Family Ripped Apart

I am having a lot of difficulty finding it in myself to fogive and ask for forgiveness from others due to a recent disaster in my family. And am looking for some advice.

My father was working as a contractor in Iraq for a couple of years. He would come home periodically, but most of his time was spent overseas. Prior to his taking this overseas job he worked here in the US and didn’t travel much so this was a big change for the family. No one was really happy about it but we lived with it because it seemed to fulfill something in him. After 2 years of this, he came home one day and told me that he had been carrying on an affair with a young girl in Jordan for the past year. Apparently, a few months before he told my mother about it and told her he wanted a divorce but somehow they were able to work it out that he would stay and break it off with the girlfriend. But when he went back overseas he got in with her again. They didn’t tell me about it back then because I had just lost my infant son back then and since they worked it out they decided not to tell anyone. But now that it had been a few months, my mother gave him the ultimatum that if he was going to stay he had to come clean and we would all work on it together as a family. And so he took me out and told me about it. He promised he was through with the girl and wanted to come back to the family. Obviously this was a very emotional event.

A few months later he was back working in Iraq and when he came home, he told my mother it was over. That he was leaving her and was going to marry this other girl and bring her back to this country.

Some things you should know. My parents never really fought and both will tell you there were no major problems between them. They had a wonderful life together and a great family. According to my father he just wasn’t happy and wanted to more or less change gears. All of this started when my mother was diagnosed with an illness that is sometimes debilitating. My parents were married for over 30 years. They are in their late 50’s and my father’s girlfriend - now wife as of 2 weeks ago - was only 23.

While my father was in iraq with this girl (who is not from Iraq but from eastern europe) he was paying for her college and giving her money for her family. All of this was going on while he was still married to my mother. He wracked up a lot of debt then when it came time for the divorce he tried to force my mother with a lot of it.

Now that they are divorced, my whole family has been torn apart. His mother, my grandmother, has become very spiteful toward my mother and has said many hurtful things, blaming my mother for not being able to keep my father around. It has lead to several family arguments and now my sisters have alienated my grandmother who alienated my mother. My Grandmother who took her son’s side is now left pretty lonely because he moved away with this girl. My father still reaches out to me and my sisters. My sisters have alienated him. I still will respond to emails. He keeps telling me that him and his girl-wife keep saying that one day hopefully we will be together again.

I tried to keep this concise but its hard. And believe me there is a lot more to it then all this.

My dilemma is, all the bitterness is eating me up inside. Its taking a huge toll on the family. I know that I am supposed to forgive. But I argue with myself that he is not deserving of forgiveness. Our Family Holidays used to be big events, now there are less than half the people at the celebrations. My first thought was to just rebuild the family unit between myself and my sisters. But how does one so easily dismiss the last 35 years? Also, scripture tells us to forgive and to get out the root of bitterness. But I struggle with this daily. How do I forgive my father for what he has done? I don’t feel I can ever accept him back into my life and especially not this girl who is younger than my youngest sister. How can I have them around my children? What kind of example is that?

Anyone have any advice for my struggle?

Wow, that’s tough raindogg. I’m so sorry for your troubles. I would guess that your mother is the one who likely needs the most support today. What your father did was very, very hurtful to her. Support your mother through this very trying time.

As for your father, you say you must forgive him. Has he asked for your forgiveness?

He has not asked for forgiveness. He has said he will not appologize for what he did because to him, what he did was just and right for himself. He did what he needed to do to be happy regardless the wake it left behind him and what he has given up. He expects everyone to just continue with how things were before and have him and his girl be apart of our lives and our childrens.

I had read somewhere that we are not to take part in the Eucharist if we are at odds with our brothers. So if there is someone we hold anger against or have not forgiven someone for some tresspass then we should not receive it. Is this true?

I do not want to carry sin because I cannot forgive that would just make it worse because then I would blame him for making me sin which I know is my own fault there. But, again, there is such struggle in forgiving him and believing he should be forgiven.

Talk to your priest on ways to work on forgiveness.

Remember, “forgiveness” and “acting like nothing ever happened” are NOT the same thing.

Your dad made a choice. That choice has consequences. The consequences are that he has cut himself off from the family, will not have access to your children, and will have to live with the consequences.

You can forgive him for his selfish behavior, you can forgive him for hurting you and your family.

That does NOT mean you have to embrace him, invite him over, support him in his adultery (which is what his “new” marriage is), or act like it was OK for him to do these things.

Forgiving him does not mean it all goes away and he can do as he pleases. Forgiveness requires asking-- it requires repentance and remorse and he has neither.

This maybe a silly question, but is it possible to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for forgiveness?

And then managining the bitterness is so difficult. For instance sometimes he will write to me and it will seem like old times, just regular convesation like we used to have. Then I will get a call from my mom that he contacted her and is threatening to stop providing health insurance to her unless she pays a creditor that it was decided in the divorce settlement that he pay. Its maddness. Like he is two different people.

So if I forgive him now, and everything seems to be going well then he pulls something like this next week, and I get angry and bitter against him again, do I need to forgive him again? At what point does a person commit themselves to being unforgiven? But would that not be Christian of me to not forgive him each tresspass? I do not want my life to become a bitter one because I carry this around, but, man is it hard not too!

Is sinful to not forgive?

I have been thinking about going in and talking to my priest about this.

First off I want to say that I am so sorry to hear about your situation…you are in my prayers.
I have not experienced the exact same situation as you have with your parents…but I do have experience with parents divorcing after 32 years of marriage and one of them leaving because of another love in their life. So I can only share some things that helped me in regards to that end of things (and a big fat hug for you ).:console:
My parents divorce was four years ago…my siblings and I are still reeling from some of those ripple effects (i.e. extended family putting their two cents in, holidays a mess, siblings and I not agreeing on many aspects etc.). Forgiveness is a process…one in which the final result is an actual look into your heart and know that it has occurred. You have been presented with all of these situations that are no fault of your own actions but boy do you sure have to deal with them. In dealing with them I think it’s normal to have days when you could just scream. I think it’s normal to not pretend that everything is okay. It’s not. Let yourself express these emotions to those who they should be directed at. I don’t mean that you should be a raving lunatic…but there is nothing wrong with going to your dad or your grandmother and saying, “hey, this situation is making me feel this way or that way.” I think that passion or tears are perfectly acceptable emotions while you are speaking your mind too. Your dad created this situation. It’s not fair of him to expect you to have a gung ho attitude. At some point down the road (time truly does shed light in dark places) you will have to accept the lifestyle he has chosen. This doesn’t mean you ever have to like it. I don’t like the way my mom handled many things…that’s not the mother I knew growing up. She doesn’t act the way a mother should act towards her daughter…There were many heated discussions and even a strained relationship to this day. But one day I just decided that no matter how hard I push away these choices, they are her choices. So with your dad, if you want him to be a part of your life, you have to accept (note: don’t have to like or condone) his choices. This is not easy at this point in time for you. It is not a bad thing to step back for a while. I certainly take a “time out” from my sometimes toxic relationship with my mom. That isn’t what forgiveness is all about. You have to sort through some things. In my case I have forgiven. But I still have feelings about what happened. I don’t have to have my mom over for Sunday brunch to prove to her that I have forgiven. You don’t have to be warm and fuzzy with your dad in order to have forgiven his decisions. Just do the best you can. Bottom line is he is your dad. His actions of today do not erase the times in the past. The dad you remember teaching you to ride a bike or giving you a pat on the back for a job well done is not gone. Don’t erase him from memory. It’s just that his responsibility to you as an adult child is not longer one of setting an example. You are done being raised. If you agree that you turned out fine, know that he had a hand in that. He’s your dad but he is also a man. A man who made some choices recently that unfortunately are painful to others. It took me a loooong time to separate that.
Forgiveness is a path…I have walked a bit further down this path and the path does become easier. I promise.
I am so sorry this is happening to you. It’s not fair. It’s painful, it’s selfish, it’s hurtful to so many people involved. Just know that you are not alone. I hope this helps you.

Oh, and definitely see your priest. Ours was the one who suggested that forgiveness is a process. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have with Fr. because I didn’t know him that well. But it sure did make me feel better about knowing when it was not “honoring” my parents by not talking to them for a while. I was not speaking to them because it was painful and I needed time. It wasn’t a case of punishing them because they hurt me.

First of all, I completely understand how you feel about the forgiveness issue. My mother did something about a month ago (it’s really irrelevant what) that I found deeply hurtful, and up until yesterday I hated her for it. I went to confession last night because I worried that my inability to forgive her was sinful (I mean, I HATED her and was becoming bitter, etc.). What the priest said, and undoubtedly the graces that come through the sacrament, were a huge help. I’ll tell you what the priest said.

It’s not up to us to forgive those who hurt us; only God forgives. But we do have to deal with the memory of the hurtful things that have happened, especially because the memory will keep coming up again (as, in your case, b/c of the continuing family rift). God will give you the grace to let go of what happened. Your dad may never repent or apologize or whatever, but you can still let go of your anger. You can and should tell him (and any other family members, for that matter) how they have made you feel, but God will worry about the forgiving. The priest also told me that at Mass, when the offering is taken up before Communion, my offering is my mother. It helps me to think of things this way, and I hope this will help you too.

I will pray for you, and I hope you’ll keep praying about it too. Persistence is key!

I worry about that too. That by blowing him off I am not “honoring” him. And as you say, I do not do it to hurt him, but more because its hard for me to do. Though then I feel I am being selfish.

Aloejamb - I just sent you a private message regarding your intial post to me.

Funny you should say that because of everyone that pray for the most when I receive Communion, it is him. Though of course I pray for my mother, but I do pray mostly for him.

Yes, I believe so.

You need to tell your mother to leave you out of it. Part of your inability to get over the issues with your father is that your mother is dragging you in to her problem. She does not need to tell you all her details and depend upon you for emotional support in that way. If she needs to get it all out, she needs a neutral third party like a counselor.

What is between your mother and father should NOT be discussed with you children. There is no purpose to it except to cause you grief and hurt.

You need to establish ground rules with BOTH parents… no talking about the other parent to you. PERIOD.

At what point do you say “no more contact”. Well if your father were my father, we’d be there already. But, each person has a different level of tolerance for things.

Get some counseling for yourself.

Go talk to your priest.

But, establishing boundaries for both parents is crucial. And, you need to tell your dad if he continues to conduct himself in an unethical manner (such as threats and atempting to have your mother pay debts he incurred) you will no longer allow contact.

He is continuing to be abusive, and you need to tell him “enough”.

If and when he ever comes around and says “I’m sorry and I want another chance”… THAT… is when you can give him another chance (or not).

Read the Catechism about honoring parents, you are off track here by thinking that by establishing boundaries you are not honoring him.

You are not being selfish.

Do you have any tendencies to scrupulosity-- you seem to be concerned that you are committing major sins and it is your father who is the one committing the sins. Talk to your priest!!!

Your dad should be on his knees, thankful that you didn’t give him a good right cross to the schnozzola.

Although it is possible to forgive someone who has not asked for it, I don’t know if it is required, because under sacramental theology we are required to confess mortal sins in order to receive absolution.

As far as the financial shenanigans, since he is a contractor in Iraq (is it for the military?), is it possible to have his wages garnished? Forgiveness of your dad should not entail letting him shaft your mother.

I’m sorry you’re feeling in the middle, so to speak. What a story! To start with, forgiveness actually has more to do with you, than your dad. By not forgiving, you hold yourself in bondage to anger, sadness, etc…your dad doesn’t see that he did anything wrong. So, by holding onto resentment, etc of what he did to your mom, you, your family–you must (for yourself) choose forgiveness, which will release you to be all that God has planned for your life. This is your dad’s life. If he wants to ruin his life, his relationship with your family–with God…that is his choice. Your forgiveness doesn’t mean acting like everything is peachy keen–it means letting go of anger, resentment, unkind thoughts, etc…about your dad–releasing it to God–and going on with your life. That is what forgiveness does, and why God wants it for us. When we don’t forgive, we block ourselves from God’s love for us. I truly believe that. We can’t be open to love, when we withhold it from someone else. (in this case your dad) You can love your dad, and not like his choices. Isn’t that how God views us when we stray and make poor choices? He still loves US, but doesn’t like our sin. In fact, He detests it.

I would be kind to him when you speak to him, but there is no law written that you have to hang out with him and his new lifestyle. And you probably are already doing this, but pray for your dad and mom. And pray for forgiveness…remember, you won’t be open to love, unless you do. Good luck to you!

I think you have issues with both of your parents here so I will try and comment and (hopefully help) with both.

First, your mother. It seems to me that your mother may, perhaps have a tendency to bring other people into her problems? It really jumped out at me when, in your first post, you mentioned that when your dad first came home and wanted to work it out…your mother insisted that he “come clean and try and work it out as a family.” I am sorry but I strongly disagree with this. The reconciliation of a marriage was between the two of them, not the “family.” The only purpose to his confession to all of you was to humiliate himself and to hurt all of you. This was a big mistake. In addition your mother seems to tell you things like your dad is bothering her for money. This is not your business either. I know your mom needs help…I know your mom is hurting…I know your mom feels abandoned and lost…but your mom NEEDS to seek help from a priest, a friend, a counselor, a support-group…NOT her children. You are obligated to your mother (in my opinion) to try and get her the help she needs. Talking to you about these things is not useful. Tell her you are praying for her, then change the subject, really. I know this seems impossible but talking to her is slowly destroying your soul which is not what Christ would want.

Second, your dad. What to say…so much going on, so much destruction. Pray for him. Remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Think of women who are raped and as part of the healing they forgive their rapists…this does not mean that they invite them to Christmas dinner! Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

All this and you lost a child. I cannot imagine your pain. Please know that Jesus wants to help you. You also have a Saint up in heaven in your own child that is helping you.

I will pray for you to as will many people here. I wish you peace. Hope this helps a little.

Honoring your parents is one lane on a two way street.

My wife was terribly abused by her father. He’s never admitted to his abuses let alone asked for forgiveness. It was sexual abuse. Would you counsel my wife that she needed to honor her father?

You can forgive him in your heart when you are ready. It does not give him carte blanche into your life. You do not need to support him in his adultery. In fact, he should know how much he has hurt you. How else can he learn of the harm he has caused?

I will pray for you.

I have to agree with this part of the statement. A similar situation happend with my parents and my mom went to my oldest brother. He sort of took over as “man of the house” and she let him have too much control over her life. It got to a point where he was telling her what to do and others in the family. He tried to do too much when it wasn’t his place. Things are ok, now but it took a while to fix it all.

You are her child, be there for comfort. But not a sounding board. It’s too much for children, even grown ones, to know all the details.

Then backing away until he does realize how much pain he has caused his wife and children seems to be in order. He won’t apologize? Good night. I just feel so badly for you, your sisters, and your mom. Nothing like having the rug yanked out from under you huh? I offer you my prayers, and my advice is to put it to him straight: “OK you don’t FEEL guilty, well you SHOULD, you tore apart your family, you have destroyed more than just a marriage, and you don’t feel BADLY? You care about only your desires? Call me when this changes and then we can TALK.” Well that’s how I would handle it. It’s bad enough what he did, but you must be feelign terrible even talkign to him when he is acting so flippant.

I had read somewhere that we are not to take part in the Eucharist if we are at odds with our brothers. So if there is someone we hold anger against or have not forgiven someone for some tresspass then we should not receive it. Is this true?

Absolutely do not turn down the Eucharist. I recently posted about a homily I heard at church about lesser sins, major sins, and how denying the eucharist because you feel badly about something, especially something someone else has done is more of a sin than receiving it. YOU did not sin. You have justifiable anger. This isn’t something so easily “forgiven” especially considering your father’s attitude about it all. It’s bad enough how he sinned, but to not even feel repentant about it, no, you have a right to be angry/upset…and in that YOU NEED the Eucharist. It’s going to be a major factor in helping you get over it.

I do not want to carry sin because I cannot forgive that would just make it worse because then I would blame him for making me sin which I know is my own fault there. But, again, there is such struggle in forgiving him and believing he should be forgiven.

I really suggest you speak to your priest. I just posted about my toxic mother and her latest drama. I also repeated the story my priest told me when I went to him for council: “God wanted you to obey your mother and father, but Jesus doesn’t want you to be stupid.” I suspect your priest will tell you that you are not in a state of sin, you are in a state of pain. Justifiable pain. With council, the Eucharist and some time, you’ll feel a lot better.

Remember you can’t change your dad. Nothing will go back to as it was before the new girl-bride. Be there for your mom and your sisters. Do what you can. Take a break from dad and tell him you’ll be open to him when he changes his attitude. Until then, take some time to heal and deal. This is a lot.

My prayers are with you.

raindogg, I know forgiveness can be a rough monster to deal with. I’ve had to struggle with it for years. Back in the day, my husband had an affair with my cousin. So I have some experience with others choices tearing a family apart. Even 9 years later, there’s still quite a rift in my family. Forgiving DH took some help from God through prayer. But it came easily because he was remorseful and he did so much to turn things around and make things up to me.

But my cousin was a different story. She was nowhere near remorseful and it wasn’t the first time she did this to me. She did it when we were teenagers with a boyfriend of mine. And I think this time around it was more out of spite and payback for the previous incident (she got in trouble because my mom let her parents know that she was sexually active at ELEVEN years old). So it was VERY HARD to forgive her. The only way I was able to do it was to ask God continuously go give me the grace to forgive. I couldn’t do it without His help. I still have to continue to ask for His help to forgive every time I run into her at a family get-together because it digs up all those old painful feelings.

Forgiveness is not a one time event. It’s ongoing. And Jesus tells us in Scripture that we have to keep forgiving, over and over, even when the person keeps repeating their offense. I know it’s HARD. But it’s a matter of making the decision to forgive and leaning on Jesus to help you to do it. That’s all He asks of you, is the decision to forgive. You make the decision, He will help with the rest.

I’m so sorry this has happened to your family. It is just so heartbreaking. But just know that you are not alone. This is happening in millions of families around the world. Satan is on the loose and it’s the family that is the victim of his fury. Hang in there. :wink:

Wow, Raindogg, so many emotions you have running there! I’m sorry you are going through this. You have the right to be angry and want to take a whip to the man who should be protecting the temple of his family, not being the money-changer in the middle cheating everyone. (literally) All that anger and you don’t know what to do with it. I COMPLETELY understand. And my answer to you is written as both a wronged wife and a mother of daughters who are dealing with their own father’s bad behavior. This will be in three parts:

First off, some psychological things you need to understand, because to understand is to forgive. Remember Mrs. Moussaoui? She’s the mother of that wanna-be 9-11 terrorist who was rounded up before he had the chance to get on the plane. She sat in court and denied her boy could ever participate in such a horror. He was innocent, she says! The horrible government is picking on him!

Everytime I hear the mother of some philandering or abusive cheat take her son’s side and deny he’s guilty and blame the wronged party, I mutter to myself “Shut up, Mrs. Moussaoui!”

Poor Grandma. She raised him and now he’s making her look bad. If he ran off with a new cookie, it must be her DIL’s fault. (Maybe there is 35 years of quiet hostility or resentment that she is now expressing toward your mom? Did your mom steal her only son or something?) And now Grandma’s grandchildren are mad at her too.

Here is a useful phrase for you to say to people from now on: “[fill in blank of name] I love you, but right now I don’t like you.”

Doesn’t that help? It allows you to be respectful and loving, but to quietly express your disapproval of their behavior. If you say it while you’re hugging them, it takes away the sting. But deep down, people don’t want the love that God tells you you have to give them. People want to be liked! Let them deal with the fact that their actions have prevented that.

As for dad: Poor man… went off to play Rambo and regain his lost youth. Found a new cookie half his age, and younger than most of his children. Got tired of the wife and shucked it all. Now his kids are mad. Did he buy a red sports car too?

He’s in typical mid-life crisis meltdown. Such a cliche. (And they don’t like thinking of themselves as cliches.) He’s deranged. Whether temporarily insane or whether he plans to make it a permanent thing is his choice. Here’s what my confessor told me when I was going through the grief process of mourning the death of my marriage (and your mom is grieving!) Christ forgave those who were unrepentant while he was still hanging on the cross. He said they did not know what they were doing. And Mary forgave them also, even as they were destroying her son.

As a wife, I am furious what was done to me. As a mother, I am twice as furious what was done to my own children and their lives. When you forgive, you are giving it FOR YOURSELF as much as for others. Acid is like bitterness… It destroys the container it’s kept in more than the object it’s poured on.

Don’t be that container of acid. You will not do yourself or anyone else any favors.

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