They say the sins of the father will be visited upon the son. I don’t know about sins, but I do know a thing or two about the trauma of the father.
For me, my generational trauma started with the Cuban revolution. As part of that revolution, and particularly in the aftermath of the revolution, many people were accused of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro, or at the very least, actively plotting against his government. One of those people was my grandfather.
I don’t know enough to say what my grandfather did or didn’t do. There were many people falsely accused and many civil rights violations that occurred during this time. However, my grandfather’s guilt or innocence isn’t the point of this post. The point of the story is how my grandfather was separated from his family for over a decade. His family, including my dad, had fled to the United States along with many other Cuban families while this was happening.
The result was that my father didn’t have his father around much when he was growing up. However, one thing he did have was a desire to prove himself, a desire that led him to chase one experience after another to improve himself. Unfortunately, those experiences frequently also took him away from his family, just as his own father had been absent from his life.
Growing up, that absence was something I internalized. I blamed myself for his absences. Now I know better but emotionally I still struggle, as the demons of yesteryear have gotten very good at telling me lies about his absence, lies about my family.
This reality plays itself out over and over again. It plays itself out currently in the form of refugees seeking safety from violence in Central America, only to be greeted by a draconian immigration system that might separate the families anyway. It is playing out as the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold. And it will unfold, again and again, creating shadowy spots in family trees where our demons can hide.
It has taken me a long time to find the darkened branches of my own family tree, to trace them back to their twisted roots. Pulling the roots of those generational traumas out is something I am still working on. It is something I have to do if I want to keep those generational traumas from choking out my family tree the way a particularly insidious weed might. It means talking about it with my therapist, with my loved ones, and with myself. It means confronting that I might not have been there when those weeds started to grow, but I absolutely have the power to change what happens with the weeds of my generational trauma in the future. And that is something I plan to do not just for my own sake, but for my daughter’s sake as well.
And if generational trauma is something you are dealing with too, know that you have just as much power to change its future.
For more of my thoughts on generational trauma, check out today’s Daddying with Depression post. And thanks as always for reading.