It’s an overcast November evening. My Grandma Ferguson just arrived to visit our new home and to have dinner. I was extremely excited to have grandma over because it was not a usual occasion. I walk into our dinning room and a strange thing caught my eye through the window. A caravan of cars slowly driving down our country road. Why are these cars driving so slowly? What are these sheriff patrol cars doing with them? Wait. They are turning down our long gravel driveway. Uhm Mom! We have some visitors!
Immediately my mind flashed back to the events that took place that morning. Us children are all home because we are currently being “home schooled.” Grandma Ferguson is coming over for dinner – it is an exciting day for the family. Our mother is getting to do my youngest sisters hair while giving me a set of tasks to complete to make sure the house is clean and presentable. While I am running upstairs, my mother yells, “Jermaine is the kitchen cleaned?” I answered, “Yes, but there may be a few knives in the sink.” She responds, “Get those f*c*i*g knifes out of the sink before I stab you in the yellow f*c*i*ng chest.” While that statement had its impact on my soul, it was normal for me to hear threats, to be called names, to receive insults. The only thing that makes this statement different from other experiences is that this was recorded on a voicemail left for a counselor.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The question is, “How can we prevent children from being physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused?” The best way we can prevent children from being abused is for the parent(s) to be healed from negative impactful moments that transpired in their life. As a child, I was told that I was worthless. Days before my siblings and I were removed from our home my mother told us that she was praying to God, even to Satan, for us to be removed from her life. Words and actions have impact! As I reflect on my childhood, I am at times shaken by the gravity of what was once spoken to me. My inner-child cries out, “Why?”Imagine what could happen to my beautiful family if I do not detox my soul of the countless hateful words, the physical violent acts, the instability of my emotional growth? I may without intent or desire repeat the same behaviors my parents exhibited when I was a child.
So how does one truly heal from their past?
Admit you need help!
Weeks after I was removed from my home and placed into foster care I was mandated to attend counseling sessions. As a teenager, I thought counseling was a waste of my time. I participated in three high school athletic programs, I had a part-time job, I was making friends, and doing my best to blend in and be “normal”. Counseling was interfering with my already busy schedule and what good was counseling producing? I did not want to talk about my bad memories, I had the detective, case workers, my foster family which I could share my experiences with. It also did not help that our family had a previous history with our mother training us to lie or share scripted narratives to our previous family counselor. I believed that nothing is wrong with me! I wanted to suppress the bad memories. I wanted to move on and be “normal.” I told myself that I was strong and unphased by my past that I made it out and can live my own life now. However, it was not until I became a married man and a father, that I realized the toxicity of my past. I realized how ill-equipped I was to show love, patience, and honor. I realized that I could become a monster of a parent if I did not go back to properly process the experiences I lived through as a child. I now admit, “I need help.”
Once you accept the reality, that you cannot truly be free while subjecting your past to a lifetime sentence of solitary confinement you will be able to seek the help you need. Help comes in many forms. The best help is a life committed to prayer and responding to the voice of God. Without God, I would be a broken man breaking the souls of vibrant young children but with God, I have a confidence, a hope, and a God who will deliver me from all evil. God is the only one who can restore the soul of man. While you pray and seek God, connect with other fathers/mothers both young and old. In casual conversation, one can take away many valuable lessons and examples that will encourage and edify you. You will realize that you are not the only one going through the process of healing. Many adults have suffered some trauma, abuse, or hurt whether it be from a parent, a sibling, a significant other, or a friend. However, you must be willing to extend a measure of trust and a willingness to reach out to find a mentor, a friend, or a support group who can strengthen you and affirm you in moments of self-doubt. Lastly, never underestimate the power of a professional counselor. Some issues must be worked out in the proper setting. If you suffered from a physical element you will seek out a specialist who can rehab you back to health. So, find a counselor you can trust.
Share your story to encourage others!
Sharing your story with others can be extremely challenging at times but it is a source of healing. When you share your story, you give others a chance to identify with you and to examine your process. That story may save them from years of shame, uncertainty, and heartache because they were able to see life from a more mature perspective. Everyone needs a champion they can look up to and be able to say, “If they made it – I can to!” Sharing your story offers you more healing too! There are times when I share an experience with my wife or a small group of people and the result of that conversation is an inner-dialogue about that event. My inner-dialogue can replay the traumatic event, bring up the “why me?” questions, and even reveal another memory I had completely forgot about. In my case, there is usually a root of bitterness or unforgiveness that I have not completely processed yet. At that point I have a choice to make: Pretend that I am fine and suppress that memory or admit that I need help then seek the help I need. Without sharing my story, I may never realize my need for deeper healing, but my soul would still be contaminated with unprocessed trauma, bitterness, and unforgiveness. You cannot share your story in an effective and healthy way unless you have previously admitted you need help and have sought the proper help you need!
Now I am a father and a husband – yet I am still that young boy who was rejected and abused. I must admit without that I need help. I must seek help and share my story to encourage others who may be wrestling with their past. I cannot be healed by my own thinking or my own doing. I must learn to trust God and find trustworthy people who will also share, educate, and support me through my healing.
How do we prevent child abuse? By parents becoming healed of their traumatic past and by us all coming together as one family.