I was separated from my primary caregivers, my grandparents, when I was five; thirty years later I was separated from my four-year-old daughter. Now she is 19 and we are estranged. None of this is of my choosing. I fought it with all I had. I ended up with no family at all.
I’m not comparing my suffering to that of the migrant families from Central America who are at our border. I can’t even imagine enduring a harrowing thousand-mile journey only to be ripped from your kids and thrown into jail in the promised land. It’s unconscionable and Americans stood up and said no. Now we begin the process of reuniting those families, tending their wounds, resettling them, and fighting for the rights of other refugees. I understand a little bit the trauma that will stay with all of them forever.
Seeing all of this unfold in the country that I love is re-traumatizing me, and I’m not the only one. Lots of people have a family-separation story, and they’re all heartbreaking. For me, at least I got to see my grandparents as I grew up. I seldom got to see my daughter as she was growing up. I was prevented from being a part of her life. I’m having a hard time grappling with the enormity of all that I lost—from her first day of kindergarten, to picking out her prom dress, to what’s going on with her right now—the depth and breadth of experiences that I missed. The richness of bonding with one’s growing child and seeing their personhood evolve. I missed it all and I can never, ever get it back.
Besides that, I am estranged from any family. Holidays are torture. It’s so hard to be alone and isolated. My attachment problems have prevented me from forming long-term relationships. I have no support network, except y’all.
I always thought, “At least my daughter is fine.” By all reports she has been happy and thriving. But this happened to her, too. I understand that now; she has trauma of her own. She was only four. I wish I could help her but I can’t right now. Hopefully someday we’ll reunite.
In the meantime I carry this wound. I must move forward with it, accounting for it, dealing with it. Most of the people who see me every day have no idea of how badly I’m damaged. It’s taken a long time for me to figure it out myself.
I believe we should take in these Central American refugees and help them. Seeing them treated so inhumanely is breaking me. Those bad old PTSD symptoms are triggered. I’m confused and emotional and sad and feeling helpless. I wish there was something I could do. I see lots of others helping, though. If I could just take care of myself, that would be sufficient unto the day.
If you are feeling this way too, triggered once more by this inhumane regime, and caught swirling in the worst moments of your past, you are not alone. Many, many of the people around you are feeling the same way. It’s all of us. Reach out to someone near you. Find the help you need. I’m trying to do that too.
If you want to read my work-in-progress about my family, it’s here. I keep telling myself: I am doing my best. I am not a bad person. Everything is cool; everything’s OK. I’m not feeling OK today, though. And that’s okay.
Thank you for reading.
Your support via Patreon or paypal is deeply appreciated. Thanks to everyone whose support has been vital to my survival in the past.