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How I’m Trying to Help My Family Overcome Generational Trauma

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Healing is a term that can apply to many different things. It can be used to discuss a physical wound but can also be used to describe emotional things as well.

From the outside looking in, I had a beautiful childhood and life — some would even say privileged. I grew up in a two-parent household, we live in a nice suburban community and had access to health care and food. But what the world didn’t see was the wealth of foolishness that took place for the better part of 15 years.

Growing up, I did not know that this was trauma, but as I grew older I realized that, well, these things were not “normal.” I endured things such as frequent arguments, and not just witnessing them between my parents but me arguing with them; lack of emotion from family; alcoholism; lack of communication; awful coping mechanisms; abuse; my personal eating disorder and other things. Culturally, African Americans didn’t discuss their problems. We were always taught “what happens at home stays at home” and well, you just shove it under the rug. My family also tried to cover much of this up on our “good days” with family vacations, outings to museums and parks and shopping or even dinners out. But it didn’t heal the fact that we had issues. It didn’t heal the fact that I was nervous to eat because I was afraid of what someone would say. It didn’t mask the fact that I was afraid someone would start arguing.

But as I grew older, I repressed a lot of it and somehow things got better, until I began living much of this in my own life. I began to experience a lot of things that I experienced as a child, especially in my romantic relationships. One day, I paused and said “whoaaaaa, wait a minute, hold the phone. What we aren’t going to do is live this all over.” So, I took my butt to therapy and healed and began to break generational curses.

And then came the hard part: Applying what I knew and what I learned to my family. And boy, did that cause a storm. Yet, I persisted. I found myself challenging the toxicity of my father and his anger. I found myself challenging the stone-cold nature of my mother. I stopped engaging the mean-spirited and abusive behavior of my siblings. I also realized that they all behaved this way because they grew up in environments that were toxic and nobody ever told them any different. Healthy relationships and expression of emotions was not tolerated and if you brought up therapy, well then that was of the Devil and you were taken to church immediately to have it cast out of you.

It has taken me years to work on myself. I am very vocal when I don’t feel heard or when they do something to hurt me, and I have very firm boundaries in place. I have worked on my eating disorder and body image and feel I am in a very good place. I no longer need validation to live my life. I am the person I needed all those years ago.

However, I feel by working on myself, I have transferred my skills onto my family, or at least tried to make to make some progress. Recently, I have saw this progress in action.  I received a message from my mother today after we hung up from our daily telephone call. Now, I love my mother. I know she loves me. She is not the type to outwardly show love and affection, that’s who she is. This is a result of her being in fight or flight her whole life, even as a wife and mother. But today she evolved. She showed me a side I haven’t ever seen when dealing with me, her baby, her life-changing wild child. She texted me: “So, so proud of you! You are so very intelligent. I thank God for the anointing, continue to grow and be led by God Almighty in Jesus’ name. Love mom.” In 35 years, she has never said such a thing to me. And having her say such made me feel so much joy. And I made sure to tell her that so she knew I receive her love and see her trying.

My prayer is that she continues to grow and evolve and heal her wounds so we can grow together. For it would be beautiful to see new things evolve in a totally healed family.

And as a closing note, you can heal your hurts, you can break curses and you can work through trauma. It may hurt, you may feel uncomfortable and it may be hard, but that means it’s working. And the end result is beautiful.

Image via contributor

Originally published: August 6, 2021
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