The Heart Attack and Family

My father had a heart attack.  

Once the doctors did all their testing, they decided he needed to have surgery.  The only way I found out about this is because they told my children.  You see, the decree came down from my father when I first told them I’d be out of touch until after the divorce was over that no one was allowed to tell me anything about anyone in the family.   If someone got sick or even died, I was not to be told about it.  The Discipline of Silence had commenced. 

It was around this time that I decided to reach out of one of my cousins, Ed.  He lived far away from the Family of Origin (FOO) and I thought maybe he might be a safe person for me to talk to – a link to my family.  I’d tentatively told him a few things about why I’d divorced Bubba.  I didn’t go into detail and I didn’t share anything with him that I hadn’t already shared with my parents.  I did, however, un-block him on Facebook.  As I’d started using my new name socially, I used it on FB.  

I texted with Ed a bit and we spoke on the phone a few times.  After my father’s surgery, Ed called one day.  He told me that he’d listened to my side of things and now I owed him and he was going to have his say.  Red flags started waving frantically.  This was what I was waiting for – confirmation that he, too, was as unsafe as the rest of the FOO.  

Ed started in on how my father had had a heart attack and needed his family around him at this time.  I needed to put aside my feelings and think about what my father needed.  I needed to stop being selfish and go see my parents.  My mouth hit the floor and just stayed there while he talked.  He obviously had taken the lessons we’d learned as children and run with them.  I was so thankful that I could hear the guilt and manipulation and coercion in his words.  It was a campaign to put the past in the past and go visit my father.  

I went all Mama Bear on him.  I explained to him in very simple, easy to understand terms that my parents had tried to take my children away from me.  They’d tried to say that I was a bad mother and that the man who’d been abusing me and the children would make a better full-time parent than I would.  They had chosen to believe lies about me, even after I’d spent four decades proving to them who I was.  I told him that it wasn’t safe for me to be around them and around Bubba (who was with them like a “good son.”)  Ed was just not getting it.  I finally just told him I was done talking and that I needed to get off the phone.  There was a moment of silence, then Ed said, “Hey, Hope?  People really miss you.”  I said, “I miss who I thought some people were.  Good-bye.”  And I hung up.  Then I blocked him on FB again.  

My father survived his heart attack and surgery.  He was recovering.  Toxic was still alive and well in my FOO – extended down very effectively to my generation.  It was obvious in my siblings and now one of my cousins.  Would any of the other cousins be safe?  I was too afraid to find out.  Ed was the only one who didn’t live in the immediate vicinity and wasn’t in contact with the FOO on a regular basis.  None of the other cousins felt safe to reach out to since they were all still living directly in that dynamic.  I felt truly on my own.  My family was completely lost to me.  

I talked to Endellion about it.  She put it very well – it would be so nice if we could all just get sick and our bad choices would just be forgotten, but life doesn’t work like that.  I know my parents will go to their graves just as toxic as they are now, just as convinced that I am a horrible daughter, and feeling just as justified in their actions as they are now.  They will never see me cutting them off as consequences of their own choices.  It will always be my fault.  

As far as I’m concerned, I have no biological family.  My family consists of the friends who have stood by me and helped me through this.  I will make my family of the people who I love and who love me.  

My family now consists of healthy people.  It is amazing!



  1. I feel so sad reading that you don’t have any real family 😦 and the way your parents treat you, that’s just horrible! as a mother, I’m sure you’ll know that one must ALWAYS love their own children. At least, that’s something that I believe. And I know how you feel. My mom and I.. we never really get along. She used to call me horrible names, blaming me for everything that goes wrong, saying that I only bring harm and sadness to people and stuff… I hope you’ll find everything you need in your own family: your children and you x

    • I have a family that I’ve cobbled together. They mean more to me than anything in the world and they are my true family – even though we aren’t related by blood. They love me unconditionally, which isn’t something my FOO doesn’t understand.

      I’m sorry your mother treated you like that. That is very abusive and you don’t have to put up with it if she continues to treat you like that.

  2. I’m getting used to it… She’s always there to break down everything I say, everything I do. Always complaining and being snotty about who I am. Which makes me think that she doesn’t like me. She says how I should talk to my friends, how I should do this, how I should react on that… sigh… And I hope your family will keep making you happy ! x

    • If you haven’t read it already, I’d highly recommend reading “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. It sounds like you need to set some serious boundaries.

    • Every abusive parent does that. Tell their children how to act, behave, how they should to other things, etc. even according to their gender. Another thing is when children become teens and young adults, they set them up with people to date and marry when they don’t want to, especially the daughters.

      • I always picked my own boyfriends but I picked them based on what I knew – dysfunction and unhealth. I marvel at people who’ve lived a similar life to me and find healthy spouses. They are truly blessed.

  3. And sometimes abusive parents approve of boyfriends that are like they are.

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