Sometimes abusive families are like cults

Sometimes abusive families are cult-like, and leaving the toxic people behind for once and for all feels like you're leaving a cult. It hurts.

My therapist gave me a copy of Jan Grovenveld's "It Hurts" about leaving a cult, when I talked, for the umpteenth time, about missing my siblings and my dog, Bailey. It was the first time I'd seen "It Hurts," and as I read through it, I nodded. And ached a little more. It hurt when I read through it, because little blips of memory came up when I read the points.

I knew that some families are cult-like in make, and my therapist affirmed this. Perhaps this explains my fascination with memoirs about leaving abusers and brainwashing and cults, about becoming free despite feeling utterly broken. I read these books as a desire to escape, and then I read these books to affirm my decision to leave. The way my dad was made my family cult-like. He exerted control, he gaslighted us, he brainwashed us to believe his skewed version of the world, and he was not satisfied until he had complete control. Like a cult leader.

As Jan said, leaving a cult is like experiencing the death of a relative, or a broken relationship. There is no instant cure for grief. It takes time, time and patience to heal. There is life after abuse.

Filed under: Abuse


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  • This is brave, Holly. Switch "mom" for "dad" in most of this and I relate completely. I love the point you make about the weaker parent's love for the child being dependent on the dominant parent's acceptance. That blew my mind, it's so real.

    Keep up the good writing!

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    Thanks, Jenna! And that part is what really bugs me the most--why is, and HOW is it, that one person can dictate what another person feels and does? I never liked that concept even when my mom tried to teach me mini life lessons on how to be a wife.

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