on healing generational wounds & parenting parents
Sam, thank you so much for this vulnerable and thoughtful piece. I have been trying to navigate my own anger at my parents while also seeing them deteriorate. It is so hard, and on a lot of days my anger and resentment win. There is so much pressure to feel nothing but love for our parents in the end, but that isn’t realistic for people who have been through so much at their parents’ hands. Thank you for putting it into words so well.
So many beautiful lines in this piece. Thank you for sharing <3
You are doing such important work - both internally and externally. Thank you for sharing about this so bravely and tenderly. Sending much love and healing light. Inside the strings of narrative, we will find the story that carries us and heals. XO
Sam, thank you so much for this. Annoyingly, very relatable. I had a stable housing as a child (because my father always had an high-earning job and would pay the mortgage) but an unstable life within - untreated (and undiscussed) Serious Mental Illness, later a stepmother that would inflict emotional and physical abuse, and a lot of neglect from all sides between all of that. At 41 years old, despite years of working in public service and being cautious with money, as a single woman, I'm unable to buy a house (or even condo) in my non-glamorous mid-sized city. Maybe I could have in 2018-19, maybe even 2020, but I wasn't ready then. I was still waiting on my student loans to be "forgiven" and I was applying to higher paying jobs off and on for a year a half before landing the highest paying job I've had (still under six figures), all just in time for the housing market to change terribly and for global inflation. I haven't found that soft place to land and I'm so tired and angry about it. Especially because I did everything "right". Straight A's, scholarships, leadership and service awards, presidents of clubs, led service-learning courses, highly regarded internships, etc. I did all the things to look for a good partner, too and never found one. I dated with enthusiasm, tried be the best version of myself, tried to be more open to people I normally wouldn't have wanted to date, tried to go on a date a week during my mid-thirties because it's "just a numbers game" (that was so exhausting lol). Certainly if I just apply myself, I'll find the right person was my attitude. Everything "right".
I'm also so angry at my father (who just died last year) for not protecting me from abuse and not leaving me anything in terms of generational wealth. My Mom passed in 2015, died in a homeless shelter, nothing to leave. My father earned over $200K a year for ~20 years of his career, and always in six figures as long as I was alive. He didn't pay for my college, he didn't help set me up life, and he left with me nothing in death, though he had plenty to share. And the reality is, I shouldn't have to rely on my selfish father to be able to survive in this world. It shouldn't come down to generational wealth, and then I redirect some of that anger at capitalism.
One thing I'm working through is jealousy. My therapist asked me if I was jealous of people who seem like they had a better childhood, and I felt very clearly that I am not jealous of something I can't even conceive. I am jealous of folks who had a shit childhood (like me) who are now getting the care and comfort that they deserve, that we all deserve - safe housing, stable finances, loving and healthy partnership, good community around them. I have like 1.5 of of those four things. Which means when I read that you have DJ to open up packages, which translates into someone to share the weight of all that, I experience jealousy. Not in an angry-green eyed monster way, but in a wistful, "I would like that, too" or "I wonder what it would feel like to not have to do everything?" kind of way. A longing kind of way. I often think about "who would I be if I had done half as many dishes as I have in the last 10 years?" or "If I had someone who sat down to do our taxes together?" like if I had a partner who helped with the load of household and life management. Would I be lighter, less tired, less likely to write a novel on a substack newsletter comment page?
In the end, I don't know. I just know that there are things I'm grateful for - my mutual aid community, my long-time friends who I can be messy and open and talk about all this stuff with, my therapist, and for folks like you who share all the nuance of all this stuff we have to navigate that we didn't ask for. Thank you!
This is what I needed to hear! The line "I don’t think I can forgive her, but I can accept what happened" is exactly what I've been trying to work through with my dad! I don't love the phrase "forgive and forget," like I can't forget what he did to me or forgive it but I can accept the past and move forward. Thank you!
This is such a rich piece. Thank you for sharing your experience, including how you have changed your mind/approach over the years.
Sam, I’ve been saving this post in my inbox, knowing I wanted to savor it. Thank you for your open heart 💗 This world needs more people like you. I so resonate with the complexity, both/and nature of parent relationships and I bow to you for sharing your experience, as it frees the rest of us to embrace ours. Your writing is so healing and beautiful!
Thank you so much for sharing this.
Witnessing you, and honoring the nuance in this beautiful writing. Thank you!
Thank you for your vulnerability. This speaks directly to me and my own life. Reading this felt like a soft place to land for me, thinking about nuance, no contact, nurturing and new ways of being. Thank you. You’ve articulated a lot for me, some I didn’t know how to identify but I read this and it was clear.
Thank you for writing this. Trauma is lonely and your writing made it less so. It’s hard growing older and recognising the humanity of the people who abused you and the way systemic injustices influenced that. This stuck with me: “But I am grappling with how I can have the values of community care and healing generational wounds if I abandon my family.” I too have tried to cut my family out numerous times. I no longer know whether that is the correct way forward for me and I admire you for your care-giving. My heart bleeds for my neglectful mother. How can I write her off as a human being when I advocate for prison abolition and transformative justice? I am still far behind in my healing journey though and also resent the “strength” and “resilience” it requires. I’m not there yet. I too just wish to be cared for. To be baby, again.