(Stigma Series 5 of 6)
I wish my parents were in conflict only some of the time, but, in my case, my parents were in
conflict all the time. When others around us were excited about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and
Easter, my siblings and I would dread them. We would be on our knees praying that maybe just
this one occasion would pass without a fight or an argument. At times we would worry about
leaving our parents at home alone because we thought, “Who would stop them from fighting
or screaming at one another, or even hitting one another?” (which thankfully never got that
far). At a young age, we became parents to our parents and needed to always keep an eye on
them to make sure that we were involved in most of their conversations so that it wouldn’t lead
to a fight. You can imagine just how exhausting that can be for a child who wanted nothing
more than a peaceful home.
I remember the first time it got out of hand, my siblings and I were in grammar school, and we
felt so helpless. Being that young, we couldn’t avail much with getting them to stop screaming
at one another. All we could do was run to our room in our tiny apartment, hold each other’s
hands, get on our knees and cry through our prayers together. Looking up, we saw a picture of
Pope Kyrillos, made eye contact with him, and just started repeating, “please help us.” The
more we focused on the saints surrounding us, the more the screaming was just a faint noise
that we had to endure until it ended.
Looking in hindsight and what we now know, we could see clearly that God was shaping us to
become the people we are today. During those years, whenever a holiday came around, we
knew that any fights or problems would be more significant than the year before. The anxiety
and fear we felt took away the ability to enjoy the holidays as our friends did. During these
times we lived, smiled, laughed, joked, and loved those around us abundantly. We had
empathy towards those that had grown up with similar situations because we knew they
suffered in silence like us.
Now, as a mental health therapist, I can’t help but see how much this could have allowed us to
be broken and live a life of anger. We would have every right to feel those feelings, but we
chose resilience, we chose love, we chose forgiveness, we chose hope. We heard the voice of
God speaking to us through the church and through our priest, which was a constant reminder
that He was with us. The church was our loving mother, and God was our perfect father.
Simply put, our upbringing was hard; at times, devastating, exhausting, fearful, anxious, and full
of constant worry. The more complicated lens would show you all the good that came from
these struggles. While it was hard, my siblings and I always knew we had each other’s backs.
We knew that whatever fight came next would not defeat the bond we had. We were stronger
together. After every battle, we became more resilient and felt like the three youth in the fiery furnace.
After all these years, I can now say that with every fight that took place in our home, we
learned something. We learned compassion, mercy, understanding, and most of all, we learned
to let it go. As we grow, it is evident that people have such a hard time letting go. Luckily our
hardships taught us to let go and allow God to work. Sitting here and writing about what it was
like is not easy, but I wish our community was more open to talking about homes where conflict
is a norm. Our story took place a decade ago when the stigma painted silence as strength. It is
quite sad to see that not much has changed from a decade ago. In every home where conflict is
present, suffering is still happening in silence.
Despite the hardships, my siblings and I always knew we were worthy and not less than anyone
else. Having a father of confession that was always so near to us, who would answer our phone
calls no matter what time we called, even if it was 3 AM, was one of the greatest blessings.
Knowing that he always prayed for us, checked in on us, and gave us strength through his
prayers kept us going through the difficult times. His love for us was beyond measure, and we
knew it was a direct source of strength from God.
It has always been God’s unfailing love that got us through all the fights we witnessed,
accusations we endured, and blame we faced for their struggle as broken parents. There is no
way we could have overcome the darkest nights without Christ holding us. There was no way
we could have overcome the yelling, screaming, cursing, and much more without God. It would
have been impossible to get through it without God’s unfailing grace. I know this answer may
not appeal to many, or some might think it’s cliche, but it is the only honest answer.
I know some of you may be going through it right now. I know that it’s unbearable. I know it’s
mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. But cling to His words, cling to the
truth; God is good, God heals, God gives strength, and God gives peace. Trust His plan. It will all
be worth it. You will gain wisdom from these experiences that others won’t go through. You will
learn exactly what you don’t want and you won’t put up with in your personal life, marriage,
I can’t begin to explain how God has blessed the lives of my siblings and me. We not only
became resilient but became successful in our careers and had thriving friendships. We were
blessed to find wonderful spouses who didn’t care for the stigma surrounding our broken home
(our parents eventually separated). By the grace of God, we have healthy marriages and
beautifully loved children. I share this to give you hope that there is a light at the end of the
tunnel and to give God glory because none of this would have been possible without His love
Please don’t hold on to the anger you have towards your parents. Nothing helped my siblings
and me move forward more than praying for our parents, praying for them to heal and find
peace. Prayer is your weapon throughout this struggle and will give you peace and strength to
get up every day and face the uncomfortable you can’t escape. Even when they don’t give it,
have mercy and compassion on them, so much so, as Christ has done with us. We are called to
do the same for others, and especially our parents.
To our amazing community:
You don’t have to understand, you don’t need details, and you don’t need to ask questions. If
someone is sharing their experience with you, it’s because they need someone to listen to
them. The greatest gift you can give them is to pray for them and brighten their day with acts of
kindness. They are dealing with so much throughout their day that anything loving you do for
them will lift them up and remind them of God’s love.
Please don’t share with others what someone shared with you in confidence; it’s not a
community story to be shared. Don’t assume that they will always be broken like their parents
or look down upon them. Some of the greatest saints come from broken homes; keep that in
mind. Don’t judge; they judge themselves enough. Not everyone who dresses nicely and is in
church on time has it all together. If Abouna or servants give some youth extra attention, it
does not mean they favor them; they just know what you don’t know. They know that these
kids need love, support, and courage to keep them going more than you because you most
likely get it from your parents.
As my siblings and I share a glimpse of one of the many struggles we faced growing up, we pray
this has brought enough awareness to our community to start breaking the stigma. We hope
this supports those struggling and reminds them that God is always present.