Moises: Broken last Christmas

MELISSA: Hi, Singlestalk. My father worked as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) since I was a kid. He’s a good provider and has done his best to be present in our milestones in school and in life. Finally, he’s home for good this year. The trouble is he went straight to his second family. Mom knew about the affair. She just shielded us from this really unpleasant stuff in their marriage. I don’t know how to deal with him. Some mornings I wake up and feel a ball of anger stuck in my heart. Any words of wisdom for me? This is beginning to look like the worst Christmas ever. I want to forgive my father.

DJ: It’s 2023. A new start. I understand if the holidays brought an unwelcome guest like sadness. Your dad let you down, big time, and it’s shaking you to your core. What you’re feeling is justifiable. It’s valid. Feel free to cry or express your feelings and not force yourself to be jumping with joy just because there are a lot of hustle and bustle around you. This is part of the process — acknowledging your feelings.

Well-meaning people around you would probably tell you to just shake these feelings off and celebrate. Ignoring your feelings, however, doesn’t make them go away. There isn’t one right way to feel at any given time. You might be attending a gathering and have moments of happiness and it is okay to feel sadness when you’re with your mom for example. Instead of judging your feelings and going quickly towards acceptance, treat yourself with care, compassion and love. Hold a space for these emotions and process them. You’ll gain the insights you need as you move along. There’s power in speaking rather than keeping everything bottled up inside.

Continue to reach out. Sending me this email is a good step forward. Talking to trusted friends or relatives, those not directly involved in the situation, can possibly help you gain a new perspective as you sort through what you think and feel. If you want to explore psychological intervention to help you set healing goals and measure your progress towards them, go ahead. Don’t go through this alone. Healing takes time. And having a strong support network can guide you in moving yourself and your parental relationship forward.

I honor you for wanting to forgive your father. Holding on to all the anger wound up hurting you the most. Getting angry with someone affects our wellbeing. It is uncommon for children to have certain ideas about parents, that they’d do anything to protect the family. What he did wasn’t right. Your father, though, is just as human as everyone else. He also has his frailties and is probably feeling the effects of the holiday stress just as you do given the status quo. Keep the communication line open. He may have hurt you but he may be hurting too. Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our heart can help open the door to forgiveness.

To find meaning in this circumstance is not to diminish your pain but to make the best of it instead of risking becoming a victim by it. Some people decide to give service to others in need. Others speak their truth in a form of an advocacy. I also know of those who use their experiences to strengthen their inner resolve. Whatever works for you. Finding meaning in itself gives you direction in forgiveness. And if I have one wish for you, it is for you to be able to use this chapter to become more loving and be able to pass on that love to others.

Yes, Christmas was probably not the same. Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t usually happen in a snap. But trust that one day this, too, shall pass. The hope of the season is the promise that God is with us in our sadness and troubles. And as we celebrate the start of 2023 today, I pray that you and your family will have Him in the middle of this situation and be your joy this new year and beyond.