I choose healing energy in the form of laughter, love, peace, and silence.
By Pamela Beebe
I receive regular updates from my sister about a family member who is quite ill and in and out of the hospital. December 2017 was particularly difficult as we were called to the hospital what seemed like every other day during the holidays. When you are at the hospital on Christmas day, you really can’t tell that it’s not just another day.
It’s also a classic bitter-sweet moment. My husband, children and I were excited for holidays, visiting family; however, we were very sad about our one hospitalized relative. There was one day, just before New Year’s where the Doctor told us to “come to the hospital immediately”. Adding to my worries was that I had family drive up from the Blood Reserve at night in this terrible weather (Lethbridge was at minus 50 with the wind chill) to get to the hospital. The Townsite on the reserve is also with some challenges as they had lost power all night on December 25th to which my mother told me that it was a painful, cold night with no heat. I told her that she should have come to Calgary to my place but she had her grandchildren and could not leave.
Adding to the complex emotions I was feeling during this time, was some anger. I will sum it up as saying that intergenerational trauma persists. Anyone can study the history of Blackfoot people to learn about the historical trauma but less is known about the impact on today’s families. For starters, there were common infectious diseases rampant in residential school to which my parent’s and their generation must continue to heal from. Then there was the abuse which my parents did not talk about. I myself don’t like to talk about the abuse I saw and that I experienced.
However, the anger stems from that memory. I choose to surround myself with healing energy in the form of laughter, love, peace, silence, whatever it takes to heal myself. At the hospital over the holidays, I encountered family friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, in-laws, nieces, etc. Although everyone is very pleasant, and the only concern is around the family member in crisis at the hospital, conversation in the hallways and cafeteria centres around our extended family. It’s times like this when the memories come flooding back and now I can label events as “intergenerational trauma”.
The story is a little hard to tell. For starters, I come from a place where you are told not to talk about it and you know better than to tell anyone, anything. I choose to write my stories because some things need to change.
Right now, at the place I call home (not Calgary), addictions are common. Co-dependency is normal. People are in recovery (healing from past addictions). FASD and the effects are visible. Yet, I know better than to tell anyone about it. The last thing we need is more Institutions that will harm our people. Yet, I do talk about it. I do share my story. I choose to trust the people I work with and trust that this information will be used to help me and those I love, heal.
If you have time, read about harm reduction, read the stories about residential school, talk to the Elders visiting the jails, Remand Centre, the halfway houses and talk to people living in townsite or on the reserve. When you talk to them, come without judgement and recognize your own biases. You will not fix someone else’s problems. What you will do is learn why some people make some decisions and why some people have different options than other people. You will also understand when I say that intergenerational trauma persists.
So, what does any of this have to do with poverty reduction? Well, sub-standard health care when you live on the reserve leads to increased hospital visits. Shorter life expectancies cause longer hospital stays and more emergency room visits. Increased illness because you live in rural Alberta and have limited access to healthcare leads to decreased productivity. Then there are the children being raised in the households that I described. I would rather that our children are raised in Healthy, Happy homes, free from the effects of trauma.
Pamela Beebe is an Indigenous Strategist at Vibrant Communities Calgary. Please feel free to leave a comment below.