Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

The days with my family


I was so surprised by the way my mom treated me back home. She never said a word about anything that happened, that I might have done to her, nothing negative. It surprised me really.

I felt terrible leaving after my sister died. I still do. I guess it’s because I’m raised to believe in family as a sort of God. I feel like I need to justify why I left and didn’t stay to help my mom.

The second day I was there my Dad asked me to wear skirts only. He did so in a very nice manner but it didn’t leave me any room to say no. It was a demand. I didn’t have any skirts with me, I hardly had clothes with me to begin with and I told him that I’d be fine in pants if I stayed inside, I would wear some old skirts when going outside. I don’t even know why I insisted on that. Somehow it bugged me deeply that he even had the nerves to ask that at this point. I asked him why it was so important to him and he said something about protecting my brothers’ eyes. So he thinks his sons have nothing to worry about but to stare at their older sister and have sexual thoughts, I thought, but I agreed anyway.

Generally my dad made me feel inferior the entire time. He talked about how happy he was that SHE was saved from the torture of hell, clearly indicating that I’m not. He made a huge fuzz talking about hell and all the tortures awaiting the unsaved. How we could die any day and had to make sure we were saved. We did a lot of praying, most of which I didn’t feel right about. I don’t feel like thanking God for “saving” her soul from hell and for taking her at a point where she was sure to go to heaven.

It all felt like brainwashing to me and I had my moments where I believed everything all over again. I struggled for quite a few days, wanting to do nothing but run back to my family and finally obey so I would go to heaven to be with my sister. I was so scared that I might end up in hell without them.

All in all this tore me apart in every way I can imagine. I considered for a very long time and decided that if this feeling – that I should go back and obey my parents, give up my life and live the way they want me to – would stay, then it was in fact from God. If it went away, I thought, it might just be the crisis of the moment.

I’ve been back for a few days. And instead of feeling homesick and guilty, though I do feel guilt about leaving my Mom hanging with the kids, I felt relief. Nothing but relief. The feeling went away – it wasn’t from God and I’m right where it’s best for me to be.

14 thoughts on “The days with my family

  1. “It all felt like brainwashing to me and I had my moments where I believed everything all over again.”

    Yes. This is how it works. Don’t be fooled, it happens to all of us. You talk to your parents, they take your mind down well-worn and familiar paths, and suddenly, it all makes sense again. It’s like entering a twilight zone. But it’s because you were brainwashed as a child, not because it actually makes sense!

    “All in all this tore me apart in every way I can imagine. I considered for a very long time and decided that if this feeling – that I should go back and obey my parents, give up my life and live the way they want me to – would stay, then it was in fact from God. If it went away, I thought, it might just be the crisis of the moment.”

    Feelings are deceitful, and in your case, your feelings were being manipulated by your parents. Making bets on this kind of thing with God is dangerous. It reminds me of the time I made an important financial decision based on whether or not it would be snowing outside when I woke up in the morning (it was).

    Also, if your brothers are so weak as to lust after you, who the hell’s fault is that??? Somehow this sort of fundamentalism doesn’t make men stronger in “resisting temptation,” it makes them weaker! *headdesk*

  2. Oh dear, can’t you see it’s time to make the next step? You have understood that you have escaped from an abusive and manipulative family structure but you now need to step outside and understand just how false it all is. All of it. Religion is about power structures and manipulation using nonsensical stories about some monstrous supernatural beings to justify it..

    When your father bangs on about hell, he is using lies to bully you. Of course your sister isn’t in heaven or hell, she has sadly passed away, but wishing for a heaven or hell doesn’t make either exist. Is she better off now? Depends how you feel about non-existence. You have my sympathy for your loss, but my sympathy and the sympathy of others won’t create an after-life.

    The truth hurts, but it must be faced. Your father is a manipulative bullying liar who has enmeshed his family into a web of brainwashing power. His stories about gods, hell, holy books, all that, are just tools to manipulate people. The rubbish you described about skirts is just another crass attempt to assert his dominance over you by bending you to his will. Your submission verifies his dominance. Kneel before your lord and master! Worship me scum!

    You won’t end up in hell for disbelieving this monstrous nonsense. There is no hell to fear, there is no heaven to wish for. This world is what we have, this is where we must try to do good and love people.

    If you want any proof that you should dump Christianity in all its inconsistent forms, ask yourself: if your family are devout Christians yet their god lifts not one finger to show them a more humane path, is that god worth bothering about? And did their god help your sister with her PKD? Apparently not, he left it to human doctors. Why did he do nothing? Some great plan? Unlikely, it’s far more probable that he did nothing because he doesn’t exist. After all the prayers that must have come from your family, that god sits on his hands. If your god exists, he is worse than useless. And evil.

    Take the next step: tip over the whole cart, and join the world of rational thought! It is lovely out here, it really is. Stuff makes sense. Much more sense than trying to hammer it to fit with some crazy myths. Do good because you care about people, not because of threats from monstrous deities relayed by lying priests and brain-washed worshipers!

    By all means follow the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount if you want a guide to life. But ditch the nonsense.

    • Sammi, I don’t think your comments are helpful at all. Here she is grieving & you are trying to piss all over her beliefs? And you are being just as bad as her father by *telling* her what she should believe. You need to respect her & her right to believe as she feels is right. Your “preaching” to her about your beliefs being the right way and trying to manipulate her belief by using the very recent passing of her sister shows very little respect on your part.

  3. I would gentle suggest, Sammi, that when someone is sadly grieving a traumatic loss, it is not the right time to urge them to abandon any particular philosophy. Can’t you see that you’re doing the same thing as her father? There is a time to question and consider things thoughtfully and carefully and sometimes we just need to weep.

    Lisa — my deepest sympathies to you. I have come to admire your courage in leaving your dysfunctional situation and your bravery in engaging with your new life. Prayers for the journey.

  4. I’m so glad you left! I know exactly what you mean, whenever I have a really bad day I STILL feel like maybe we should just go back to the old patriarchal model, even though I KNOW that I was mostly dead while still functioning then. You are not crazy! You are OK. Don’t kick yourself too hard for capitulating to some of your Dad’s demands, sometimes I think it’s almost impossible to wipe all that old programming. Good for you for leaving.

  5. :hugs: You just survived a terrible time, in many ways even tougher than before you originally left. Both you and your family were going through a intense time of grieving… and yet your father still insisted on attempting to brainwash and bring you back under his control. I’m glad you were able to resist that. That takes a lot of strength.

    And might I add something? Despite Sammi’s attempts to make you reconsider God and christianity in general, now is not the time to do so. Right now is the time to rest your body, soul, and mind. You’ve just been through a shit ton and you need to give yourself a break in whatever ways you can. You deserve it.

  6. I, too, am glad you left when you did. We all tend to revert to childhood modes when we’re around our parents—far worse, I would think, when you’ve made a major break with the way you were raised. I’m so sorry your father acted that way. Sometimes a tragedy can help people overlook differences with family members, and remember what’s truly important, but sadly not always. I think one of the biggest faults of religion is when it intervenes in the grieving process, making even that about the religion rather than about the tragedy that is losing a loved one.

    At least your mother was able to put her beliefs aside and simply be relieved to have you at her side during such a terrible time. And you know, regardless of how your family feels, that you did the right thing—by going home to be there for your sister, and also by leaving again after.

    Best wishes, again. Be strong in yourself—do what you need to do, to mourn your sister, but also to keep yourself strong, and to heal. Hugs!

  7. I am very impressed you made it out of there. I know how hard that resistance is from family, and how “easy” it would seem to fall back down into it all. But:
    -I think you have an amazing self knowledge and insight. You know, internally, that you are right.
    -Your sense of self worth and sanity brought you into the fire and back out again during a time when you were weakened by tragedy and shock. I can’t imagine the strength it must have taken to stay strong in your own new beliefs during this time.
    -I am glad you were able to see your other siblings for a time, it showed that you still cared, were the same loving sister, just in skinny jeans. πŸ™‚
    -I am appalled and disgusted at your father for using the death of his daughter to threaten, manipulate and brainwash his family. During a time of mourning and sadness, he saw opportunity to assert control and domination while others were weakened. He is a truly sick man.

    Stay strong, Lisa! You are an amazing woman, growing into herself. It will get easier to trust yourself, you are not alone.

  8. He talked about how happy he was that SHE was saved from the torture of hell, clearly indicating that I’m not.

    And he’s suppose to know whether either of you was/is saved or not? Since when is he God? Skinny jeans and living apart from his roof and his ways do not make you unsaved and wearing skirts and submitting to his will don’t make you saved any more than living in a garage makes you car.

    I hope your mother’s and siblings actions show that they are beginning to realize some truth and that they will all leave the movement at some point and follow the truth. As for your father, I find him a sad, lonely man who has to rely on ultimate control and domination to make him feel halfway human. He has my pity. The rest of you have my prayers.

  9. I am amazed that you have such clear thoughts to share after your visit with your family. When you believe something for so long, it is not easy to keep a clear perspective – especially when you were so fearful while there. Fear.
    Perfect love casts out fear.
    Not instills it.
    The desire to be in unity, to be connected, to be With your family – that is of God. But slavery is NOT God’s desire for you. Loving your family, and desiring closeness is different from wanting to be a slave. God gave His own Son to set you free. He wants you to be free.
    You did great. You just need time. Time to re-establish in your mind the most basic things you KNOW are True. Start there. Let it settle the fear.

    You are an adult – in the eyes of God, and of the government. Your dad does not have the “right” to demand you wear certain clothes. It is purely up to you what you wear. You made a choice to wear skirts – it allowed you to continue to be with your family members. That does not mean you chose to return to their values.
    I have found it helpful to evaluate my choices this way:
    1. will it violate my values? (even if it is MORE conservative than I feel is expected by God)
    2. will it violate a law of the country, state, county or city?
    3. will it show love to someone?
    Usually, if I can answer those questions satisfactorily, then – even though I struggle with fear of going back (or even just appearing that I am) then I can cling to the knowledge that I have satisfied my responsibility to God, to man, and have met my own basic needs. I am still me. And no one can take that from me.
    Melissa said it well… programming does not just go away. It has grown as you have grown, so there are tendrils in every layer of who you are. Sometimes I am exhausted of constantly questioning the thoughts that rise in my head, my initial responses, and what I think would be the “right” thing to do. Is that me, does that reflect my own beliefs? or is that an echo of a voice from the past?

    God is love. When I am afraid of conforming or changing back, I often imagine that I am hiding in His robes as a child hides in her parent’s legs. There are many things about God that I do not understand. Many things I KNOW I have been taught that are not right about Him. So my first, cardinal Truth that I go back to is that there is a God, and I (nor my father, nor any other) am not Him. He has blessed me with many repeated examples of the raw, unblemished, unrequited, unfettered love that He has for me, His creation. I pray that He would open your eyes to this too.

  10. Lisa, the man in me just wants to go beat the devil out of your father. If he truly believed people, other than himself, could be lead by God, he wouldn’t worry about something as trivial as how you were dressed, and wouldn’t try to brainwash you at a time like this. I’m glad your mother was so sweet to you though. I will pray for her, that she sees the light, and gets your younger siblings away from that cult before more damage is done to them.
    Also, as I’ve said before, the god they serve is far from the God of the Bible, but ultimately, you’ll have to be the one to unwravel all the myth and supersitian that’s been drilled into your mind for all those years.

  11. “He talked about how happy he was that SHE was saved from the torture of hell”

    Your father can’t be.
    One awful thing about this movement’s influence is how feelings get distorted and twisted. Your father seems not allowing himself to grieve and might make a hell on earth for himself. The men get as broken as the daughters.
    Grief hurts as you experienced but not allow grief hurts too.

  12. I hope it was good for you to be with your family. I remember when there was a bereavement in my family how we got together and just huddled together for several days. All I wanted to do was to be with the people I loved who had suffered the same loss so we could talk about the one who died, and cry, and make jokes nobody else would really understand, and maybe just sit around thinking about nothing and either saying nothing or talking about inconsequential things.

    I guess if it had been a friend who died instead of a deeply loved family member then the urge would have been to huddle together with the friends we had in common. I mean, my friends were wonderful and I will always remember how supportive they were in the months that followed but they were supporting me instead of sharing the loss. I guess I am just saying it is good to be with people you love who also loved the person who died and whose loss is tearing all of you apart.

    I of course don’t know anything about how your family feels but maybe it is a comfort to your mother to know you are with her sister. I remember at the horrible time for us looking at my married siblings and thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about them. I love and trust their spouses so I know the spouses will look after them and make sure they are all right and send it along the grapevine if things are going badly.” So analogously it might be comforting to your mother to know that there is family with you and you aren’t alone surrounded by who knows what kind of uncaring strangers (that’s not an insult to your friends; it’s just that your mother doesn’t know or love your friends).

    It sounds pretty tedious to spend lots of time engaging in prayers you don’t believe in and listen to pointed comments about how SOME people are saved. My family mostly agree about religion so I don’t experience that when I get together with them. Even if families aren’t having conflicts it is not rare for there to be parts of family gatherings that are tedious. That’s the way it is. You can’t make it go away by being virtuous. I mean, being virtuous makes you face the situation with a smile and as open a heart as possible but it doesn’t make you happy and not irritated. People have quirks that irritate me; I have quirks that irritate them, we accept each other as fallible human beings. I realize your problems are more serious than just irritating each other with your quirks but I don’t want you to think that the normal family situation is no irritation at all and that you are doing something wrong if you don’t get bliss all the time..

    In the worldly social environment I live in it is normal and expected for young people to move out, explore, find themselves. This is so even when the family undergoes hardship. Families love their young people and don’t want their lives to be crippled by grief. Although of course the grief will be a horrible shadow over their lives for a long time. Becoming a caretaker because of family troubles is very undesirable and if it must happen then at least the sitiuation should be a relationship between adults, not a relationship where the caretaker is dominated. So in my mileau it would be normal for someone to feel awful about being away from their grieving family at a time like this–because the people you love are hurting so naturally you want to be there with them–but also normal to leave anyway because, well, you have to carry on somehow even when you are unhappy. So your feelings and actions would be considered entirely appropriate and normal. Which of course you already know. I hope your aunt, who you say speaks frequently with your mother, can keep tabs on things. Maybe you could even talk to your mother on the phone yourself, that would be the best thing if it were possible.

    I’m sorry for the long and possibly inappropriately presumptious post. Your writing just really touched my heart.

  13. I’m glad you stood your ground and left even if you might feel you’ve been unfair to your mom or that you should stay for your siblings. You need to take care of yourself first so that someday you can take care and be supportive of your mom and siblings when you get stronger πŸ™‚

    I’m really really sorry about your sister,

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