Untellable Non-Stories: Researching The Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma

What do untellable non-stories look like? Let me give you an example of such a non-story.

A mother is frozen in non-mourning for her dead family. She looks at her child with unshed tears and does not see her child.

“My mom had a girl,” Lynda told me. “She had four kids. Right, Steve?”

“I think so.”

“Three boys and one girl. Actually, I’m not sure; she never really talked about them. But I know she had a girl.

“Sometimes she would tell me how I looked like her, her other daughter. Except she’d had hair the color of corn. She’d always say that: ‘poat.’ Hair like ‘poat.'” She paused, repeated the word: poat, a strange sound from another life, one that hung in the air with its own kind of weight, gravity. “That is ‘corn,’ right Steve?”

Steve nodded, and Lynda looked down, off, some abstract place on the carpet: a thread that had gotten lost, fallen out, would never be noticed except in this one second.

This induces a sense of non-existence and depression in the child. The child wants to rescue, reassure, or enliven the parent and gain life for itself; it feels guilty and worthless when it fails. This is an example of how trauma can continue unwittingly across the generations.

Lynda smiled bravely and raised her eyes.

Excerpt from “Transmission of Transgenerational Trauma

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1 Response to “Untellable Non-Stories: Researching The Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma”


  1. 1 phillegitimate January 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Hey I just found your site (thanks to the Mija Chronicles). This post jumped out for obvious reasons. Thanks for sharing something so powerful. Really like your site too, will no doubt be snooping around a lot more…


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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