According to Carlfred Broderick, in terms of the family, transitional characters are “…those individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children… Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.” (p.18) This definition perfectly describes my strong and loving mother.
The history of abuse, neglect, and other family issues in my mother’s family goes back at least three generations. During the Great Depression, my great-great-grandfather left my great-great-grandmother and their six young children to struggle on their own. It soon became too much for her to take, so she farmed the four oldest children out to family members and put the two youngest up for adoption.
My great-grandmother was about ten years old at the time and went to live with her aunt and uncle to work on their farm. She wasn’t told ahead of time what was happening, but was told it was temporary while her mother found a job. Her mother never ended up coming back for her and she was repeatedly sexually abused by her uncle throughout the rest of her childhood. She later went on to get married and have three children. Since she had not grown up in a functional and loving family, she was emotionally distant to her husband and kids.
My grandfather was the firstborn of the three children. His father was a warm, good man, but was very busy. He held several jobs, he owned his own workshop in the garage, and he was also in the service. My great-grandmother was very distant and wasn’t there to the extent that mothers normally are. According to The American SPCC, about 75.3% of reported child abuse cases involve neglect. We often overlook this issue because it isn’t always harm that is intentional, however it can still have devastating effects. Since my great-grandparents’ children grew up without a cohesive family unit, my grandfather had experiences that negatively impacted him without his mother ever knowing. One that impacted him greatly was the sexual abuse he repeatedly received by a neighbor of the family’s. As a young adult, he was also taken advantage of sexually while serving in the military. He went on to get married and have five children.
My mother was the first of the children born to my grandparents. Even at a young age, she was physically and emotionally abused by my grandfather and witnessed horrible abuse toward her mother as well. The abuse was less severe toward the younger children, but was still present in the home until her parents finally divorced when she was 14 years old. My mother has said that the divorce was a positive thing for their family because it meant they were finally safe. She was proud of her mother for finally having the strength to take action despite her fears.
My mom struggled throughout the rest of her teen years to overcome the heartache and pain she had gone through, but was given great examples of happy couples and families along the way to look up to. She feels Heavenly Father put people in her path that helped her learn how to break the chain and gave her support when she felt alone. It is estimated that about 1/3 children that are abused go on to be abusers (NYT), but she was determined to keep her children safe from the agony she had experienced and with the help of those loving people around her and Christ’s Atonement, she was able to succeed.
I am eternally grateful for my mom’s hard work and selfless love to change the negative traditions of past generations. Through this, she helped put our family on the right path to healthy, loving family relationships.
Carlfred Broderick (1992). Marriage and the Family. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Goleman, D. (1989, January 23). Sad Legacy Of Abuse: The Search For Remedies. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/24/science/sad-legacy-of-abuse-the-search-for-remedies.html?pagewanted=all