By Joan Endicott
“Can you please come talk to my friend?” The anxious young lady pleaded as she pointed to the back corner of the conference room where a distraught grey-haired woman sat bent over, rocking back and forth. This faithful friend had waited to be last in line to talk to me, letting others go ahead of her so she could be last. By now the conference room was almost empty. “We know you’re probably exhausted…It’s just…she’s having such a hard time trying to process some things that came up from her past.”
Since I shared some of the challenges from my childhood in the retreat’s prior session, predictably, it brought up heartaches for some attendees—especially those with unresolved traumas.
For “Nancy” it was a lifetime of hurt that she had never even spoken of, much less had someone to help her navigate. As I sat down and put my hand on her shoulder, slowly and shyly she looked up at me with tear-stained face. Then, looking at her supportive friend, mouthed thank you.
Her voice timid and trembling, she began, “Ohhh, Joan, I’ve never spoken of this to anyone before. I can’t…I can’t…believe I’m saying anything now. I’m 67 years old and…I guess I just feel I must talk to someone. The shame has eaten away at me every day. My husband doesn’t even know—no one does!”
Nancy then shared summations of abuse she suffered as a child—violent and sexual. Periodically she would take a deep breath, sigh, look around and ask rhetorical questions such as: “Why wasn’t I enough to be loved?” “I tried but I didn’t know how to be a better girl—why not?” “So it was my fault—that’s what he always told me?!” “Why didn’t I just run away—but where would I go?” “What was so wrong with me that he did such horrible things?” and “Will I ever be enough?”
It was heartbreaking enough to hear about Nancy’s years of abuse, but having never received help, she spent subsequent years flailing all alone in the suffocating quicksand of shame. I prayed I could at least be a lifeline to help her get started on a healing path.
Nancy hadn’t said who her abuser was, nor did I ask. I listened, offered compassion, expressed my sorrow with her and for her at the horrific things that had happened to her. I also assured her there was nothing that was wrong or broken in her that could bring any of that about—it was all due to her abuser’s sickness and brokenness.
“I finally feel like I could confront him about this—but he’s dead. What do I do with all of this now? I feel like there’s no hope for healing. It’s too late. I waited too long. He’s dead—my father’s dead!” Her crying turned to sobs from the depths of her soul.
I held her tight—crying with her.
When she was able to speak again, I asked her if she wanted me to guide her through something that had really helped me and my clients. Catching her breath she said, “Yes, please, I’m ready to try anything!”
I asked her to close her eyes and imagine I was her father and to tell me whatever she needed/wanted to say to him if he were sitting there. “Please, hold nothing back!” I encouraged her. “It’s important you say anything and everything you would want to say to him, okay?” At first, she wasn’t sure she could do it—which is very natural. Talking to an abuser about the damage he/she caused is very hard. Even if you’re speaking to a surrogate, you’re still experiencing the pain of it.
Remember the research I shared in my last article that demonstrated how rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain? Since our natural survival instincts kick in and want to help us avoid experiencing that same pain again, we must dig deep and push through with courage, confident that a positive outcome is on the other side.
Listen, my friend, I know someone is really needing to let this sink into their soul right now, just as I needed to many years ago. You will never find freedom by running from unresolved issues in your life. It’s not possible to outrun the pain of your past—it’s part of you and it’s always there with you. If something is unresolved, it means it’s not solved. Imagine you have an infection on your arm that continued to grow and get bigger. Finally, you go to the doctor, and they confirm, “Yes, that is a bad infection.” They put a huge bandage on it and say, “Well, there you go. Now you won’t even see it. That will be $150 please.” You would run out the door without paying because there was no resolution, right? Any infection we have—physical or emotional—will continue to grow and spread until we address it and get rid of it completely.
For Nancy, the more she opened up, the more empowered she felt to say whatever she needed to say to her abuser. Nancy made a brave choice and found her voice!
No matter where you might be on the childhood challenges spectrum—whether you enjoyed a loving, safe and secure home with minor bumps n’ bruises along the way; had a horrifically abusive home like Nancy or somewhere in between—it’s important to give yourself the grace, place and space to process anything that feels hurtful, shameful or painful. For you to acknowledge it gives you a voice and a choice of what to do with it now! As a little girl, I didn’t have a voice or choice regarding the neglect or abuse I endured. But by God’s grace I’ve been able to go back and counteract all the negative messages with the Truth of God’s Word and what He says about my value and worth. Also, I’ve learned to give myself the love and compassion I so craved from the adults in my life who were ill-equipped to provide it.
The reality is, unlike Nancy’s abuser, most parents did the best they could with the tools they had at the time, so this is not about blaming. Instead, it’s about understanding yourself so you can feel, deal, and heal.
In my research over the years, I’ve heard numerous doctors share how childhood dysfunction, hurts and traumas have left the greatest invisible scars on their patients’ souls and how different those individuals’ physical health would be if they’d had the tools to help them heal that pain. This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in the power of self-compassion. It gives back what was withheld or taken from us as a child. It empowers us to go back and meet our sad, suffering soul in that exact place where we felt alone, abandoned or abused. We can then acknowledge that pain and give ourselves the love, compassion and nurturing we deeply and desperately desired at the time. Combined with the unending blessings God gives us for love, power and a sound mind, when we go back for personal restoration, we are able to give ourselves the gift of going forward in peace and freedom.
❤Feel ❤Deal ❤Heal
- Stay in God’s Word and memorize Scripture about your TRUE worth and value.
- Give yourself the grace, space and place to journal about anything you want to process, no matter how ancient or trivial it seems. If you’re still thinking about it, it’s time to process it!
- Find someone you can trust implicitly who is qualified to help you navigate this journey.
- Be loving and patient with yourself! Life happened in layers—so does healing.
- Continually give yourself the compassion you crave. You’re the only one who knows how you feel.
I pray God’s abundant blessing over you as you learn to feel and deal, so you can heal!
Grab your FREE copy of Joan Endicott’s “I Get To!”® book and videos at www.JoanEndicott.com. Joan is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author and Coach who’s coaching has reached over 30 countries. Meet her and enjoy her encouraging messages on Facebook and Instagram.