If you’ve listened to any of my radio shows or read some of my newsletters, you know that I have an incredible grandmother who has always been a special source of wisdom and inspiration in my life. A few weeks ago, I was able to get back out to California to spend some quality time with her. Just being in her presence is an immediate source of comfort because, for me, she is an instant connection back to a childhood that is filled with loving, happy memories of celebrations, holidays, milestones, and countless family gatherings in her beautiful home and backyard that seemed magical to me and my siblings. Although I was sitting with my grandmother on the patio of her assisted living complex planning her 100th birthday party, I was continually transported back in time, as we reminisced about the goldfish pond in her backyard, the bang of the kitchen screen door opening and closing countless times during family Bar-B-Q’s, the lullabies she used to sing to us, the way she used to cut up orange slices and make then look like a work of art on the plate.
I had the additional wonderful experience of watching an incredible DVD that her son, my Uncle Bruce, had put together from reels and reels of ancient 8 millimeter film that my grandfather took. They depicted my uncle and my Dad as babies, my grandmother as a gorgeous young Mom, and images of extended family members including, my great grandparents, cavorting around in summer bungalows. I was entranced as I watched long deceased relatives in their youth, and my Dad as an adorable troublemaker. My grandmother’s narration included on going comments like, “I remember buying that hat for a dollar,” “I bought bread in that storefront across the street from the apartment,” “That’s where your Dad played with sticks in the dirt.” “See all the boys clothing- I made everything they are wearing!” My Uncle also chimed in with many reminiscences, and when we reached the part of our family’s history that triggered my own childhood memories, I began chiming in, too. It was an extraordinarily moving experience to reconnect with my past, listening to the ways in which prior generations struggled and sacrificed to make life so much easier for my father, me, and my children.
Throughout that visit, I realized, again, the power of feeling connected to family, having an awareness and appreciation for my roots, and keeping alive the funny and moving anecdotes that, woven together, create the fabric of my autobiography and my history. I also recognized that impact that not having that sense of familial identity and pride must have on clients who carry the legacy burdens of shame and work hard to disown and disavow their roots. Helping these clients create new loving family systems is so important. It may be that through therapy they become the first healthy and nurturing generation in their family’s history. And although the memories and rituals they create are not 100 years old, think about the new legacies they are creating for generations to come!
Please let us know what you recommend to your clients that help them create a familial support system for themselves. And, what is your own familial support system like?