The office phone jangled. I answered in a professional workplace manner, but my vocal tone warmed when I recognized the voice coming from the other end was that of an older woman I cared about deeply.
Before exchanging pleasantries, the woman blurted, “I’ve been having dreams lately.” I knew from the tone of her voice, she wasn’t speaking of happy, lighthearted dreams.
“What kind of dreams?” I inquired, gently.
A childhood story detailing abuse gushed from the 70-something-year-old woman’s mouth. Sickening details crushed my heart.
The distraught woman said she had never told her story to anyone—not even a kind psychiatrist who’d tried to get her to open up a few years earlier during hospitalization for a psychiatric breakdown.
She thought the story was buried in a grave of forgetfulness and that day was distraught, wondering why it had returned to haunt her now when she was an old woman and her abusers had been dead many years?
It’s not uncommon for childhood memories to re-surface during life’s later years when our minds aren’t so distracted by multiple responsibilities, I told her. I wasn’t sure this was accurate information. but, it seemed plausible. Normalizing her traumatic dreams seemed to bring comfort. I encouraged her to think of these memories as a gift to help heal painful childhood abuse, suggesting perhaps they hadn’t been buried in a forgetfulness, but rather deep within her soul.
As her angst diminished, our conversation progressed, and I recommended she speak with a professional counselor. Having taken the first step of making the call to me, the woman seemed empowered to take the next. During the following months, a combination of talk therapy, practical cognitive behavioral exercises and medication helped ease the emotional pain and free this smart, funny, charming lady from the secret shame, which had haunted her most of her life.
I was proud of my friend’s resolve and courage, and I was humbled she’d trusted me with the treasure of her story!
Research within the medical, psychological and even business communities shows increasingly the value of storytelling.
Some stories are humorous, and the laughter generated from recalling and relating funny memories is, as Proverbs 17:22 says, “good medicine.” Healing of painful memories associated with dark, scary, shame-filled stories begins when exposed to the light of redemptive truth.
Passing on our stories is good for our souls!
Several months ago, my friend Bethany (a pseudonym), told her story—a story filled with incidents of childhood abuse, including sexual abuse from a religious leader. (Note: To read these posts, go to www.suereeve.com, and check archived posts, April 11-April 28, 2016. The 6-part series was entitled “The Little Girl Inside Our Story.”) Beginning to pass on her story wasn’t easy for Bethany. I appreciate her courage and admire the resilience of this beautiful woman’s spirit.
I’ve observed my friend’s growth since she wrote those guest posts. I asked if she’d be willing to share what she’s learned during this time of discovery and growth. What has helped aid her healing? What are some of the outcomes related to her determination to get healthier as a woman of faith, a wife and a mother?
I know you’ll enjoy reading the sequel to Bethany’s story, “The Little Girl’s Story Continues.” Watch for the first chapter beginning next time…
Celebrating your story…