Children & trauma


My youngest daughter was only two years old when within a few months only her dad had to leave us and her adored and much loved big (5 year old, half-) sister left us to live with her dad (which wasn’t my youngest daughter’s dad). It came as a big shock and could not be digested by my little girl. It got stuck in her system as a trauma. At one point she started shouting and screaming at night while she was sleeping and would not be touched or calmed down. Those ‘attacks’ lasted for a good half hour or longer. I had – at the time – no idea why and felt completly helpless with the situation.

A little later, at a women-and-children’s clinic, I learnt to just be there until the attacks finished. I was advised to stay calm and keep still, which would eventually affect my child. During the stay in that clinic I learnt a lot about myself, my situation and received a huge amount of loving care from the therapists and nurses. Therapy showed me that I was a child in need, too, and that I had to learn to give myself those things I was missing. I had to understand that I would never get what I needed from my parents, as childhood was over, and my parents wouldn’t change just because I wanted them to.

After a few months of many sleepless nights with screaming attacks, my daughter slept through the nights again. I understand that she had to get the anger and frustration, as well as the feeling of being powerless, out of her system.

The trauma, though, was still there, and she developed many different kinds of symptoms during childhood that had to be dealt with. My oldest daughter was influenced against me and everybody in my family, so there was no contact for many years. My girls were separated.

One day, when my youngest was about 9 years old, she told me how angry she felt that her sister didn’t want to have contact with us and expressed her disagreement very emotionally – she was furious. I decided to use my family constellation skills on the kitchen table using jam jars, cups and glasses. I placed our situation using those cups and glasses and made them representatives of our family system by giving them names and positions and let my daughter take over to change and move them where she wanted them to be. My clever little girl knew exactly how the different people in our system felt in the different positions.

During this ‘constellation’ it became clear to my daughter that her sister was meant to be with her dad and that she just wasn’t able to contact us, although she really wanted to. She understood that everything was as it had to be. I was astonished how clearly she saw what was really going on and how the dynamics worked. This new insight gave her some peace and understanding, and from that day on she never questioned the situation again, she accepted it and kept hoping that things would change for the better (which they did eventually). She kept a loving contact in her heart and sent postcards and little messages now and then to let her sister know that she still loved her and would always be there for her. The same did I. And we often sat together, looked at older photos of my oldest and sent her good thoughts and wishes from our hearts. It was always very emotional but good for both our minds and souls.

Two years later we were ‘re-united’ after seven years, although my oldest daughter decided to stay at her dad’s in Germany. But we were back in contact, and we were re-bonding and have been doing so since.

I am convinced that family constellation work is a wonderful and powerful tool to help children (from a certain age) and adults to understand and accept their situation, find peace and even solutions.

I could not avoid my children getting hurt, as at the time I didn’t know better. But I was able to address my issues and heal myself in order to become a better parent. I see it as my duty to be the person in my children’s life they can rely on one hundred percent. I see it as my duty to be an example, because I know they look to me first.

As a constellator and grown-up I know how much my children want me to be happy and content, and that they would give their lives to take my pain from me. Therefore I am constantly making sure that I am happy and content.

Both my daughters carry the burden of their own heart breaks, which I am responsible for. But I have forgiven myself for causing pain and confusion, because I know I didn’t know what I was doing and I was in pain and I was confused myself.

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