Yeah, I know it is not one of the fun subjects to talk about. But I think I have a perfect example of the overall impacts of Trauma in a generational scope. So first let’s look at what Trauma is…
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Few people can go through life without encountering some kind of trauma. Unlike ordinary hardships, traumatic events tend to be sudden and unpredictable, involve a serious threat to life—like bodily injury or death—and feel beyond a person’s control. Most important, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person’s sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could strike at any time. Parental loss in childhood, auto accidents, physical violence, sexual assault, military combat experiences, the unexpected loss of a loved one is commonly traumatic events. Thank you Psychology Today for this wonderful explanation of trauma.
Though while that explanation is a good one it leaves out several other issues. That does cause trauma, such as Bullying, Conversion Therapy, Neglect, and even Medical Maltreatment. But there is one that is not thought about as Traumatic and this is because we do not talk about it. That would be Racism which can and does cause generational trauma. While if you have never experienced trauma it is very hard to explain it to someone to a point that they can fully understand the impact of what has taken place. So I am going to give you a first-person view of the impacts of Racism and Generational Trauma.
You see I am an Author and for years I have been working on a book about my father and his story regardless of what he thinks it is one hell of a story. This is not the Trauma that is right at the fingertips that can be seen easily in fact I did not fully understand the impact of this type of trauma until I started to dig into my father’s life. Let me say this right away my father can be a good man even though he sometimes can be blind to the truth that is all around him. Even if this truth is part of a story that existed before his birth but impacts him.
I never thought it would be so hard to write about a person that you loved and admired. While at the same time being truthful to the events that surround that person. Understanding that writing this story through my eyes is not the same as him telling his story. But I always say “Be careful of digging in the past the monsters you find may not be able to put back in the ground.” To be honest I was not ready for the emotions that filled my house and the drama that ensued around one part of my father’s story. To say that I have been consumed in finding out the truth of this one point is to say it lightly. You see my father’s mother always claimed she was Native American. Throughout her life, this remained part of her story. But the sad part is there is no evidence of this. Tracking down ghosts of the past where governmental indifference fueled multi-layers of hate, genocide, stolen generations, lynchings, scalpings, and the list continues even to this day.
Here is where the problem begins. In the early 1900s, there was a government act of erasing a people that impact descendants even to this day. That act was called the Dawes Roll which was an accounting of 5 civilized tribes in America. If your name is on that list you are Native American from those tribes. But if it does not the US government denies that you are Native American. But if you are a part of the generations that were stolen from families and placed with good “White” people. Then we have a new problem as a lot of records were incomplete or do not exist at all. I think this is where my Grandmother falls through the cracks as she does not appear in any of the Dawes Rolls. We know of only a spot of her story before she became involved in my family name. My dad took a DNA test to see if that could help but that only lead to more confusion as I dug a bit more into DNA testing and possible flaws within them (btw they never tell people about flaws in those tests).
So you might be asking where is the Trauma? Okay, that is a very good question but I want you to look at it from my Grandmothers eyes. She only knows why she ended up in a second-family home that was not hers. That kind man saved her from a horribly abusive father. But not knowing if that first man was your real birth father. Not knowing the little memories that you have of the past is even real, to begin with. If you have brothers or sisters, what if your mother was looking for you and weeping at missing you in her life. Going through life without that “Family” link that ties us even the bad ones. Not knowing your history can be very traumatic to anyone. What if all you were told never felt right to you yet without the truth you will never know. Then look at the children and Grandchildren of that person. In my view, there is a dark hole that is part of my grandmother’s story that even to this day I cannot solve.
You might this is all a little strange but let’s take it one step further. When I started to write my father’s story every time I started to write on it my home felt different. My father is alive at the time of writing this. At least I think he is we are estranged. Remember I said he “can” be a good man. I know it is something else that is taking place when I write his story. It got to a point that when I was writing about my Grandmother the feel of the house became very intensely emotional. Even to the point of tears making it very hard to type. I never thought that this story might turn out to really be a story about who she was and what she inspired in those she left behind.
I never thought that it would also include so much darkness in a person’s life as it does for her. I have been working with others from the US in trying to figure out her story. It may end up a great mystery that no real answers can be found. Even writing this about her know I am very emotional. Talking about Trauma generation trauma is very easy to see in what I am going through to find answers that might not even be available. That means for a lot of our family we are missing a piece of who we are. Yeah, we can say that we were a part of that first family that she was in but at the heart of it, it is not true in her eyes.
I am not one for believing in the way my nuclear family does. I don’t really buy into the ideas of modern belief structures and their versions of heaven or hell bull shit. I do believe that there is a creator and that we are here to learn and grow. That our family ties matter. That when we pass from this place we return to who made us. Our heaven or hell is what we do to ourselves. If we have not grown that is on us and we must live with that. I feel a change in my home when it comes to thinking or working on her story. If that is part of my connection with her then I am blessed. It is more than a pleasant feeling.
When it comes to the trauma and what a person goes through all I can say is I know what it feels like when I think of being estranged from my family. Knowing that they don’t know my children and that my children don’t know them. Though I have told my children should they wish to make contact with them they are welcome to do it. I used to be of the thinking that until they (my sisters) apologize for their actions we are not talking to them. But my children are growing up and they can make their own choices. I still feel the way I do that I want nothing to do with them because of their actions and choices until they do apologize. But I know my family can be hard-headed when they think that they are right and others are wrong. They close themselves off without trying to look at other possibilities.
I also know what it feels like when no one believes you when you put your hand up and say “Me Too”. I know what it is like when others feel like they can discount when you tell what took place. I know trauma all too well. I know what it was like wanting to die because I felt like I did not even matter to my own family. I am lucky enough to have learned to work through all those emotions and I know what is going on when they flood back into everyday life. I know what it is like sitting alone thinking that because you made the choice to leave an abusive relationship you have to face the loss of friends and family. Because they don’t believe you and believe your attacker. You get to a point where you have to face your trauma and say “No I am worth more than what you are giving me!”
I measured what I have felt so many times in my life and think that it is not much compared to what my Grandmother went through all her life. Some of that trauma is different than mine but yet sadly still the same if not connected in some ways. The reason I say we are connected is that her not knowing is passed down from generation to generation. That loss of family connections and can never be repaired. So many stories not told or written. I may have to be content with the issue that the end of her story stops here. I have done a lot in searching for who her real family might have been only to come to more and more questions. An empty yet sad conclusion that I am sure so many first nations children have faced time and time again. Then I look at the 7300+ children buried in residential schools in North America. Never being able to be with their families ever again. A trauma that is on a nation-wide scale that cannot even begin to be understood.
Trauma is one of the most destructive forces in this world. How your actions or the actions of another could start a ball rolling that cannot be stopped. This Trauma can come from almost anything or anyone if it causes harm to another person (s). When we look at the LGBT+ factor trauma can even con from sources that insist that we are not valid, that it is a choice, that we are perverted, or that devalues us. Think about pronouns, slavery, genocide, or even conversion therapy and the destruction that they cost in lives. Lastly, we know more about trauma when we talk about it in the context of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But we hardly look at it in the context of everyday actions. So, tread lightly when it comes to others. You never know if you could cause harm that lasts lifetimes.