One of the most radical things we can do is verbalize our experiences of being a family member. This starts with our immediate family and reaches out to our extended family. We have gone through great lengths to hide our stories, our shame, our secrets… our trauma. This includes our parents and doubles down for our grandparents. We know all too well… “what happens in this house, stays in this house.” As I look around, I realize these are the houses trauma-built.
Many of us have been indoctrinated into the idea of holding on to our personal trauma and family secrets. We must let go of that ideology because it often protects our assailants at the expense of our mental health. It prevents the family from growing and disables us from protecting future generations. What happens if that one aunt or uncle that the family knows likes to touch children is reported? Sure the family is embarrassed and that relative goes to jail (hopefully), but now the kids are spared from one less encounter with them and the ones who were violated might feel vindication. What happens if parents have an extremely uncomfortable conversation about any kind of abuse or neglect they experienced growing up to their middle school / high school-aged child? Maybe it creates a space that fosters personal growth for the parent and a more aware child. What happens if parents create safe spaces for their children to fully express themselves and share their experiences?
If I may be transparent for a minute, this is my second attempt at a blog. I almost immediately became discouraged and closed my first blog because my parents and others did not support me speaking so candidly about my life. My parents only understood that my words hurt them, but they didn't realize that I was hurt first, and my expression brought forth healing. I wasn’t even talking about abuse! I’ll be 32 in January. I don’t consume myself with what if's, but it causes me to wonder where I’d be mentally if I had found my voice 7-8 years ago.
We must speak boldly about the cycles of neglect and abuse that our families have experienced, especially and specifically if it is at the hands of other family members. There is a space where we hold our elders accountable and give them grace because, in most instances, they did what they thought was best. Even if it was terribly damaging in the long run. We must also cultivate safe spaces for our family members to let their guard down and feel the support & love we have for them. When they are ready to discuss their experiences, they will go where they feel safe.
What happens in this house should be discussed,
addressed, and resolved healthily.