Involving Your Children in the Healing Process, Part 2

As my wife/my girls and I have traveled together to help her heal from dissociative identity disorder, a.k.a. multiple personality disorder, I made the executive decision to involve our only child in the healing process. See here: https://samruck2.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/involving-your-children-in-the-healing-process/#comments

But it’s been nearly 3 years since I wrote that post, and I wanted to do a follow up to it as we prepare for his imminent departure to grad school.

As I said previously the little girls relate to our son as a big brother. They call him, “Brother” and “Boy” affectionately. And though for the last 4 years he has held both a part-time job and gone to college fulltime, he still makes time for them whenever his schedule allows. Time with Brother is worthy of the girls stopping anything else they are doing especially if all 3 of us are present so that “all their peoples” are together.

And for his part, he continues to be a doting big brother who takes them out on dates, watches TV and movies at home, and insists on taking trips around the area to have fun together. When KA joined us, he especially connected with her as they share so many similar interests; I only half jokingly tell her, “He’s your child, not Karen’s.” But he also teases them goodnaturedly and “fights back” when they got too precocious. He adds a dimension to their healing that I still can’t replicate.

Five years into the healing journey, Karen told me a couple of days ago “how glad” she was that our son was part of things instead of following what the experts say to shield children from the presence of the insiders. She feels our entire family is closer now, and as he looks ahead to moving to New England he told her that he will miss the little girls a lot. In fact his hope is that we will move close to him once he gets settled in a career: a clear sign to Karen and me that I made the right decision to involve him in the healing process.

So as we finish this phase of the journey in which our son is a daily part of his mother’s healing, I want to share a few ways our son helps his mother heal. These aren’t hard and fast rules. They are simply what we do. Do whatever works for your family.

1)      I rarely push our son to do more with the girls than he naturally chooses to do. She’s my wife but his mother. Naturally I expect more of me than I do of him because of the differences in our relationship to her.

2)      My son has obvious favorites, unlike me, and the girls all know it. My son views Karen as his mother and KA is his favorite because of how many similar interests they have. He is kind and spends time with all the girls, however, so none are jealous.

3)      My son repeatedly breaks some of the boundaries of the girls, especially Alley. He purposely kisses her goodnight over her objections each and every night. I counseled him not to do so, but in the end I let them fight it out. It is quite the comedy routine to hear Alley object to his kisses and John insist that “she really wants him to do so”. Since it’s obvious Alley still deeply cares for John and no trauma is occurring, I’ve decided not to intervene because in real life our boundaries aren’t always observed even by those we deeply love. So I think it’s a good life lesson for her.

4)      John pushes the little girls to “grow up” in a way that I never do. Sometimes he will insist on watching shows and movies that aren’t always appropriate for the littler ones. But that’s often helped them learn not to be triggered by “scary things” in movies because they are too proud to be considered babyish by their big brother.

5)      John graciously takes care of the littlest girls who say they are unable to make their own meals. So he often makes meals for both of them at nights when I am at work.

There is a risk of secondary trauma that anyone has when part of a trauma victim’s life. Experts are obsessed with that concern when it comes to children of a d.i.d. parent. So I tried shield John from certain things, especially panic attacks because he seemed helpless when they occurred. But the risk of secondary trauma is often just a part of living life fully engaged, and I believe it is better to teach our children how to navigate those risks, than teach them to insulate themselves from the ugliness in the world.

In the end John and I took two different approaches toward his mother and my wife’s healing. Honestly his approach is probably more typical of most people that they’ll meet in life. He gives lots and lots to Karen and the little girls, but he also expects them to give as well whereas I always strove to be 100% safe and accommodating to their needs if possible. At times he was rough and tumble with the little girls whereas I always handled them with kid gloves. And I think both approaches, couched in the safety of our love, helped the little girls heal more quickly.

We love our son and he will be sorely missed by me and all the girls. But because we included him in this healing journey, Karen believes we are all closer as a family. I vigorously object to the ISSTD standards that state parents should shield the children from the insiders of the one with d.i.d. I believe that when one follows that standard it only continues the stigma of the abuse and expressly divides a family instead of allowing the entire family to be the safe haven the sufferer needs to heal.

Blessings,

Sam, I Am

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. undercoverdid
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 23:59:15

    My kids are younger than yours and while my kids don’t know specifically about DID, they do pick up on small things but they haven’t put a big picture together. However, sorta like you, both me and DH are very open and honest with the kids. The first thing they noticed is my family calls me one name and everyone else another. It’s funny cause at times they get a complex about having to change their names when they are adults LOL! They don’t understand it completely, we keep it age appropriate but still honest. I don’t lie about it. They know sometimes I’ve quiet, sometimes I’m loud sometimes I’m fun and sometimes I want to be left alone. It sounds like you guys have found your balance and that’s what is key above what any one else says.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Aug 02, 2013 @ 11:40:05

      Kids are smarter than we think. My son largely had it COMPLETELY figured out before my wife let him meet the little girls, but he was 17. I think the biggest thing for our family was that until the girls introduced themselves to John, that was dividing our family because we emphasize so much on the little girls being outside so they can heal like normal children would.

      I do wish that our son would have had someone to talk about all this, however, simply to make sure he was processing all the “dysfunction” ok. He’s very guarded about his feelings, and so I have a hard time discerning how he’s doing. I just tried to connect with him as much as possible so that he didn’t get lost as we focused on his mother’s healing.

      Reply

  2. Nique and Gang
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 11:53:16

    A few days ago our husband brought up the fact that he feels that our daughter (age 9) should never know. For him, the discovery of our DID left him feeling that all the years before were not real. He has all these memories of his wife and now isn’t sure “who” was his real wife and who he was mostly dealing with day to day. (Obviously this isn’t a story that fits in a paragraph.) This knowledge of “multiple wives” left him feeling like his own self identity as husband is in question. He feels that our daughter would experience the same but likely on a higher level.

    See, we had two hosts, Nique and L. In our 20’s L was primarily present (at least 60% of the time). After meeting our husband, Nique was primarily present. L has stated that she viewed the previous marriage as her’s, whereas this one was Nique’s. Nique would almost always dissociate around her birthday and sometimes for a few months at a time. Also, she would dissociate during intense confrontations, extreme stresses, etc. Typical DID stuff. L would step in during those times. However, when Nique left there were also times when the other teens might be present for particular moments. For example, L has a tendency toward suicidal actions, depression and other issues and protectors might step in.

    All this knowledge left our husband feeling as if what his belief of the relationship before discovery of DID really wasn’t real. This still will plagues him at times, the belief that he was living a lie. He doesn’t want our daughter to feel anything like that. He said that her self identity is wrapped up in who her parents are and to suddenly question the identity of her mother would cause intense questioning of self identity.

    However, even at 9, our daughter is in tune with the fact that there are different ways of mommy behaving and being. At times, she will ask if we can play dolls with her like a little girl instead of a grown up. She is basically asking for our little girls to come out and play with her, which they love to do.

    We are all very protective of her and would never want her to suffer in any way. If the knowledge of us could cause suffering we would never share. However, our thoughts on the matter differ. A few of us agree, a few disagree and think it’s important for her to know at some point. Our internal pact stipulates that when we are torn on something we always go with the more cautious point of view. And our husband has the biggest say in this matter as we trust his ability to look forward and see possible outcomes. So as it stands right now, our daughter is never to know.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Oct 13, 2013 @ 17:24:10

      Hi Nique and Gang

      thanks for stopping by again. I’m a little puzzled by your husband’s reaction. Maybe I could share my perspective a little better. The 6 little girls often ask me, “Do you love me for me or only because of Karen?” I tell each of them the obvious “Yes I love you for you” but I also explain that Kar’yn Marie is the girl that I married. It is her name on our marriage certificate, NOT Karen’s. And as I look back I can see hints and evidence of all the girls in our marriage. Ally was the one beside Karen most obviously there as she was the defender and we had a lot of fights until she came out permanently. But I know that ALL the girls are “my wife”. And some day when the healing is complete they will all be there all the time.

      I don’t know your situation, but I don’t think your husband should be plagued with feelings of having lived a lie. To me when I found out about the other girls it finally all made sense. The “lie” to me was before I knew they were there. It was like being a part of a murder mystery movie, NOT knowing I was part of it, but seeing things in my wife and marriage that didn’t make sense. But once Karen told me about the d.i.d., everything made sense to me and “the lie” disappeared.

      I can understand being hesitant about telling your daughter. My son was 17 before the little girls started to join us. And yet he had largely figured it out on his own. Children are NOT as naive as we’d like to think. So good luck to you and your husband as you navigate these waters.

      Sam

      Reply

      • Sam Ruck
        Oct 14, 2013 @ 16:34:47

        I’ve continued thinking about your comment and I want to share some more of my thoughts; obviously you are free to do whatever you want with them.

        1) to keep you child in the dark is to cause her to live a lie. Her mother has d.i.d., plain and simple. It’s not scary. It’s not something she(her mother) did to herself or brought upon herself. If you read my first entry on “involving children in the healing process” you may remember that I have a tremendous issue with our culture’s inability to deal with “shit” that happens in life. And when we shield our children from the hard things, we make them be weak and they lose the chance to learn to cope and overcome difficulties.

        They also lose the chance to become compassionate with others. I grew up with a typical conservative bent. I believed, until I began helping my wife heal that everyone is responsible for their own actions and they have little compassion for those who are unable to “pick themselves up by the bootstraps”. But as I helped my wife heal and allowed my son that privilege as well, it has fundamentally changed my perspective about people and made me more compassionate, and I hope it has the same for him.

        2) I also believe that keeping the d.i.d. a secret gives the disorder power. D.I.D. develops as a coping mechanism, but it becomes a mask to pretend to the host and those around her/him that “everything is ok.” And it only when the person with d.i.d. learns that it’s safe and ok to say “I’m not ok. I’ve been deeply hurt and I need help healing. I did nothing wrong,” that the healing really begins. That mask also lends power to the “shame” that so many abuse victims feel. The person has to learn that others will NOT look down at him/her and think evil because of the abuse that occurred in her/his life.

  3. luverley
    Apr 17, 2015 @ 05:45:09

    Oh it hurts my head reading this. My children are 2. I hope I can raise them OK. They are the only ones who see my other parts really. I don’t know how I could hide my other parts of me.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Apr 17, 2015 @ 17:21:02

      I think one of the worst things we did was hide the d.i.d. from our son. It divided our family. I’m glad I made a way for them to connect in spite of my wife’s fears.

      Sam

      Reply

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