Jan 30, 2019

Healing from Your Family

  • Me Kyeoung Lee
  • "The love for a mother is the same in all cultures; the obligations are different."


    There are images of my mother I can never forget. The first is the way she would lie down when she was tired, which was all the time. She would lie down like a log on her bed with her left arm raised, her wrist gently resting on her forehead. Whenever I would ask her if she is okay, she would answer “I have a headache.” Whenever I remember my mother from my childhood, she lies there in that position.

    The second image of her is her at the airport in a bright pink suit, greeting me after 13 years of being apart. she looked so different from what I remembered, and I remember being so frigtened. She felt like a total stranger to me.

    The third is her in the NCU in a coma, with a burning fever. Her arms and legs were punctured with IV needles so many times the bruises were so black and blue. She looked like she was in an explosion. I remember thinking how small her hands were, whenever I latched onto them in order to get a neurological response.

    My mother, like most, was my first blueprint for what love and family is. All my life, she was this strength and power, fear and emotions. Her life baffles me to this day. Whenever I try to draw conclusions about it, I am left wondering. I want to understand what a family is and why it hurts so much to have one sometimes.

    Pandora's Box

    I believe everyone possesses secrets that they keep from others. I believe that the secrets you keep from your family are the most important ones. We try to carry them to our grave, wanting to be the only ones to know. Children hide their secrets from their parents all the time. But what I did not realize is that parents hide theirs from their children too.

    What I realize now as an adult is that most parents are not equipped to be a parent, but they make do. My mother was certainly lacking in many areas, but she did the best with what she was given. What I would have appreciated knowing earlier, however, was knowing that she was scared and flawed and weak at times. Because as children, we idolized her. And she did not correct us.

    It wasn't until she had her stroke, her pandora's box, the secrets she kept from us, exploded out into the open. There were mistakes she made. But it was nothing to write home about, really. I just wished she didn't have to put herself against all these pressures to hide her mistakes with us.

    Finally it all made sense, the things about my mother that other people would find strange. How she could never support us finanically, how she always said no one helped her out in life. She was a proud, proud woman. And she chose to keep it secret, maybe even to herself.

    I don't think I believe in secrets. Secrets as this concept, this thing that people keep hidden away from those closest to them - I don't think it's sensible. If you shared a secret with someone you care for and they reject you because of what you shared, doesn't that just mean they were not meant to be in your life in the first place? Sometimes an obstacle is too great for two people to ever meet in the middle, and that's okay. Somebody else in this world is bound to be okay with your secret. And maybe you will be okay being by yourself, until that person shows up.


    A lovemap is a person's emotional, internal blueprint for their ideal erotic, sexual situations[1]. Most of our lovemaps are imprinted and learned from our parents, who are the primary caregiver and first point of reference for everything.

    What trauma does to a person is eloquantly explained by Jen Richards in the Netflix documentary Disclosure, when she explains the first time she witnessed acceptance outside her family as a transwoman:

    What I resonated most with her insight were the words "It hurt, I couldn't bare it."

    Because what people often do not understand about people who experienced trauma, is that it hurts to be treated with love and acceptance once you are traumatized. It's maddening. You can't handle it. I still feel rage, when I think about what I missed out on, from my parents.

    We as a collective have been told that love is the answer to hurt. We are told that love will heal all wounds, and when you see someone who have been brutalized in some way, the correct response is to treat them with love. But humans aren't one open wound that you can close back up with a bandage. It's little more complex than that.

    When you try to help someone who is still processing their trauma with love and acceptance, what you are actually doing is more damage and making their lives even more difficult. There needs to be an understanding of how long of a journey and time it can take for a person to process their trauma. The amount of resources and patience it takes to actually process trauma. If you are showering those who have been trauamatized with nothing but love and accepetance, it might not be the best answer for that person. Love and acceptance for some is so unexperienced, so new and alien, that it provokes fear and instabiltiy.

    When I found my partner, who came from a stable, middle-class family with no where near as many issues as mine, that is what his answer to me was. He showered me with love and acceptance, and as someone who was on the receiving end of it, I could not at the time understand why I felt rage whenever he would do nice things, like invinting me to his family BBQ. I would then feel guilty for feeling bad for having someone be so nice to me.

    What he didn't realize, and what I didn't realize myself, was that his acts of affection and love and acceptance and invitation to his privilege felt like such a burden on me. I didn't know how to sit down with a father figure and have a converstaion because I have never had one.

    One of my earliest memories of my mother is her picking up the phone in the living room, hanging up and silently sitting. "Your grandmother died", she said to me matter-of-factly. She stayed sitting there, in dead silence. After a while, she wiped away a single silent tear from her eyes and went back to mopping the floor. When my mom wanted something, she would go and get it no matter the obstacle. She never cried, and she rarely showed weakness or affection. She didn't believe in having regrets, so she dismissed mistakes as yesterday's old news and would just pick herself up for the next thing.

    I pray that I could love myself as much as I can love my mother despite her flaws

    Families need lines and boundaries. No, family does not mean you sacrifice everything that you are for them. Family is useless.

    I want to write about my family. I want to be synonymous with family trauma, and how to love amongst the abuse

    raised a kid and died when they were young enough to still idolize you, you die a hero. But live longer they will have no choice but to face reality and see you for who you really are [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovemap