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Finding Forgiveness – your parents did the best they could.
Please note there is reference to childhood and familial experiences which may be triggering. Also note that this is only one experience and not necessarily generalisable to others. Read with care.
I had the oddest experience over the weekend.
I was away from home and stayed with “extended family” who I love to see at family events but have never stayed with before. I expected a bed to sleep in, but what I did not expect was to be confronted with what it would have been like to grow up with a different type of family atmosphere.
One night my cousin and I were whisper/talking upstairs and my Uncle came up and told us to be quieter. But when he said it, it was with love and lightness. With a laugh and humour. No grudges held. No agitation, or threats of violence or aggression. No feelings of shame or anxiety being provoked.
The oddest experience of being ‘told off’, but not feeling any stress or heightening within my own nervous system.
Because my expectation is to encounter a sudden raised voice and swearing. To feel palpable anger. To be answerable to guilt-tripping and a strong evocation of shame. To bear witness to, sometimes, violent dysregulation
For the most part, I have only known what it is to be surrounded by high expectations and stress. I have only ever known what it is to cater to another person’s shifting and, at times, explosive emotional state.
In my every day life I experience hyperarousal and hypervigilance, I have anxiety and intrusive thoughts on a daily basis. I have to listen to sleep stories every night and sometimes employ deep breathing to be able to fall asleep. I never nap even when I am exhausted, I am on edge frequently, often restless and my muscles are always primed to run from or fight danger.
My body and mind have only started to settle in the last five years. In the process of deliberate healing, identifying the above, and learning to create safety within myself because most of what I knew in the external space was not safe.
So, for a moment over the weekend, I had this odd glimpse into what it might have been like to be raised in a household where my nervous system was not constantly activated.
Which is not meant as a bad reflection on my family. It is simply a reflection of a type of migrant/Pacific experience. It speaks to unaddressed wounds being passed on, of intergenerational trauma, of recurring cycles. It says something about the stress, anxiety and uncertainty from our parents, grandparents and ancestors.
I also have to acknowledge that returning to live with my family again after several years away, is almost guaranteed to bring unaddressed wounds to the forefront too – there is something blissfully sweet about dormant emotions and ignorance. But, also that I cannot know the full experience of a particular family dynamic after only a 3-night stay.
I once attended a workshop and someone said “forgive our parents for they did the best they could”. I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion, not realising how much of a core wound I held. As I have grown and as I have surpassed the age of both my parents and grandparents when they had children, I have come to understand this more and more (I don’t know about you but I still feel like a child myself at the age of 30). Further, in some situations, forgiving a parent is not a possibility and perhaps it is more about forgiving yourself/recognising that you, as a child, cannot have known or done anything differently.
I am not entirely sure I have fully processed all that this recent experience has raised within me. Forgiveness is not something that occurs overnight. It does not take away from the impact either. But at the very least, it allows us the opportunity to take responsibility for our own healing moving forward.
And I would like to heal.