Negligent prodigal father returns


Negligent prodigal father returns


your avatar   Julia, 21-year-old woman

My mother always reminds me of how expensive it was to raise me, with actual numbers and receipts. My dad left me with my mom when I was 10 and was in and out of my life until the age of 12. He completely abandoned me after that. I was also raped by my babysitter around that time. I got beat up at school a lot (black eyes and broken arms) until I started fighting back and got into plenty of trouble. I used to steal, but stopped doing that in my teens. I probably have trust and anxiety issues. I met a nice fellow and I am still with him. I was diagnosed with Asperger's a few years ago. Sorry if I'm rambling.

My negligent father has recently returned into my life. He has cancer, and is trying to "make up for lost time." He likely has 6 months to a year before he kicks the bucket. We've been rather unproductively trying to bond at random outings or events. I have an insane amount of suppressed hatred directly caused by him abandoning me that is killing any chances so far.

Before he arrived, my depression was manageable. I was starting to lose weight again (I'm fat right now), and I was way less stressed. Should I even bother trying to be friends with him again? Is this a waste of time? Can two estranged people with bad history even become friends in a 6-month time period?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Julia my dear,

You've had a rough go of it in your life so far, haven't you? But rather than rambling, your request for help is excellent, and shows intelligence and perceptiveness.

I suggest you forget about the Asperger's label. Despite all that childhood trauma, you are functioning at a high level. What you do matters. Labels don't.

Without a doubt, you are still being affected by your childhood trauma. You don't indicate where you live, or what your financial situation is. If it's possible, have a few sessions with a psychologist competent in trauma therapy. In many places, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can access free therapy. And one excellent resource is to find a practitioner of Traumatic Incident Reduction.

Stealing was an understandable way of striking back at an unfair and cruel world. Deciding to stop doing it was one enormous step in spiritual growth. I wonder what your reasons were for the change? Did they include empathy, the realization that your victims had feelings, and in their place you would be devastated?

Perhaps your current situation is your next opportunity for growth. Things seem to go in steps, and always the indication is suffering of some kind. You have gained weight, returned to feeling depressed, and are aware of anger at your father, and you clearly dislike this emotion. This situation gives you a choice: You can become a stronger, better person as a result of having been here, or a more vulnerable, more bitter person.

You have a right to feel angry at your father. He abandoned you when you needed him the most. I don't know of course, but you can find out: Has he also grown? Is he still the same person, or has he become wiser, more compassionate, caring, decent? Often, knowing you face your death does this to people, or he may have also gained in good qualities over the years, the way you have.

It would be entirely appropriate for you to discuss these issues with him. You can do this respectfully, with compassion for his situation, and yet in a way that expresses your hurt and anger. If you do work with a psychologist, a few sessions with your father there would be fruitful for both of you.

You were only 10 when he left, 12 when you ceased contact with him. Ask his story of what was happening then. You will probably find it to be very different from your mother's, and from your memories of those times. Doing so may well make your anger at him go away.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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