Taboo Topic: Family Secrets

Andrea Hylen
5 min readMay 8, 2022
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

#3 in a series of 8

Originally published in On Purpose Woman Magazine Jan/Feb 2022

Now, that the holidays are over, let’s talk about family.

In December, you probably received cards with family photos of people smiling and wearing matching outfits. Or you saw photos like this in your social media newsfeed from random friends. Maybe there was a holiday letter that spoke about everyone’s accomplishments in 2021.

How many of those holiday messages included anything real outside of the perfection that is labeled as success? Did anyone write about how they really struggled this year? Or how they had a bad year in their business? Loss of a job? Relationship break-up?

What if holiday letters included struggles and life lessons? For example, someone sharing they were evicted from their home and how vulnerable and humiliating that was. Then they shared it woke them up to the housing insecurity that millions of people experience every year and how that changed their view of the world. They share that someone helped them and that they started volunteering at a homeless shelter to provide support for others. Now, that would be inspirational! Happy New Year!

Right now, I am on a break from my family: my mother, brother, and sister. I wouldn’t call it estrangement because I haven’t blocked anyone’s texts or messages. I set a boundary at the beginning of 2021 that all communication come through email and text. No phone calls. No Zoom calls.

I love my family. They are complex, interesting people who are doing good things in the world. On the flip side of the complexity, I have also been traumatized, disrespected, manipulated, and bullied, all in the name of ‘love.’ There is alcoholism, anxiety, depression, misogyny, and trauma in our lineage. There is denial, secrets, and an expectation that we do not talk about any of the trauma.

Loyalty to the family is a core value and writing about trauma and grief has freed me from misguided loyalty. It has been a 40-year process of uncovering the ‘bad behavior and toxicity’ to find my way. Last year, I found myself in an indefinite, possibly forever, break. No weddings, funerals, holiday celebrations or visits to family homes. I never thought I would be ‘one of those people’…

Andrea Hylen

Founder of Heal My Voice and The Incubator. Life Scientist. Live house-free. Widow. Mom of Adult Daughters. Grief. Writing Sexuality. Evolutionary Woman