Parenting Through Trauma And Triggers

By Ashley Patek

Parenting Through Trauma And Triggers

I ran smack dab into myself. Face to face with a deep part from long ago. And my children were the pebbles that created the ripple.  

They say parenting makes your own life apparent. I would also add that parenting is the ultimate invitation to self - seeing, loving, and befriending one’s own traumas, which is necessary to transcend deep wounds and remain planted in the soil of the present.

Eleven years ago, my brother was in an accident with a semi-truck. He was my sibling, yes, but so much more than that. He was the person who knew me best and accepted me most. My twin, really, but four years apart.  

I often ran to him for a good laugh, a good cry, or good conversation. And the night the police officer knocked on our door and woke us from our sleep, I ran to him again. I ran, only to find him still, one foot earthside and the other among the galaxy and stars. 

His body was badly broken. My heart was, too. 

His brain had significant injuries. I felt paralyzed, too. 

And when he left, a piece of me died, too. 

I vowed I would never marry. 

I vowed I would never have children. 

Both mechanisms to protect my badly severed heart, driven by my hurt and fear. 

But as it happens, the world kept spinning. I carried my brother into each year. 

I got older. He remained ageless.  

He was at my wedding. 

He was at the birth of my children. 

He’s with us in the small moments of the day. 

Every night we look for him in the moon. 

He is with us. 

Now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with being a mother. 

My children took my closed heart and opened it wide at the seams. 

I could feel again. 

Some of it was painful, some of it was joyous. 

And while there were times I wanted to retreat within myself, my boys taught me to love. And not love just when it felt safe, or when a return was guaranteed, but to radiate and remain open, even in the face of pain. 

In the work that I do, I frequently focus on other’s trigger patterns and how they show up for them in their parenting. 

I have a trigger, too. It’s sibling rivalry

I can be with big emotions, challenging behaviors, and the sensory overload that is guaranteed in raising children. But something inside me feels like fire when I watch my kids hurt - physically or emotionally - one another. 

Our boys are four and two-years-old, so I know this is bound to happen. And yet, I couldn’t suppress the emotion it brought up in me. It wasn’t until I met with a friend that the release happened. After being hidden in the shadows for so long, it revealed itself as clear as day. 

I said, “I am struggling with the boys’ fighting. It sends me over the edge.” 

“Why do you think that is?” she asked. 

“Because I want them to get along.” I blurted. 

“Why do you think that is?” she asked again. 

“Because they have each other. And I want them to be close. I want them to run to each other for love and protection. I want them to know each other’s worth,” I exasperated. 

And for the last time, she asked, “Why do you think that is?”

“Because I don’t have my brother anymore. And they are so blessed to have each other. I just want them to know … to love … to embrace the unique gift of siblinghood as I had.” 

I was sobbing now. 

In this moment, I was taken back to the point of injury. I became the wounded 24-year-old version of myself who desperately needed them to know. 

After a profound cry-breath-cry cycle, I felt as if a weight - one that I had been carrying for so long - had been lifted. 

Had I not had children, I would likely not have had this trigger experience. They helped me see. 

Another layer had been healed. 

And because I am healing, my boys will get the best version of me, even when I’m not my best. 

I have a new goal for when my kids quarrel. And it has nothing to do with them. 

All of us, as we raise our children, and their behaviors and emotions provoke energy within, there’s an opportunity to recognize the past seeking to surface. And we can ride the waves of healing. For them. And for us, too.

•  •  •

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