(Gestalt Goodbyes include appreciatons, resentments, and regrets.)
Things that I appreciated about you, Daddy: your encouraging me to write creatively; your encouraging me to draw; your teaching me and coaching me to play tennis; your intelligence and lively mind; your sense of humor , and the day I left my homework at home and you chased the city bus downtown to give it to me.
Things I resented about you: your lack of work ethic; your lying in bed all the time you were home; your sense of entitlement –it seemed you thought the world owed you a lot that you really didn’t deserve; the way you treated Mother; your molesting me; your scrambling my mind with conflicting messages about sex and life; your lack of insight into your problems; your being willing to subject the family to your alcoholic lifestyle; your insising I return home when I had the chance at a much better life with my maternal grandparents; you frightening me when you straggered through the house.
Things I regret: that you remained a weak victim of your father’s molestation; that you suffered and did not become a father I could respect; that you gave up on yourself and tried to live your life through me. I’m afraid that covers it all. Goodbye to you and all that.
Reprinted from FALLOUT: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders.
My main regret about having Mandy is that my other three children got short-changed. I don’t know where I would have gotten the energy from, but I wish somehow I could have done things differently. When Mandy was born one daughter was 8, my son was 4, and my younger daughter was 3. And I was working on my Ph.D. in psychology. Mandy was born with what at the time was a terminal heart defect, common to children with Down Syndrome, and I was a wreck. (Soon thereafter a procedure was developed and Mandy underwent a successful surgery). All the children were aware that I couldn’t talk about her physical condition without crying, which ushered a lot of anxiety into the household. My oldest daughter briefly decided she wanted to be a pediatric heart surgeon for this very reason. I let my oldest wait with me at the hospital through the surgery (they had given Mandy a 50-50 chance of surviving).
When the surgeon reported the operation a success [after which her heart stopped twice in recovery], I called my younger daughter at her elementary school to give her the good news. My daughter said the loudspeaker just said for her to come to the office, and all the way to the principal’s office she prepared herself to hear that Mandy had died.
We were very lucky the family survived the trauma, but the marriage did not. I had therapy and the support of friends, but in adjusting to the trauma of Mandy’s unexpected condition I rationalized that if she could have a happy life then her birth would be “all right.” If not, then it was unthinkable. That decision, (to assuage my feelings of guilt) led me overall to put her needs before my other children. At the moment I drive 2 hours every Sunday to visit Mandy in a wonderful developmental center and take her out to lunch. I let my relationship with my son dwindle to the point where he recently disowned me. I have regrets.