From Woman to Woman - healing through the generations

“I am Melia, Daughter of Sandra, Daughter of Angelina Else, Daughter of Maria, Daughter of Anna, Mother of Della Ruth...”

This past summer, my family of five traveled across the great ocean to the epicenter of my matrilineal origin – Germany. I needed to take my youngest child, my only daughter, to meet her great-grandmother and allow her to feel the land of our foremothers beneath her feet. I yearned to transform our already potent mother-daughter dyad into an even deeper, ancient, and sacred female connection. I ached to experience the mystery of Origin, and to connect my daughter physically to the great web of kin and legacy to which she belongs.

My mother lives in Germany as well, and while we see her often when she comes to visit us in America, this was the first, and perhaps only, time the four generations were together in this lifetime. During those four sacred weeks, we traveled all over Germany and Austria, ate many exquisite meals, and experienced a multitude of new adventures; yet, the memory I hold most dear is the moment that my grandma took her great-granddaughter’s small braided hair into her hand, caressed it and whispered, ‘My Mama used to braid my hair when I was a little girl too’.

As the four of us circled together – woman from woman from woman from woman – we stepped out of linear time and a deep connection to Source emerged; the visceral awareness that at one time, my mother, carrying the egg that would one day become me, lived inside my grandmother’s womb, and that I, carrying the egg that would later become my daughter, lived inside my mother’s womb.

Sitting around the table where I cut potatoes as a little girl, my grandma told us her stories. I had heard all of these stories before, of course, but it was different this time; now I was a mother of a daughter. I listened with reverent voracity, carefully absorbing each of her words, each lilt in her voice, as if gathering material for a patchwork quilt that I knew I would later, back in the quiet solitude of my journal, knit together for my daughter.

When I asked her about her childhood, my grandma spoke of a time and a world that offered no choices and no safety. She grew up during the war in which Hitler was at the helm.  Her beloved oldest brother left home one day in a uniform, never to return. At fourteen, she was required to leave home and perform a year of work on a distant farm as a ‘Hitler Youth’. At this farm, she was starved, beaten, and molested. And she missed her Mama.  Her stories were peppered with gas masks, bomb shelters, and fear.  

Her voice cracking as she gave voice to her truths, my Grandma tittered nervously. She rubbed the painful memories from her lips and shooed them away with a quick flick of her hand.

‘I haven’t talked about this in so long. We never talked about these things when I was a girl. Are you sure you want to hear all these horrible things?’

‘Yes, Grandma. Your stories are our medicine’.

She kept talking. Her stories wanted to be told. She told about her Mama’s death at the age of 47, due to ‘heavy menstrual blood’ that had caused her mother such deep embarrassment and shame, she hadn’t sought help until it was too late.

She spoke about coming to America as a young soldier’s wife, learning new ways in a new land, and about the painful miscarriage of her beloved twins, in a strange country where no one spoke her language. And for perhaps the first time, there was no blame or judgment in me as I considered the details of my legacy. I began to understand that to root myself in my female lineage would require sorting through and honoring the generational, cultural, and historical differences between us all.  As Carl Jung once wrote, ‘although we human beings have our own personal life, we are in a large measure the representatives, the victims and the promoters, of a collective spirit whose years are counted in centuries’.

 Essentially, we are all just doing the best we can with what we have, and given when and where we are born. In that moment over potatoes and stories, a wave of realization washed over me: the little German girl living and surviving in Dittelbrunn, Germany 86 years ago? She lives inside my daughter. That’s how this legacy thing works: we carry each other and our stories in our DNA. And when we heal ourselves, we heal our lineage.

Hearing my grandma’s stories, and later transcribing them for my daughter, gave meaning to my suffering and that of my mother before me. Themes and synchronicities showed up that helped me to understand the legacy of pain and shame (along with the love and wisdom and strength) that was passed on to me, and that I have worked like hell to not pass on to my daughter.

Every woman who wishes to be her full female self needs to know the stories of her legacy. If you are unable to meet and commune with the women from whom you come, consider inviting them into your dreamtime, or channeling them through intuitive painting or journaling. Look for the echoes of your legacy in stories, memories, hand-me-downs, and grief.  Find your place in the circuitry of your legacy in your daughter’s first blood and your mother’s last breath.  And then, dear woman?  Transform and transcend.  Your healing is her blessing, and your healing is worth fighting for.

About the author: 

Melia Keeton-Digby, M.Ed, is the founder of The Mother-Daughter Nest, a sacred women’s gathering space in Georgia, USA.  She is passionately invested in supporting mothers to raise confident, connected daughters. A mother of three, she works as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Transformational Life Coach and Sacred Circle Facilitator. Her work has been featured in a variety of online and print publications, and she is the author of ‘The Heroines Club: a Mother-Daughter Empowerment Circle’.