Tag Archives: EMDR

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

“Forgive, forgive, forgive, Dana,” Graciela would say while gently pressing her fist against her heart. As I was choking back tears, exhausted from the storm inside of me, Graciela would repeat it over and over again. Telling me her story of forgiveness, my Colombian angel’s eyes filled with love. The words she spoke in her thick, soothing accent were honey on my wounds. As Graciela held a safe place for me, I performed my hurt, pain, fear show detailing all of the uncertainty, unknowns arising out of my sudden life change, my move to be with my now husband, Gary. I was at Graciela’s home, sitting across from her, looking for answers to figure out if I would batten down the hatches or run away. Being uprooted was making me come undone, or I thought. I had no idea that the hurricane stirring in me had little to do with my move and everything to do with the fact that I had not forgiven my mom.

I sat listening to Graciela and cried hard. It was full bore ugly crying. She found something for me to cry into as I ran out of the tissues that I had packed for myself. There were so many tears. As I sat across from Graciela, the tears streaming down were not as much for the little girl Dana morning the loss of what she, I, never felt from Mom. I cried most of those tears years ago as I was preparing for and going through EMDR therapy. My former partner, David, did an incredible job of holding a safe place for as I morned the loss of a childhood that never was. The tears I was shedding in front of Graciela were the start of me finally letting go of the resentment and bitterness that I harbored for my mom. Graciela’s “forgive, forgive, forgive” was starting to get through.

Seeing Graciela’s bright eyes and being around her light encouraged me to forgive. I was fortunate to see Graciela many times, often at her daughter’s home where I was staying. One day, Graciela gave me a card that read “LO SIENTO, TE AMO, PERDONAME, GRACIAS” on the front and “I AM SORRY, I LOVE YOU, FORGIVE ME, THANK YOU” on the back. She told me to keep reading it over and over. She said it would help me. During especially difficult times, when I felt powerless over the storm inside of me, I would pray, asking God for help, pull out Graciela’s card, and repeat, “I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you.” Sometimes I would say it to myself and sometimes to Mom. I’ve kept the card close since Graciela gave it to me last fall and I often hear her voice, “Forgive, forgive, forgive, Dana.”

I was only a few months ago, soon after Gary and I got married, that I felt the burden of unforgiveness lift. It was a powerful summer day when I told Gary that I felt as though I had forgiven my mom. Amazing things started happening right after I embraced my new state of consciousness. By forgiving Mom, I was able to shed an old version of myself and, with the newness, extraordinary gifts have arrived. The release of the resentment and bitterness has calmed the storm and allowed space for a previously unimaginable Love. I am opening more and more each day as the dust settles and I go deeper to clean out other, often old, areas of my life. I look for what I still need to forgive and let go. As I do, I feel lighter, lifted above all the years of the old me. This new version of me looks forward to continuing the work of cleaning out and letting go. Lighter and lighter, without all of the old burdens, I have a new perspective. Up here, the air is clean and clear. It’s possible to breathe easy, now.

Thank you, Graciela, for sharing your love, your story with me. I am forever changed. 

My Story, My Truth, My Art

Me in 1st Grade

Me in 1st Grade

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with one person’s story of child abuse and may trigger some people.

I’m finally ready to share something really important with you. I was an abused child. In some ways, I’m still that scared little girl, still hiding in the corner of the closet, terrified of people in power. Still afraid to speak, make the abuse worse, disgrace myself, or disgrace those who abused me. But, today, I’m feeling stronger and I’m ready to share my story.

When I was a little girl, my mom hit me with those big thick leather belts with huge metal buckles. She would use both the belt and, intentionally or not, the buckle, leaving welts on my legs, back, butt, and arms. If I got away from her and ran, she’d throw the belt after me. It felt like a war zone. I never knew what would set her off or when it was safe. It never felt safe.

I wasn’t safe at church, either. The preacher’s hellfire and brimstone reached us, through speakers, in the nursery and toddler rooms. I remember hearing that if I didn’t get saved, I might die in a car wreck on the way home and burn in hell for eternity. Even as the preacher called, with “Softly and Tenderly” playing in the background, I never did hear Jesus calling me. Instead, I feared Jesus, the devil, and the preacher. Sure, I did get “saved” when I was six, soon after another young girl, my peer, accepted Jesus Christ in front of the entire congregation. I had to keep up appearances. I hoped it would keep me safe from the preacher and maybe my mom. But not Jesus and not the devil. That was hoping too much. Jesus and the devil knew my thoughts, so I could never feel safe from them.

That fear went to school with me. At the end of each day, my first grade teacher would spank all the students that had not finished their work. I felt so threatened and so completely undone, that I had to be taken out of school. I wouldn’t get off the toilet because I always felt like I had to pee. Staying at my mamaw’s house, I’d sit on a tiny white pot in front of the TV watching Mister Rogers. Mamaw was always kind, always loving — thank goodness for her! Eventually, I got over my pee pot issues and went back to school. But, even now, when I smell my first grade teacher’s perfume or elementary school cleaning products, I feel sick, afraid, and unsafe.

As I got older, my mom stopped using the belt on me, using only her hand. The last time she hit me was when I was a teenager in the car. I said something she didn’t like and she backhanded me. We were on the way to see a therapist to figure out why I was so angry at my mom. I already knew why I was angry. I just couldn’t express it.

I carry my fear with me each and every day, a backpack full of emotion. I’ve felt decades of hurt, guilt, and shame. A little over a year ago, I finally started EMDR therapy to help the traumatized little girl in me. And it really has helped, a lot. I’m getting better, gradually, gratefully.

It has been a painful and powerful journey going from trauma to love. As I recently shared with my therapist, I take care of the little girl Dana by creating my art with tiny fragile beads. It’s peaceful time with her, with little Dana, showing her that it’s ok, safe. It’s quiet, calm, and really gentle in that space, that place of art. She likes it there very much.

As I become stronger, that little girl inside of me is coming out of the darkness, leaving behind the guilt and shame of abuse. I’m shining my light for her as I share my story, my truth, my art.

I want to dedicate this post to my dear friend. It’s safe and I love you. For you, and all of those like us, there is hope, help, and happiness after all.