Trauma and Families

Moving beyond a difficult past.

Trauma and Families: Moving Beyond a Difficult Past

What to do with this borrowed sadness, anger and grief?

I have always been defined as the child of Jewish Holocaust survivors. My father had been imprisoned in the notorious Dachau concentration camp; my mother had scraped through Stutthof, escaping with her own mother, even as other women died around them.


Though I was born in the decade after this attempted genocide, my parents talked of their European past constantly, creating a world of crisis even in the safe American present in which I was being raised. My mother, for example, would comment that with my black hair and the Aryan ideals of the Third Reich (which favored blonde hair and blue eyes), I could never have been hidden or saved. (This meant that I was unduly haunted by the constant ads on the TV, which said, "Is it true blondes have more fun?") My father would casually offer the information that the piece of potato skin that remained on my plate during dinner would have kept someone alive another day "over there." My very name was a source of sadness. From an early age, I understood that "Sonia Taitz" was not just me, but my father's martyred mother. I knew that on an unknown day in the past, this other Sonia had died in concentration camp, and was buried in an unmarked grave. I - Sonia Taitz the Second -- was to be her memorial, her gravesite, her monument, the answer to the unanswerable question of why.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

When people are burdened with information or feelings they can't keep inside, they often pass them on to their children. I took my parents' burning baton and, since I loved them so much, thought it was my duty (if not honor and privilege) to share in their pain. Indeed, I wanted to heal them, and make them new again. This was hard, because, in some sense, my own life was never new. It was as old as time, and scarred with tragedy.

How did I prevail? What did I do with all this borrowed sadness, anger and grief? How did I give myself permission to live, and to live in joy, aloud? How did I emerge as an individual -- personally, romantically, and as a parent to my own children? These are a few of the topics that I'll discuss in the coming weeks and months, as I tell my story and reach out to others whose childhoods, like mine, were darkened by trauma.

 

 

Sonia Taitz, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, is the author of In the King's Arms and Mothering Heights

more...

Subscribe to Trauma and Families

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.