A ‘Your Voices’ Column written by a survivor
Worth It: A Meditation of Hope and Healing
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more happiness you can contain.” -Kahlil Gibran, from “The Prophet”
So many times I have asked myself, is healing possible after tragedy? What does it feel like? Do you ever stop hurting? Do you get your life back?
When I was in high school, I was repeatedly raped by a father-figure friend of the family whom I loved and trusted. If you remember how vulnerable and scared age fifteen is, if you recall how fragile are a girl’s dreams, innocence, and trust, you will understand my agony when these precious things were stolen from me.
Too ashamed to tell my secret and without words to express the horror even if I could have spoken out, I lived through four years of high school in an iron cage of silence, trying to survive. I withdrew into a dream world where I felt safe and protected. Even there, I could not escape the pain that was eating me up inside.
Just before graduation, I knew I had to tell my parents about the abuse. Instinctively I knew that before I could live, I first had to heal. Healing began with stammering, halting words, as my parents’ love melted the icebergs of silence that had separated us for far too long.
After graduation, the carefully constructed house of cards that I called my life collapsed. The first tentative words I had spoken were like a dike giving way. I could no longer hold the pain inside. I had to cry. I had to get angry.
There were times when the pain was so great that I couldn’t draw a deep breath. Times of overwhelming grief for lost childhood, lost girlhood, lost belief in the world, lost relationships, lost chances. Times of quiet heartache.
Every day I dreamed of what I would do with my life once I got it back. Every night I lit candles to symbolize brighter days ahead. Healing became the laurel crown I coveted as the victorious end of a race I thought I could never finish.
Like a receding storm tide, the agony gradually began to ebb. A pasture full of lightening bugs on a sultry summer night, the first snowfall of winter, apple blossoms against a spring-time sky, and fallen leaves in autumn all gave me the same old thrill of delight.
I can truly say that healing is a miracle. Although it isn’t the exuberantly perfect state I told myself it would be on those dark winter nights when I wanted to give up on life, I now have hard-won strength, courage, and hope in my arsenal to face the struggles, heartaches, and doubts. I have faced my memories, smelled their breath, and they can no longer control me. I have been deep into the darkness of pain and now, emerging into the light of joy, I find the colors of life so much brighter.
For me, healing means drawing deep breaths of thankfulness and feeling alive for the first time in years. It means waking up to a new day with a whole spirit, looking forward to watching a great movie, taking a long hike, or going square-dancing. It means a long day of satisfying hard work and not remembering once that I am an abuse survivor. It means going to college and realizing that out-lived pain has not dulled my love of learning. It means I am learning that it’s safe to trust again, and blossoming from that renewed trust, I now have more friends than I can count. It means that I have been blessed to fall in love with a good man who loves me in spite of, or perhaps because of, my scars. It means a quiet evening of reading with candlelight and harp music, not heartache, for company.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely “over” the abuse. The memories can still come in like a flood and turn me into a terrified, sobbing child. The past still aches at times, like a long-healed broken bone in damp weather. But my life has answered my questions. I have in truth been given beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. God has indeed turned for me my mourning into dancing.
No longer just a survivor, I joyously live the best life I can.
Written by a Blessed Survivor