On Healing From Trauma
I write this on Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance of the Holocaust. When I was a child and in Sunday School, we watched videos and looked at books with the all too familiar figures of skeletal humans in horrible conditions and we were taught to never forget. I certainly will never forget those images or how it felt to think about such hopelessness as an 8, 9 or 10 year old. I’m not sure that the way we were taught about the Holocaust was psychologically the most appropriate, but it was certainly impactful.
There is a meme that is going around facebook by Stephi Wagner that says: pain travels through families until someone is willing to feel it. In my clinical work and in my personal life, I certainly see this. And it is interesting to think about this through the lens of a larger Jewish, or even larger, human family.
I saw another thing today, again on Facebook, that said that the memory of the holocaust is fading. That feels impossible to me, and then I remind myself that never again has happened again and again to countless other groups of people in countless other places in the world.
We know that young children process and learn about their world through talking about it. Through countless repetitions of “mommy is coming back after lunch” a two year old can tolerate the pain of separation. When an action gets a reaction, particularly if the reaction is positive, children will do it over and over again, in this way internalizing the cause and effect of their behavior. And, no matter the age, trauma is best healed by many repetitions of the story until the impact is lessened.
The holocaust and the genocides that have come before or since are our trauma to heal from and as we would do for children or as we would do in our own therapy we heal that trauma through telling the story.
When you have young children, you might pause together and take a moment to think about your day or week and say a little thank you for your freedoms. You can incorporate a blessing of your children into your Shabbat or another weekly meal, and include a line that acknowledges other children in other parts of the world that also need blessings.
As children become older and can understand more you can share more. There are books on the topic, but the best and most meaningful experience might come from your conversations and addressing your children’s questions. Resources can be found at: https://sfi.usc.edu, and http://www.museumoftolerance.com/site/c.tmL6KfNVLtH/b.9052747/k.BEE4/Home.htm.
This need not be only a once yearly thing, and probably wont mean as much if it is. As always, your children are going to learn the most through your modeling. I feel it’s important to take every opportunity we can to not be another generation that does not feel this inheritance of pain. Growth comes from pain.
I wish you a meaningful and thoughtful week.