vulnerability and strength




Victims of abuse tend to be quite strong. We need to be in order to survive. When you begin the process of healing, one learns that vulnerability is needed. First, we as victims/survivors allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those we trust – therapists, pastoral counselors, and close friends – by sharing our stories of trauma. Eventually, later in the healing process, it is easier to allow ourselves to be authentic with more and more people. Vulnerability is part of that authenticity.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”

                Criss Jami

Christina Rasmussen, who dealt with grief from the death of her husband, addresses this point also in a recent blog post of hers. She writes:

“I think when we go through really tough times we toughen up so much that we lose our ability to ask for help. And it takes years, and in my case a decade, to see how much harder I made my life after loss because I did not ask for help.”

“You don’t need to do it all on your own.”

To read the entire blog post, go to:

We, I believe, are meant to serve each other, to help each other move forward in our lives on this earth. In order to do that, being open to receiving is as important as being able to give to others. Both are needed.

This weekend is Mother’s Day. It is also the weekend that my daughter, Megan, graduates from university. I am proud of my daughter. Her life has been filled with huge challenges and injustices especially since the age of 13 when she was separated from me. She is a strong individual and will find her path. At the age of 21 years and a college graduate, she is embarking on her life as an adult woman. I suspect my daughter will have many resources and individuals along her path who will support her as she one day begins her healing journey and faces the past of abuse and trauma in her life. Megan was blessed with individuals, families, and a parish priest in the Catholic community in Germany who showed their love and support in her earlier years. In Spokane, Megan and I both experienced benevolence from strangers … some who became friends.

A foundation of love existed for Megan as well as the trauma, abuse, and torture she experienced plus the unjust court decisions. The courts and institutions definitely failed her. The details are not needed here. The hope that Megan can and will face the truth one day and heal sustains me, as her mom.

I have been asked by others what they should do if someone they love is not yet ready to face the abuse in his or her past. The question usually includes guilt on the part of the inquirer who is facing the past and healing. I recognize that guilt. In my mind, it is partly survivor’s guilt.

I meant to free Megan from her father and other abusers.  I became a protective parent in order to do so. Although I succeeded in keeping Megan free and safe for 16 months as a protective mom, the result was not good once we were discovered. All my determination, willingness, and love to help my daughter could not bring positive results in the courts and other institutions. So, I ended up free – not living with the abuser (my ex-husband). After Megan experienced a forced (approximately six month stay) in a psych institution, she returned to live with her father (the perpetrator). For years, I could not even think of not living in PAIN. Here I was – wanting freedom and safety for my daughter – and she was not free or safe. I was both free and safe; yet, the emotional pain/torture (from knowing my daughter was with her father, the perpetrator) kept me an emotional hostage for quite a long time. (To understand the predicament of a protective parent, watch the DVD, No Way Out But One. See:

As a recovering alcoholic, I would read the Hazelden Thought for the Day regularly during those first years of the separation from Megan. One of the reflections that resonated deeply within me is by Melody Beattie titled, “Letting Go of Those Not in Recovery”. You see, recovery to me does not only have to mean recovery from addiction. It can be recovery from a past of abuse as well.

Melody Beattie writes:

“But now, there is a bridge between those on the other side and us. Sometimes, we may be tempted to go back and drag them over with us, but it cannot be done. No one can be dragged or forced across this bridge. Each person must go at his or her own choice, when the time is right. Some will come; some will stay on the other side. The choice is not ours.

bridge - recoveryWe can love them. We can wave to them. We can holler back and forth. We can cheer them on, as others have cheered and encouraged us. But we cannot make them come over with us.

If our time has come to cross the bridge, or if we have already crossed and are standing in the light and warmth, we do not have to feel guilty. It is where we are meant to be. We do not have to go back to the dark cliff because another’s time has not yet come.

The best thing we can do is stay in the light, because it reassures others that there is a better place. And if others ever do decide to cross the bridge, we will be there to cheer them on.

Today, I will move forward with my life, despite what others are doing or not doing. I will know it is my right to cross the bridge to a better life, even if I must leave others behind to do that. I will not feel guilty. I will not feel ashamed. I know that where I am now is a better place and where I’m meant to be.”

The entire reflection can be read on a site that happens to be an ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) site. The link is:

When I reply to those who ask me what to do about their loved ones not facing the truth, I usually answer with Melody Beattie’s reflection as well as my own thoughts. It took me a long time to internalize Beattie’s message. There are still moments when I wonder, how can I be happy? Yet, I know I deserve happiness, love, joy and peace.

In my heart, I trust both my daughter’s inner wisdom and my Higher Power. I trust Megan will find her own road … in her own time … in God’s time … and it will include healing and much love, truth, peace, freedom, and joy.

Writing a blog and sharing my thoughts and feelings make me vulnerable. If one person is helped my by writings and vulnerability, that is good enough. My desire is to help, sustain, serve, and support survivors as they learn to thrive.

I am a mother and a woman who is strong. I am vulnerable. I am free. It is okay to let myself feel joy as well as peace.

I shall end this blog post with a quotation from Madeleine L’Engle:

“When we were children

we used to think that

when we were grown-up

we would no longer

be vulnerable.

But to grow up is

to accept vulnerability . . .

to be alive

is to be vulnerable.”