I could feel her pain as if it were my own, and it was excruciating. An ocean of sorrow crashed against me, inside my body. I wailed and wept, utterly overwhelmed by the intensity of emotions.
I saw blood. A miscarriage. I felt the mother’s grief.
She was a young woman, younger than I am anyway. Long, dark, curly hair. Dark eyes. Middle Eastern or Mediterranean. A stranger, yet eerily familiar.
This aggrieved mother was my ancestor–someone from way back in my paternal lineage.
I first encountered her briefly, just a flash of her feet in the sand. She wore an anklet. I watched as these feet stepped into the sea. I was there, but I wasn’t. This image came to me during a shamanic visioning session. At the time, I had no idea what it meant.
Not too long after, I was reading My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (which I highly recommend). In the book, there’s a guided visualization to help you connect with an ancestor. I was doing this exercise when I met the woman who’s feet I’d seen previously. She was barefoot, wearing a long, dark dress/robes with a scarf over her head. She came up to me and handed me her anklet. That’s all she did. She didn’t speak or anything. I accepted the gift and, later, put on an anklet that I happened to have, which I continue to wear or keep on my altar in her honor.
I explored this vision further during my next shamanic healing session. That’s when I felt the torment and received more of this woman’s story. Not only had she lost her baby, which was near full term, she had also lost the baby’s father. A man she deeply loved. I don’t know the details of how he died or why she lost the baby. I only know that this happened and I know how horrible it felt. I felt a strong connection to this woman. I knew she was like me–sensitive, intuitive, creative. It’s as if she chose me to help her because she knew I would understand.
Of course, a logical mind might question all of this. Surely I’m making things up. I have an active imagination. It’s not possible to know things that you have no data to support. However, if you’ve ever had an experience like this, then you know. You just know. There’s no room for doubt because your soul feels the truth.
I’m incredibly grateful for this inner sight because I don’t have any information about my ancestors on either side of my family. I can’t do a genogram or even gather stories from my parents. I always felt cut off from parts of myself because I was cut off from my family history. Now I understand that, though such details are helpful, they’re not necessary for connecting to my lineage. I’m able to see what I need to see with my senses.
Encountering this ancestor awakened me to the ancestral trauma I carry inside my body. I’ve always felt it. I’ve always sensed deep sorrow and experienced pervasive melancholy. I’ve been weighed down by inexplicable sadness my entire life.
Sure, I’ve experienced my own traumas that have contributed to the heaviness, but I could never understand why life felt so extremely oppressive. Now I know. The study of Epigenetics is helping us understand how trauma is transferred genetically, validating my sense that much of the sorrow I have always felt is not actually my own.
During a recent Akashic Records reading, I was informed that there’s been much sadness in my family line due to lack of love and support. I have ancestors who were not loved well and wish to be seen. There are women who felt oppressed and trapped and never imagined a way out because there were no examples of that in their lifetime. All of this has contributed to the heavy sorrow I’ve carried throughout my life. These emotions have also echoed through my own life experience.
Understanding how generational trauma affects you is incredibly helpful for your own healing. However, it’s important to understand that it’s not your responsibility to carry what doesn’t belong to you or to heal other souls. I believe that the work we do to heal ourselves has ripple effects and spans through time. I believe that simply witnessing the experience of others is inherently healing. I believe that providing an example of how to cope, endure and thrive benefits those who came before as well as those who will come after us.
If you wish to go deeper with this work for yourself, I recommend reading It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn as well as Menakem’s book. You might also try Family Constellations Therapy (I hope to be trained in this methodology soon!) Of course, trust your intuition and provide your soul with the necessary space to come to your own awakening through meditation, visualization, shamanic healing or other soul healing practices.
I also recommend honoring your ancestors in ways that feel right to you. Suggestions include:
- Create an ancestor altar.
- Set out photos of family members.
- Eat foods beloved family members enjoyed or that reflect your cultural heritage.
- Light candle(s) in honor of ancestors.
- Wear jewelry or clothing belonging to your ancestors or that reflect your cultural heritage.
- Sing songs, dance, enjoy art that reflects your cultural heritage.
- Do guided visualization or meditation that connects you with your ancestors.
- Say prayers, such as this one (from theafromystic.com):
Acknowledging and honoring your ancestors is always beneficial. Such work is especially powerful and accessible during autumn, as nature moves through the transition from vibrancy to dormancy and the veil between worlds thins. I invite you to go deeper with yourself and your lineage at this time.
The young woman who presented herself to me feels more at peace now that I’ve seen her and acknowledged her pain. She continues to walk with me as I move through my life. I can feel her love and support. I know there are other wounded ancestors whose pain I feel. I trust that they will present themselves to me at the right time, if needed. I know, too, that there are many healthy and healed, wise and loving ancestors who stand behind me. I trust their support even if I don’t exactly know who they are. I’m forever grateful for their gifts.
With Love & Compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide and a supportive companion. An artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals connect more deeply with themselves and with others through shadow work. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.