Recently I attended a family reunion on my dad’s side, the first since the pandemic began and since his passing. I was more anxious than hopeful as my mom and I boarded the plane to Vermont. My dad was idolized by many of his 50-some cousins who didn’t want to acknowledge the darker sides of him.
A little over five years ago, I began sharing my and my mom’s experiences of dad, in the most respectful way I knew how, to family members that felt safe. In doing so, I learned my dad was not alone in our family with his nighttime alcoholism, extreme selfishness, and inability to process and communicate emotions. These traits in him created a chaotic and unstable home environment. I never felt emotionally safe around him. I never felt loved or lovable based on his energy and many broken promises to me. If you read last month’s column, you can imagine these conditions made for a harsh and unhealthy upbringing for someone with heightened sensitivity like myself. He was never physically abusive and the outside world adored him, but his words, lack of masculine nurturing, and frequent absences made thousands of little cuts.
Fast forward to the present moment, I felt held, seen, and understood during our recent weekend in Vermont. It healed me in ways I may never truly understand, and I am more open to seeing the good along with the not so good in my dad. His true humanness. I would never have experienced this had I not shared the more vulnerable and ugly parts of our life. And maybe, just maybe, I’m shifting a family story that will stop with me, thanks to the power of epigenetics.
Ever since I learned about this branch of biology, I’ve been fascinated by it. To me, it just makes logical sense. Of course, there would be parts of our genetics that based on our lifestyle could switch, that is how we ensure survival generation after generation. The trauma that happened to great-grandpa? Let’s ensure that never happens again and embed the memory in genetics somewhere. The love that made grandma feel whole again, let’s embed that too so the whole family knows love. Great-great so and so felt emotions deeply but was hurt time and time again in the process, let’s pass down addictive tendencies to squash the pain.
Some things that are passed down empower us, others clip our wings in our desire to soar. By sharing our vulnerable stories in a safe place, we have the power to connect more deeply and shift our family lineage. It’s not easy, but is so worth it. What family story are you ready to shift? Email me.
Email Nicole Beaudin at email@example.com.