Hard to breathe : processing more generational trauma and pain through watching the movie Fathers and Daughters : some reflections

I couldn’t leave the house yesterday. Beginning to watch the movie Fathers and Daughters was like seeing aspects of my emotional and grief story vividly portrayed.. The seizures the lead character endures after the accident in which is wife dies were very like the ones I undergo and I have never seen them portrayed on screen before.. Russell Crowe did an excellent job acting them out. Witnessing their trajectory sparked fear as (spoiler alert) in the movie he dies after a particularly bad one when he falls and hits his head.. this happens when his daughter is only 8 although this is not revealed until the end of the movie which is told across two time lines..

I identified with the battle of grief his daughter Katie endures so strongly.. Like her I wanted to be a social worker, to help children of loss, in the movie the young girl Katie helps has also been removed from her mother. The movie shows Katie battling getting close to men or sustaining any intimate relationships outside her work and trying to keep the love of her life at a distance through sexual promiscuity.. that was also a mirror of my life and it was devastating watching the scenes in which Cameron walks out on Katie as she begs and pleads for a second chance after he finds out she has been unfaithful while drunk. I did not think I could contain the pain watching those particular scenes which come before the one in which the viewer finds out that Katie eventually loses her father as well as her mother…and is using this strategy to keep love at bay and block her true feelings of need and vulnerability..

The truth is our inner pain over our losses NEVER GOES AWAY.. I remember a husband who survived his wife’s death in 9/11 saying when asked that for him he did not believe there would ever be any ‘closure’ over the loss of his love.. the truth is, the best way through loss is to acknowledge how we feel and be genuine in our response.. For me I still ache for the affectionate father I never knew and the pain of my husband and other men walking out is still raw..

In the movie Katie’s dad showers her with affection and the most beautiful scene is the one in which they sit side by side, he writing and her drawing as they sing Close to You. That is a song my disabled sister and I used to sing together in the care home, often when I used to visit her she and I would sing along to songs and in the later days when she was over drugged i would sit holding her hand, sometimes crying, sometimes holding it as she yelled or screamed…

My sister is at peace now, as is my father, but for me who lives on, these painful attachment memories remain. I can never ‘put them behind me’, for they are part of my life.

I ended up getting a call from my other sister about an hour ago. She confessed she just spent 10 days in bed and was barely eating.. I had no idea as I had called her on Friday and she sounded low to me at the time. I told her I wished she had called me but she told me she was not capable of opening up.. It was good to have an honest conversation though even if she was struggling. she hasn’t had any therapy and her medication is being reduced and I tried to encourage her in this… . She said to me “you are the only one I can talk to about all of this”. She also said to me “while I was lying here I thought of you and all you have endured and I said to myself if Deb has been through all that pain and still gets up to walk and live why can’t you?” I felt a bit worried hearing that.. I don’t want her putting me on a pedestal and besides I get to see a therapist who supports me and I can open up to about anything, I also have this blog and the wonderful honest support of honest writers and readers on WordPress.

Also, yesterday I did not make it out of the house.. But at least she can be honest with me.. She recently connected with someone but wanted to sever the bond as she is frightened that if he finds out she suffers depression he will leave her just as her ex husband did. Luckily she was able to articulate this to him and he affirmed he cares for her in any state.

In the movie Katie hits a wall with her anxious avoidant attachment.. In the end she takes the risk to tell Cameron what he means to her.. She says she does not know why she had a one night stand when they were beginning to fall so deeply in love, but it makes sense to me…in pain, grief, loss and trauma we do anything to stop the painful thing happening again that awakens all of our vulnerability.. True enough the other person cannot heal our wounds entirely but I think it is also a lie to say that healing comes about only on an inner level Yes, we must make peace with those old ghosts before our soul is really ready to risk the chance of opening our hearts, minds, bodies and souls completely to another..but this can only happen IN RELATIONSHIP NOT OUTSIDE OF IT.. OUR RELATIONSHIPS ARE DESIGNED TO TRIGGER OUR WOUNDS AND WE NEED THOSE AROUND US WHO ARE CAPABLE OF HOLDING THE WOUNDED TENDER SELF IN LOVE, JUST AS WE NEED TO DO FOR OURSELVES WITHOUT DISPARAGING IT.

For me, this has happened in therapy first. After my breakthrough on Thursday, on Monday in session I cried with Kat telling her how much resentment I held towards my parents for their emotional distance, but discussing it once again with Sue today I realised they could not give what they also missed out on.. While in therapy on Monday the wind was howling and it was stormy and gray.. in Kat’s room I told her I heard and felt the ancestors.. I thought of how Mum and Nana came to live in small pocket by the lake such a long way away from all of their relative.. While there they endured the loss of my grandfather, Bluey when Mum was only one year older than Katie was in the movie..

After that Nana had to leave Mum every morning and evening to clean offices, all Mum had to keep her warm was a stone she had to put into the fire place.. She told me many years ago. “I learned not to cry as there was no one there to dry my tears.” She also told me of how she would sit on the back step watching the neighbouring family’s kids play all alone and cry longing for a sibling.. Today my sister said to me when I was relating how this all came up in a therapy session I took my Mum too many years ago after first moving back home in 2011 : “you are so lucky you can cry.”. Yes, I said, I made sure i would not take any drugs as soon as I got into AA as that is when I finally started to be able to cry those tears I learned to numb out for years and years after Dad died, so that I began to realise that often when I cried it was not ONLY MY TEARS I WAS SHEDDING. Adn then I left AA to find necessary validation with my first therapist Wendy Bratherton in Cambridge and she wanted me to come 4 times a week and my husband would not allow it back in 2000 when the big catharsis over Dad’s death began to open up 15 year later at 7 years sober. therapy was aborted then and it took me 16 years to find my way to Kat.. What an epic journey of holding and submerging it all..


It is no wonder I have cried oceans and yet also I am happy too and at peace when I finally feel all of that love that could not be fully expressed while my parents were alive.. it was a different case with my deceased sister as she always turned the gaze of love on me…its something my therapist does.. each time i leave session she stands at her door saying goodbye as I walk down the staircase.. she never leaves me waiting at sessions… this is necessary for those of us with severe attachment wounding, anything less doesn’t cut it..

We are spirits and soul in bodies and we NEED the warmth and soul adn spirit of other’s embodied BODIES its just a truth that the rationalisers would rather that we deny.. This is why, SORRY TO SAY IT,…… BUT ROBOTS CANNOT FEEL.. WE DO NOT THINK ‘THEREFORE WE ARE’ .. WE FEEL THEREFORE WE ARE Why no one much seems to get this is quiet frankly beyond me.. but there you go we live in a FEELING WOUNDED CULTURE..that so often denies the truth of the fully incarnated soul in a body.. and that soul manifests through feelings which we use thought to MAKE SENSE OF ….Quiet frankly anything else to me is a lie… we must acknowledge our wounds before we can even begin to find once percentage of our capacity to embrace and live again in the present and move on through. without the capacity to address and engage with the wounding of both personal and collective history WE ARE JUST DOOMED TO REPEAT IT… THIS MUST HAPPPEN even with full knowing of all we endured, using those lessons as motivation to be kinder, more grounded, more fully engaged and more fully in touch with life.

2 thoughts on “Hard to breathe : processing more generational trauma and pain through watching the movie Fathers and Daughters : some reflections

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