A Letter to My Abusive Parents


depressedBy Hadassa Luk

My letter is written to you, but it’s intended for me. To clear things up inside. To try to understand myself better. To comprehend the perplexity of the human heart.

I can’t even address you as I should. It hurts too much. Should I start with questions? Should I start with telling you what is on my mind? What has been weighing on my heart probably since I was born? Maybe even since you carried me? I don’t know how you felt when you carried me, but I assume it was not the healthiest feelings. I do know though that you did not want to see me for the first few minutes of my life. My life that has plagued you.

I don’t know how to write this letter at all. It is so deeply recessed in my heart, in the innermost chambers. I was too scared to enter these chambers. I didn’t have the emotional strength to go there. You have given me a lot of grief. I have been a crippled human being because of you. I have grown up without parents and have never been a child because of you. I have never known what it means to trust someone because you have taken that away from me. I have learned to be scared of people, because you made me scared of them.

I learned to be immune to hurt and insults, because you have done it so many times. I have since learned that lacking a mother and love are things that can never really be filled. I live that void every day. I’ve learned that when someone loves you, don’t allow it to seep in, because you can never make up 20 or so years of it. I learned to be immune to hurt and insults, because you have done it so many times. It was just a part of life, part of getting up in the morning and pushing through another day.

You taught me to go into my own world, which in itself was not too pleasant, because you were in your own world when I was a child. I learned to see the outside world as a threat, as if people are out to get me. I learned to shy away from good gestures and don’t know how to get out of harmful situations because you have alternated between the two, way too often. I learned to just grit my teeth when given criticism, because that’s all I ever heard from you. I don’t know how to accept praise, because I was never deserving of it. I never learned to laugh, because you never allowed me to. I never learned how to say no when needed, because you never gave me that choice. I don’t know how to be a productive member of society, because you demanded me to produce too much.

I am young in years but old in resilience. Too old. I have learned to shirk responsibilities, because you never took it. I learned that punishments come regardless of intentions, because nothing was ever good enough for you. I learned that it’s the simplest to blame others for your shortcomings, because that is what I have always heard from you.

I learned that squelched emotions are much better and safer, because you never let me voice them, and I could not afford to feel them. I learned that it is okay to be alone in this world, because you did not allow anyone into my world. I learned that it is safer to hide, because if I was around, you would always get at me. I learned how to be there, yet be invisible, because if I was seen, it never ended well. I learned that you should never admit to your wrongdoings, because I was always blamed for your mistakes. I learned that if you’re hurt, you deserve it, because that’s what you always told me.

I learned to let people roll all over me, because I believed if I would allow it, I would finally win your approval, your love… I learned that love is conditional, because you put down very harsh conditions. I learned that values are valueless, because you didn’t have any. I learned to beg for what I need, because that was the only way I got anything.

I learned too many things to list. Most of them were negative. But one positive thing that life has taught me is that just when I feel that I can’t go on any more, God sends another spurt of strength.

I pray that I take adversity with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child.I just wish I would have learned it in a different way. I just wish that I had parents that I can be proud of, that my childhood would not have been wasted like that. I just wish that I would not be so crippled by your teachings and your crookedness. How I wish that I would have known a different life, that I would have known right from wrong through your teachings. I know the wrongs, but I do not know the rights.

I want to be able to tell you all this, but I’m not ready, and I might never be. I want to give my children, please God, everything that I did not get, but how do I do it? I want to know where the balance between love and discipline is, but I never saw it. Maybe it is one and the same thing. You can’t discipline without love.

I hope that one day you will be proud of me, even though I have a hard time knowing that I give you nachas. But I realize, most importantly, I need to be proud of myself.

I pray that my life may be a lesson for my future years. That I learn only good things from my past. That I take adversity with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child. That I do not lean on my handicaps, but that I use it to push me forward and upward.

I hope that one day I will be able to stand up proudly and say that I have come out the winner, in spite of my past. Or maybe because of it.

The writer is using a pseudonym.

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  1. I’m sitting here on the verge of tears. I can really sympathize with this child because I had a similarly bad childhood. This article could have been written by me.

  2. I am very moved by this article but I am at a loss to understand what purpose this article serves the public. An abusive parent will not change from reading this and an abused child will take little consolation in knowing that others suffer like him/her. So what purpose does this serve? I mean this honestly.

  3. to #5 this serves a better purpose than all the kvetching of kids that went off the derech and blaming it on their abusive childhood experience.

    Yes! Way to go! Intellectual honesty! Spiritual strength! That’s what I saw in the letter.

    Any child reading this: If you are constantly being degraded, critisized and verbally or physically abused , even though it seems far away know you will one day get out of this nightmare. Here’s your chance to grow and become close to Hashem for he’s your only source of strength. And maybe if you can find someone to trust to tell them what’s going on that would be great. And take the right spiritual road because the other one will just make it worse for you in the long run.

    An yes author of this letter, you can be a great parent. Kids just need a caring heart and you have it. Let me tell you, parenting is easy for me now. No reading parenting books for me, I just do the opposite of what was done to me!

    Keep it up all you people out there who have been hurt but are growing despite of it!

    Chazeik Veyameitz!

  4. #5 – I can think of a number of purposes to this article:
    1. Responders can offer “Hadassa” words of encouragement to show her that people do care and thus restore her faith in humanity as well as possibly suggesting useful information to help her (such as books, support groups or other tools that they personally found helpful).
    2. Giving others who grew up in abusive situations the license to open up – they don’t have to be in denial of their reality and “tzoras rabim chatzi nechama” – as much as no one wants others to suffer what they have, knowing that others have dealt with this nisayon gives them strength. Also, they may find some responses that will be useful and encouraging to them (as opposed to #6 who obviously doesn’t have the emotional intelligence necessary to understand the type of torture these people suffered and be more empathetic. If all responders would chas veshalom be like him, then yes, better not to publish the article!).
    3. It can open the eyes of mechanchim, neighbors and family to be on the lookout for abuse and step in to become a validating adult in the life of these children, or even perhaps insist that the parents get help or risk losing custody of their children. Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa would seem to apply here. Consult with your Rav on this matter, but don’t pretend it doesn’t exist!

    “Hadassa,” you are to be commended for writing this moving letter. We hope it helps you and others who have undergone such torture to find happiness and balance in your lives and to make all of us more sensitive. It is clear that you have tremendous kochos hanefesh. Hashem’s love is infinite; may He heal your wounds and lead you to utilizing your many strengths in a way that will be of comfort to you, benefitting both you and all of klal Yisroel. Chizki v’imtzi.

  5. A wonderful start to a new life with love and hope!!! I humbly suggest that this child/adult try to reach out to another adult and get a good role model. That and a lot of introspection with good help from some caring people and you will make it.

    To have gotten this far in your thoughts and emotions is no easy feat, not by a long shot. Kol HaKavod and go from strength to strength.

    From one who has been there and is still growing into normalcy with many grandchildren.

    For those of you who do not understand, I envy you. Be aware that those you see may be in pain and need help at any time. Be less judgmental and more open to observe and ask questions. You will be surprised and gratified as time moves on. . .

  6. As someone who has suffered from MAJOR depression for years, i believe i have a right to an opinion. I would like to make a few points. 1 Not all abusive parents really realize that they are abusive. This may sound crazy to some, but I can this for a fact. My father never realized how he effected me, he just doesn’t have a clue. Maybe this letter will bring to more people realizing just how vulnerable a child can be. 2 Part of our belief is that people have free-will. What this means is that even though circumstance can make our choices easier or harder, still the ultimate choice is in our hand. All excuses for failures in life don’t play out after 120. This is obviously beyond this forum, but anyone who is interested in understanding it (and change their life while they’re at it) can see the sefer from HaRav Chaim Friedlander ZTL that discusses it at length.

  7. I also grew up with this kind of abuse and maybe worse. Parents, almost always are only raise their children the way they were raised -if they were raised with abuse then they abuse, if with love than with love. Sometimes people go through trauma, are in a disaisterous marraige, have unusual stress put on them, etc. B U T H A S H E M handpicked every childs parents in shamayim before they were born and every neshama agreed to these parents.
    We don’t know the reason for these yissurrim, but can only trust hashem knows best.
    As far as being different than one was raised, all the will and good intentions are usually not going to effect change. A person who grew up in such an environment has immerse himself with health by being around heathy people as much as possible and by seeing how others respond to normal everyday interactions is able to change themselves. Be around feeling people if youve stopped feeling, and around thinking people if only your feelings rule you. Reading self help books, books on chinnuch, how to raise healthy children etc. also help. Good healthy friends help, but many times people take freinds (and spouses) according to what they are comfortable with – which is unfortunately the abuse they grew up with. Sometimes outside professional help is nessicary. Becoming healthy is a lifetime struggle. On the other hand, you have much much more life experience than others, and can understand life with much more depth than others. After you are sucessful in helping yourself, you are in a position to be able understand others, understand others pain much more than other people.
    Much hatzlachah on your path to healthiness and growth!!!

  8. Wow what a powerfull article all parents could benefit from it I too could recall a troubled childhood but unlike this person I dont believe my parents are to blame cuz I strongly believe that as an adult we have much better skills analysing and defining trying moments of our past like defining trying episodes with dealing with our parents as result of stress, financial burdens, their own rough childhood living in a post holocaust and world war 2 era I mean 50 million people dying must affect people for years. and adults with a troubled childhood must realise as well as the impossiblty of judging theres the realisation that even if one reconciles their pasts with their parents begging for forgiveness well it doesnt help your emotional sufferings and confidence that wasnt instilled in a child cannot be reconciled with forgiveness its very hard to become a confident person not afraid of sticking up for yourself eventhough psychologists out there claim to have success well it might be possible in the shortrun but not in the longrun

  9. Regarding comments # 5, 6, 11 and 12:

    It is frightening to read just what’s out there, no? It might hit you and others below the belt and you’d rather not hear about the uglier aspects of some people’s lives.

    But it is important to give children of abuse. It is people like you that would rather not know about other people’s suffering, that helps perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Raising awareness so that the next time you watch your neighbor kicking his child out of the house while pulling the child’s hair, you might think, perhaps they need help.

    Burying your heads and believing that life is all peaches and cream for everyone only makes the pain of those that suffer a lot worse. Perhaps you should rethink your attitude towards the real issues that is happening around you every day. Perhaps you should open your eyes and rethink your need to run away from the reality.

  10. you are so eloquent it s incredible you are very much on your way to healing you must be a very smart person you should definitely become a therapist and help others your grasp of the issues is remarkable

  11. wake up and start understanding we are living in the times of moschiach how can he come when we do not love our own children,,,,

  12. To comment #5: it is precisely because of comments like #6 that this needs to be posted. If one can’t even fathom that by trying to grow up and move on from an abusive childhood, the above is what one deals with, we need to open their eyes.

  13. Burach Hashem, abuse is not such a widespread machleh in the heimishe world, however it is still there and every child going through this gehinnom is a terrible tragedy and the effects are everlasting and if the child grows up and loses his/her desire to change the pattern continues with a new generation.

    Growing up in the gehenim that was my childhood nobody knew because I faced the world with a smile. Burach Hashem, I have largely overcome my hurt and pain and recognize it as Hashem’s plan for me to become a strong person.

    I have written this peom and would like to share it with the readers.

    Come to me dear children,

    Let me hold you tight,

    I want to convey my love for you,

    With all my strength and might,

    I want you to feel my loving heart,

    A heart that has been shattered years ago,

    But for you I have dressed my wounds,

    So that together we can grow.

    I will grow strong in self-confidence,

    So that a wholesome parent I can be.

    I will break the chain that bound me tight,

    In my generations-long, abusive family.

    Oh, endless were the cynical, stabbing words,

    To critisize me, to hurt and shame,

    Endless was the power struggle to confine me,

    As if I was a pawn in a chess game.

    But all that is now a receding nightmare,

    When you dear children are with me,

    And when you say “Mommy you’re the best”

    I know I’ve thrown off the shackles and am finally free.

  14. Just want to add a comment to my poem I posted above . My intention was not to give the impression that its possible to lean on children (or a spouse) for happiness and fullfilment. No, happiness and fulfillment comes from hard work, accepting the challenges Hashem gave us in life and apprecating the good that we have.

    With the poem I just wanted to bring out the point that children with abusive parents need to be aware that they need to break free of the pattern of violence so that they do not continue this pattern and wound their children the same way they were.

    I am so impressed by the courage of this letter writer because it takes a lot of honesty and self-introspection to gain the clarity thats needed to become a better person and not continue on the trap of self- destruction that abusive parents (intentionaly or not) have set up for us.

  15. To comment 25. I am an adult. I am getting professional help and am in a good enough place to share what I did. I don’t think I need to stay away from such sites, as I want the world to open their eyes and see what abuse does to children. I want people to know that abuse isn’t something that affects the person at the time it’s happening, but shapes them for life.

  16. i believe that posting this pain-filled letter on such a public forum is wrong.while it was apparently therapeutic for the sufferer,the benefits do not outweigh the risks.to name a few:
    1.not giving parents(even abusive) the credit for having done anything right at all is extreme.
    2.causing readers to start thinking…hey you know…my childhood was no great shakes either…my parents caused me ….
    3.for everything there is a time and place. even if the letter needed to be written to heal the writer ,some things that get publicized can create new problems.

  17. As a 60 year old man who was emotionally abused as a child it still hurts and is still very painful. The posted letter is very important: it reminds us that this goes on in silence, it reminds us how hurtful it is to the victim and for those of us who survived it helps us understand there is hope. As #26 said, it shapes people for life. Many of our basic emotions and responses are set at an early age and while we can change our behavior it is not easy or in some cases possible to change how we feel.

  18. I am inspired by this to write my own Mother! – I’ve had little or no contact with her sine I was a run-away 26 years ago! A lost girl that nobody looked for, (real midnight train, going anywhere situation) I feel like writing and saying what I have to say while she is still alive will bring me some peace and calm the nightmare hour memories that creep out of the dark on long nights where tear filled eyes can not sleep!

    I ran from London to NYC with $80 left over from the flight in my pocket!

    Today I have been married for 23 years and have raised 3 very loved children! – But a recent trip home and attempt to visit with my 3 sisters went horribly wrong!

  19. As someone who has dealt with this myself I understand and sympathize. I am a mother of two beautiful little girls and although we are in contact with my parents I always have these words at the tip of my tongue itching to be released. Will I ever say this to my mother? Probably not because I would never want to see my daughter’s heart break when she turned away from my family because of guilt or the true belief that she wasn’t wrong in doing what she did. I often even have to remind myself that I am not my parents. Because unfortunately it is what I grew up around. My Husband has to remind me that I am not like them, and I am my own person many times. It will take a lifetime to forget about being punched in the face for have a ‘tone’ with my Mother and flinching right after realizing I had done it. What really sticks with you though are the words. I really wish this problem was more publicized. Especially because having 2 little girls I could never imagine saying anything like my Mother said to me to them. No matter what. Never doubting their drive to achieve things, never calling them worthless, or telling them they would never amount to anything.

  20. Thank you for sharing. I am too struggling with this, but didn’t know how to verbalize what has happened to me. Thank you so much