When your loved one has an unforgivable past

Spoiler alert! The following post discusses important plot points in “Ginny & Georgia” Season 2, so beware if you haven’t seen it yet.

What would you do if your loved one would kill for you? Literally.

“Ginny & Georgia” tackles this moral dilemma for 16-year-old Ginny Miller, the daughter of a single, former teen mom Georgia. Together, they navigate their complicated relationship, finally settling down in their lavish Connecticut home. That is, until Ginny finds out that her protective mother has a murderous past: Georgia killed her two ex-husbands, was in a biker gang and even changed her identity in order to protect her family. 

Ginny & Georgia. (L to R) Antonia Gentry as Ginny, Brianne Howey as Georgia in episode 206 of Ginny & Georgia. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Throughout the show, Ginny blames herself for her mother’s double life and without anyone to turn to, she struggles withself-harm. 

While most people don’t deal with homicidal mothers, experts say it is common to feel an overwhelming sense of betrayal and trauma when someone we feel safe around, is in fact, not. 

“Many of us believed our parents were infallible or even super human at some point and the first sign of them doing something wrong or inappropriate or worse can be extremely confronting,” says Jessica MacNair, a licensed professional counselor.

Following an act of betrayal, forgiveness is possible. However, it depends on a variety of factors. 

Ginny & Georgia. (L to R) Antonia Gentry as Ginny, Diesel La Torraca as Austin Miller in episode 210 of Ginny & Georgia. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

‘Betrayal trauma’: When our loved ones aren’t who they appear to be

Children often hold an innocently idealized image of their parents and consider them to be role models. But when this illusion of perfection shatters, it can lead to confusion, betrayal and even trauma. 

“When we grow up in chaos, our nervous system tends to seek out adaptive coping mechanisms that provide activation and familiarity,” says Jaclyn Bsales, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma.

The only stable aspect of Ginny’s life was her mother as they moved to various towns and struggled with financial issues.

After her mother’s past is revealed, her mental health crumbles. She begins to suffer panic attacks and uncharacteristically skips school. 

“My whole family is broken,” Ginny says. “I’m broken.”

‘Good people can do bad things.’ When is forgiveness possible?

Finding out someone we love isn’t who we thought they were can be traumatic. But does it mean you have to cut them out of your life?

“When the person who is supposed to keep us safe begins to elicit a sense of danger, it is OK and very much necessary to create physical and emotional space,” Bsales says. That’s why setting boundaries can “teach others how to treat us and teach us how to protect and respect ourselves.”

But MacNair says restoring trust is also possible, “as long as the parents are willing to put in the work, apologize and repair the relationship.” Therapies, such aseye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can help individuals process their trauma – emotionally and physically. In addition to professional work, it can be helpful to remember, depending on the circumstances, that individuals are more than just their actions.

“Sometimes, it’s important to look at why they did it, rather than just what they did before ending the relationship entirely,” Bsales says.

“Good people can do bad things,” Bsales says. “Trauma is never someone’s fault, but healing is their responsibility.”

Ginny & Georgia. (L to R) Brianne Howey as Georgia, Scott Porter as Mayor Paul Randolph in episode 210 of Ginny & Georgia. Cr. Brooke Palmer/Netflix © 2022

Understanding the complexity of trauma

If you or someone you know may be struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.

Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.



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