Things We Never Learned

Several years ago, I ran an incest survivor’s support group that had been meeting for a long time.  During one session, a participant admitted that she felt everyone out there in the world had been to a class on living, on that she had somehow missed.   She felt like she lacked information that others just seemed to have.  Everyone in the room shook their heads and agreed that they, too, felt that way. 

Families that abuse their children do NOT take care of their children.  That means the survivors of abuse are not privy to the information that typically gets passed along by love, communication, hanging out and talking, and spending time together.  The dinner table is not a warm friendly place where there is sharing and intimacy.

Back to the group. I encouraged people to talk about what they didn’t know and had been afraid to ask. One person wanted to know how often you change the sheets on your bed.  Another person asked why it wasn’t OK to leave your children home alone when they were little; she knew it wasn’t right to do so, but didn’t know why.  Some questions were more complex or abstract, like how you knew if you loved someone, should you see your abusive family, and should you confront your abuser. 

One of the reasons groups and therapy are so essential for survivors of childhood abuse is that it lessens the isolation and all the effects of that isolation — including the feeling that everyone is operating with information that you don’t have.  Ask your questions and don’t be ashamed.  You need to be aware that you are NOT the only person who doesn’t know some of the basics of day to day living.  The good news is that the basics can be easily learned.    It’s never too late!

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