Struggling with guilt for not being being close with my family.

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A recent therapy session ended with leaving me feeling a bit better than I expected. Normally I do feel better better when I go to see J,  but recently they’ve been way more intense and I’ve been leaving feeling worse than I was before I got there. The guilt has been hard to handle. Talk about an anxiety rush!

This time we ended up talking about…wait for it…my mother. AGAIN. The topic of my life these last couple of months that just won’t go away. I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up so much about it because in retrospect these feelings have been with me since I was a child and I’m just now starting to deal with them. See Lyric, you can give yourself a break now and then, it’s really OK! 

Since patience is not exactly one of my virtues, it’s difficult to realize that I can’t understand everything as quickly as I’d like. I’m learning it’s a process, and not a linear one at that, but accepting that is easier said than done sometimes.

So when J could see that I had that frustrated, defeated, “stuck” look and really not gaining any ground she decided to bust out a tactic that I’m pretty good at, writing. In the Courage to Heal, there’s a section that involves a writing assignment on the topic of dealing with families. Almost immediately I rolled my eyes like, “oh God what does she have up her sleeve to try and get me to realize that not feeling guilty is OK”.  The feeling guilty part comes from me feeling like I’m a terrible son, and brother, and that I’m just too different to ever fit into my family the way the others do. Basically because I don’t have the bond that my sister and brother do with my parents.

A bit of background…my sister and brother grew up while my dad was in the Navy. Even though my dad was away a lot at the time, they had a bond with my mom and with him because they are only two years apart. Even though the four of them moved around a lot, being a military family, they were close and stuck together. At least that’s what I’m told.

Then along came me, 12 years after my sister and 14 years after my brother. So I basically grew up an only child. I don’t remember much about my life before the abuse happened starting at around age 5 but ever since those events went down, I’ve been the outsider.  Between being groomed to not tell anyone what happened, to feeling invalidated and judged constantly by my mother growing up, I grew further apart from them.

Anyways, I’ve been struggling with feeling guilty for not being there for my dad now that he’s older, and just generally not being as close part of the family as the other kids are with my parents. It’s like I’m on another planet and I come to visit around holidays or birthdays, and it’s just awkward and uncomfortable. This writing assignment I’m about to share addresses some of why J says that I shouldn’t have to feel so much guilt. Easier said than done but we’ll see. 

She had write down as many attributes or qualities that I think a family should have, and I included friends too as a comparison.  Below you can see my answers (you can click to enlarge it).

Attributes-Worksheet-Screenshot-300x67 Struggling with guilt for not being being close with my family.

Rather than put names down of the people I referenced, I just used Friend 1, 2, and Family 1, 2, etc. What’s interesting is that the people who have the qualities I think are important, qualities that I have as well, and the ones that I gravitate towards are mostly outside of my family. The column “Family 4” was intentionally left blank because I just couldn’t bring myself to fill in anything positive about that person.

Ugh, when I write that down and say it to myself, it makes me feel like total crap. Like, I really can’t find anything good to say about this person? Maybe it’s just the state that I’m in right now and perhaps that will change in the future, then again perhaps not. Who knows. Still makes me feel like hell.

So J and I went over this together and in talking through it, it’s no wonder that I’m gravitating letting-go-of-guilt-300x300 Struggling with guilt for not being being close with my family.towards those people in my life that exhibit the qualities I think are important and why I distance myself from those that I don’t see as having those qualities. I want to be around people who are like me and people understand me.

Why then should I feel guilty for distancing myself from the people that don’t exhibit the attitudes and qualities that I think are important?  The answer is, I shouldn’t have to feel that guilt.

Am I perfect? Not hardly! Do I expect others to be perfect? Of course not. I’m certainly not trying to be judgmental either but for all I know it’s coming out that way.

Yes I still feel guilty because everybody is always taught that family is important. You have to stick together because family is all you have. Family is always there for you.  Insert your own cliche here.

Because I’m such a “nice guy”, I guess, I feel like I’m the black sheep. I’m an ungrateful son because I don’t embrace the family concept. Well, I guess the family concept is never something that I really felt like I was a part of in the first place. It’s not just because I was raised as mainly an only child, but rather the combination of life events that further broadened the canyon between me and my family.

So should I feel guilty? No. Do I feel guilty still? Yes, but I’m working on understanding this and coming to grips with what I’ve been through and how I was raised. It’s as enlightening as it is frustrating as it will be empowering hopefully one day.


I welcome and appreciate your thoughts in the comments.

847c5c806b7247eec7709d49a90e694a?s=100& Struggling with guilt for not being being close with my family.
Blogger-Podcaster-Author-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

5 Responses to " Struggling with guilt for not being being close with my family. "

  1. Nikky44 says:

    I loved this exercise!. I will try to do it!

    • Lyric says:

      Thank you for the comment Nikky! It was pretty eye opening and basically put out in front of me what I was thinking all along but never really put together enough to realize it’s as true as it looks. If that makes any sense. Be kind to yourself and I hope you find this exercise helpful!

  2. Jen just jen says:

    Hey Lyric…I have the Courage to Heal workbook too. Tough, but good. As my T often reminds me, we can’t choose our family. For me, I would never have chosen them from a crowd of strangers. Its ok to feel that way, its true. Doesn’t go along society’s rules of “family 1st” or whatever…rules that were deeply engrained to help keep the order and control. Its all b.s. I commend you for doing this extremely difficult work…you are an amazing person.

    • Lyric says:

      Jen, thank you so much for the comment and your support and kindness! You are a true survivor and a true inspiration. Your story is important and I’m so glad we connected in the survivor community. Yeah this whole family thing, I honestly just am really struggling with it because there are so many moving parts and risks to speaking out to my mother that it’s hard to wrap my head around and realize with an open mind what the risk/reward. It shouldn’t be this difficult at my age but mother wounds run deep.

  3. lynda says:

    hi Matt i am going through the the courage heal book now and doing the writing exercises. I agree i ve just agree with you about families i dont have contact anymore with my family and it makes me sad and guilty at times. But i feel so much better for not seeing them or engaging with them. The book courage to heal is helping me sort out in my head and answer the questions honestly but also helping me without being intrusive and distressing but getting me to think in a more less crunching anxiety way of my life and my abuse. So thank you for your blogg its really helping me even though it does bring up so much that it either causes me anxiety or so much anger. Thanks for sharing you journey with all of us have a great week. Take care Lynda

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