Trauma and Triumph

These are strange times. Yet despite how unusual this Covid-19 crisis feels, there is also a remote familiarity to what we are going through, based on our collective human history of enduring periods of widespread suffering. 

At a minimum, we carry the stories from our family trees of what those who have gone before us survived. For example, I recall learning how my grandmother was raised during the Great Depression. The trauma of that experience was evidenced by the material items she would hold on to, just in case she might need them one day. Her mindset on this topic might not make sense to those of us who have never experienced the stress she did. We may be inclined to judge it as unreasonable and yet, for one who lived through it, her frame of mind was completely understandable and prudent. I also recall stories of family members generations back who lost children to Scarlet Fever and other diseases that no longer threaten us like they once did. My mother said when her grandparents had their kids the advice of the time was to have twice as many children as you hope to raise, because illness was likely to kill half of them before they reach adulthood. What a daunting reality, and yet they persisted. 

Beyond memories such as these, handed down through generations, is the possibility that, according to some scientists, traumas such as wars, plagues, famines, genocides, economic despair, and so forth can leave an epigenetic mark on the offspring of those who endured such horrors. (See this interesting article:…/article/20190326-what-is-epigenetics) Whatever the case, be it through the oral tradition of our lineage or the recollection in the DNA of our very own cells, we as a species can sense that we have been here before, in ways. We have cycled through serious hardships time and again, always going forward to see better days eventually. 

If we could consult our ancestors today, to glean their wisdom on how they adapted to the challenges they faced, they might remind us of what we already know down deep, such as why it is so important to do what we can to protect the most vulnerable. And they might remind us to balance our precautionary vigilance with hopeful assurance that in time, “this too shall pass.” I’m sure my grandfather, born in 1899, would say as he so often did during hardships, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And it is dark right now, incredibly dark, for those who are in the throes of grief over losing a loved one so unexpectedly. It is really dark for those still trying with all they have to survive this illness and for those going in day after day to care for the sick with an immeasurable risk to their own health. It is dark for those living in fear because they are in vulnerable situations and for those who find themselves suddenly and indefinitely unemployed. 

Yes, it is very dark for many on our planet right now. Yet as much as trauma is part of the human story, so too is triumph. We know this in our bones, if not our souls…if not on earth, than in eternity… we will continue. The sun will rise again. 

May you be inspired!

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