top of page

Intergenerational trauma, or “why am I the way I am?” - Anonymous

Dear Omi,

I distance myself from your life,

just as you do.

The pieces I hear

are the only ones you know how to say

without feeling a thing.

The heat bomb in your living room

you found after a day of grocery shopping;

summer camp, where you built planes;

a boat across the Atlantic,

pregnant, stateless.

“You have

your grandmother’s eyes!”

they exclaim,

as if

that is the only thing

that bridges the 67 year divide between us - which is to say,

they are polite.

They say nothing

about the bags

underneath them.

If I have inherited your neuroses,

will I also inherit your longevity?

Will I be blessed enough

not to inherit your long memory?

Or perhaps I use your trauma

to justify the pain that I shoulder

every day.

Perhaps I just want an explanation

and I can only find one

by examining my DNA.


"I wrote this as a rhetorical letter to my maternal grandmother, who grew up in a port city in Germany during WWII and experienced a number of war traumas that I cannot conceptualize, having grown up fairly wealthy and white in a small town in the US. She is a healthy 92 and has a brilliant memory for details that range from incredibly mundane (the restaurant she got lunch with my mother at over 15 years ago) to profoundly impressive (our family tree and roots throughout Europe, how we dispersed when immigrating to the US). We look very similar and I have recently been able to recognize anxious thought patterns in her that are similar to mine.

I grew up sheltered, in a loving family with financial security, expectations of going to college, and no traumas to speak of, so having severe mental illnesses has been a source of guilt and confusion for me, and I think for a lot of people with similar backgrounds we feel like “if I have all of these privileges, and if my life objectively looks great, why do I feel so awful?” This poem is about that attempt to find a concrete “why” when often there is no clear-cut answer."

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page