Breaking Negative Generational Cycles

Breaking negative generational cycles…It will get better… right?
The other day during a normal, “how was your weekend?” conversation, my coworker asked me how my children were doing. Lucky for her, I had cried a lot over the weekend and honestly shit had been ROUGH. Perfect timing. With the stress of the weekend still weighing on me, I responded that my teenage daughter was having a really hard time, and in turn making things very difficult for the people close to her. “It’s probably a phase,” my coworker offered encouragingly. “It will get better… right?” Her genuine concern was evident. What else could she say?
“I hope so,” I replied. And I do hope so. More than that, I have faith that it will get better. But amidst that faith is a long list of what ifs that race through my mind every day. As much as I can hope for the best, I really don’t know how things will play out, and most days it feels like the odds are stacked against me.
You see, depression runs in the family. Anxiety runs in the family. Trauma, addiction, mental illness, and poverty all run in the family. On both sides. I haven’t seen up close and personal what it takes to create a stable, happy life and maintain it. Neither have my children. That is a truth that I can’t run from. A truth far too many people can relate to. And it’s scary.
I have poured my soul into fighting against these odds. I want nothing more than to help break the cycles that have kept my family from flourishing for generations, and I have spent countless hours obsessing about what I can do to create the life that my daughters and I deserve. I want things to get better, and truthfully I have made a lot of progress. Still, I have always fallen short.
I say that not out of self-pity, self-judgement, or pessimism. I say that because it’s the truth, and the truth can’t always be wrapped in a pretty bow. When it comes to my children, I have fallen short. They deserve more. I know that. They love me anyway, and so do I.
There was a point in time when I couldn’t forgive myself for falling short. I became angry at myself for having children “at the wrong time”, and I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that I didn’t fix every problem that came our way. I hated myself for it, but here’s what I have learned: no one person should ever be expected to rise to that challenge. No person should feel that they are single-handedly responsible for cleaning up the mess of entire generations, or picking up the pieces left by people who chose not to show up for the children they created.
Please don’t hold yourself to those impossible standards. If you are truly trying your best, that is all you can do. Be graceful with yourself.
Breaking generational curses is not for the faint of heart. It’s ugly and exhausting. It’s important to remember that the process is not supposed to be easy or pretty or comfortable. It’s even more important to remember that this is not a one person job. It takes effort. It takes teamwork. It takes faith. You will pour blood, sweat and tears into breaking from the ties that bind you. You will need endless amounts of courage to choose to love some friends and family members from a distance while they decide if they are going to heal and move forward or choose to stay stuck in the same patterns. It’s a long, complicated, exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking journey. But it will get better… right?
If we keep fighting, it will. It may not ever be perfect. Our children might have to bear the burdens of our mistakes, and their grandparents’ mistakes, and so on. But if we can lessen the burden and clear the path for them, even slightly, then the work we put in will be worth it.
There are moments when I can see it working. Sometimes I look at my teenage daughter and see my own broken teenage self staring back at me– but I can move forward with confidence knowing that her journey is different from mine. She wasn’t dealt a fair hand, but she has knowledge and support that I didn’t have. She has resources that I didn’t have, and a palpable courage that I couldn’t even fathom at her age. She has a grandmother who is the epitome of unbreakable, an aunt and uncle who left everything they knew to pave a path worth following, and many other family members who are determined to heal, move forward and set an example for the next generation. She also has a mother who will walk through fire to make sure she has a fighting chance.
If you are fighting for yourself and your family, keep fighting. Remember that you are not in this alone. Be patient with yourself. Ask for help. Take breaks when you need them. Forgive yourself. Have faith and remember; it will get better.
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