Generational Trauma: What Does it Look Like?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Last week I introduced what generational trauma is and how it is passed from generation to generation. This week I wanted to give a better idea of how generational trauma shows up in families, I will provide some examples of some of the trauma I have seen or experienced that has impacted two or three generations. 

Taught behaviors

Living in a rural part of Georgia, I was told by black teens (like myself) that if a white person says to do something, just do it, or you'll get in trouble. This was in 2006, not 1950, and they were serious. Anytime a white girl told me to move, and I didn't, it caused hell. It got to the point where the girl's locker room was divided by race. I was not about to be told to shut up and sit down, but many of my peers and their parents did not stand up to white people hear me again; this was in 2006. 

Seen Fears

One day at the Walmart (cause this was the only hangout spot), I saw a white mother cut in front of a black mother in the line and turn around and say she needed to get out of the store because her daughter was upset (her daughter was playing and having a good time).

The black mother turned around and told her own daughter it was okay because she did not want to start a scene, but you could see the fear in the black mother. My jaw hit the floor. I can understand not wanting to start something, but this mother was visibly afraid to say something. Living with that kind of anxiety and distress on a day-to-day basis is traumatic, to say the least. No human is inferior to another. 

Side Note

I was 16 when this happened and was always told to respect adults, so I did not say anything. Older wiser me would have chewed that mother out she knew her color brought with it status, and to this day it pisses me off. 


I am going to talk about neglect in this case and mothers or father putting their own needs before their child because they went without as youth themselves. Or a family where a parent is emotionally unavailable and the child intern becomes the same way with their children. These are forms of neglect and cause trauma over many generations. This form of trauma is not unique to black families; it is one of the most prevalent ways to pass trauma from one generation to the next. 

Side Note 

speaking positivity into this 50% of abused children do go on to change behaviors and do things differently. Any change is helping break the cycle. If you are the one breaking the cycle, be easy on yourself, and remember you are unlearning behaviors, and that is hard. 

Untreated Mental Illness

This right here is where battles are lost out of the gate. I dated a guy for a very brief period when I was 16, and his father was on drugs (in fact, this killed him). A few years later, when I saw the guy, he and his bother did drugs. To them, it was not a big deal. Their dad was fun, and they got to do what they wanted. However, here they are, struggling the same way and unable to confront a family demon. 

Side Note

Drug addiction is an illness and should be treated as such. If it is not talked about, the behavior is being enabled and/or ignored, and children will do what they see, not what you say. Talk about human struggle and make it normal to talk about getting help. 

This list is by no means complete there is no way I can cover every way generational trauma may show up. However, this is a starting point for you to question things you see around you and your own life. Share in the comments what generational trauma looks like in your life?

Remember, you have the control, power, and strength to heal from within.

Love Shakirah

1 comment :

  1. Your points were so right on. I am literally learning more about you from right here. I am grateful to have the time to understand some things from this viewpoint. We live and we learn. This is better than any psycho therapist I've ever visited because you are addressing exactly what I have to explain to them.


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