Five Things to Leave Behind This Year in Parenting After Religious Trauma

December 26, 2022

We did it everyone! We’ve almost made it through to the end of 2022 Parenting After Religious Trauma. I recently asked Dr. Laura Anderson, the therapist who meets with our PART community for monthly sessions, how we can know if we’ve made progress in our healing/recovery journey. My soul, shaped by the productivity driven ethos of our late stage capitalism, as well as marred by religious trauma, ironically, wants to know if I’m acing my religious trauma recovery. She gently replied that recovery looks like a moment of self agency. If there’s one instance where we feel enough power in our own bodies to make a decision for our own selves–that’s recovery. That’s not the only sign, of course, but she reminded me that there is no scoreboard and no one is giving out report cards. Healing and recovery isn’t a place we arrive at, but those moments woven into our everyday lives when we suffer a little less from the impact of religious trauma.

If you’ve had even one moment in this year where you knew your own power, claimed your own agency, and was empowered to do something for your own body. Congratulations, that’s it. That’s all of the recovery work showing up to reward you for your intentionality. 

Moving into the next year, I wanted to share with you the  five things I’m leaving behind in Parenting After Religious Trauma and five things to carry over to the New Year. 

Five things to leave behind:

Blaming myself for lack of “progress.” 

I could be on a solid trajectory towards more peace and zen in mind and spirit, but then something happens. Things always happen. Life happens, like losing someone, or my child turns into an unrecognizable person in her teen years, or I move to a new place, and all of a sudden I’m thrown back into the vortex of trauma triggers and feel like I’m back at square one of my religious trauma recovery journey.

I’m learning that this is actually normal, it doesn’t mean I’ve “regressed,” or backslid. It means I’m still a human being living life on this unpredictable earth. Of course, I think it’s understandable that if we put in the effort of healing and recovery, it’s discouraging when we still suffer the effects of our religious trauma, but let’s not compound our suffering by heaping unnecessary blame on ourselves. Life doesn’t stop being hard just because we’re trying hard. When life is hard, it’s time to be gentle on ourselves.

Ditching regret

I’ve wrestled with the demon of regret since the early years of my deconstruction. The more we know about the toxicity of our upbringing, the more we regret the decisions we made for ourselves and the complicity in our harm of others. But what I’ve learned about regret is that it’s a synonym for sadness. I don’t actually want to change the past because if I did, I may lose all the good things I have in my life, and I may not (most certainly not) purge all the bad things in my life. There is no perfect timeline and the one I have is what I’ve got. But I do feel sad: sad for my religious trauma, sad for my mistakes, sad for the ways I’ve unwittingly or not, perpetuated harm.

I know enough about parenting my kids’ emotions to know that emotions are tunnels we can move through. I know how to sit with my sadness and let it pass through.

Leaving the Savior Complex 

Growing up evangelical gave me a severe savior complex because I was raised to literally save the world–reaching them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve hung up my cape for a long time but it still bleeds through, especially in parenting, because there’s nothing I want more than to rescue my kids from whatever problems they need to be delivered from. But when I find my worth in saving others, in being NEEDED, I lose the opportunity to find my worth in simply being WANTED. That’s what I deserve from people and it’s what others deserve from me. I don’t need to help others, I want to help others. I am not just needed, I am wanted.

To the savior complex, I say, bye felicia, see you never.

To stop being triggered by my triggers

Leave it to me to be triggered by my triggers. Heh. I don’t know, whenever my religious trauma gets triggered, which happened yesterday, I get triggered by the trigger. My mind goes, “why are you still getting triggered by this dumb thing?” “Why are you giving energy to the fundies, they are not a part of your life anymore?” “Now you have to burden your people because you’re melting down…again.” Whew, it’s a lot.

I learned from someone’s therapist to use this phrase when an intrusive, unhelpful phrase pops into my mind, “This thought is not serving me right now.” None of those phrases serve me when I am triggered. I know that when I am triggered the most important thing to do is to get curious about where it is inside of me that I still have trauma, and to nurse that wound towards healing. 

In the New Year, I hope to leave behind getting triggered from my triggers.

Fear of passing on religious baggage to my kids 

Thankfully, I’m confident that I’ve raised my kids in such a way that in no way resembles the fundamentalism of my childhood, so I am not too concerned that they will experience the toxicity of my own past. However, I know my faith shifting has been tumultuous and I still worry about the impact that has had on them growing up with a mother who’s…hmm…shall we say, unstable at times.

But I can’t undo this parenting path I’ve been on, and honestly I don’t feel I should have to take responsibility for the damage I’ve had to endure because I have also been a victim. All I can hope for is that as they grow, they will see that I’m every bit as human as they are, vulnerable to the pain and joys of this life, and I hope they will see that I did what I could to still love and protect them from what I can, including my own trauma.

So this fear of the harm I’ve done to my kids? I’m going to let it go this year. 

I’d love to hear what you’re letting go of, and coming up next, a post about what I hope to be bringing into the New Year. Stay tuned!

Parenting after religious trauma is HARD, but you do not have to do it ALONE. Imagine having a group of people who get it, who share the same toxicity of our high control religious baggage, who are parenting and being badass cycle breakers for our kids. There is incredible power in this kind of community and I have one of the best ones, if I may say so myself. My people are smart, kind and we are adamant about healing and recovery to stop harming ourselves, our kids, and our world. You can join us in this New Year–give yourself the gift of recovery.

Join us HERE.