Kashara discusses the trauma of divorce and death as well beginning the healing process.
This series about defining moments really wouldn't be done right if I didn't share my own story.
ON MY FATHER'S MURDER + MY STEP-FATHER'S LOVE
At the age of four, I was exposed to my first instances of trauma - divorce and death. The few memories that I have of my father are pieced together and glazed with the viewpoint of a toddler. I have memories of riding my tricycle in our apartment parking lot, hearing his voice over the phone while he was stationed in Virginia, and the sadness that I could sense the night my mother learned of his death. I'm 25 years old and just now coming to terms with the fact that the effects of trauma don't just disappear. They just present themselves in other forms throughout our lives until we deal with them. For me, my trauma appeared in the form of seeking love from everyone, overachieving in hopes of feeling worthy, and struggling to keep lasting relationships because of the fear of abandonment. When you add all of those elements together along with having lost contact with my father's family until I was 18, you have the perfect storm scenario of a young woman constantly battling issues of anger and self-worth.
My mom remarried a few years after my father's death. My step-father and I never really had a good relationship until more recent years. He's gentle, meek, and so loving, but our interactions always felt awkward and kind of forced. I used to think that it was something about him that made it that way. That may be partially true, but I now recognize that it was me as well. Having little memories of my biological father and then having to accept another man as my new father figure is a situation that is both difficult and painful to navigate at any age. My longing for any kind of love that could fill the void left behind by my father and his family's absence, presented itself as anger and resentment towards my step-father. The more he tried to love me, the more it reminded me of the love I never received from an early age.
ON MEETING MY FATHER'S FAMILY
The day I heard my grandmother's voice over the phone was the day that I began to feel whole. I still don't know why she made the choice to never search for me or why it took so long to find them, but what I do know is that the experience of reconnecting offered me a beginning to the healing process. Traveling to Chicago to visit them was transformational. In learning about my father, I was learning about the other half of myself and my history. It took sometime for me to comprehend it all.
There was a time when I would work hard to prove to myself that my father made the wrong decision in leaving us. The perfectionism was rooted in a deep anger and sense of unworthiness. The defining moment for me was the day that I realized that trauma and pain could be binding parts of my life story, but didn't have to become a central part of my identity. All of the ups and downs of life are relevant and I could use mine as a means of connecting with others. Being a young adult who has dealt with the lasting effects of divorce and death has made me stronger, more empathetic, and able to meet others where they are. Those are personal traits that I wouldn't trade for anything.
Photo credit: Lindsey Tillman