Generational Trauma Stops With Us
"As children of Tamil immigrants who emigrated from their native lands in pursuit of happiness, when do we decide to stop and nurture the trauma that has been passed down to us? There comes a time when we must stop and choose to heal our wounds before moving forward."
Varun Thurairatnam
Project Coordinator (non-profit sector)
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Coming around to the big 30 this year, I've been reflecting on what the past three decades of my life has meant to me. When I was younger, I saw myself in a different place at 30, but life took me down a different path. I’ve been trying to navigate this space of discovering who I am while trying to balance all the trauma that was passed down to me from generations before. My parents are refugee seekers and immigrants who left their motherland in search of a better life. In their late 60s they’ve finally settled down with a home and are trying to build a healthy environment for our family. However, the wear and tear of survival has caught up to them. Do I pick up where they left off or try to change the narrative?

I grew up as an only child, so most of my experiences have been one dimensional: you really get the best and worst of what life has to offer. I never had to worry about sharing anything with anyone but I’ve also been burdened with holding everything that I couldn’t share. You see, I was born as an only child to two incredible yet complicated parents- two individuals who left their home because of war, a lack of resources to raise a family and the infamous caste system. My parents fell in love but since my father was from a lower caste and my mother from an upper caste their marriage was disallowed. They had two options: leave home and start a new life together or give up on their love.

Our life has been nothing but turbulent. As my parents focused on survival and security, they slowly started to ignore their built-up trauma and healing. They moved from country to country seeking refugee status. Bahrain, Singapore, London - the list goes on, and along the way, I was born. They took me on their crazy ride, ignoring all the red flags that a child my age shouldn’t be feeling and experiencing.


When I was 2, our white neighbours in Germany would throw eggs and orange peels at us whenever my mother took me for a walk in my stroller. When I was 4, my parents decided to move once again, this time to Canada, leaving behind all their friends and family. At age 7, I was woken up in the middle of the night by 3 RCMP officers at our door telling us to grab our passports and leave everything else behind. At age 8, I was sitting in a refugee camp with my mother, having been given one bed in a shared room with another family, while my father was separated from us because of a no-gender-mixing rule. At age 9, we were deported to America without a single penny in our pockets, with the intention of being sent all the way back to the beginning of my parents' first chapter in Sri Lanka. Eventually, we hired a lawyer and finally won our case in court after a long battle. We ended up standing in front of a judge, broke, and were given our Canadian citizenship and told how privileged we are to be living in the great white north.

As the years went by, the difficult journey that my parents had been through materialized in different forms of pain. Addictions, violence, anxiety, abuse, the whole 9 yards. You’d think that life would finally turn around at some point, but as a family we’re finally coming to a crossroads with our biggest obstacle yet: trauma.

So, sitting here reflecting on the past 30 years, I ask myself "how are you going to change your narrative?"

Maybe it’s a bit too late for your parents, but at 30 why don’t you steer the ship?  So what advice would I give to my younger self, what advice could I give to my future self and what advice can I give to myself today? Here are 13 lessons I have learned on my path to healing:

1. Ask for help. Being vulnerable costs nothing.

2. Pause. Learn to stop and breath.

3. Smile more often, it’s the cheapest accessory you can wear.

4. Learn a hobby that allows you to be alone with yourself.

5. Make time for people - this life can get lonely very fast.

6. Tell your parents you love them and that you understand.

7. Learn to forgive others and learn to forgive yourself.

8. Be curious not judgemental, especially with those you love.

9. Meditating, even 5 minutes a day can help create silence in the mind.

10. Try to reflect before you react, it’s hard because we’re so entitled.

11. Go to therapy. Men can cry too.

12. Help others and it may help you rediscover 'you'.

13. Choose love over fear. Every single time!

"Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."-Fred Rogers


Varun Thurairatnam
Project Coordinator (non-profit sector)
Who's going to teach us how to unlearn when all we've been told is to learn, learn and ...
Who's going to teach us how to unlearn when all we've been told is to learn, learn and ...
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