Updated: Nov 14
My maternal grandmother Sara passed away on October 25th. I lived with her from the age of 8 to 15. This is where the emotional neglect and trauma were cultivated and solidified in my life.
My first memory of Sara was during the time of my great-grandmother's passing. She came down to South Carolina with my 2 aunts and my uncle for the funeral. I don't really have too many memories from that time because I had been sexually traumatized by 2 male family members who came down for the funeral. It's safe to say, my mind blocked stuff out to get through the huge loss I was dealing with.
My great-grandmother, Momma, was my protector and gave me so much love in my child mind. She mothered me and was my safety. When she unexpectedly passed away when I was 6 I felt lost. No one asked me how I felt about losing my caregiver and best friend. My world was upended again when my mother decided we were going to not only visit New York but stay to live in the Bronx with her mother, Sara. Once I realized we weren't going back home to South Carolina I was devastated and scared, and didn't feel like I had anyone to express my emotions to.
My mother was not present. Whether it was her working or just wanting her own free time, she wasn't there, so I was around my grandmother, grandfather, and uncle a lot. I used to feel like a 2nd class citizen because I was emotionally neglected, bullied, and berated by my family. There was a theme of tension and fear in their home that wasn't good for anyone's mental well-being, and my mother was not checking in on me to see if I was doing ok when she did come around. (I honestly don't think she understood the importance of her role in my life). Oh! And did I mention I call my mother and grandmother by their first names, and my mother calls her mother by her first name? ( The emotional detachment is REAL!) My emotional wellness suffered and I instead picked up habits of People Pleasing, codependency, and trauma bonding. This would haunt me for decades...
Fast forward to the birth of my first child, nearly 16 years ago and me making the pivotal decision to work on my relationship with Sara. This was for a few reasons:
Being her oldest grandchild my children are the only great-grandchildren she had. I wanted my children to at least have met her.
The hate and hurt I had in my heart for being neglected as a child caused me to lash out at her and it wasn't helping me in life at all. I didn't want it spilling into the way I treated my children and other loved ones.
She actually reached out and wanted to repair her relationship with me. It took me some time to accept the olive branch but eventually, I did.
Sara with my children in her apartment in 2017
Sara and I were able to have a good almost 5 years getting to know each other as adults. She helped me to see why she had fears, regrets, and very little guidance on how to communicate her needs to others. She couldn't give her family what she didn't have, which was emotional support, peace and a feeling of being whole from healing. I tried helping her by spending time, phone calls and just listening, and I hope it helped her as much as it helped me.
I got a lot of answers and comfort in knowing that focusing on myself with therapy, self-care, boundaries, self-worth, and self-esteem can heal the years of neglect, shame, and embarrassment I carried thinking validation from others was tied to my value.
If you have loved ones that you have negative tension with, find ways to forgive them, because that closure is for you, and if you are breaking generational curses you need to know where they came from so you don't repeat them. Just saying you will avoid them isn't enough; you need to understand their pathology, or the behavior the disease of trauma has in your family's history.