Healing With My Dad
Updated: Jan 14
My Dad died unexpectedly in September of 2020. This is our last photo together, from a FaceTime call a few days before he died in Mexico. Something possessed me to take a screen shot, while I was out walking and we were chatting. I'm so glad I did. We loved each other a lot and had a deep connection, filled with fun times together and meaningful, soul-searching conversations throughout my life. We were also estranged at times, and wouldn’t talk sometimes for months, as he traversed Mexico in an RV and explored his own challenges in life and his complicated psychology. He didn’t always approve of my choices (nor I his), but he would come around eventually and bring his curiosity and care back to me. Underneath the turbulence, I could always feel his true love and authentic interest in who I was as a compelling, separate being. I knew I was important to him, even when he was MIA.
When I was very little my parents had a horribly tumultuous relationship and broke up, then got back together several times before finally divorcing and remarrying others. In those early years I felt my Dad's devotion and protective swaddle, which offered me a sense of being special and treasured, and that essence worked its way deep into my being. But I was also subjected to his rage and mood swings which would often result in him losing his shit with me, and flipping his lid entirely. Alongside that essence of specialness that I absorbed, I also took in a deep awareness that I was too much for him - something was detestable and abhorrent in me. There was a wrongness in me that I couldn’t get right and a rottenness that needed destroying - I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It always seemed to come up when I needed more than he could give.
All my years I’ve had to reckon with that feeling of rottenness, and the tight little pit of unmet needs at the center of the whole mess. Unmet needs and rottenness. It hasn't been easy.
Well, a few months ago my Dad came to me, in something like a dream (actually an IFS session with two dear friends). He showed up with his old green pickup truck, the one we used to take to the dump with a month’s worth of garbage in the back. My brother was in the truck too, and we drove to the dump to unload the crap we were hauling. I could hear my Dad’s voice so close, like it was right in my ear, telling me that the trash actually belonged to him, not to me, and in a way, it didn’t even belong to him but maybe more to his parents and their parents before. Generations of pain and unmet needs and mistaken identities. He put his hand on my heart and told me he would dedicate himself to making sure I don’t carry it anymore, and I could hear his voice saying his special name for me, letting me know with absolute certainty that I could let that crap go. So, we unloaded the garbage from the back of the truck, into the deep pit that held all the world’s trash, and I was freed. I’ve been free ever since. After 48 years, my Dad and I worked it out - me, from right here on planet earth, and him, from the other side.
I know so clearly now that I am absolutely loved and that none of it was mine to carry. My Dad stays with me now, reminding me in every moment I need reminding.
I wanted to share this amazing healing story, and the letter that came to me, capturing my experience of my Dad, from this unexpected and life-changing exchange.
There is nothing wrong with you. There was never anything wrong with you, or your sweet heart. I was carrying a burden from my dad, who was carrying other people's pain and burdens, and it came out in all those awful words I shouted at you. It came out in the blackness I spewed from my mouth, all that angry, hurting energy that filled up the house. I was holding it inside, like so much garbage, so much debris, and it spilled out onto you, from someplace inside of me.
It doesn’t belong to you.
It wasn’t you.
You weren’t a problem.
You weren’t too much.
I’m so sorry you had to hold all that charge for so long.
It was a mistake and you can let it go now.
I’m going to help you let it go.
…so that for the rest of your days on earth, you don’t have to carry it anymore.
You can find out who you really are now, when there is no garbage, no debris, no mistaken identity, no problem at all. Let it go now. Thatta girl.
You are golden. You are loved. You are a gift.
You were made to share, to rest, to laugh, to care, to dance and shout and to move around the world like it’s yours and like you belong right where you are.
Let’s change this family legacy, for once and for all.
You are so loved. There was never anything wrong with you.
Written by Jessica Sorci, LMFT