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Story from a Dad                                                      March 2015
In This Issue
Story From a Dad
 

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Dear Friend,

It’s been a difficult winter for everyone but some families have a lot bigger challenges than too much snow. One father who has been going to a PHP group for two years wanted more people to know what he was going through and how group had helped him. You will find his story below.  I’m sure you will enjoy it.
Sincerely,
 

 
Randall Block
Executive Director


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PHP’s Annual Lecture is Coming!
Topic: “Incarceration, Parenting, and Resilience”.
Time: Wednesday, April 16, 2015 from 9:00 – 11:00am.
Place:   Wheelock College
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Wendy Champagnie Williams
                            Chair, Wheelock MSW Program
 
This event is free and open to the public but you must register.
Story From a Dad
 
I wasn't ready to be a husband. I wasn't ready to be a father. I wasn’t prepared for divorce or for raising my three-year-old daughter virtually by myself. I was even less prepared to fall in love again and find myself as the stepfather to four more children of varying ages who had endured many years of trauma. Amidst all this, I was blindsided by the grief of losing my daughter who is now living with my ex-wife. These are the circumstances that brought me to Parents Helping Parents, where I have been a member for over two years.

My family consists of my daughter from my first marriage, my second wife and her four children. The children range in age from 12 to 20, four girls and a boy. The father of my youngest stepdaughter sexually abused the older stepchildren and was removed from the household in 2006 when my youngest stepdaughter was four.  I met my second wife in 2007 and we were married in 2010.  This past December, I adopted my youngest stepdaughter as my own. Currently my stepson, 20, and my adopted daughter, 12, reside at home. My eldest stepdaughter, 19, is out on her own, and my youngest stepdaughter, 15, is residing in a residential home coping with the worst effects of the trauma inflicted upon her as a result of the sexual abuse.  My biological daughter, now age 12, is currently living with her mother as a result of my poor coping skills trying to raise a child and blend families together at the same time.

DCF was active in my wife's life when her ex-husband was removed from the home. When I joined the family, DCF handled my relationship with my daughter very poorly and closed our part of the case after my daughter left to go live with her mother. My ex-wife and my daughter had an extremely difficult time getting along and I had difficulty dealing with the grief of being separated from my daughter and becoming a stepfather to four stepchildren who had endured varying degrees of trauma.

Although I see a therapist, and that helps, I can sincerely say that PHP has been my primary resource for coping. There have been times when group is the only safe place where I can express my true feelings. My wife is also an active member of PHP. In fact, she found the group through an on-line search and made initial contact shortly before we met. Growing together at PHP has benefitted us as it has provided a forum for discussing our different parenting techniques and allowed us to work more as a team - something extremely important in blended family situations. The facilitator in our group is so dedicated and faithful in her attendance -- even when I've been the only one present. To someone like me who has often felt alone and like a "road hazard" to everybody's happiness, this single act alone speaks volumes. I feel I am worth it, an attitude I am trying very hard to incorporate into my home life. 

A lot of my issues revolve around low self-esteem and self-confidence. I have always been a better follower than a leader which triggers the questions in my head “how on earth did I ever think I would qualify as a parent?” and “why do people see me as a strong, diligent, and rational person?” The stigma of growing up as an only child in an emotionally detached family follows me way longer than it should. That being said, I am a person with a lot of love, but not enough skills to appropriately show that love or develop a thick enough skin to ward off that which I cannot control. It bothers me a great deal how overwhelmed I still feel.

I remember one night – it was 2am – when I couldn't take my anxiety attacks anymore. There was only one thing I felt I could try that I hadn't tried before -- call the Parental Stress Line. The person on the other end - even at 2:00 in the morning - took my overwhelming situation, isolated a piece to work on (identified as my relationship with my daughter), walked me through some ways I could stay connected without much contact and provided enough of a confidence booster for me to walk out on that limb I was afraid of, and just do it. 

There was much trial and error in this process, and each week at group I shared my highs and lows: long letters, short cards, weekly unanswered or hung up on phone calls and even a miraculous six week period where my daughter and I had awesome healing dialogues before things got too intense for her and she backed off again. Many talks at PHP about how I was feeling led me to accept that I had to stop trying so hard and just let things be; to give my daughter the space she was requesting through her silence...and to give myself more time to heal, which was evident I needed. 

I am constantly left with a feeling that I wish I could do more. I wish I could be stronger; not to take all the negative energy around me so personally. I wish issues could be healed between me and my older stepchildren and my daughter. I wish my wife and I could restore communication to the way it started out. I wish I wasn't so needy for constant positive feedback. I wish I had the patience, the compassion and unconditional love I used to have without feeling taken advantage of. With all these overwhelming thoughts on my plate, I know that the answers mostly have to come from me – not from my therapist or the PHP group.  But the group is a safe place to go when seemingly there is no other place. Going to group gives me renewed hope that things will work out no matter how long it takes, as evidenced only this past weekend when I was blessed with the opportunity to hug my 12 year old daughter for the first time in almost two and a half years, largely due to what I learned from PHP.


Our mailing address is:
Parents Helping Parents
108 Water Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-926-5008
Website: http://www.parentshelpingparents.org