Trying to explain what's going on to your children is a whole new level of difficult. And there is guilt, that it's just one more thing we've put on their shoulders.
But, we have access, through mental health professionals, counselors, and support networks, to tools we can teach our children to use; tools they can use to not only understand what is currently going on, but their emotions and feelings as well.
"I guess I can't have anything of mine in this house!" My Dad yelled at my sister after she threw his magazine away. It was an old magazine and I didn't know why he was mad. He yelled at her for what felt like forever, and then yelled at me for standing there. I went to my room and cried. When my Dad yells like that I don't feel good. My stomach hurts and I want to bury my head in my pillow. Sometimes he yells really loud and it scares me.
My little sisters start to cry and I cuddle with them on the bed. Pretty soon I hear my Mom talking to my Dad, and he stops yelling. He comes into my room and he is crying too. He says sorry and gives me a hug. Sometimes I don't want him to hug me. Sometimes I want to yell at him and hurt his feelings too. But I don't. I'm too scared he will yell back again instead of being sad. I wish I wasn't scared.
My Dad says he has something called PTSD. I don't really understand what it means, but he tells me that it means he is not the same anymore. Something in his brain isn't working right and he gets angry faster than he did before he went to war.
My Dad sings me a song and rubs my back while I cry. The anger builds up again. How can he be so mad one minute and be so nice the next? It confuses me. I want to be angry at him and I want to hurt him like he hurts me, so I tell him that Mom will divorce him if he doesn't stop having tantrums. I think I must have hurt him because he stops rubbing my back and leaves the room. I heard him whisper "I'm sorry" again and then I hear the front door close. He has left. Now I am the one who is sad. I didn't want him to leave. I just want him to not be so angry.
I write in my journal and put it on my Mom's bed. I can hear her crying when she reads it and then she puts it back on my bed. The only thing she has written inside is "I love you. No matter what." I start crying again and hug her hard, telling her I am sorry for saying that to Daddy. She says that we will all work it out. Maybe she called him, or maybe he was done being sad, but he came home.
Mom and Dad talk in their room for a long time. I can hear whispers but I don't know what they are saying. Later they both come out and I can see Mom has been crying. I hope she isn't really going to divorce him. I didn't want that. I just wanted him to know he hurt me. Mom gives me a hug and goes to the kitchen. She cooks or cleans when she is upset.
Dad asks if its ok if he sits with me. I nod and he sits down. He doesn't say anything. He just sits there. I think he doesn't know what to say to me, but thats ok because I don't know what to say to him either. We sit there for a long time. We don't say anything, we just sit there. Then he stands up, and says " I love you so much." and walks back to his room.
Mom tells me that Dad doesn't have someone he can write to when he has bad feelings. I told her he should get a journal like mine and then he could write to her, but Mom says Dad needs someone else to talk to and he is going to call about going to a counselor. I went to a counselor before when I was sad and she helped me, so I think this is a good idea. I wish I could help my Dad, because I want him to be the fun Dad he used to be, but Mom says sometimes it takes more than love to help someone. I hope he can talk to the counselor and be the fun Dad again.