A Moment with a Scapegoat

by | Feb 23, 2023 | It's Family | 0 comments

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A Moment in the Life of a Scapegoat

life as a scapegoatThe life of a scapegoat is pretty crappy. Being the vilified member of a family just so the family unit can stay together under extreme abuse is extremely hard. I know. I lived that life.

One thing about being the scapegoat is that it can be very nuanced. Adults are so good at ostracizing and belittling children in such hidden ways. Such as this story I am about to share.


My grandmother passed away. I was maybe twelve or thirteen. I don’t recall, only that it was after my father had left. I think my parents were finally divorced (their divorce took years).

Death was still a bit confusing for me. I struggled with how I felt. My grandmother had a stroke years earlier, fell down the stairs in their house, and broke her hip. Unfortunately, the hospital and doctors focused on the broken hip, not her stroke. So she never received the rehab she should have.

She used a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She never recovered from the fall or stroke that paralyzed half her face. She could barely speak and, towards the end, could not recall who we were.

I felt that her death was a blessing. From my perspective, my grandmother’s life was not much of one anymore. And when death came, it ended the cruelty life had bestowed upon her.

But I kept that to myself. It was a wholly unpopular opinion then and still is when someone dies. We, the living, can’t sometimes see when death was something wanted and embraced by those who knocked upon the door.

The Phone Call

I remember when the phone call came that my grandmother had passed. It was late, close to midnight, and I had awoken with a start. Something was off. I listened to the quiet of the house as I lay in bed. Then, hearing nothing but being unable to shake the feeling, I got up and went downstairs.

I found my mother sitting in the kitchen on the chair near the phone. She knew something had happened too. We nodded at each other in the way people do when there are no words yet to be spoken.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was one of my aunts (or maybe my grandfather?) letting my mother know that her mother had passed.

Not knowing what else to do, I hugged my mother, probably told her I was sorry, and turned back to bed, leaving my mother to grieve alone.

Life as a Scapegoat: The Funeral

On the day of her funeral, it was a cold, gray day. A drizzle, the skies gray, as if the world was mourning my grandmother’s passing. It seemed fitting to me.

I had written a poem I was planning to read at my grandmother’s graveside. I sat in the car reading and re-reading the words I had written. I was proud of the words I had put to paper. Yet, I was very nervous to read at my grandmother’s grave, sharing how I felt with those in attendance.

When we arrived, the adults huddled together, and the kids stood there, not knowing what to do.

It was then I heard my name amongst the adults. My grandfather’s grief-stricken voice rose above the murmur, “She what? No, I forbid it. She doesn’t deserve it.” My grandfather turned to stare at me.

I averted my eyes as quickly as possible. I was glad about the rain at that moment. It would cover up the tears that had started to meander down my face.

Worried about the Scapegoat

My mother separated herself from the group and headed in my direction. She told me my grandfather had expressly forbidden me to read my poem—as if I hadn’t just heard him. He was worried about what I might say, what I had written. I was an unknown, after all, rebellious.

I was hurt. I understood, and yet I didn’t. I knew all of the horrible things my mother said about me. I knew that my extended family believed what she said.

All of those supposedly intelligent adults couldn’t see through her manipulative lies. Or they chose not to. Leaving me, the scapegoat, the take the brunt of her abuse.

It didn’t matter. It was another beat down on me. I could not win even though I wasn’t anything like what my mother said. I kept trying to show, to prove that I wasn’t and I was not allowed. I would never be allowed to be anything except the scapegoat.

So where is that poem? It became one of many poems lost over the years. And the copy I carried with me? I tucked it into the box with my grandmother’s ashes.

My words, never allowed to be spoken aloud, would forever be connected with my grandmother’s remains.

We all have roles to play in our families. None of them are fair roles. To place certain expectations on children is wrong. Therapy is where you can learn to understand and redo that programming. Why not start your healing journey today?

I recommend Online-Therapy.*

Check out some of my other writings about alcoholism and sobriety. “The Slow Descent to Sobriety” starts my December series about addiction and my journey with sobriety.  You can also check out my recent poetry,  What Happened to All of My Words??

* I receive compensation from Online-Therapy when you use my referral link. I only recommend products and services when I believe in them.

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