"Part of my journey has been unlearning so many of my cultures' ineffective approaches to emotions. In order to heal we need to learn healthy emotional communication."
When I became a mother, I set out on an unconscious journey of unpacking the traumas I endured as a child. I hold the utmost respect and appreciation for my parents, but that does not negate the many cycles of trauma that have been passed down to me from one generation to the next. Becoming a mama of my own, I decided these cycles have to end with me. As I dove in, I realized the amount of work I was up against. Let me start by saying this is a life journey and healing takes time. There is not a “one healing heals all” concept, we must search within to see what works for us. The first step is addressing the trauma(s) and for some that can be the most challenging part. Trauma(s) can vary and if it hurts you, it matters, regardless of how big or small. In every mama, there lies an inner child who remembers every scar. When that inner child does not heal, we unconsciously perpetuate the very wrongs that plagued us to our children.
We as Latinx, Brown, Black, Indigenous, parents of color have been dealt generations worth of bad hands. These scars don’t just heal over time. They need to be nurtured. Growing up in La Chancla culture, deeply rooted in Latinx history, we are taught to use humor to deal with pain. While it may lighten wounds, it also taught me to mask pain under the guise of laughter. Part of my journey has been unlearning so many of my cultures' ineffective approaches to emotions. In order to heal we need to learn healthy emotional communication. Speak in love and understanding, not spanking and yelling. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Well this is all I know so what the hell else do I do?” I’ve asked that too. I understand the cognitive dissonance. We want to be better, but we do not always know how. That's ok. We will make mistakes. We are human. It is how we choose to address our mistakes that will allow us to move beyond these cycles of trauma.
Part of healing and moving in the right direction through this journey is forgiving yourself. Acknowledge that by simply desiring to be on this path you are beginning to move in the right direction. Changing that inner dialogue to say “Hey, you know what I’ve been doing isn’t working. What can I do differently next time?"
As we nurture and parent our children we should remember our inner child. What did they need? Once we begin to search for answers, remember to give to our children AND ourselves grace. When we embrace those wants and needs, we learn to appreciate and acknowledge ourselves in a beautiful new light. Then, we allow this new energy to illuminate our children. Remember: if I heal myself, I heal the generations before me and the generations to come. Imagine the amount of power we take back when we change the narrative for ourselves and children by healing our trauma(s). There is no quick fix or a how-to, but I have composed 9 tips to help my fellow trauma healing mamas based on my own experience:
Forgiveness: This is a big one. Forgive your parents for their shortcomings. Forgive your children for making mistakes. Get comfortable asking for forgiveness from others. And most importantly, FORGIVE YOURSELF. If today was not the best, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.
Patience: Practice patience with your children of course but also with yourself. Take a break when your patience is tested. Sometimes we need to physically and/or emotionally take a step back and reevaluate. Give yourself and your children time. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Love: Remind yourself that you love your children and what you say or do teaches them how they will love themselves. How you love yourself will also contribute to how they love themselves. When you fuss at your own image in the mirror (does my butt look too fat or flat in this?), they hear you and internalize this.
Safety/Trust: Teaching your children that you are a safe space for them and showing them how you are creating that space will teach them to trust you. The integrity of this space is for them and you to agree upon and uphold.
Validation: Emotions and feelings, whether your own or your child's, are important and need to be validated. When you speak, try to stand strong and validate yourself. Be an active listener: try to put aside formulating an early response and see where your child is coming from. When we do something so simple like hold space for others, it creates validation the inner child still yearns for. This will set you up for a trustful relationship in the future–especially when those teen years come too soon.
Positive Affirmations: Start and end your day with positive affirmations. We can be our own cheerleaders and teach our children to do the same. When the day ends, talk to them about at least three positive things that happened throughout the day. That way they go to sleep with a positive mind and you do as well.
Releasing Control: Releasing the need to want to control every situation and outcome is a normal response for people that have endured trauma(s). Stop and acknowledge what is in our control and what is out of it. Understanding your limits will help ease your anxiety.
Releasing Fear: Unconsciously, we pass our fears to our children. Part of releasing this fear is looking inward. Put in place rituals that inspire composure and alignment with the self. I personally meditate, pray and talk to Spirit and my ancestors often. Always faith over fear.
Self-Care: As mamas (and women in general!) we tend to put ourselves last, but if we do not replenish our own cups we will have nothing to give. Your inner child needs self-care too. As adults we can heal our inner child by taking time for self care at LEAST 15 minutes a day. Get that face mask on mama! We can use this moment to teach our children the benefits of self care and alone time.
These tips have helped me, but please understand that I am a work in progress. As a trauma healing mama, I am on a life journey. I make mistakes, we all do, because these errors help us heal. Some days will feel like slam dunks and others epic fails, but this is all part of the process. There is no wrong or right way to break the cycle. If there’s one final thing I’ve learned it is to always continue. Continue to power through, especially on the tough days. There is no shortcut towards healing, no way to go over it, or skip past it. It’s the long way or the highway.
You are doing a good job mama! Keep going, keep healing, keep cycle breaking.
Sending love and peace.
Resources for seeking professional support:
Meet The Family
Andrea Garcia is a cycle breaking, mama of four, on the journey of healing trauma for the generations before and to come. A recent graduate of California State University of Fullerton, she encompasses her Communications B.A. with her spiritual knowledge to assist others on the same journey. She's contributed as a featured artist in the upcoming release of The Fear Journal, an artistic response to the 2020 Pandemic.