I debated about writing about the dark part of my story because I didn’t want to dwell on the dark but on the beauty that comes out of the ashes. But I realized that context would be helpful for you as you read. In order to know where I am coming from and for our stories – yours and mine – to find connection and meaning, I will share a portion of my narrative. I want to note that joy and amazing beauty have been gifted me in the midst of all the hard I will share. “Most of the mystics have talked about grief being the doorway to joy and presence.” (Cindy B.) In fact I am convinced that many of the richest treasures are actually hidden in the dark – in the ashes – in our grief. My hope for this blog will be exploring how to hold the hard parts of our stories while also sifting through and receiving some of those beautiful treasures that we find hidden there; treasures which give us hope. But for a moment, I want to share some of what broke my heart.
We are so intricately and creatively made. We are so carefully created that we can withstand and live in constant danger and pain as children and instead of it destroying us, a child’s mind will put it away in secret places so that she can continue to function even in the midst of hell.
When I was in my early 40’s I discovered some painful truths about my childhood. But at that time, I had no memory of such things because all the pain had been carefully stowed away in secret places within me. Therefore I actually was lacking much memory of any of my childhood. As more of my childhood truths were revealed from outside sources, I realized I needed help to sort through and hold all my new stories. So, I connected with an amazing therapist who walked with me through the abyss as it was revealed to me. My memory woke up and I began sorting through all the levels of trauma and abuse I had walked through. I can tell you, it got a lot darker before there was any light at all. I was choosing to actually walk into the dark and turn on the light and walk around and truly see what I had endured. I could not have survived that journey into the abyss if my precious husband and my gifted therapist had not surrounded me.
Another complicating factor is that at the beginning of the twelve years of trudging through the muck of my childhood, my husband and I started a church with a small team of people which included our son and daughter-in-law. Not really good timing, to say the least. We called this church – Renovation – or “Renovatus” (the Latin word for renovation). So, we attempted to lead and grow a church while we were in the depths of being renovated ourselves. Tricky, to say the least. But an invitation to be honest, real, vulnerable and extend the mercy and compassion I was experiencing as I, myself, journeyed.
At about year six of the church plant and of my personal trauma recovery journey, our teammate and son discovered he had a rare tumor in his spine. Through the next seventeen months, we traveled an even darker road of his cancer treatment, attempting to be present for grandkids and Jessica and Ryan and saying good-bye. Ryan died ( at the time of this writing ) almost five years ago. I didn’t think things could get darker as I walked through my childhood pain and loss but I was wrong. Losing our son brought a whole new level of darkness, loss and sorrow.
This pathway was strewn with other losses that are heartbreaking. When trauma stories collide, there are misunderstandings, fear, and childhood wounds that awaken guilt and shame, all of which can bring conflict, factions, dissension, and loss of some precious relationships.
Many have asked, “Why turn on the lights and remember the horrific?” Because denial (a good friend of mine, btw), says I can live out my life and that all that is in the dark doesn’t affect me or the people around me. I sure wish that were true – but it is not. It has been said:
“Know your story or your story will live you.” (Gertrud Mueller Nelson)
“If you don’t transform your pain – you will transmit it to those around you.” (Richard Rohr)
One of the biggest tragedies of all my abuse was the loss of presence. And the most valuable treasure of walking through the grief of my story has been presence.
Freedom comes when we have remembered, looked upon, and then grieved all that wounded us. It is there that a fuller presence, forgiveness, and love are born.