Being a survivor of severe childhood trauma, I have lived through hell, and survived to tell about it. I struggled for many years trying to reconcile what I knew about what happened to me, and the peace I so longed for in my life. In the process of finding this peace, I have discovered, the amazing healing power of thankfulness.
I Felt Enraged
I have lived in the stage of recovery, (many times actually), where I would have thrown away the notion that I could ever accept my past. I felt enraged, and rightly so, about what happened to me. The people who perpetrated the crimes against me would never pay the penalty for what they did, and knowing this left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
My Therapist Gave Me Some Insight
During therapy, my therapist would gently remind that I would, eventually, need to let go of my resentment. I struggled for a long time before I was able to finally adopt the motto, “It is what it is” meaning, “I cannot change it, so I accept it.”
I had begun this acceptance by realizing that there are thousands of things in our lives that humans cannot change. We cannot change our eye color, who our parents were, our birthday or many other aspects of who we are and where we hail from.
Yes, you can pretend, lie and legally change some things, but reality is reality.
What Do I Do Now?
Upon understanding, finally, that I cannot change what happened to me in the past, I asked my therapist, “So what do I do now? How do I move on from here?”
Upon hearing my question, my therapist leaned back in her chair, sat silently for a moment, and gave me an answer that has radically changed who I am today.
“Shirley, you are correct. You cannot change what happened in your childhood. However, you can look at what you know about who you are today, and ask yourself the following question:
What did I learn from all the sorrow and loss? How can I take what happened to me, the lessons I have learned from them, and transform the pain into something beautiful?”
My Therapist’s Question Took Me By Surprise
I must admit, at first, I was appalled at her suggestion. I was indeed in the end stages of the process of acceptance of my history, but this thought took me by surprise.
However, after pondering her words for a few weeks, I began to think hard about how my past had molded who I am today. Suddenly, my attitude began to radically change from resentment to gratitude.
What Does Gratitude Do For You?
Gratitude makes you able to hold your head up high after, looking inside yourself to find the good things that make up who you are today. It allows you to not judge others, and to live and let live. It gives you permission to be the best you can be, and to move on with confidence into the future.
There is No Magic Cure
There is no magic cure, no special process, and no list of steps that anyone can give to help people who are struggling to feel peace in the face of a traumatic childhood. Inner peace is a growing process, just like all the other lessons in life. It requires patience, guts, and dedication to work on these issues, and to finally let them be just what they are, memories.
Sending Out A Challenge to My Readers
My challenge to you who are reading this piece, is to take the memories, sorrows, and losses of your life and think about what those people and events have done to make you who you are today. Not the negative effects, those are all too obvious, and we tend spend to spend huge amounts concentrating on them.
I’m speaking about the greatness of who you are BECAUSE you had those horrendous losses in your life.
I’m challenging you to sit down, with pen and paper, and write down a list of what positive aspects you can see about yourself. Then allow yourself time to think about how these attributes, and how they are directly related to the losses in your life.
Go ahead, I dare you, I double dog dare you!
After You Make Your List Sit and Smile
After you see your list, look at it and smile. Like myself, you will finally see that you are much more than the trauma you endured. You are a strong and resilient, and loving human being.
“You carry the past with you. Even if there’s a before, and an after, in your life. It’s still the same life. The trick is to build a bridge between that and what comes later.” Jennifer Finney Boylan, Long Black Veil