Changing patterns

Merissa Nathan Gerson explains inherited trauma.

Merissa Nathan Gerson will talk about inherited trauma at the West Tisbury library. — Merissa Nathan Gerson

Writer, educator, and Chilmark resident Merissa Nathan Gerson will give a presentation at the West Tisbury library on Thursday, June 14, at 4:30 pm. Gerson explains, “It is going to be an overview of what trauma is, how we inherit it, the many different ways it can and can’t be passed on between generations, and, importantly, what that means moving forward. It is just a simple overview, but enough to give people tools to begin the process of paying attention to what they carry within.” She will also help us look at the larger picture of what it means for the surviving generations of war and violence, and how to move forward against oppression. Gerson was kind enough to agree to an interview at the end of a sunny day in the Vineyard to provide additional insight into what we can expect at the workshop

What do you mean by the term “inherited trauma”?

When I say inherited trauma, I am referencing trauma that impacted a person, a culture, a tradition, or a family before this individual’s lifetime. We will be looking at the different ways that inheritance may or may not impact your life. It is important to know that not all traumas affect people. It depends on your personal history, your family or your culture’s history, and your belief system.

How does one move forward from inherited trauma?

By addressing your own wounds. It’s easier said than done. We will be looking at how to understand trauma, how to begin to remedy it, and how to prevent repeat trauma in our families, communities, and political spheres. There are tons of resources on this Island to get help and to change the patterns that maybe were hurtful to you growing up.

How did you get into this fascinating field?

I started it just doing my own family lineage history when I was in graduate school. I did an M.F.A. in creative writing, and I was looking at how the Holocaust impacted my family. My father was born in 1945 in Uzbekistan. Looking at how war impacted him, I started to learn how war impacted me. Most of my family on my father’s side was murdered in Poland. A few people escaped, and that’s where we come from. He was born after they escaped Poland, and then later, slave labor camps in Siberia. Figuring out how one begins to mourn that kind of loss, that is what began my path.

Inherited Trauma 101 workshop, West Tisbury library, Thursday, June 14, 4:30 pm. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. To learn more about the origin of Gerson’s journey into this fascinating field, read this article in the Observer, “Intergenerational Trauma: A Survivor’s Granddaughter Visits a Place Haunted by Unshakeable Memories.