to be around us, and when you were, you would always find something to yell at us about. I felt constant stress throughout my life due to being forced to walk on eggshells around you. We never knew what would set you off, so I spent my childhood scared to death of speaking, thinking, or acting in any way that would enrage you.     I resent that we are the ones who have always had to be strong, not you, when you were supposed to be a self proclaimed provider and protector. It takes strength to withstand your father informing you that if he ever gets a divorce from your mother, it would be your fault. It takes strength to bear your father telling you that you are no longer his daughter and he never wants to see you again. It takes strength to watch your father hit your mother and wonder if this will be the time that he kills her. It takes strength to be emotionally, mentally, and physically battered every day of your life by the one person who is supposed to be there to protect you. I learned fortitude and will by surviving what you did to all of us. But, how much strength does it take for someone to deal out this kind of abuse to his wife and daughters? Absolutely none. You are a coward and are too afraid to bring yourself to come out from hiding behind your denial.  That is one difference between us and you; you were more than likely treated exactly the way you treated us by your father, but we have the courage to recognize that it is abuse, it is not the way that you treat those that you love, it’s a sickness, and it has to stop. You seem to be content with hating yourself and with refusing to do anything about it.    I’m sure that you cannot fathom the extent of which your actions throughout my childhood have affected me. You may think that you did the best you knew how, which I’m sure you actually believe. But, in reality, you did the same thing that your father did, which was to perpetuate the cycle of abuse in the your family, which has gone on for no telling how many generations. It stops now. You may not consider what you did to us as abuse, but it most definitely was. Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation, etc. Emotional abuse is like brain washing because it wears away at your self-confidence, sense of self worth, trust in your own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it’s done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of guidance, teaching, or advice, the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at your self-esteem until you are incapable of judging the situation realistically. I understand all of these results of abuse because I deal with them every day. I know that you were also raised in an abusive environment, so I believe that you learned to be abusive to cope with your own feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear, and anger.     As a result of what you put me through growing up, my self-esteem suffered immensely. The reason that I was so overweight for so long is because I hated myself and it was reflected in the way that I looked and treated myself. I also perpetuated the feelings of worthlessness that I learned from you by judging myself harshly and trying to cover up my poor opinion of myself. There were a number of times when I thought about committing suicide, but the thought of how it would affect Mama, C and T was really the only reason that I never followed through with it. I felt completely worthless because you made me feel that way every day growing up, and I carried that with me into adulthood.     I isolate myself and feel uneasy around other people, especially authority figures because of you. I used to be desperate for love and approval and would do anything to make people like me because of you. It used to be the worst thing in the world as far as I was concerned if someone was mad at me or didn’t like me. I am intimidated by angry people and feel guilty when I stand up for myself or act in my own best interest because of you. I used to attract emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities and was attracted to other victims because I would confuse love with pity and tended to “love” people that I could pity and rescue. I would repress my feelings and tell everyone that I was “fine” because I was unaware of the impact that my inability to identify and express my feelings had on my adult life. I used to have a dependent personality because of you and was so terrified of rejection or abandonment that I would stay in situations or relationships that were harmful to me. My fears and dependency kept me from ending unfulfilling relationships and prevented me from entering into fulfilling ones, which was a result of the dysfunctional example that I had growing up.     I’ve already begun to mend myself, but I feel that I still have a long way to go before I will be able to completely move past everything that has happened. I also believe that part of the healing process for all of us is for you to realize what your father did to you, exactly what you did to us, and for you to get some help for yourself. You are manic-depressive, bi-polar, do not hold yourself accountable for any of your actions (your famous saying, “you’ll never hear me say I’m sorry” is proof positive of this point because you most certainly have a lot to be sorry for), you have dangerously low self-esteem, and you must realize that the feelings that you have inside of you are a result of how you were raised, but it doesn’t have to be that way any more if you don’t want it to be. Everyone is not against you, you are against everyone.    There are basic needs that I feel that everyone needs from a relationship, whether it’s in a partner, a father, a sister, whatever. I think that we, and moreover the entire family, are missing these basic needs. In order to heal our family, I think that we must apply these traits to our interactions with each other. They are:
  • The need for good will from the others
  • The need for emotional support
  • The need to be heard by the other(s) and to be responded to with respect and acceptance
  • The need to have your own view, even if others have a different view
  • The need to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real
  • The need to receive a sincere apology for any actions that you find offensive
  • The need for clear, honest and informative answers to questions about what affects you
  • The need for freedom from accusation, interrogation, and blame
  • The need to live free from criticism and judgment
  • The need to have your work and your interests respected
  • The need for encouragement
  • The need for freedom from emotional and physical threat
  • The need for freedom from angry outbursts and rage
  • The need for freedom from labels that devalue you
  • The need to be respectfully asked instead of ordered
   Your entire family is still affected by Papaw, even though he is no longer with us, and it makes me so sad to see how easily you can write off a family member because they make a decision that you don’t necessarily agree with, just like when Papaw disowned me for living with my ex before we got married. That is not how a family who loves each other behaves!!!! All of you, Aunt M, Aunt A, Aunt D and you, dealt with abuse growing up and have never overcome it. You carry it with you every day and continue to carry on that legacy. You can’t change what happened, and if your sisters want to grow emotionally, they will have to make that decision for themselves. But, your wife and daughters are laying it on the line for you now. We want a relationship with you, but not the way things are and have been. None of us can deal with the constant reminder of our dysfunctional upbringing and current relationships with you. It’s time to address what has been done to you and what has, in turn, been done to us to retard our ability to be able to relate to each other in a healthy manner. But, it’s all up to you now. It is your decision, ultimately, if you want to continue to have a relationship with your wife and daughters. I applaud your willingness to seek help, but my fear is that the deepest issues will not be addressed since you seem to believe that your tone and your profession are the reasons that you treated us the way that you did. I think that it would be a good idea to show the letters that the three of us have written to your therapist, as they will more than likely shed light on issues that you would probably not bring up or be willing to discuss. I would also be willing to come in for a group session, as I believe that all of us could benefit from it. I certainly hope that you can swallow your pride, open your eyes, and heal your wounds, as well as ours.


TreadingWater TreadingWater
31-35, F
15 Responses Jul 27, 2008

I just turned 19, I recently just left home because I finally realized what was happening to me and that it wasn't okay. My story is VERY close to yours, if not the same. I've noticed that I, myself, am emotionally unavailable and broken and I'm completely terrified of how this will affect me in the long run. Will I be able to sustain a normal relationship, get married, have kids, etc? Will I be the same as my father? I'm overwhelmed and just don't know what to do, but I wanted to thank you for posting your story, I understand it all.

I am sitting here, completely stunned at what I just read! It is almost word for word the same as my story. I was looking for some help (hope) for a letter to write to my father ( we are also 3 daughters and I am the oldest) after not having any contact for almost 10 years now and I found this! Wow!! All I have to do is chop and change a bit and send it to him! LOL! What I'm trying to say is it is so great to know that some one else knows how I feel. Thank you so much for sharing this and I think you are immensly brave and should not be intimidated by anything! You rock! Hope you are leading a happier life now :)

I learned so much from reading your story. I was abursed also. The way i dealt it, was to forgive them. it took a long time for me to feel better, but i kept forgiving them for what they did, not for them, but for ME

I want to thank you for telling your story. I always thought hat i was the only one who endured such hoorrible abuse. I like how you iterate the word strength as i never considered myself as strong until recently somebody special to me pointed out to me that ihad to be strong to have survived all i have. I also like how you r giving your dad the choice to have a relationship with you and wish you well on that. As for me i know that my parents hasnt changed so for my safety i will not contact them.

I want to thank you for telling your story. I always thought hat i was the only one who endured such hoorrible abuse. I like how you iterate the word strength as i never considered myself as strong until recently somebody special to me pointed out to me that ihad to be strong to have survived all i have. I also like how you r giving your dad the choice to have a relationship with you and wish you well on that. As for me i know that my parents hasnt changed so for my safety i will not contact them.

Ya good luck and get away from em get yourself around people who support you instead of a group of people who obviously don't N always remember believing someone's criticism is SELF ABUSE Positive self esteem is an inside job!;) Take care

I understand you, and would liketo be part of your group. I,ve just posted a blog entry and have a profile in this website, please read my story and contact me, I,m H2O2, I'm sure I could support each other, thanks<br />

Thank you for your encouragement and kindness, Jenny.<br />
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Almostthere, I am glad to hear that my story was one that you can relate to and take something from, although I hate that you've been through so much in your life with your father. I think that in our situations, the only thing that can be done in order for people like us to have happy and well-adjusted lives is to distance ourselves from people who continually hurt us. I'm glad that you realize that you are a strong person for making it through what you did and for making the decision to remove him from your life. I'm so happy that you are focusing on what you need to improve your life, and I think that you are right about letting your dad make the move to have a relationship with you. I wish you the best of luck and thank you for your comment!

Your story hit so close to home for me. My father was also very abusive to my mother. He beat her so badly that she is now deaf in one ear permanently.<br />
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He constantly made me feel like I was never good enough, and when my parents divorced he disowned me because he said I lied in court- while it was really he who lied.<br />
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I haven't spoken to him in four years, when I got married he wasn't there, and when I have children he won't be there.<br />
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My brother and sister still talk to him, and he comments to them on how he doesn't understand WHY I won't talk to him, yet he's never made a move to call me or come see me.<br />
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I honestly don't know if I'd want to talk to him ever again- I was always a wreck around him.<br />
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My brother and sister say he's a better person now, but to me it's all in his hands if he wants a relationship.<br />
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This is the part of your story that touched me the most:<br />
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It takes strength to bear your father telling you that you are no longer his daughter and he never wants to see you again. It takes strength to watch your father hit your mother and wonder if this will be the time that he kills her. It takes strength to be emotionally, mentally, and physically battered every day of your life by the one person who is supposed to be there to protect you.<br />
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I fully agree- I always felt it was weakness, but now I realize I'm stronger.

I think your courage is enormous, It must have taken a lot to put everything down in print my heart goes out to you. Y ou are a wonderfull inspiration of how you can turn your life around through all the adversity you have been through. You are full of inspiration and wish you a good life from now on.

This has to be a frightening and confusing time in your life as well. It seems as if times of dramatic change always feel that way. You are definitely a strong person for giving your life and love to them, and I wish you the very best of luck!

That was a lovely comment, thank you. I believe it is making me stronger, I used to be very shy and uncomfortable talking to people and in social situations because of being bullied. I made excuses to avoid putting myself in these situations but now I see little children being taken from albeit damaging situations, but everything that is familiar and normal and placed with me, a stranger. I can't even begin to think how frightening and confusing it must be for them and yet they seem to get by somehow. Their resilience leaves me with very little excuses to make for myself.

I am so happy to hear that you read my story and were encouraged by it! I'm sure that it is difficult to connect with children who have been in a situation similar to mine. I remember how lost I was as a child, and how much I just wanted to fade away into the background, so that can't be easy for you to find a way to get through to them. I think that it is so very commendable and wonderful that you, as a foster parent, are giving those children a chance at a new, happy life that they may not have gotten otherwise. The most incredible thing about the human spirit, to me, is it's resilience. It seems that just when we think that we have no more to give, no strength left to go on, and want to give up, that's the time that you find out you've grown and cannot only go on, but be better because of the hardships endured. Hopefully this will be the case for both you and the children. Thank you so much for making a difference in their lives and for reading and responding to my story!

You mention how much writing this letter has helped you so I also wanted to tell you that it has helped me too. I am a foster parent, we care for children who in many cases, come from a back ground like you described. The children are struggling greatly with lots of issues and it has been difficult for them to talk to me, so this shows in their behaviour. Whilst I try to understand it is still very difficult to deal with and be supportive too. I have often found myself pondering whether I have the strength to continue. You have been an inspiration to me and I am greatly encouraged by your strength and determination so I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story with us.

Thank you so much for your kind words and I appreciate that you took the time to read my story. <br />
I posted it in hopes that it may help someone else who may be dealing with a similar situation. Just writing that letter was a tremendous step towards healing for me because a lot of the instances that I mentioned in it were things that I wouldn't even allow myself to think about for a long time. We all go through times in life that affect us adversely forever, but my situation, like any other negative influence while growing up, was something that I had to face head-on in order to become the well-adjusted and emotionally healthy person that I am becoming. <br />
Again, thank you for the comments!

This really helped me! Almost all of this goes on in my house. Just not to that extreme, also it's both of my parents that are abusive. Not just my dad. So thank you so very much for sharing your story!!!