“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.”
Wow. Take a moment to really take this quote by Stephi Wagner... Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it. It takes unbelievable bravery to be the person ready to face pain that has been handed down for generations - and at the same time, it doesn’t feel fair.
It’s so clear to see this quote play out for people who have suffered childhood abuse. Often when we have been abused by our parents as children, it is a result of the abuse they suffered as children at the hands of their parents. And our parents’ childhood abuse is a result of the abuse their parents suffered when they were children, and so on and so forth. We could write a whole book about this intergenerational trauma... in fact, there are many books about this! As culture and society shifts, things that were considered normal 100 years ago are no longer acceptable in today’s world. By no means can this be considered an excuse for abuse enacted on children, but it does offer some explanation to what is happening.
It is hard to be the person who puts a wedge in the cycle. It feels impossible - leaving you with a heavy heart, a heavy body, and heavy eyelids. So many people reflect on their own childhood and say, “I don’t want my children to suffer the way I did.” But this requires hard work to finally find the courage to face this pain that has been passed down by those who came before you.
The truth is, it does not have to be you. Nobody is forcing you to be the person to address this pain. If you would like to keep living your life as it is, that is your own choice. But if you find yourself tired, stuck, and ready to move forward - you have the opportunity to enact real and meaningful change in your family for generations to come. If you can consider it an opportunity or a gift rather than a burden, it may be easier to confront. There is no doubt that this is hard and grueling work. It requires a certain amount of vulnerability, soul-searching, and probably therapy.
If you’ve come to the decision that it is time to make a change and feel the pain that has been traveling through your family for years, you will likely need support.
Find community. Surround yourself with people who you trust - people who understand your family’s saga and who will journey with you.
Create a self-care regimen. Reflect on what truly brings you joy, strength, peace, and relief. Write all of these things down as a reminder to yourself to refer to when the work becomes hard. It’s hard to care for yourself when you’re already tired, so keep this list close to you so you don’t forget what can help soothe you.
Don’t forget boring self-care! Boring self-care refers to the mundane, daily tasks that we need to do to keep our lives moving forward... doing the dishes, making the bed, scheduling doctor’s appointments, changing out of your pajamas, etc. Celebrate each boring self-care task you accomplish, no matter how small!
Ask for patience. This work might be a long process. You will get tired, energized, angry, and ecstatic. You might even seem unpredictable to others for a while when dealing with painful memories. That’s okay. Acknowledge this and ask your loved ones to be patient.
Start therapy. You need someone to walk alongside you as you do this work. Therapy can help you process the past, create stability in the present, and give you tools for the future. Don’t ask friends or family to be a pseudo-therapist for you. You deserve to invest in yourself and experience the freedom you’ve been longing for. EMDR therapy is highly recommended for this type of work. You can learn more here.
It is a scary decision to start this journey, and it wont always be easy but it will be rewarding. If you’re considering starting therapy, sign up for a free consultation! If you need help finding a therapist in your area, please reach out!