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Going on a Bear Hunt

a person writes of family trauma...

By Ward NorcuttPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2023
Going on a Bear Hunt
Photo by Steven Kamenar on Unsplash

There are no bears in this letter; it is a cautionary tale all too true.

To Whom It May Concern:

Lately, I have been considering my part in my life and the lives of my birth family. It seems strange to have to qualify my “birth family” as such; it gives it an unintended distance and otherness. I mean, these are my mom and dad, my sister and my brother, you know? Nevertheless, I have my own family and we have our own story which is separate from them, the caveat being that I am part of both.

When I was twenty, my father took his own life. Two years later, my older brother did likewise. My mother and sister killed themselves much more slowly with alcohol, tobacco and drugs (frankly, I am still shocked at how long they both lasted). I have written about it in prose and poem, and in a full-length dramatic stage play.

How does one escape the past? How does one escape the present, for that matter? I recall a poster my mother was fond of: Children Learn What They Live. It was a list of different experiences children might encounter and what they would subsequently learn. I know that my parents tried their best to provide the positive experiences so we would “learn to find love in the world,” but all the best intentions in the world do not pave the way to that future, and I think it is because the past gets in the way.

Inter-generational trauma, consequential and otherwise, is an insidious and often subtle circumstance of many lives. The poster I mentioned earlier might just as aptly be titled: Children Learn What Their Parents Lived. My parents did not intend for me to learn what they did not know they were teaching me. Like all parents, they wanted their kids to “be better” and “do better” than they did. To that end, I am certain they vowed, as did I, that they would take the good they learned from their own parents and pass on only that. Unfortunately, that is often not the case and most assuredly not in my experience. As the saying goes, “Pigs don’t know pigs stink.” This is not to say that they were bad in any way; they were not and they loved me dearly (and I them). You just don’t know what you don’t know.

We do not intend to pass on our genetic make-up. We just do so. Likewise, we do not intend to pass on character traits and attributes of which we are unaware, but we do. And I know that many of our kids learn it despite their best efforts. I did and so did my siblings.

A lot of terrible things happened in my past that I will not write to you about. What matters now - what matters most - is what I learned and what I passed on to my two (now grown) sons. I learned to be independent. I learned how to work hard and follow my own path. I also learned to run from conflict. I learned to bury truth and clothe it in shame and guilt. I learned to blame. I did not want to teach all of this to them, and I hope, through the work I am doing now, it is not too late to help the process of re-education if I have done so. I think I probably have.

It is said that one who does not learn from the past is bound to repeat it. I add that it is also passed on. Unless we face our own trauma and get to work on understanding what may have happened to us and how we have navigated our lives since, I don’t think we will ever be whole. It’s messy and scary at times, but if we really want to live our best lives on our own terms, we must wade through the muck. If we want to break the chain. There is just no getting around it, or under it or over it. It's a bear hunt. We got to go through it.


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About the Creator

Ward Norcutt

Playwright and poet.

My goal as a writer is to write thoughtful pieces of prose, poetry and stage plays. Hopefully, the end results are entertaining and engaging, with layers of meaning that make sense to the whole or a theme therein.

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Comments (27)

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  • Sonia Heidi Unruh12 months ago

    Powerful, insightful, inspiring, challenging. I appreciated the emphasis on the aftershock of trauma -- how it rebounds into the succeeding years and generations. This sentence especially will stay with me: "Unless we face our own trauma and get to work on understanding what may have happened to us and how we have navigated our lives since, I don’t think we will ever be whole." Thank you for writing and sharing this piece.

  • Fiza Taj 12 months ago

    congrats on ts and thankyou for sharing your story with us!

  • This was awesome I loved the sentiment in it. I was determined to break the chain of abuse in my family to not live what my parents lived. There was so much good advice in this. From teaching your kids differently to not letting your past define you. Well done.

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful and personal piece! I commend you for doing the work and facing your personal bear hunt. I send you strength and look forward to many more pieces!

  • R. J. Rani12 months ago

    I am so grateful to have come across this piece by you, dear Ward. It is beautiful in its simplicity of handling really tough subjects. Thank you!

  • Shea Duncan12 months ago

    Great job! Your work was constructed very thoughtfully. Personally authentic, still emotionally relatable. Thnx.

  • Sarah Wilcox12 months ago

    Reassuring to know others think like this too. Very thought provoking and well written. To address our own trauma allows us to fully recover from its effects. Thank you for this and I can’t wait to read more of your work!

  • C. H. Richard12 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your truth in such an honest and compelling Epistolary. So true about wading through the muck. Well done ❤️

  • Melissa Ingoldsby12 months ago

    A very exceptional piece, riddled with truth and human frailty

  • cruddymoose12 months ago


  • Consumer Chronicles12 months ago

    The article highlights the importance of learning from our past experiences to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. The author emphasizes that it is not enough to simply learn from our past; we must also face and understand the traumas we have experienced in order to break the cycle and live our best lives. The idea that trauma is passed on is a poignant one, as it suggests that unless we actively work to heal ourselves, we may unconsciously perpetuate the same patterns of behavior and suffering that our ancestors experienced. The author acknowledges that this process can be messy and scary, but ultimately necessary for personal growth and breaking generational cycles. Overall, the article encourages readers to be courageous and embrace the journey towards healing and wholeness, even when it means confronting difficult emotions and memories.

  • Farhan Mirza 12 months ago

    WARD norcut , amazing story

  • Kristen Balyeat12 months ago

    Ward, thank you for sharing your story- that was so brave. I’m sorry for your losses, and for your struggles! “we must wade through the muck” - this line struck a chord. So true- the only way out is through. It can be hard work, but examining yourself, going inward, although not always easy, is where the path to healing and freedom begin. 💫

  • Kendall Defoe 12 months ago

    This was very hard to speech, and I do not feel I can say much to you, sir. Thank you for sharing it. Selah

  • Lamar Wiggins12 months ago

    Sometimes I just can't get the pen to write when trying to put words to traumatic experiences. So sorry for your loss. Opening wounds from the past to share with us has to be difficult. One thing for sure, it's commendable. Thank you. 💖

  • JBaz12 months ago

    Well done, baring one’s soul is never easy. Congratulations on top story

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉💖😉✨🎯

  • Caroline Jane12 months ago

    Writing that cannot have been easy. I can feel wounds searing as I read. As I try and be a good mum to.my 7yr old lad.. I am keenly aware..as you rightly say.. your own shit can be hard to smell. I am going to keep shoving my face in a range of flower gardens and hopefully nostrils full of sweeter stuff may help me locate where I stink as a parent!! Then as you so poignantly say... I will work through the muck of it. 🥰 Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your deserving top story.❤

  • Congratulations on your excellent Top Story

  • Dana Crandell12 months ago

    Very relatable. It took me back to one of my first Vocal stories, about my father. I definitely enjoyed the read! Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Cathy holmes12 months ago

    A lot of relatable truth there re generational traits passed on. Sorry for your loses.. Very well written and congrats on the top story.

  • And, Congrats on the Top Story!!

  • KJ Aartila12 months ago

    A subject very close to my heart - nice work! I think you nailed to - and it's never too late once you are willing to acknowledge and confront your own awareness. Sharing that is the greatest education. ❤️

  • What a raw and transparent lesson it is. True growth and the beauty it holds seem only to come after opening the wound and allowing it to heal completely. Ward, thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience, and reminding us about the fragility of life, and the strength we don't even know we have, until we need it. Definitely gives me pause for what I am teaching my own children with my traumas.

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