Even as I wrote the title for this article it amazes me that adults who were abused as children by their parents still step in to be their caregivers. Abusive parents and their adult children caregivers somehow just don’t make sense. Personally, I grew up in a dysfunctional family and virtually disowned my alcoholic father the second I was old enough to leave home.
However, there a few reasons why adult children might make this choice and this is what this article is about.
A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY
In some cases, there is nobody left to look after a senior who was abused their children. A remaining child might feel a sense of responsibility toward a parent. In some cases, the senior has pretty much chased everyone else away through their obnoxious behavior over the years and there is simply nobody left.
Despite even showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome(no, its not just something soldiers suffer from)the adult child will put her own life on hold to look after that same parent who abused them even though they find it trying on so many levels.
It’s unfortunate, but often the abused ends up caring more for the abuser than the abuser cares for them. It almost seems like a trap.
Somehow they have planted a time bomb in the soul of a child caregiver that somehow prohibits them from looking after their own lives instead of dedicating themselves to their own immediate family and way of life.
In fact, it seems to make more sense that the caregivers in these situations should be looking out for their own welfare first. Like it or not, chances are they are still being abused by a parent who is most likely very used to manipulating their child.
A SENSE OF GUILT
After all, it’s still your parent so what’s an adult child to do? No matter how badly there were treated they cannot bring themselves to ignore the plight of their abusive parent.
Guilt is a very strong emotion and believes it or not, some adult caregivers find it easier to put up with further abuse and damage to their other personal life rather than deal with the guilt they would feel if they did nothing to help their parent.
It’s important that there be a boundary in place. There should be a line that once crossed, a caregiver says enough is enough and relinquish their caregiver duties and let the senior become a ward of the state. There is nothing to feel guilty about if this is done.
The way I felt, is that my father ruined the childhoods(and even adulthood) of myself and my brother and sister. We all paid a huge price for his abuse.
There comes a time when adult caregivers who were abused have to realize that their abusive parents made their own bed.
FORGIVING THE PARENT
There should be a special place in Heaven for abused adult children who have it in their hearts to forgive their parents. Despite everything, they not only forgive, but they let their own lives suffer as they become caregivers for the very same parent who abused them.
I guess everyone is different, but I decided when I was no more than 13 years old that the moment I was old enough to leave home I would disown my alcoholic father.
And I did. I felt that strongly about it for so many years.
Perhaps it seems harsh, but you had to be there to fully understand the mental and emotional abuse that was inflicted on our entire family.
I couldn’t distance myself from him fast enough and it was the very same for my brother and sister. My father died long ago and I doubt that the damage he had caused ever crossed his mind.
Over the years I have come to have a deeper understanding of how alcoholism is a sickness, but that being said, how in the name of all that’s holy can an abusive parent not see the damage they are doing and make an effort to change their ways?
THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS
So what do other people think of being a caregiver for an abusive parent?
One woman said that when her mother’s dementia was in full swing her mother was so sweet to her. She was the kind of mother she had yearned for when she was a child. However, on the days when dementia subsided her mother was as abusive as ever.
As odd as it may seem, dementia somehow made her a better person.
Another person suggested that if you put an abusive parent in the care of the state they would probably get much better care and attention than they deserved, so there is nothing to feel guilty about.
Perhaps, one person suggested, the abused caregiver should seek the help of a therapist in order to sort things out in her head and her heart.
One woman was asked by family and friends why she cared for a parent who made her childhood a nightmare. Her answer was very interesting.
She said that she did it for herself and not her abusive parent. She was taught by her grandmother who she eventually lived with that family values were important. These values included compassion, empathy, and to take care of any family members that could not care for themselves.
Be kind she was told, even when it is not reciprocated.
The woman reasoned that she would never have the mother/daughter relationship she yearned for and deserved and she wasn’t helping her mother because she deserved it. She was investing in her future peace of mind.
She felt that if she didn’t do what she could to help her mother in her final years and do what she could to make her comfortable she would be dealing with guilt later. Even though she realized she had no reason to feel guilty, she knew the way her own mind worked.
In her own words she said, “regardless of whether she deserves my help, I would feel guilty for not giving it anyway. That’s who I am.”
Everyone is different and must choose the path they take when abusive parents and their adult children caregivers reach the crossroads of this defining moment in their lives.
If it feels right to do nothing, then so be it. If it means devoting years of your life to caring for a parent who abused you then that’s a personal decision and you have to do what feels right.
However, its extremely important that abused adult children are giving up an important part of their life for the right reasons. Ultimately, an abusive parent is a master of their own fate and even though guilt worms its way into the situation, there is no reason on earth to feel guilty.
An abused child can easily be forgiven for refusing to help the parent who basically ruined much of their life.
There is no right or wrong answer. I think people have to look deep into their hearts and soul before they decide one way or the other, because ultimately, whatever decision they make will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.