The Black Family and Trauma

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Black people are some of the strongest and most resilient people on earth. Our ancestors suffered through unimaginable pain and evil and though it’s a new decade, some of it is still going on today, i.e. police brutality, but that’s another story for another day.

The point is that we survived. We’re still here. We have been trained to hide that trauma and keep pushing forward, even when that might not always be the best thing to do.

I grew up in a household with two “happily married” parents and two brothers. To the outside looking in, we were perfect.

Both parents were working, they kept us dressed nice, we went on vacations and ALWAYS went school shopping early on Black Friday.

However, if you were to peel back the blinders, you would see an unfulfilled marriage, lots of hidden depression/stress/anxiety, and trauma.

Black parents are known to not acknowledge trauma-especially trauma THEY caused. Whatever happened is usually swept under a rug, or simply just ignored because they are the parents, so they ‘know what’s best’.

I started to notice a familial shift when I was 12 or 13. Prior to that, like everyone else, I thought our family was perfect. However, there was a time when my mother decided she wanted to be single. If you just rolled your eyes, believe me, so did I and I’m now 30!

She started acting out and we heard our parents arguing in their room more than ever. The family dynamic just changed.

She decided to take my youngest brother and I on a trip to meet a man who she met on the Internet. She told us this was her ‘friend’ and we were going to have fun.

I knew something was wrong when she didn’t mention my dad coming on this trip.

We landed in Houston and were picked up by a man who I could only describe as burly and gross. He definitely wasn’t my dad and I was offended. She tried to make it seem normal but I was furious.

To this day I honestly can’t remember all we did while we were there but I do remember my dad and oldest brother driving to Houston to pick us up.

You can imagine the argument that took place on the ride home.

We have NEVER talked about what happened that weekend. They never brought it up and she never apologized. It’s like it never happened….to them.

My brothers and I have talked about it. About how violated we felt. We felt lied to, and the fact that they tried to go back to normal was confusing to us.

How are we supposed to heal and move on when it’s not addressed?

Our relationship with our mother has never been the same. She’s done other things throughout our childhood AND adulthood, but our issues have never gotten resolved.

Now that I’m 30 and have been to exposed to therapy and the concept of mental health, I am now FULLY aware of the trauma my parents put us through as kids.

I’ve even brought up family therapy, and how we need to research why our family dynamic is the way it is, before it’s too late. I always get told, “pray about it,” which is fine except we actually need to DO the work as well.

I can only do so much.

I can only focus on not treating my daughter the same way, and constantly communicating with her to make her feel comfortable about being open with me, as to break the cycle.

I want people, especially Black people, to know that it’s okay to apologize-even if you are a parent. It’s okay to acknowledge and heal from trauma. It’s okay to seek therapy, it doesn’t mean that your family “secrets” will get exposed, it means that your family is important enough to seek help. That’s the only way to keep the black family strong.

– Ireti. A.

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