My 85 year old father had a stroke recently. He is a survivor of the Holocaust, as was my mother of blessed memory. My father has survived once again.
My parents withstood emotional and physical abuse to its extreme and while they loved me with all their heart, one of the by products of their own torture included emotional and verbal abuse towards people they loved, including me. Several years ago when I was visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., I stood in front of a ceiling to floor photograph of a survivor in a tattooed black and white striped prisoner uniform.. This man bore an uncanny resemblance to old pictures of my father. The photo touched me deeply. I sobbed and said out loud “I forgive you dad!” For whatever tortures he sustained, I understand he couldn’t help himself and I forgave him for any emotional pain he inflicted on me.
The Nazis abused a young man who became a father who abused his wife and children. The children marry abusive partners and so the cycle continues from generation to generation. But the cycle can end. It ended for me that day in the Holocaust Museum when I forgave my father and the day I left my abusive husband.
Over the years, I have told many students and clients that my parents survived the Holocaust. I believe it is my mission to carry whatever positive messages that can be conveyed from their suffering. It is my purpose in life to help others end emotional suffering of any kind, whether it’s related to abuse against a person because they are different or abuse within a family.
God spared my father this month. I told him God isn’t done with him. He still has a message to send. I want to share one of his “pearls” of wisdom that he said while rehabilitating; “In order for human kind to be better, we must understand suffering.” I believe he meant we must have empathy, compassion and forgiveness. We have to acknowledge pain around us rather than ignore it and help others who suffer. Unless we work toward these goals, we are vulnerable to continue abuse within our world and within our families.
The cycle of abuse can end for you. Therapy can help you learn how to say no to verbally and emotionally abusive people in your life. You can learn to set boundaries and take better care of yourself. You can heal and forgive.
Just like my father, we are survivors. Our lives have meaning and purpose and we have a right to live it free from abuse.
© Copyright 2011 by Felice Block, MA, LCPC, therapist in Lake Zurich, Illinois. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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