The First Time the Church Left Me Behind
When children become secondary victims to their parents' trauma
Note: The story of my faith journey, church trauma, and spiritual abuse is inextricably linked to the stories of my parents and sisters, but this is my story. Their experiences, memories, and hurt are separate from my own and I do not speak for them. Details are also their own and not mine to share, and so I keep the details where they matter only to my own experiences.
We sat in our family room, on an entertainment high from another perfect episode of The Cosby Show. Bill Cosby had just finished giving a preemptive warning to parents that the upcoming episode of A Different World was going to include adult content that they might want to discuss with their children before viewing. (Ironically, given what we now know about Cosby, it was the date rape episode.) My parents turned off the television. I was sure they were going to give us the talk that Bill Cosby, America’s television father, had told them to give us before they would allow us to watch.
Instead, they had a much different conversation in mind.
In the simplest terms they could use with a four-year-old, nearly seven-year-old, and nearly-ten-year-old (me), they told us that my dad was being asked to step down as teacher and principal at the Lutheran school that he had been serving for less than a year, and he would have to find a new job. They didn’t know what this meant for school, church, or even continuing to live where we were, but it did mean changes would be coming to our lives.
The floor dropped out from under me. I loved my school. I loved my friends. And I couldn’t reconcile the reality that parents of kids who were my friends and teammates, had been part of the reason my dad would no longer have the job he had been wanting his entire life. Nothing that my parents were saying made sense to me. And why did my life have to change because my parents’ world had been upended?
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