When You’re Navigating Childhood Trauma as an Adult

Guest Post by Hope Vitale

 

{Due to the delicate balance of childhood events where family members are either in denial or coming to terms with what happened, our next blogger is using a pseudonym. She’s a Christian author, speaker, and blogger in many circles, whose traumatic past has recently re-surfaced. Part of her healing process has been from writing and photography. She shares her story as an encouragement to others who may be in similar situations. Hope will be available in the comment sections and offline, for more conversations.}

 

 

My mother’s words slammed into my heart. Their effects reverberated through me.

 

“I finally remember what happened,” she said, “and it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought. God really protected you.”

 

As we thought?

 

Why is this coming up so casually as we drive down a freeway with my younger daughters in the seats behind us?

 

It had been months since we’d stood in front of the house where the boy had taken my innocence. Since the unexplainable panic attacks after purchasing a ticket to a wedding in the city with the playhouse, its scratchy floor, and the tree branches out the window that comforted me each time it happened.

 

She’d stood with me as I wept that day, screamed and swore with me at the appalling truth. Prayed for me. Right there in front of the house where it had happened.

 

And now, this? Couched in God words?

 

I said nothing, just focused on the road ahead. Breathing through shock, I crumbled inward, whispered from deep inside, “God, is this true?”

 

Because when people say words couched in religious terms they weigh more. They profoundly enliven our souls or they rip the rug right out from beneath them.

 

If I’d responded right then, the rug might have slid from under me. But because of wisdom that must have been injected by God into this heart, I said nothing. I was too busy struggling with whether the words were true—or even partly true. With wondering what may have motivated them in the first place.

 

What light could I shine on the words to know what to keep and what to let slip off my heart without even regarding it? That hinged on the other issue: her motivation.

 

She is my mother.

 

I can only imagine the whirlwind of emotions in her heart as memories of abuse make their way out of locked internal closets where I’ve kept them all those years. How can a mother endure her grown daughter’s suffering? How can she trust God who allowed it? Could she have done anything to prevent it, or prevent it’s happening more than once? As a mom of daughters myself, the idea of anyone hurting my daughters like I experienced boils rage (and fear!) so hot inside I could slam my fist through a wall.

 

lauries oct 28 post

 

The more I asked the questions and sat quiet in the wave of shock, the more I saw it: she’s grieving. She loves me. She needs closure. She needs to do her own business with God—to reconcile his goodness and love for her daughter with the reality that he’d permitted the abuse to happen.

 

Neither of us will ever know why. But both of us have seen so much of God’s goodness in decades since then that we can’t stay angry at him forever.

 

She had to say what she said for her own healing.

 

It busted up my heart for her to say the words. There’s a rift, and I don’t know what God will do to repair it. Empathizing with her in the car took the edge off my anger and sense of being abandoned to heal from the abuse without her. It gave me the strength to choose forgiveness—to enact the spiritual contract that released her (and me) from letting that moment imprison us.

 

I can’t tell you where this will end up. I don’t know how much I will be able to let her back into all the tender places in my heart.

 

But I do know it wasn’t God who said those words in the car. It was a person like me, frail flesh hurting in this broken world. A person I love much. So I choose to trust God to protect and hold us both as we grapple and heal.

 

I will choose to look to God in me who is bigger than any of it. God who is love and light, who we can hold onto as the Giver of good gifts, even if it’s only holding on by a thread and holding our tongue long enough to let his Spirit assure us again.

 

 

For more conversations on dealing with hurtful words and painful pasts, you can also click here.

 

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IMG_3128Hope Vitale lives in a household of girls with her husband, making their home somewhere out west. In addition to being a mother and wife, her work days are spent as speaker, author, blogger, and hobby photographer, capturing the ordinary beauty around her. On occasion she meets with other writers, attends writing conferences and retreats, and has a passion for others to be made whole through Christ.

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