I finally saw the movie Encanto, because my teenagers said I should. I was really impressed with the music and especially the message of the movie. It’s one of those that makes you think about it long after you’re finished watching it. The basic message is how a family deals with loss in different ways and how it can either bring you together or tear you apart if you let it. The grandmother of the family, who experienced great loss, is determined to never experience that loss again and so she seeks to control her family and community but in the process puts such pressure on those around her that it damages their relationships. Spoiler alert: she finally faces up to and deals with her trauma, and heals the family. As a person who advocates for mental health, I really appreciate this message. Generational trauma affects families all the time and if it’s not dealt with it can tear them apart. Most people have experienced some type of trauma, be it a loss of a loved one or serious illness to much more obviously identifiable trauma like war. If that trauma isn’t dealt with it can effect generations to come and not just in the way you might think. Obviously maladaptive behaviors of people who have been traumatized can traumatize their family, such as alcoholism or abusive behaviors, but recently science has learned that trauma effects people at a cellular level. It changes your genetics and then you can pass those genetics down to your children. That is both fascinating and sobering. We have to be about the business of dealing with our trauma, not just for ourselves but those generations to come.
One way my own trauma manifests itself is seeking control of situations and people. I feel like this was the most severe right after we lost our son Andrew to stillbirth. I would sit beside my other kids beds at night and watch them breathe because I thought it could prevent something bad from happening if I did. Over time and counseling, I realized I am not in control. My daughter’s passing almost two years ago really showed me this. I did everything I could to keep her safe and do the best for her and yet a senseless tragedy occurred anyway. I have a freer sense now with my kids then I did before. Through that horrible experience, I let go. I realized I don’t have control over my family, but God does and I have to trust Him. I may not like what happens, like with my daughter, but I trust He is in control. I trust He was right there with her in her final moments because He told me He was. It doesn’t make sense to me, but comforts me somehow. That doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. This seeking control seeps out in other ways sometimes.
We have been renovating our bathrooms in our house. We have a wonderful contractor but still there are lots of things out of my control. Currently, it’s doors. We had to order specific doors for our bathroom and Josh’s bedroom and it’s been a month and they still aren’t here yet. Its driving me crazy! But there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Not being involved in every single detail of doing this project is also a challenge for me. This is the first time we’ve used a contractor to do something. I know they have it under control but I fight every day to not be in control. It’s good for me, but HARD!
Loss of control is hard, but it’s necessary to realize you aren’t in control before you destroy those around you with your need to control. You will find yourself holding so tightly to someone or something that you smother them and they leave. Or you will put up such walls that don’t allow anyone in for fear of loss. Neither are doing anything but isolating you. You need people. You need relationships and relationships hurt. The hurt is worth it though. I’ll leave you with this quote about loss from C.S. Lewis:
Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.