Dear Annie: I am a 29-year-old intensive care nurse. I have been blessed with what many people would want, an amazing husband and daughter. But inside I am at a loss for words when it comes to facing how I can help my mother or surpass this hardship that my family has dealt with for so many years. To make this story short, my dad ended up having a double life and had two other kids while he was married to my mom. My half brother is two years older than I am. I didn't find out until I was 15.
There was one night that still haunts me to this day, and it makes sense now that I'm older. I was 5 at the time and still remember it as if it were yesterday. We were at my uncle's. My elder brother grabbed my twin brother and me and rushed us out the door. He told us, through sobs, what he had just overheard our dad saying to his mistress. To see how much my mom cried that night and in the years afterward — I wish no one to bear that.
I'm an adult now. My mom put it in my head to never depend on a man and to always be independent. My dad now is living his life with his girlfriend, who is not even half the woman my mom is, yet my parents are still married. I have tried to reach out to him and have a relationship with him, but he always assumes I am against him because of my mom. Now that I am an adult, I see the person he is.
I have been blessed with a man who will do anything for my daughter and is always there for us. Annie, how do I help my mom to understand it's OK to move on? How can I show her that she deserves happiness and should move on with her life? My mom is everything to me, and I want her to be happy and to understand it's OK to let go of my dad, just as I have done. I will always love him, but it's best to love from a distance and pray that everything will work out. — Wanting to Help Mom Heal
Dear Wanting: You are a wonderful daughter and very sweet to be concerned about your mom. What your family went through was traumatic for all of you, and it was no doubt hurtful to your mom on many levels — as a mother wanting the father of her children to be there but also as a spouse whose love and trust were betrayed.
Sometimes when people go through intense traumas, they freeze, stuck in the moment of pain, paralyzed with fear. They never want to risk something terrible happening again. From what you've described, counseling is your mom's best bet at working past this. I would also recommend "Waking the Tiger," a book on trauma by Peter Levine.
You are wise not just beyond your years; you seem to have more emotional maturity than many people ever manage to develop. Your mother is blessed to have you in her life.
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