On a recent visit to Berlin, a place I hadn’t been to in over 20 years, I was entranced by the Selfie culture happening at the Holocaust Memorial in the middle of this progressive, vibrant city. Filled with a majority of foreigners on holiday, mixed with a handful of young local Germans, almost everyone had an iphone and were taking quirky, upbeat photo's on what were meant to represent the tombstones of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The only other Holocaust Memorial I have been to is right outside of Jerusalem and is divided into several aspects of the Holocaust, the most somber being the Children’s Memorial which is a dark room, where a visual image of a candle is shown, one at a time, as one by one the names of the 1.5 million murdered children are said aloud, along with their ages and their countries of origin. I think I only made it through 50 or so names, it was enough, and felt like a lifetime, I left feeling drained and heavy, a sharp contrast to the brevity and almost fun atmosphere of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
As I looked around the memorial in Berlin with visitors posing for selfies what was clear to me is how free the younger generation of Germans are from the history. For them it is already history. They have moved on. In contrast, were I live in Israel there is not a day that goes by that strong reminders of the Holocaust are not used by the government, by celebrities, by the media in order to remind us of the horrors and the tragedy that befell the Jewish people. When I first met my husband and asked what it was like living in Israel where there is no Christmas, or Halloween, barely a New Years, or Thanksgiving…..and only Jewish holidays and culture are acknowledged , he answered that every Jewish holiday relives that ‘ you tried to kill us, so we killed you, let’s celebrate’.
Now after having lived in Israel for almost 10 years, the only place I have ever mothered my three children, I too live out this legacy. From periods of armed conflict when the survival mentality gets activated and militarism comes to the forefront of our daily lives, to the collective motherhood over obsessing about whether our children have had enough to eat, past traumas are easily reactivated. Some of these traumas are passed down genetically from generation to generation in our DNA. The research on epigenetics has shown that like trauma from Colonialization and Occupation, or Slave Trauma Syndrome when a Peoples have been enslaved, there is specific cellular trauma from having endured genocide such as in the Holocaust. But I think the bigger impact is from the coping mechanisms and emotional patterns that get passed down generationally that are more complex about scarcity, not trusting and the world being a hostile place. A couple of years ago I had just given birth to my third baby when the war broke out here. There was one incident when a missile was landing very close to our house and it set off the neighborhood siren alerting us to run to a bomb shelter. I couldn’t respond in time and so I huddled with my newborn and two older children in the living room until it was over. The incident left me fired up, edgy, angry, blaming my husband for bringing me to this conflict ridden land and overwhelmed. This is one dramatic incident that I experienced personally but it was enough for me to understand some of the automatic responses to stress that people have here. At a certain point I made a conscious decision that despite the very real history of genocide, refugees and turmoil along with intermittent violence and conflict that reactivates those historical traumas, I would not passively accept this for my children’s worldview. I realized that I needed to be loud and clear with my children that the world is not ‘ out to get them ‘, an idea perpetuated here based on a really messy, tangled combination of very legitimatecriticism and outrage at Israel for the Occupation of the Palestinian People along with baseless toxic Anti-Semitism.
As a mother I make sure that we all discuss what WE THINK about a situation not what we are being told. We also practice how the same situation might look if we were a different ethnicity in a different country. Living in a country where identity is collective along with individual we talk about WHY we do the things we do, from a Brit Mila or joining the Army ( even though it is illegal not to do the army in Israel). I try to make the ‘ lessons of the Holocaust’, not specific about the Jewish People but about Universal principles for handling prejudice and inequity. Social Justice and political involvement is woven into our lives even though it is not cool but actually brings a lot of suspicion from both ‘sides’. Often we are considered naïve at best and a traitor at worst. But, I see that my children’s hearts are open to embrace all peoples and their minds are critical of all group think imposed on them.
As a mother, I am working through my own family trauma and trying to release patterns that are destructive. At the same time I try to be conscious of releasing generational trauma and embracing the aspects of resilience that have been carried forward. Sometimes all this baggage is very very distant and other times it feels like a heave weight. For my own peace of mind I have developed practices to work though the more burdensome aspects of generational and persona trauma. Along with eating replenishing foods, making sure I have a handful of close girlfriends I can share with, getting enough rest and staying involved in activities that are fulfilling I believe the most important practice is a deep self love. Self love to me means relentless pursuit of upholding my self worth. This has been a practice that has evolved in recent years of really checking in on whether people, places, situations are a good fit for me. Asking myself if I’m vibing with what is happening around me. Being discerning about who has earned my trust and remembering that ‘ hurt people hurt people’ so that I have to surround myself with people who are capable of responding in a way that supports my most evolved self.
I am really not someone with all the answers but I do believe that how we feel is our truest guide to what we should pursue. I am becoming the woman I want to be, more honest with myself, ready to be clear about what I need and willing to put my wellbeing first. I do believe that healing is an ongoing, and not linear process, but that even the deepest wounds can be transcended.
I wish for us all the wisdom strength and resilience of our ancestors and freedom from the collective burdens that no longer serve us.
With love, genevieve
I am a therapist with an M.A. in Psychology and recently earned certification in Narrative Family Therapy. I am also a certified Birth and Post Partum Doula and Childbirth Educator. I have been deeply active in peace activism and social justice work for over 20 years. Most importantly to me I am a married mother of 3.
After working with women in therapeutic settings for years, once I gave birth to my daughter I was caught off guard at how unprepared I felt to cope with early motherhood. I felt a deep longing for family support and community and it seemed as though something very important was missing. While I was still breastfeeding and on maternity leave I began taking a course as a birth doula. Along with all the incredible knowledge I gained about pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum transition, the real wisdom was found within the healing that took place within our motherhood collective. My fellow doula students became my motherhood community as we shared family challenges, asked questions about our baby’s development and shared women’s wisdom traditions, remedies and practices.
After supporting women as a birth and post partum doula I recently completed a 3 year certification process in Narrative Family Therapy. My academic and professional training along with living within a matrilineal culture steeped in ancestral women’s wisdom, has provided me with the ability to guide women in early motherhood.
My life’s calling is supporting women navigate motherhood by strengthening their matrilineal lineage, healing generational trauma, creating a supportive community and living a life of meaning and purpose. http://www.birthofamama.com/