Giving Family Grace for Trauma Within Family Systems

Young woman hugs grandfather

Even for those of us who deal with adversity and trauma all the time, we often look at our own families and become concerned about some of the issues that are so prominent in those who are close to us. When we discover these kinds of issues, it’s hard to know how to react and what to do when we see the impact of trauma in our own families. My wife has an expression when we witness these kinds of family dysfunctions. She just declares, “Family Grace!”

That is a funny declaration that identifies that we need to support our families even though they say and do things that we don’t understand. As we gain insight into our own families and their needs, we recognize that we all experience family legacies presenting issues that have been or may be destructive for decades.

Such is the experience when we provide varied levels of trauma training and our participants realize the levels of adversity and trauma that have happened in their own family. We recognize that we create a new lens for a variety of behaviors and core beliefs that are imbedded in trauma reactions in families. It’s compelling to watch the “aha moments” when individuals recognize that some issues in their families are a result of coping mechanisms due to the need for emotional regulation.

The other reality is when these behaviors and values have been present in the family for years and there’s no knowledge of why.  Why are family members angry, physically or emotionally abusive, addicted, anxious, depressed, or violent? What happened to them that they are chronically involved in acts that are destructive or are withdrawing from life? Why are they drinking excessively, gambling, taking drugs, or abusive to those within their sphere of influence? And then we might think, ‘why has it all been covered up?’

Perhaps these are questions we’ve asked about our own family. It’s predictable that there has been some form of adversity or trauma and it has never been discussed or revealed as public knowledge. Sometimes it’s a situation where we will never know exactly what happened. However, with an understanding of what trauma can create in individuals, in families, and in a community, we may have insight that some form of emotional injury has been a part of our family legacy that has led to our current condition.

Rather than continuing the core beliefs, it’s important to realize that one of the healthiest things we can do is break the patterns of destructive behaviors and understand their origins within our family history. It’s also helpful to understand that one of the best things we can give those who have created this history is a level of family grace. After all, something happened to them that started the cycle of generational legacies of trauma responses.

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