Avoiding people and places from a troubled past

  • April 20, 2010
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"They may try to avoid people and places that remind them of the trauma..."

A library patron who attended one of my speeches sent me this comment:

“I enjoyed your appearance at the Warren Newport Library yesterday… I have been married for 41 years and, as a result of your speech, I learned more about my wife.

“Her mother died when she was 8. She was then passed from relative to relative. When she was 12 her father married the evil stepmother and my wife was treated like dirt until I finally moved her out when she was 18 and we were married shortly afterwards.

“After we were married she never wanted contact with any of her relatives, even those that seemed to care for her. I could not understand why. Now I understand. The memories were just too painful.”

What resonated with this patron was my explanation of why my mother didn’t cultivate a stronger relationship with her sister once they were both living in America. Readers often ask me, why didn’t your mother lean on her sister since she was the sole surviving member of her immediate family?

People who have suffered through a trauma, according to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder website, “may try to avoid people and places that remind them of the trauma and may work hard to push thoughts of the event out of their head.”

My mother always kept up with her sister, but they had a somewhat uneasy relationship. “Each reminded the other of all that was lost — their homes, their parents, their childhoods. It was awkward and painful to be in each other’s company. The two didn’t even know which language to use when speaking to each other — English or German.”

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