[Image description: A four-panel cartoon by @Revelatori. The story throughout the four panels shows that in the first panel, a stormcloud held by an adult is raining on a child. In the next panel, the child has grown up and is holding the stormcloud over a new child, and same in the third panel. In the third panel, the cloud is finally labeled: “Generational Trauma”. Speech bubbles throughout the first three panels show the children growing up into adults and hurting their children with the same storms saying: “This has always…been passed down…in our family.”
The fourth panel breaks the pattern. Instead of a stormy purple or blue background, the background is bright yellow like sunshine. The child from the 3rd panel is wearing a bright pink shirt and she is in adulthood in the 4th panel too. She is holding up a hand in the “stop” motion toward the stormcloud and saying, “Not anymore.” She is holding a rainbow-colored umbrella over the child in her panel.
I know that the image attached to this post might really resonate with some people who are the first generation cycle-breakers. I am in awe of you and what you do every day. It takes so much to be the first one to stand up and say that you are going to do something differently. Take this image and what it means to you and hold it close and be encouraged and find any meaning at it that it means for you. <3
I am not, personally, one of you.
I am a second generation cycle-breaker and I want to write to the people in the same boat with me today.
I have been learning the difficult art of holding the tension between two things that are simultaneously true.
My parents stepped out of abusive environments and created a different parenting paradigm. They were intentional and discussed with one another the parents that they wanted to be. They tried, with intentionality, to strike a balance between control and freedom, to teach us the things they thought were important, to live according to their values.
AND, there are things that hurt me, that I wish were different. I wish I had felt safe sharing all my emotions with them. I wish I had a different relationship with food. I could list several more wishes for my childhood self.
Both of these things are true. My parents did the best they could to intercept the damage that had been passed on to them from the generations that came before them. They thought carefully, they talked about it with one another, they read books, they made decisions together—and some of those decisions still hurt me, and some of those thoughts are so far from my thoughts that I can’t even fathom thinking them.
I knew I was loved, and I felt like I could not tell my parents if I was afraid.
I knew I was loved, and I learned how to swallow chunks of food like pills because I didn’t know how else to stay out of trouble.
I knew I was loved, and I lay awake at night with worries racing through my head I couldn’t tell anyone.
I knew I was loved, and I hated so many things about my own body.
I anxiously and perfectionistically held myself to a level of performance that nobody else around me was demanding outright with their words. And I did, I really did, know that I was loved. And I was. Both things are true.
There are, in many families, really patterns like this. Where one person is truly the one deciding: enough is enough, and stopping it for the next generation.
And also—both things are true—there are some families, some situations, some actions, some behaviors, where it’s not as clear-cut. Where I, as a parent, am putting a stop to some things that hurt me—but a cloud is still there, some of it leaking around the umbrella I hold, still raining on my children even if I wish it wouldn’t. Even if I try to repair, get the rain out, with towels and hairdryers and hugs.
If it doesn’t feel as clear-cut to you…if you’re holding the tension between two things…in your childhood, in your adulthood, in your parenthood…
Hi. I’m here, too.