One of my favorite lines in a song is from a song called “Break Me Down” by Seether. The line says, “wounds are ways to reveal us”. We are all wounded in some way or another, beginning with first wound— Christians call it Original Sin—and going from there. Our wounds do reveal us.
There’s a lot of talk these days about generational trauma. I get why people roll their eyes at the language which can come off as new agey and pop psych jargon—but I’ve seen enough of life to make me think there’s more than a little something to it, especially in light of what we know about our common parents and how what they did affects us still. Not to mention that there is a whole area of biological science backing it up called epigenetics.
Brokenness is characteristic of humanity, hence the desire for wholeness that eludes us and shall continue to elude us for as long as we are this side of heaven. Jesus knew this and proved that wholeness comes from healing and from acknowledging our sins. Confessing our sins is not about making us feel bad or guilty but it is always about healing. That is why the sacrament of confession is considered a healing sacrament.
Healing generational wounds is not easy. It takes a lot of help. I have an entire team of people who have helped me in healing. That team includes priests, friends I trust, my husband and my Catholic therapist. True healing however, will only come in the next life when I make it to Heaven, God-willing.
I mention all this, because one of the things we in the US are facing right now is the shock of realization that we are wounded—broken—and cannot postpone the work of acknowledging and healing the many wounds we have and that we have caused each other. We have come to a point at which it is a priority to do so. Mostly so we stop bleeding all over each other as we say we are fine. We are not fine. We are walking around and bumping into one another’s wounds.
I was born with quite a few generational wounds that go way back in the History of this country and my family which are tangled up in each other. I was born without a father to a Brown mother who had her own wounds.
That set up the scene of my life for my sexual abuse as a child which left scars of trauma on every choice I made from the age of fourteen until I was a week from turning 40 when my oldest son took his own life in my home. It was his suicide that sent me down a rabbit hole of asking about trauma and its impact on our lives and the lives of our children. I blamed myself for all of the terrible choices I made in my son’s lifetime and I blamed those choices for his suicide.
I spent most of his twenty years of life chasing healing but instead I kept getting hurt and my son and eventually my other children, were hurt in the process. I slept around, I had a permanent seat at a dive bar where I got wasted almost every night after working a shift waiting tables. I lived in poverty and thought that was the best it was going to get. I had no goals, no expectations from life, no focus, no path to anything other than what I was living: a poor single mother who waiting tables and had to fight her drug addicted ex-husband on everything. I was miserable.
All of this was my way of acting out from the trauma and brokenness of my own abuse but also the abuse my mother, grandmother and even great-grandmother all suffered. There was no path to healing, no talk of therapy and for sure no acknowledging the abuse in any way from anyone in my family.
It was by the Grace of God that I ended up in therapy in 2014. I thought that I was going to a therapist so she would affirm me and my own feelings about things in my current marriage. Instead what happened is she began to ask me about my childhood, about my abuse and about my teen years of promiscuity. Not in an accusatory way but in a way that led me, with her help, to examine them and their impact on my life and my choices. For three years I went to therapy with her weekly and began to slowly see how being sexually abused as a small child had traumatized me and led me to believe that being abused was love. It also led me to believe that nobody loved me and to act out of fear of being abandoned.
Three years into therapy my oldest son Anthony died by suicide.
I wanted to stop therapy and just wallow in my grief and guilt but my need to know what happened to Anthony and what caused him to take his own life won out. Enter the rabbit hole I mentioned where I learned about trauma and generational impacts of trauma and here I am.
It was through seeing my wounds that I got to know myself. It is how I got to know my children in the aftermath of their brother’s suicide. And it is how I have gotten to know God as He truly is and not as this image of a fairy Godmother who grants me my every wish if I follow the rules.
It has also taught me how to have compassion and empathy for others who are wounded. Because their wounds do reveal who they are and how they have been hurt. It also tells us what they fear and why.
So when you see someone acting out, just remember that what you are seeing is their wounds and maybe through those wounds you can catch a glimpse of who they are. Maybe in your wounds you can catch a glimpse of who you are.
Leticia Ochoa Adams writes from Texas, on life, death, grief, suicide, faith, motherhood, doubts and whatever (else) happens to be on her mind.
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