Some people have nightmares that are permanently locked away in a closet in their mind. You have to respect the fact that they are unable to open the door – just leave those times alone. That is the way they survive terrible horrors of their past. They might, however, be willing to recall normal times, or the good times before or after the bad memories. You can ask what their parents or grandparents or siblings were like, where they lived, type of clothes they wore or food they ate, songs they remember.
It is possible for monsters to be killed or at least shrunk to a manageable size by opening the door to shine a light on them. A burden can also be lifted by sharing it with others who can offer support and help find healthy ways to cope. Anger may be dissipated, fear may be overcome, shame may be overwhelmed by love and understanding.
Many of us have hurtful memories in our past. We carry those memories within and they are part of who we have become. If we aim at keeping a strong positive attitude, we can look those memories in the face and go beyond them. I like to remind my mother not to dwell on the “spilled milk” of yesterday and instead look at each day anew. In the end, all our memories and the feelings they bring out have shaped us and in turn can shape our children. By speaking the memories out loud, we let our families understand us and each other better and encourage deeper bonding as we share our lives and our hearts.
How I wish I had known about some of my mother’s bad experiences earlier – so I would have been able to understand her better and been more compassionate.