1933 Jaffna - there was a small village where a man and a woman had their second little girl. Having breathed her first fated breath, she was raised to serve those around her as a child with a woman’s spirit. Having not the sense of what love can be, she turned to the village green. Dirt on her hands. She experienced her first real love with the land. At the age of 14, she was married to a man 15 years her senior. What we now know as an exchange marriage. My grandmother was married off to ensure the success of her brother’s marriage.
In the mid 1960’s, within the very same village in Jaffna, a baby girl was marinating in the womb of an enraged woman who despised her alcoholic husband. He would drink, beat, degrade and dishonour her. In the first three years of life, she saw her mother endure the heartache and consequence of her choice to leave her father. The shame of dying would be easier than the shame of living. Right before her mother could poison their meal, a neighbouring woman stopped her futile attempt and said “the labour of raising a child ends when they turn 10”. The bravest woman I know – my grandmother raised the strongest woman I know – my mother.
The strongest woman I know was raised father-less, and abused by men around her. Every strike would take her self-worth. Calling on her brothers, who were “like” Appa but never Appa – would intervene and fight what she felt was her fight. My mother would later karmically attract my father. A man, who could only speak his truth after a drink, or two. Just like my maternal grandfather.
I was born from a woman whose reality was a chaotic prison. My father, not knowing what love could be, confused partnership with ownership. My mother was reliving a familiar nightmare. Exhausting her soul. Her fight to live for her three little girls, never let her settle. In the deepest corner of her heart, it throbbed at the thought of releasing her girls from a life of pain at the hands of men she thought she loved. Her resiliency made her an advocate, a hustler, and a devoted learner of life in our little lives.
Me? As her first-born child … pleasing, performing, pleasuring those who cause me pain and dishonour my spirit was no longer going to be my state of being. Unapologetically choosing myself at the age of 27, I walked away from my marriage. The same age my mother married my father.
My grandmother, my mother, and I are survivors of inter-generational transmission of trauma. A type of trauma that is denied, shamed and hidden. We repeat eerily similar patterns of choices, decisions and pain without unpacking the fullness of each experience. I am my ancestors beautiful and rich legacy. I am also the pain that we bare as a collective. That’s what it means to be a survivor, thriving in this pain-adverse world.
You see my spirit, like yours, carries the joy, happiness, desires, trauma and pain from a history before us. I made the difficult choice my grandmother made over 50 years ago. Our choice to leave shook the people around us, as we stopped serving sacrifice at the expense of our peace. My ancestral trauma triggered my personal journey of self-discovery. I found myself revisiting aspects of my past that so desperately needed to be rescued. By facing these painful parts of my history as my narrative, I was able to evolve. My identity as a Tamil woman is interwoven in my choice to bring the pain, denial and shame into my awareness. This deeply spiritual process is my work to be a more authentic version of myself.
I invite you to ask yourself, what generational patterns have you inherited from your family? What choice and decision have you made today that has you reliving a familiar pattern? We can’t always be the best part of our family’s legacy. We also need to own the shameful and painful part of our legacy to heal as a community. That starts with you.
Why? Because you matter. You are loved, seen, needed, wanted, important, precious life. Let me remind you that your strength is in your vulnerability and your desire for better. You are worth being loved whole and not just pieces of you.
For my grandmother, my mother and the kindred spirits who will be my children one day.