Are we doomed to carry the burden of our pain and shame after trauma? Are we damaged beyond repair? I believe we have the capacity to heal, and here is why.
Last week I had the pleasure and challenge of going on stage to speak at a conference following the keynote of an amazing survivor, Diann Kissell. Watching her on stage, Diann radiates love. She is a living testament to our capacity for forgiveness, healing, and transcendence.
In the audience, we journeyed with her through the horrendous trauma that she has overcome. Diann grew up with the terror of incest; her father taught her that she was worthless and powerless. At age 13 she ran away to a family member’s home who coaxed the truth out of her. By breaking her silence, Diann felt she was responsible for her father’s ensuing rage; he murdered her mother and two youngest siblings before coming out of his trance and calling the police to report himself.
Diann’s healing process drives home that feeling whole again after trauma is an ongoing journey. She has truly done the work, reprocessing her trauma in years of therapy, learning to forgive herself and her parents, and focusing on cultivating her own empowerment and happiness each day.
As a survivor committed to my own healing journey, I gather stories of hope and healing after even the most horrific traumas. In my twenties I read almost all of Maya Angelou’s books, inspired by her drive to overcome the pain of childhood rape and pervasive racial discrimination. She broke the dominant narrative in our society of victims being forever broken. By finding her voice, she let in the light of healing.
While I gather evidence of our human capacity to heal, I fully acknowledge that some people have more barriers to accessing the resources they need to heal. As humans, we need to be in a life situation of relative safety in order to heal profound traumas.
Too many people are still trapped in abusive relationships, food insecurity, violent neighborhoods or war zones. I recognize the ignorance of preaching “We can Heal!” to people who cannot count on their basic safety; we need to help lift people up out of poverty and violence before expecting them to transform their pain into a source of strength.
And then we need to elevate the voices of brave survivors from all backgrounds, holding their stories as evidence of how we can overcome profound trauma. Diann gave me strength to go through the vulnerable process of sharing my own healing story on stage. I hope to pass on the baton to more survivors, handing off my own story as proof that we can break the silence and create a culture of healing and respect.
We can heal by learning to face the pain with compassion and love for ourselves. We can move through our flashbacks and find our firm footing in the present, by inhabiting our bodies and bringing mindful awareness to all aspects of our lives.
Healing is a process without a finish line; we are not seeking a magical day when there will be no more pain. We are seeking the magic in THIS day, when we can access our strength to handle whatever pain we may be poised to overcome.
You can purchase A Turquoise Life, Diann Kissell’s inspiring story written by Kathy Bird, at amazon.com/Turquoise-Life-Womans-Journey-Triumph
Photo credit: Angela Marie Henriette