Sadness comes when the person who was abused realises that they were wronged and that they have lost something that will never be retrieved. It is very unpleasant and many people seek to avoid the sadness phase. They prefer to stay angry and see that the sadness will show their weakness. All the time they remain angry they maintain their sense of power.
Holding onto this anger can be very damaging. It can mean that these victims maintain their anger and become abusive to others in stressful situations, such as arguments because others do not hold the same views as them, particularly about child abuse etc. They have learnt that they were not responsible for their childhood abuse but are not responsible for any of their actions.
As a parent the sadness tends to come very easily and mixed with the anger from the previous stage can leave the person open to depression and illness. Sadness comes when the parent starts to look at ways they should have prevented the abuse. They blame themselves for not protecting their child. Of course, as a parent/guardian, you have to take some responsibility, but you should also remember that you can’t protect your siblings all of the time, or they would never have a natural life. It is the abuser that has ultimately betrayed you, the abuser is the one that must take full responsibility.
There are two ways of looking at responsibility. Firstly, when I grew up, we could safely leave the door to our house unlocked and even open for extended periods of time. However as I got older we started locking our door because our neighbour who also left their door unlocked was burgled. If we had been burgled then we would have to take some responsibility because we didn’t sit by the door all day and guard our property, and at the same time we didn’t take any other security precautions. ultimately though the burglar has to take responsibility for his actions and he should be held fully accountable.
Secondly, if you feel responsible for the abuse because you feel you should have been there for your sibling then ask yourself if you followed your child everywhere? Were you there to catch them when they fell, or slipped. Did you keep stabalisers on the bikes until they were old enough to get a car, did you lock them in the house so that they were protected? Of course you didn’t, they had to have freedom in order to mature. You can’t hold yourself ultimately responsible for their abuse. It wasn’t your fault – it was the fault of the abuser.
Talk about your feelings with your sibling, ask them if they understand how you feel. You’ll be surprised.
Without moving onto sadness then the final stage also remains out of reach.
There is obviously much to be sad about when considering childhood abuse. As a result of abuse the following may have been lost by your child; innocence, self-worth, virginity, trust of others, sense of safety, and time. Many of these issues would have been carried over into their adult life. Your sadness for their losses will also be true.
During the sadness phase people tend to become very sensitive – they cry for ‘no reason’ or at the slightest provocation. It is not surprising really when you consider how intense their sadness and pain is. This stage is only temporary and will pass but is an important phase in the healing process. So don’t bottle things up! Still later in the recovery process those tears are followed with a sense of healing, coming together, wholeness.