In a strange way, I wondered whether my experience would be relevant on this forum, especially I’ve been so touched by so many amazing people who have shared their experiences and inspired us all –and also because I ‘m not really at liberty to share the details of the minute details of this story as that belongs to others to share. However, there is a family story that I can share.
My experience is taken from a completely different angle to others, in that the trauma that impacted to our family wasn’t specifically directed at me – rather at members of my family, however, and here was the crushing blow –this was my introduction to secondary trauma, vicarious trauma or whatever name you want to call it – I had never experienced this – so if my family were devastated then so was I, if they were hurting then so was I, if they had to endure the backbiting, the lack of support, the disbelief in their story, and the condescension of society at their plight – then so did I. We were a family and somehow – it felt as if the umbilical cords hadn’t been cut, so their pain was my pain. So now I really started to discover the proverbial “lioness” lying close in the depths of my own soul – and I had never really had the need to use this, but now, I saw it starting to raise its head and show itself. It’s very easy for people to be happy and enjoy their family when everything is going fine, they might even believe they are extremely protective, – but what about when it goes off track?? What then?? Where do we stand then?
And So, began that all too recognizable domino effect on families facing very real trauma. We had to face doctors, hospitals, the lack of services, the police, the so called justice system, we got sick, we struggled to work watching the demise of our family, we seemed to lose” so called friend”s and family who, no longer wanted to be tainted by our experiences, and really struggled constantly to make sense of it all. So this secondary trauma continued relentlessly..
But through all of this, we knew that we could not give up because if we did, then our family members would too. Day after day, month after month, year after year trying to imbue a sense of hope, where it felt like there was none. It was excruciatingly painful to watch as a parent. Watching everything you had worked for, seemingly, disintegrate before your eyes.
However, we still had a belief that we owed it to our family members to believe in them, despite watching them engage in various self destructive behaviours. After all, they weren’t wicked people – they were just struggling, and who of us never struggles in some way, and so we decided as parents that we needed to support them in any way that we could.
That did not mean that we were just walkovers, and accepted everything. We also had our limits and boundaries, but we tried to share that with them in a compassionate and loving way. After all, the trauma had not been their doing in the first place, so why should they have been blamed for all the results?? And yes, there is a place for responsibility for their actions too, but at least understanding the reasons why these things happen, can help us to extend our mercy and love as far as we possibly can.
I was aware when we first entered this stage of our life, that I really had to channel my energy and emotions into something that would be productive, otherwise I knew I would be completely overwhelmed. I had had experience as a community filmmaker in the past, as I loved sharing other people’s stories and I had also interviewed lots of different people, especially those in the coal mining communities who had been devastated by the miner’s strikes, for instance, and I saw that sharing” Lived experiences” was a powerful healing mechanism and I really wanted to use my own experiences to help others. I knew that the thing that helped me the most was talking to others who had gone through similar circumstances. It had given me that comforting, warm, home coming feeling. It had been like a balm on my troubled soul.
So during this time, I started to re focus my mind on a way of helping others and began a social enterprise to support other families in trauma, and at the same time, it seemed to help me channel some of my hyper energy. So although the ideas were borne from my own experiences initially, I found that there were lots of other families too who had suffered in the same way and also wanted to share their stories too.
It reminds me of the beautiful pearl that we see, it is such a beautiful jewel, and yet, it begins with a small piece of irritation – a piece of sand or grain inside the mollusk. And eventually, it is coated and coated in layers and layers of nacre to create this beautiful pearl. I hope that is what happens with my own social enterprise.
As for my family, we are healing, slowly, but surely. Our lives are different, we were forced to take a few different paths along the way, but we are still on the road. It has changed lots of things, but deep down we are the same core people we always were. That hasn’t changed. Its like a building had collapsed on top of us, and yes we have cuts and bruises and have suffered pain, but we still have life – and we can never underestimate or make light of the saying “Where there is life, there is hope.”
Author: Maggie Wright
Epione wants to personally thank Maggie for sharing her experience and inviting us to consider trauma from a whole new perspective and the vicarious impact that trauma presents for families. The pain never occurs in a vacuum and very grateful to Maggie for creating a safe space for other mums, dads, family members to connect and be seen and heard.
If you would like to collaborate with us and share how you have overcome trauma and how you have been recovering, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org – We look forward to hearing from and seeing you in 2021!