Healing from Trauma with My Immigrant Parents

My immigrant parents are loving, caring, beautiful souls. They’re also immigrants that overcame so much in order to get here to America.

My parents shared their stories of traveling to a foreign land, creating a new home, and building a family there. These stories of hope and strength helped them cope with the struggle of finding their place in this country.

The immigrant experience

My parents and many other immigrants endured the pain of feeling “other”. Often misunderstood and isolated in America because of the way they looked and how they spoke.

So when you consider what the journey is like for a person of color to become a U.S. citizen, it’s not a question of if they experienced trauma but how they learned to survive it.

They simply did not have the time or resources to process what they went through. No one walked them through the whirlwind of being far away from home, building a family and career in an unfamiliar place. They just kept their heads held high and facing forward. That’s all they could really do.

Like many immigrant parents, mine focused on making sure I had the future they’ve always wanted. And like many children of immigrants, I fell under the pressure to fulfill the American dream my parents worked so hard for.

What trauma has to do with it

Immigrants are no strangers to trauma. For many of our parents, trauma is just “part of the culture” they grew up in and almost a rite of passage to becoming a citizen of a country that doesn’t think you belong.

And I’m sure it’s the same for yours, but my parents didn’t come from a culture that acknowledged mental health. Since their trauma wasn’t processed properly, it simply had to go somewhere.

Even the sweetest souls aren’t immune to the effects of trauma. As a result, families pass down trauma, often for generations. Many stay blind to the effects of trauma until it tears families apart. And even then, it can feel unbearable to face it.

A few years ago, I opened my eyes to the trauma we carried. And luckily, I had the time and resources to process it and let it go.

Just recently, my parents allowed themselves to heal with me. And now, I can finally say that the cycle of abuse ends with me.

My childhood & adolescent years

When I was in high school, I felt like I was NEVER going to understand my immigrant parents.

I used to write private blog posts on LiveJournal about how much I hated my mom. My mom and I always got into arguments. She’s feisty and never held anything back–just like me.

On the other hand, my dad’s a quiet man. If he was upset, you’d never know. He kept all his feelings to himself. The one thing that would set him off was when my mom and I would argue.

I always thought of my dad as a volcano–dormant until his anger got the best of him. At that point, he couldn’t be stopped.

The strange part was that after the storm had passed, I blamed my mom for my dad’s anger. Probably because I felt like it was all my fault and wanted someone else to share the blame. And partly because I never wanted to face the fact that I was scared of my own dad.

As a thirteen-year-old girl, my mind couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to how my sweet & silly dad could also become my worst nightmare. One glaring answer stuck with me for years–that it’s all because of me.

My current relationship with my immigrant parents

After reading about our rocky past, I’m sure it’s hard to believe we’re okay now. Actually, we’re better than okay. My relationship with my parents now is pretty amazing.

Once a month, they plan to stay with me an entire week in my small college apartment. And surprisingly, we enjoy every moment of it. Of course, we still argue at times, but yelling and screaming are a thing of the past.

Now, I never hesitate to say, “I just need to be alone right now,” and they accept it and give me some space. And I do the same for them.

We know we love each other. That’s all that matters now.

Getting to this place in our relationship was far from quick & easy

Unfortunately, you can’t rush others into facing their trauma. Even if you did the work to process your own and start to understand the trauma they went through, they won’t see it until they put in the time and effort to process it themselves.

One day they’ll understand that life without trauma is possible, but that day isn’t up to you.

I don’t know if the relationship I have with my parents today was the result of fate or luck or both. But I do know that it involved a lot of inner work and difficult conversations.

I wish I could tell you some sort of life hack to mend your relationship with your parents. There’s no “expert” that can promise you they can turn your dysfunctional family into a fully wholesome one in 30 days. Only you and your family can do the work.

My parents and I had all the heart-to-hearts we needed to get to where we’re at today. All the hurt and confusion we endured over the years may stay with us forever, but we’re healing together now. We never gave up on each other, and because of that, we gave our relationship the ability to thrive today.

But please don’t think you need to make excuses for your parents and let them into your life just because it worked out for me and mine.

It’s okay to keep a safe distance and protect yourself from further pain. We’re only human. Don’t sacrifice your time and energy on others that won’t do the same for you.

Healing with your immigrant parents is possible

Although I can’t give you a quick and dirty “how-to” for mending broken relationships, I can tell you the one integral step all life hacks have in common that you can apply in your journey towards healing: Focus on what YOU can do.

In order to one day form a loving and healthy relationship with your immigrant parents, you need to work on yourself first. The goal is to one day become the example of vulnerability and resilience that your parents so desperately needed when they were raising you.

What I do know for sure is that the way you’re treated is not a result of who you are.

I know this because, after years of anger and denial, my dad finally told me that it was never my fault. He knows that he passed on the generational trauma he tried so hard to hide, and he regrets all those times he hurt me.

Now, all is forgiven. All is understood. And I hope the same for you and your family.

Healing from trauma with your immigrant parents is possible. Just remember that you were always worthy of unconditional love, and you deserve to heal right now, whether or not they decide to join you.

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If you loved the art on this post, please support the artist, Anne Carly. You can do this by following her Instagram and/or purchasing her amazing art from her shop! I don’t receive any commission if you click on any of the links on this post.

Anne’s art continues to help me in my healing process. I’m so honored she allowed me to share her work on my blog. She’s a true gem! If you share her work on social media, please remember to credit and tag her so people know who she is! The world needs more Anne Carly!

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