Imagine that it’s 11:59pm on your birthday. You’re sitting cross-legged on your bed about to shovel another fork full of Entenmann’s chocolate cake in your mouth.
You’re up because you’re waiting for your dad to call and wish you a happy birthday. You pick up your cell one more time and make sure the ringer is on and the volume is up. And as you do, you realize that it’s officially midnight, your birthday has passed and your dad never called.
Not only is this scenario sad and even a bit depressing but it’s also how I spent way too many birthdays, graduations, holidays and celebrations in general.
And it wasn’t always my dad who would conveniently forget to call or show up. Most of my immediate family, along with my extended family, behaved in the same way. They were either too oblivious, drunk, high or blinded by denial to show up when it mattered.
Many ACOAs that I know have experienced the same kind of hurtful negligence from some of the most important people in their lives. And what I realized is that what we’re really talking about and dealing with here is rejection.
Rejection in any form, for any human being is hard to deal with, but when that rejection comes from family the pain and confusion can become emotionally and mentally paralyzing.
So if you’re an ACOA or a loved one of an addict or alcoholic and you’ve experienced similar forms of rejection from your family, this post is for you.
Today you’ll discover 2 bits of wisdom that I wish someone would have shared with me years ago about dealing with rejection from family.
After you’re finished reading, I’d love to know.
How do you handle rejection from your family? Whether it’s your dad who, like mine, never calls on your birthday, a sibling that never showed for your graduation or your mom who lives less than six miles away from you but can’t pull it together to show up for dinner, how do you deal?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading, commenting and sharing!
#1 If It Hurts Then It Hurts
If your dad doesn’t acknowledge your birthday and it hurts…then it hurts.
If your mom lives 20 minutes from you and refuses to show up for your kid’s graduation party and it hurts…then it hurts and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.
I’ve personally made the mistake, in the past, of believing that if other people didn’t acknowledge my pain then that meant it must not be real.
I allowed their silence to lead me to believe that my disappointment was all in my head.
But here’s the deal, if it hurts you then it hurts. You don’t have to listen to other people that try to minimize your experience whether they do it consciously or subconsciously.
Rejection, regardless of who delivers the blow, hurts and you have every right to acknowledge and express that pain.
Now that doesn’t mean that you want to get stuck there or that you want to stubbornly hold onto the pain, not at all. But you do want to give yourself permission to acknowledge it, even if no one else is willing to.
You’re not crazy and it’s not all in your head.
#2 It’s Not A Result Of You, But A Reflection Of Them
Before I understood the extent of dysfunction in my family, I thought everything that happened to me, as a result of that dysfunction, was all my fault.
So if my dad didn’t call me on my birthday it wasn’t because he was acting like a shit parent it was because I was a terrible daughter. In my mind, I thought that if I was a better daughter, then there would be no way that my dad would forget my birthday.
I spent many years beating myself up over this sick system of beliefs. I spent way too long letting his rejection of me eat away at what little self-esteem I had.
But then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, it hit me that even if I was someone else, my dad would still behave that way. It finally occurred to me that even if I’d never been born, or let’s say I’d been born male instead of female, or born with blonde hair instead of brown, my dad would still be the dysfunctional man who didn’t give a shit about birthdays.
The solution to my problem wasn’t about me being or doing anything better because the problem wasn’t with me but with my dad.
For example, I have a friend who is extremely close with her family, especially her mom. Now, from where I stand her family isn’t perfect but they definitely spend more time functioning on the healthier end of the family spectrum then the dysfunctional end.
Anyway, I know without a doubt that there is no way that her mom would ever knowingly dismiss my friend’s birthday or any other important event in her life. And even though I love my friend and think she’s amazing, I know that if my dad were her dad, he’d treat her the same way he treats me. In both cases the love that her mom gives her and the rejection my dad gives me isn’t about me or her but it’s about them.
Just as I can’t do or be anything better to make my dad not reject me there’s nothing that my friend could do or be that would make her mom love her any more or less.
Does that make any sense?
I really want to drive the point home that any form of rejection that you receive from your family isn’t about you, it’s about them. So of course I’d tell you that you can celebrate your birthday without your family and you can celebrate the holidays too and you can throw a sick graduation party for your kid even if your mom never shows up but true healing begins when you understand that overall the rejection isn’t a result of you, but a reflection of them.