trigger warning Generational Trauma
I've been doing some reading. "It Didn't Start with You." -by Mark Wolynn and to be honest, I can't believe some of the things that my family have survived through. How we are all still together and existing in the normal everyday world is baffling. This book helped me to discern what is my trauma, what trauma is being repeated within the family and how to break the cycle. It's going to be a rough ride so please bear with me.
My mothers family grew up in poverty with very little education. Let's start as far back as I can. My great grandfather. (I won't give him name.) According to family members, he was a drunkard who physically abused my great grandmother. My grandfather told me a story of how he took a frying pan from his father so he would stop hitting his mother with it. He told me how scared he felt as his father turned to go after him for interfering and taking his weapon. My grandfather was barely 10 and took the frying pan with him as he hid under a small table where his father couldn't reach him. The abuse reached a climax when my great grandfather put a shotgun to my great grandmothers head and forced her onto a wooden boat at the nearby lake. His intention was to kill her and dump her body. My grandfather's sister, being the 2rd oldest, called the local sheriff who found the pair in time. He was arrested and sentenced to prison where he himself was murdered by a fellow inmate. Only my great grandmother went to the funeral. ......... I know, right?
My grandfather didn't make it to middle school because he quit to work at a neighbors farm to keep the family up. He eventually enlisted in the marines and met my grandmother. I'll give you her name. Mary. (A truly lovely woman) She came from a very religious background and was older than my grandfather. My grandfather, who had no education, repeated the mistakes and habits of his father. He drank too much and abuse his wife too. He became the very man he told me he hated. He had an affair with another woman and had a son with her. He never went back to her and raise his son. (My mother and her siblings elected not to meet their half brother, which I think is a big mistake, but it's not my call to make.) This is where things get very hard. So much pain and an event that will change my mothers life and, in turn, my life. The youngest of the 4 siblings, my 10 year old Aunt, was in a tragic home accident at the hands of my dear grandmother. A complete, total, freak accident. My 10 year old aunt passed away while being transported to the hospital in my neighbors lap. My other Aunt (16) and Uncle (12) were both there during the accident but my mother (15) was not. My grandfather rushed to the hospital and reacted the only way he knew how. He threatened my grandmothers life and knocked out a few officers in the process. I'm sure you can imagine how horrible, terrifying and traumatizing the next few years would be for them. Physical violence, verbal abuse and lots of alcohol.
My grandfather liked to talk to me about his thoughts and feelings. I'm not sure why he confided in me so often, but he told me many things. He talked to me about the dream he had about his deceased daughter telling him that he'll never see her again if he keeps drinking. (He did stop because of that dream) I found a large family photo that was beaten and ripped. He told me he did that to it because after his daughter died, he hated everyone, even his other children. He about begun to cry when he saw it. He was surprised my grandmother kept it. It legitimately shocked him to see it again. I did find a photo of my late Aunt in the casket but I couldn't bear to show that photo to anyone, so I just re-hid and left it be. Seeing that photo haunted my memory and broke my heart. I couldn't imagine going through that. To live everyday with blatant hostility, but then I remember, I actually did. But before we get to me, I need to finish this family tree. My mother experienced all this plus sexual abuse from a family member. My grandparents are both deceased now, but before they passed, I made a video about what they went through. They basically had a shrine to their daughter that remained unmoved for over 40 years. I recorded their stories of what happened that day and how they go through it. My grandfather cried and told me that he regretted how he reacted, how mean he was to my grandmother and that deep down inside he really loved her. Those words were hard to hear and it was difficult for me to forgive him because I remember hearing him say such mean things as I was growing up... It's very hard for me to remember those things. My grandmother developed a hoarding issue and then dementia as well. She told me she didn't remember anything that happened the day that her daughter died, but she did know one thing: That she was loved. I asked her if she minded me asking questions about her daughter and my grandmother said, "You never get tired about talking about your children... even if they're not here anymore." She was the only one who received therapy because her depression and guilt became so bad, she started feeling suicidal. I honestly don't know how they all stayed together but they all didn't come out of it unscathed.
This one is harder because my father, his sister and my grandparents kept everything close to the chest. I have very few details of things that I know happened and I can only make assumptions on events that were hinted at. Worst thing first. All honesty, not holding back or being afraid. Something I don't know how to atone for. My fathers side of the family, 150 years ago, owned slaves. The land that my childhood home was built on used to be worked by slaves. My great grandfathers house, which was right next to my childhood home, used to be a log cabin that was built at the beginning of the civil war. They just added siding to it and a garage on the side. It didn't even have a bathroom in the house until the 1970's. Second horrific thing. Being so poor and secluded my great grandmother gave birth in her home. Her baby was born stillborn and my grandfather's solution was to bury the infant in the backyard. She didn't even get to hold her child. Somewhere next to my house is a child that wasn't properly mourned and grieved. All of my fathers side of the family's men went into the military and were in major war events up until Desert Storm. Being in war also presents its own challenges. My aunt hinted at her own sexual abuse. I remember she asked me one time if I had been touched by someone and I remember lying through my teeth, scared to death to say anything. I was 16 when she asked that and I regret lying to her. Alcoholism is often a common thread in all if these stories. Both male and females had this issue. I know there are more things that happened with my fathers side of the family but they are so closed off. They don't want to talk about anything.
How do I break generational trauma and keep the next generation safe? History tends to repeat itself especially if we don't talk about it, learn from it and then heal from it. The alcoholism, the sexual abuse, the unwillingness to discuss the hard topics, the inability to grieve loss. If I want to keep my future children safe and my nieces and nephews safe too, then it looks like I have to be the one to be brave. To start the hard conversations. I have to put my money where my mouth is and open up about what happened to me. I don't want my parents to feel like I'm attacking them when I tell him how they have hurt me. I know they moment I tell my mother I was sexually abused, she's going to feel like a failure because for as long as I've existed, I remember that was her one goal. To keep me from being sexually abused, but the person she trusted, was the one person she shouldn't have. Its going to break her heart. It's going to be worse when I tell her that childhood me hated her for keeping me locked away in my tower with my biggest demon.
A lot of my issues were learned from family, they did not start with me, but I'm going to do my best to make sure they end with me.
Edited by asparkofcourage
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