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Breaking the Cycles of Generational Trauma

A silhouette of a five-person family against mountains, watching a gray, orange and yellow sunset occur.
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Trauma can be passed down in our behavior and our culture, even possibly our genes. So how do you break the cycle?

When traumatic events happen, they affect our bodies and our minds. Those effects can be passed on through generations by individuals, by families and by cultures.

Host Anita Rao defines and explores generational trauma with three people who have observed it in their families … and worked to heal the legacy of that trauma.

Dr. Ramona Beltrán is a multiracial Chicana, mother, scholar and dancer with a doctorate in philosophy and social welfare. She is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.

Brandy Wells and Merissa Nathan Gerson also join the conversation. Brandy is a licensed independent social worker, conscious mother of three, and creator of the platform “My Motherhood Magic.” Merissa is a visiting assistant professor at Tulane University, a writer and a sex educator. She is the author of "Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman's Guide to Grieving."

(A Brief) Generational Trauma Educational Reading List

“My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem
An examination of how racism lives in and affects the body.

“The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk
An investigation into how traumatic and overwhelming events influence the development of the brain and body.

“Legacy: Trauma, Story and Indigenous Healing” by Suzanne Methot
A discussion of the long-term effects of colonization and Indigenous ways of healing from them.

“Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory” by Elizabeth Rosner
A collection of essays exploring the generational effects of genocide.

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Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.