October 15, 2019

I Hated My Abuser...

This week, Sherna Alexander Benjamin raises her voice, refuses to be silenced, and shares with us why, in the face of all of the many reasons to hate, she comes back to hope.

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Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” For many the day of trouble seems to never end. In some cases intensifying with each passing week, and at times, the path which chose some of us by force seems to overwhelm us causing us to shout, “Oh Violence! Thou has conquered!”

In such times, something unseen, something mystical pushes me through the darkness to hold on, and pushes me to continue telling my story and the stories of others.

Throughout history most pioneers get the beatings and settlers the rewards. If this is true, many victims of violence who advocate for change become pioneers and walk into a different level of abuse and victimization by a society which often lacks understanding, empathy, compassion, creating systems to hold onto toxic traditional norms, and draws the strings to the purses of change and resources tightly.

Sometimes I think to myself, if this is the price to have a society which is free from violence against women and girls, then I would rather not have peace. 

This may seem to be a harsh statement, however many victims who lived in the midst of violence have been conditioned to know nothing else. Because violence and chaos touched our lives, we sometimes feel strangely at peace, but also insanely uncomfortable and cry out for help. 

Yet hope in a better tomorrow propels us to work towards stripping ourselves from finding any comfort in chaos.

When I reflect upon the emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual violence which I endured as a child, I see how it set me on a self-destructive path. 

Yet, I chose to be an influencer. I’d rather use the debris of my life to make positive impacts and touch lives. I’d rather work toward the prevention of violence against women and girls, men and boys and I’d rather feel the sting of a society than remain neutral.

The assumptions, attitudes and behaviours which enable environments of violence to undermine the health and well-being of children ought to be changed to promote healthy environments of peaceful coexistence, safety and security.

Children should never be used as sexual objects to pacify the perverted appetites of individuals whose uncontrolled toxic passions are governed by lustful desires of power to control, hurt, and perpetuate violence.

At times, I’d rather forget my pain, forget that childhood abuse touched my life and marred it. I’d rather forget and just live. I’d rather forget the problems I endured, the depression which took over at times causing feelings of fear and anxiety moving me to be a loner, self-isolating even within the crowd.

I’d rather forget the inability to trust completely, the depletion of authentic love and the self-harm which, at times, led to suicide ideations and failed attempts. I would rather forget the seductive pull of being torn between hating the abuse and my abusers, and the teenage biological yearning for sexual exploration. 

Still, I despised it all, and often washed my skin so hard that it blistered after those filthy touches. I’d rather forget the facades I had to create to survive the next day, the next touch, and to face society and the shame that moved me to make up stories of grandeur and the lies to protect the abusers while wishing they were caught or dead to prevent society from labeling me incomplete, flawed, or citing me as the cause of the abuse. 


Slowly I begun to hate my abusers, the world and life. I was ashamed of my body, and creeping thoughts of hate against those who stood on the side-lines and did nothing enveloped my mind. 

I held the passion of hate for a society that told me, “Girls should be seen and not heard,” and a growing despise against, yet a yearning for, the very touch of a man. Yet I hope for a better tomorrow so I push to survive.

While my life is continually one of transition, embracing my narratives, one of growth and acceptance, I cannot and will not allow society to say to me, “Hush!” Because women and girls voices should be seen and heard!

I will not allow society to say, “Break your silence, but we do not want to hear,” and I will not be re-traumatized and re-victimized by those who believe victims of violence make too much noise, require too much support, and ought to continue to keep family secrets. Many tried and are still trying to silence my voice. Yet I hope in a better tomorrow keeps me speaking.

For victims of violence and abuse pain passes the comprehension of the mind and stings like a craved demoniac, leaving lingering pangs that sometimes only the darkness of night or solitude eases. Sometimes the faces and voices that we see and hear add more pain to the sorrows of our hearts.

Because abuse is pervasive, because women and girls are still oppressed because of the resiliency of patriarchy, because children are violated and human beings are sold as pieces of merchandise to the highest bidder for the sexual gratification of unwise and foolish individuals, because power holders, influencers, law makers and governments refuse to see the issue of child abuse and domestic violence as national issues, and because women and girls are slowly becoming endangered, I will not keep silent. I will advocate, collaborate and work towards a better world because I hope.

I will take the frequent reputation attacks but not own them, I will acknowledge the feelings of shame but not live in them, and I will notice the ridicule and use the power of stories to create empowering opportunities using my voice, pen and the Internet to burst those self-created bubbles. 

Violence against any human being must never be enabled, it must never rear its ugly head in our present and future lives. According to Elie Wiesel, we must never forget! If we forget, we too shall be forgotten. We must never rob the present and the future of our collective memory, and we must never cheapen or make banal our experiences with violence. We must forever remember those who died, for we are their memory, our hearts their museum, and our voices their justice. We must forge ahead.

I hold onto those moments of hope in the midst of darkness: when the voices of men rise to support women and girls being agents of change, the increasing number of women who are breaking their silence, the empowerment of victims, new laws that have been passed, and the power of the Internet to facilitate and sustain change. Hope in a better tomorrow looks promising and each of us must get involved to make it a reality.


Read Part 1: The 5 Stages of Hopelessness



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Sherna Alexander Benjamin is on a journey of Spiritual Renewal. She is a Writing Enthusiast, World Pulse Ambassador, Advocate and University student pursuing a course of study in Social Work and Research to restore human dignity, tell stories, drive social impact, and change Public Policies and Laws. She Champions for Justice Systems (within the family, community and society), Women and Girls Advancement and Education, Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Peace building and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.

Go here to learn more about and to donate to support her efforts to begin university classes in Spring.

"We educate women because it is smart. We educate women because it changes the world." - Drew Fuast

October 8, 2019

The 5 Stages of Hopelessness

This month, Sherna Alexander Benjamin joins us to drop some deep wisdom. I first connected with Sherna to participate in her online magazine that was being developed through her organization, Organization for Abused & Battered Individuals. In this first post, Sherna shares about an interaction with a young woman that reminded her to heed the little moments we have to bring hope and light to others. She also shares her model for understanding the different stages of hopelessness.

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"Hope is that inner strength which enables us to walk graciously through fear, and misfortune while believing in a better tomorrow." – Sherna Alexander Benjamin

I met Hannah in 2015 while presenting at a domestic violence community outreach initiative. After I completed my presentation she approached me, requesting a private audience. Sensing she may want to speak about a personal matter, I discreetly moved away from the crowd into one of the smaller rooms.

Upon entering the room she began to cry, her head bowed and wiping away the tears she said, 
"Thank you for sharing your story! You do not know it, but you just saved a life." She then proceeded to speak about her present experiences as a result of being a victim of generational abuse. She spoke of having no formal education nor employment, the struggles to care for three young children after leaving her abusive partner, and feeling like a societal burden and failure.

A few hours before our outreach event, Hannah was writing a suicide note to leave for her children as she was tired of life, of all the closed doors, of all the shameful stares, of all the harsh judgments by society, of all the lengthy and onerous bureaucratic processes from state agencies and she was tired of being tired. She was losing hope.

I connected with some aspects of Hannah’s story. Taking the time to understand her experience. Listening compassionately in a non-judgmental manner enabled me to manifest generosity, opening the doors of empathy and compassion. 

Through a collaborative effort Hannah received support to meet her priority needs and follow up support which facilitated environments for her to become empowered beginning the process of self-sustainability. That significant moment and the actions which followed activated the process of restoring Hannah’s human dignity, her hope in humanity and built a hope-filled foundation for her children.

What I learned from Hannah’s story:


If we are not consciously present we can miss those moments when hope enters our lives.

* Understanding someone’s experience will enable us to manifest generosity which opens the door for empathy and compassion.

* Our actions or inactions can tilt the scales of life positively or negatively.

* Tell your story. There are strangers who are waiting to hear it. Your story should not be kept to yourself as you are depriving others of seeing hope in action.

* Just before the dawn the darkness intensifies – it is during this time we ought to firmly embrace those collective moments of hope to steer us into the dawn.

* Though our experiences may have some similarities they are all unique. Do not devalue your experience by comparing it to someone else’s. Or by rewriting it to make it palatable for society – if you endured it then society can hear it in its most unapologetic and unfiltered form.

* You are not alone, unseen watchers from the Cosmos are cheering you on and at the appointed moment in time an angel arises with rays of hope giving you a testimony for the present and preparing you for the journey ahead.

Over the last decade, I have had the awesome opportunity to connect with hundreds of people like Hannah and many others who endured various harrowing life experiences. As I continue to connect with communities of people, one common characteristic which emerges is "moments of hopelessness". At some point in our lives, we all experience those moments. 


In 2017, I created the HEED-U model to categorize my own behavior as part of my personal healing process to connect with self.


This model categorizes phases of behavior’s during states and times of hopelessness: 


1. "All is lost" – the individual is catapulted into severe states of despair leading to depression.

2. Quiet Unhealthy Adaptation– the individual quietly adapts to the presenting situation, with an "It is what it is, I am still alive" attitude, unconsciously becoming comfortable with hopelessness seeing self as a constant victim.

3. Careless Disruptor – the individual begins to engage in self-destructive behaviors (360 degree turns or subtly over time), another personality emerges to the surprise of many.

4. Blind Courageous Forger – the individual forges ahead despite the presenting situation(s) manifesting unhealthy hope living with a false sense of all will be well.

5. ReFocused Progressive Embracer – the individual analyzes the situation, acknowledges emotions and feelings, reflects, writes and ask for help creating beauty from the ashes.


I soon realized that many persons want to be a ReFocused Progressive Embracer however, in reality we often go through other phases of behavior while progressing to the RPE phase and beyond. Everyone’s journey is different. No matter the phase you are in the behavior is a cry for help and within every cry hope is present because deep within we yearn for a better tomorrow.

We often look for hope to be public dramatic displays. However, it is progressive significant moments of remarkable resilience, courage, and trust in ourselves, those around us and in a stranger which manifests at moments in time. In essence, hope is trusting in humanity to understand our experiences.

These progressive significant moments are manifested physically through our actions and validated by the actions of others. They come in small doses which we often miss favoring despair. Being consciously present while going through our adverse life experiences places us in a space to embrace, acknowledge and name those moments of hope for future reference.

Whatever you may be experiencing, when you move through those life experiences, remember -- be present, embracing every moment, acknowledging every emotion though painful, name every feeling, and write every thought. Seek out what I call "value-based support systems" (VBSS), be kind to yourself and remember, every breath that you take is a breath of hope and every time you exhale you send hope into the Cosmos. As we embrace those progressive significant moments of hope during times of chaos and tragedy we open the door for the restoration of human dignity for ourselves and others.





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Sherna Alexander Benjamin is on a journey of Spiritual Renewal. She is a Writing Enthusiast, World Pulse Ambassador, Advocate and University student pursuing a course of study in Social Work and Research to restore human dignity, tell stories, drive social impact, and change Public Policies and Laws. She Champions for Justice Systems (within the family, community and society), Women and Girls Advancement and Education, Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Peace building and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.

Go here to learn more about and to donate to support her efforts to begin university classes in Spring.

"We educate women because it is smart. We educate women because it changes the world." - Drew Fuast

September 24, 2019

Making Recovery Last

This week, we conclude our series with guest blogger Patricia Eagle, in which she offers suggestions on how a survivor of sexual abuse can make recovery last! All excerpts are from her book, Being Mean—A Memoir of Sexual Abuse & Survival.

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“Does life ever get any easier?” I asked one of my life mentors during a particularly challenging time of my life. “My life seems to stay in tangles that won’t let a comb slide through. I don’t think I’ll ever get the snarls out,” is how I described that time in my memoir, Being Mean—A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival.

“Life doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but you do get better at it,” my mentor encouraged. This is good advice for survivors of child sex abuse. 

When memories continue to churn or new memories surface, it may still hurt, but we can get better at how we hold our memories and angst.

I attempt to describe this in my book: 

“Having memories surface and sorting through them over and over is almost as crazy-making as stuffing them down . . . I am discovering that some of the best tools for survival are having the courage to be open to what I have lived, forgiving myself, and accepting that this work may take a lifetime.” 

But sifting through memories as I try to make sense of them remains a challenge. How do I find meaning and sustain the balance I’ve created in recovery as memories continue to surface? 

For some survivors, it’s a challenge to stay open to our feelings. We learned to numb and dissociate as children, and these patterns persist unless we continue to take steps toward healing. In my book I wrote, 

“How do I get to that sadness inside of me, where that scared little girl resides—who had no idea she was living with trauma—and assure her that I know she is there, that I am choosing her, that I love her and will protect her, the very things I always wanted my mother to do for me?”

Oddly, I think that when we keep ourselves in a perpetual state of overwhelm, perhaps to prolong numbness and dissociation, we keep ourselves from deeper possibilities of healing our injured spirits and hearts. To help recovery sink in and last, it helps to build new habits and lifestyles. 


The compassion and self-compassion I mentioned in my last blog are critical, I believe, to sustaining recovery. In my book I quote my writing coach, Mark Matousek, when he talks about a Tibetan nun imprisoned twice in her life by the Chinese, for a total of 22 years, yet she insists that hate doesn’t end by hate. Real freedom, Matousek claims, may very well come from learning not to hate but instead by developing compassion.

The last time I saw my 88-year-old dad at a veteran’s home, amidst sparse conversation I told him this might be the our last visit. His final words to me were, “I love you.”

Hearing him utter this unfamiliar announcement, I felt a piercing ache, and described my feelings like this, 

“. . . I’m again touched by confusion. I feel like I hurt Dad by voicing my memories of sexual abuse, despite knowing that he hurt me terribly by doing those things. And even so, sitting here right now, I realize I love him, and I’m willing to believe he loves me as well. I don’t understand all this: how memories get trapped, then surface; how love gets learned and bartered; why good people do horrible things and call it love; how love can rise through unhappiness, confusion and control.” 

Having strengthened my compassion and self-compassion muscles helped me to navigate this experience more than practicing hatred.

But there are times when joy remains elusive in my efforts to sustain recovery. Sometimes it’s there, and other times not. What I’ve learned is that it is a constant process that requires a willingness “to have the courage to trust being truthful” as I say in the dedication of my book. 

A part of being truthful is practicing open and honest conversations with as many people as I dare: my spouse, my family, my friends, my community, and people who attend my readings and ask questions. When I do so, it’s like freeing my adult voice and also that of the little girl within. Her voice chimes in beside that of this older woman who is simply no longer willing to let joy be out of reach. 

In the epilogue of my book, I explain how

“I have worked hard to not allow my past take away my willingness to look at my story and explore how to best live with what happened to me, and also how to better understand the choices I made throughout my life . . . It has taken me six and a half decades to be able to stand before what I have lived and admit to it all. From this more secure place of reflecting on my life, I have chosen to peel back the layers and dig through the rubble. The risk I’m taking now is to accept who I am and to continually take steps to forgive myself and be willing to live with joy. As I l earn to do so, the weight of shame lessens.”

Having the courage to peel back the layers and dig through the rubble while simultaneously having the courage to trust being truthful requires persistence. Just like with developing physical strength, when building emotional and spiritual stamina, it requires practice in order to help recovery last.



Read Part 3: Creating Space for a Healing Heart



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Patricia Eagle is the author of Being Mean: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival. She discovered language with her first word, “bird,” and later found great solace in nature. Six decades of journaling also served as a life buoy – tangible evidence of a life explored in earnest while being tossed by the confounding experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Her experience as a high school teacher informed her master’s research on the use of “professional reflective journaling,” a method to help educators better understand themselves and their students. A story gatherer, Eagle maintains an unyielding commitment to excavating and acknowledging what is resilient about her life and the lives of others, as an author and a Life- Cycle Celebrant®. Eagle lives amidst mountains and hot springs in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado, where she watches the Milky Way splash across the night skies. Visit her online at https://patriciaeagle.com/ to learn more about her upcoming speaking engagements in Houston, Austin, Sacramento, Dunsmuir, Pacifica, Novato, and Santa Barbara.

September 17, 2019

Creating Space for a Healing Heart

This week, we continue our series with guest blogger Patricia Eagle. In this post, she recounts how she gradually created spaces for her heart to heal from child sexual abuse and the consequences of that abuse on her life. All excerpts are from her book, “Being Mean—A Memoir of Sexual Abuse & Survival.”

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When my memories of sexual abuse first began surfacing, I experienced a crush of images and a flood of feelings. In my book I described this time like this: 

“Everything and nothing makes sense . . . I don’t know who I am, or who I have ever been, or if I even want to continue to be . . . I’m not who I thought I was, except that I’m even more fucked up than I already knew I was.”

Creating space for a healing heart can be raw and unfamiliar territory. At the time I was in therapy and a support group for child sex abuse survivors, but I wasn’t feeling my heart heal in ways that made life any easier. I met with my dad to discuss my accusations of his sexual abuse with me, but he insisted he didn’t know what I was talking about. His response helped me learn how painful a perpetrator’s denial can be and how it can add to a survivor’s doubts about agonizing memories of abuse that happened years ago. 

This, along with how recollections about abuse often emerge gradually, helps explain why organizations that work with survivors say that when memories surface, the experience can be more debilitating than when the abuse actually occurred. Although I struggled during the period of my memories surfacing and in the years that followed, I also began developing a resiliency to keep looking closely, not give up, and trust that eventually I would be able to see and understand what had happened to me.

It takes practice to make room for a healing heart. After years of not seeing or communicating with my parents, we made plans to see one another despite the fact that I hadn’t recanted my accusations nor they their denials. I was slowly coming to recognize that not one of us might ever come to understand why a father would have sex with his daughter or why a mother would ignore such behavior. At this point I wrote: 

“I never hated either of my parents, nor have I ever wished them misery. We get it, or we don’t, or we just get parts of it, until finally the entire jigsaw puzzle comes together, and we stand in awe at the intricate picture comprised of a thousand pieces, even if some of the pieces are missing.”

I was starting to see the big puzzle picture despite some holes, and found myself accepting that this might be the way life was going to be. When I beseeched a beloved therapist how I could ever trust distant and painful memories, especially after shutting them out for so long, he replied that we might not ever find the smoking gun, but he could sure see the hole in my head. That could just as easily been the hole in my heart. Encouraging myself to wake up and open my heart without feeling afraid of what might show up, and without shutting out my experiences or shutting down my emotions, were now habits and skills I wanted to develop.



As my heart began to make space to heal, joy began slipping into my life more often. It was as simple as creating opportunities to be outdoors where I could 

“. . . empty myself of all thoughts while following my breath. Valley breezes kiss my face, a spotted towhee trills just for me from the top of a pinion, and a large exquisite yellow and black butterfly glides close enough to my face for me to feel the air move . . . I’m remembering how to live.” 

My healing heart could count on solace in nature.

Becoming aware of how joy can be as much a part of life as trauma is a wide open window for living life differently.

Times of feeling my heart expand and heal soon became more frequent and occurred with more ease. Once while saying goodbye to my dad at the veteran’s home where he lived, he pulled me close to his wheelchair for a long hug. I wrote about my experience in this way: “It means something to me when Dad initiates these hugs. I’m standing, he’s sitting, he doesn’t smell good, the life we’ve shared is damn confusing, but the feelings between us now, for the most part, are healthy. I’ve been able to become strong enough, for long enough, to see compassion emerge.” Developing compassion for my father, more than experiencing forgiveness, took the squeeze out of my heart. It also allowed me to also grow self-compassion.

An example from my life and in my book of experiencing a healing heart that was a particular relief to me came during an intimate time my spouse and I were sharing: 

“It’s taken decades of me chaotically bumping into memories of sexual abuse with no control over the timing of when they surface. They still show up. But I know how to not let those images and feelings interfere with healthy living, love, and intimacy . . . It’s important for us to give sex an honored place in our relationship, regardless of our ages, because at last we are in a place of no secrets and no shame. Making the precious time to be this open and this vulnerable with one another, in all our nakedness, feels like one of the most nourishing steps we take to strengthen our love.” 

Considering the challenge of many survivors to later experience healthy love and sex, being able to have this in my relationship reinforces the value of learning to create space for a healing heart.


The heart is a muscle and an organ, critical to staying alive. But why just survive when we have the opportunity to squeeze and flex it in ways that will help those of us who are survivors to live more fully as our hearts experience opportunities for healing spaces in our lives?



Read Part 2: Learning to Listen to Helpful Inner Voices


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Patricia Eagle is the author of Being Mean: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival. She discovered language with her first word, “bird,” and later found great solace in nature. Six decades of journaling also served as a life buoy – tangible evidence of a life explored in earnest while being tossed by the confounding experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Her experience as a high school teacher informed her master’s research on the use of “professional reflective journaling,” a method to help educators better understand themselves and their students. A story gatherer, Eagle maintains an unyielding commitment to excavating and acknowledging what is resilient about her life and the lives of others, as an author and a Life- Cycle Celebrant®. Eagle lives amidst mountains and hot springs in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado, where she watches the Milky Way splash across the night skies. Visit her online at https://patriciaeagle.com/ to learn more about her upcoming speaking engagements in Houston, Austin, Sacramento, Dunsmuir, Pacifica, Novato, and Santa Barbara.

September 7, 2019

Learning to Listen to Helpful Inner Voices

This week, we continue our series with guest blogger Patricia Eagle. She talks about learning to listen to helpful inner voices that tell us we have value, are worthy of love and can trust ourselves.

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Learning to listen to that tiny voice inside can save a person’s life, even when it is barely a whisper. A survivor of child sexual abuse pushes that voice down so often that it can become barely discernible. Sometimes we find imaginative ways for helpful inner voices to surface.

As a small child, I heard this voice through my stuffed animals. I would talk to my animals out loud, giving them voices and words as I lined them up around my room to assure they would be present when I went to bed. These voices often told me they loved me and would be with me when I felt scared. Later, I could talk to them in my head when my dad crawled into bed with me, helping me to feel distracted from what felt confusing or painful. 

I also created a fairy godmother, whom I called Wendy––I think from having read Peter Pan. (My fairy godmother was a combination of Wendy and Tinker Bell.) She would help me slip out of the bed when Daddy was there and hover with me while I talked to my stuffed animals. In this comforting magic we floated above it all until it was safe for me to go back to bed. Wendy soothed me, patting my back, stroking my hair, and singing softly in my ears. With the comfort of Wendy and my stuffed animals, I developed a way to survive that helped me feel stronger, in charge, and like someone who was valued.



Around age eight, I got a real dog. I talked to “Dabb” constantly and even talked back to me for him. Through Dabb my inner voice strengthened, encouraged by real licks, adoring eyes and the warmth of his body. I began to recognize doubts and shame, confusion and anger. Nature became our playground, most often wandering beside the creek behind our house. I gave voices to the water, the mud, the trees, the birds, and even bugs. The innermost secrets I shared with Dabb were now overheard by nature, and she encouraged us both with promises that I would feel better someday and to not give up. 

Despite an insistent damaged voice that surfaced often as I grew older––telling me I was worthless––the small, promising voices inside persisted. It always helped when I had a dog; their behaviors helping me realize that if I felt sad, they seemed to feel bad too. Nature was also consistent in being a supportive presence around me, whether I was looking out a classroom or car window, planting a garden, or listening to a bird trill a melody. 

In one story from my book during a particularly challenging time of my life, I describe what happens while cycling on a road near my home when “I stop for a sip of water and suddenly a hundred cedar waxwings take off from what looked like empty branches of a gigantic tree. I gasp and with that sound another flock takes off. How did they do that? My heart whirs from its numbed state. Nature has put on a magic show, and I’m in the front row.” 

Nature could calm me when I found myself in places where sounds, smells, images, or something tangible like a feather wafting from the sky or a hundred birds taking flight gifted me. I just had to learn to keep listening, to keep looking, recognizing that a voice or experience that comforts doesn’t always have a sound. 

My dad doesn’t come into my room any longer, but memories of him in locations where he sexually abused me occasionally surface. Decades of developing my inner voices guide me now to gently caress my dog’s head, ask my beloved partner for a warm embrace, tickle the toes of a few stuffed animals I’ve collected, stroke the ear of my stuffed dog of 67 years, listen to a breeze and imagine the encouraging words it is carrying, or promise myself I may soon find the gift of a feather.


In the next blog post I’ll be writing about my experience of learning to create space for a healing heart.


Read Part 1: Damaged by Childhood Sexual Abuse


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Patricia Eagle is the author of Being Mean: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival. She discovered language with her first word, “bird,” and later found great solace in nature. Six decades of journaling also served as a life buoy – tangible evidence of a life explored in earnest while being tossed by the confounding experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Her experience as a high school teacher informed her master’s research on the use of “professional reflective journaling,” a method to help educators better understand themselves and their students. A story gatherer, Eagle maintains an unyielding commitment to excavating and acknowledging what is resilient about her life and the lives of others, as an author and a Life- Cycle Celebrant®. Eagle lives amidst mountains and hot springs in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado, where she watches the Milky Way splash across the night skies. Visit her online at https://patriciaeagle.com/ to learn more about her upcoming speaking engagements in Houston, Austin, Sacramento, Dunsmuir, Pacifica, Novato, and Santa Barbara.

September 3, 2019

Damaged by Childhood Sexual Abuse

This is the first of a four part blog series on the experience of child sexual abuse and experiencing recovery by Patricia Eagle, the author of Being Mean--A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival. Here Patricia shares her story and the damaging effects abuse had on her own life.

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It isn’t unusual for a survivor of child sex abuse to have little or no self worth and to feel damaged. I used to think of myself as a “throw-away girl.” I had developed a strong inner voice that told me I was wrong, not worthy of love, a liar, and couldn’t trust myself. 

At first my dad told me he loved me when we shared intimate times, which for us was masturbating together. I was only four when these times started, and I looked forward to them because of that “feel-good feeling,” and because Daddy paid attention to me then and might tell me he loved me. My mom called this activity “being mean,” which didn’t make sense to me for something that felt so good, but Daddy told me to not tell her about our times, even though somehow she seemed to know. I denied her accusations.

As I got older, I became suspicious about whether we were doing something that was wrong. Dad quit telling me he loved me and sometimes acted mean. Mom insisted that anything that went on “down there” was nasty and bad, so much so that I started worrying and felt confused about my times with Dad. Self-trust was non-existent by now.



When I got a boyfriend at fourteen, Dad quit coming to me, and I shifted what had become a craving for that “feel-good feeling” to someone my age. But my boyfriend was as on again-off again as Dad had been, appearing to like me when we were having sex, but not so much when we weren’t. He kept breaking up with me to date other girls, then coming back and saying how much he loved me when we had sex. I always took him back. 

That’s what I had learned about love, and what I had learned about doubting whether I was of value or not. This pattern confirmed what I thought about myself. I wasn’t worth someone’s sustained attentions. Maybe other girls weren’t having sex with my boyfriend so he came back to me, his nasty girlfriend. Soon I wanted my boyfriend to stay with me forever and love me so much I’d do whatever he wanted. By fifteen I thought I was pregnant. Luckily I was not, but that didn’t curb our sexual activity. 

I was damaged on the inside so subconsciously I tried to align my outer self as damaged, too. At eighteen, I did become pregnant. By now I was having intercourse with two young men, and I wasn’t sure which one was the father. (My boyfriend had broken up with me, but insisted we still “make love” while we dated other people.) After an illegal and dangerous abortion, I set out on a risky course of self-destructing. I’d create a hopeful path for myself, then self-sabotage, over and over. Sometimes it was as simple as becoming a long distance runner and running too far and too fast while maintaining an extremely poor diet, or as reckless as popping acid before going in for a day of public school teaching, or getting pregnant over and over and dangerously terminating the pregnancies. Without realizing what I was doing, create and destroy became my path. 

Such behavior confirmed what I thought of myself. When my Dad told me in my twenties that I was “a filthy slut and whore,” it made sense to me. As I wrote in my memoir, Being Mean--A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival

“Now that I’m pregnant again, Dad’s words seem to fit. It occurs to me that there are not any corresponding insulting words like slut and whore that I could use against a man. Filthy itself says something, then slut feels like such a hard word, and whore is simple dismissive. All those words are like dirt, scum, waste, shit, discard, trash. That’s what I feel like when I’m pregnant. Something to throw away. It’s not just the baby that gets tossed, but a piece of my soul as well.”

Child sex abuse is a public health problem by virtue of the damaged humans it leaves in its wake. Our damage surfaces through over-sexualized and risky behaviors, unwanted pregnancies, suicide attempts, extremely poor judgment, debilitating depression and anxiety, PTSD, and patterns of treating ourselves with disdain and distrust. 

In the next blog post I’ll talk about learning to listen to helpful inner voices that tell us we have value, are worthy of love and can trust ourselves.



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Patricia Eagle is the author of Being Mean: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival. She discovered language with her first word, “bird,” and later found great solace in nature. Six decades of journaling also served as a life buoy – tangible evidence of a life explored in earnest while being tossed by the confounding experiences of childhood sexual abuse. Her experience as a high school teacher informed her master’s research on the use of “professional reflective journaling,” a method to help educators better understand themselves and their students. A story gatherer, Eagle maintains an unyielding commitment to excavating and acknowledging what is resilient about her life and the lives of others, as an author and a Life- Cycle Celebrant®. Eagle lives amidst mountains and hot springs in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado, where she watches the Milky Way splash across the night skies. Visit her online at https://patriciaeagle.com/ to learn more about her upcoming speaking engagements in Houston, Austin, Sacramento, Dunsmuir, Pacifica, Novato, and Santa Barbara.

August 27, 2019

Releasing the Shame in Trauma - Part 4

So far in the series, you’ve discovered more about what shame is and how it can impact our lives. In this final blog of the four-week series, Janine Naus explores how powerful compassion can be in healing shame and shares a simple but powerful strategy to help you be more compassionate.


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How Can Compassion Heal Shame?

Throughout this blog series, we’ve been on a journey of understanding shame and how it can hold you back from healing your grief, getting relief, and moving towards a life of fulfillment and joy. We’ve talked about the effect of shame on our self-care, on the limiting beliefs that make us feel we are not good enough’, and we looked at what shame actually is and how we can move through it, to a place of self-compassion. Once you understand what shame is, you can learn how to care for yourself and begin to treat yourself with the compassion you deserve. Compassion can help you heal your shame. Let’s take a closer look at compassion.


What is compassion?

You may find that treating yourself kindly from a place of love doesn’t come naturally to you and you may wonder why you find it so challenging to be self-compassionate. The trauma we’ve suffered is so commonly the cause of our inability to be compassionate in general, and especially with ourselves.

Well, it’s time to change that.

Every one of us has the wisdom and ability to be self-compassionate. It’s a resource we need to help us accept painful emotions, so that we can heal from our trauma and find inner peace. The greater our pain and suffering, the more we need compassion.

It is a key element in the process of removing your fears and feelings of shame once and for all. Being compassionate means to love, to be kind to and to accept someone or yourself. It is a blessing on your journey to healing and creating a happy, joyous and free life. In my Stop Suffering Now group program, we focus on creating and developing compassion for ourselves and integrating tools to support you every step of the way. It’s important to be kind and caring with yourself as you celebrate your own progress and to also be compassionate, kind and caring with others as well.

HEALING SHAME


Self-compassion heals shame. But, what is it? Being self-compassionate means to love, be kind, and to accept yourself. It’s important on your healing journey to begin to be kind and caring with yourself and to celebrate your progress.

Sure, you may find having self-compassion difficult. You may find that you have a hard time just being nice to yourself. And, usually, we find that the reason we feel this way is a direct result of the trauma we’ve suffered.

One foot in front of the other will help you get started practicing self-compassion, and in doing this, you’ll affect a region of the brain that makes you more sympathetic to another person’s mental and emotional state. You will begin feeling compassion for others – and yourself. Really, it’s true! See when we experience or provide kindness, support, encouragement, and compassion, neurons get reconnected in the brain. In the same way, not experiencing these feelings as a child can leave you feeling unlovable – eventually allowing shame to get stuck in our neural pathways.

With new experiences and practicing compassion and self-compassion, we can begin to grow new neurons and connections in the brain. In other words, you can override that shame memory with goodness you experience today. You can change your life!

Being able to relate with another who has experienced childhood trauma is an important tool for healing. Simply relating and feeling for another is a huge step on this journey. Practicing self-compassion means you will get the strength and empathy that will allow you to connect with others and even reach out for help. In my Stop Suffering Now 4-week group program, I work with trauma survivors who struggle with moving forward. Together, we are able to move past the trauma and into a phase of healing.

THE PROCESS OF SELF-COMPASSION


Here’s a simple truth: You’ve got to start being nice to yourself. Yes, you have been through something horrific. And, yes, it is going to take some time to get over it and that cannot be done until we are ready to feel real emotions...when we’ve made that peaceful connection between what our bodies feel and what our mind tells us. But, guess what? Everyone has been through something. Maybe not like your experience. But every step in life, every hurt, every pain, and every trauma can leave a mark. The better we are at being able to connect with ourselves, the better we are at being able to connect with others, the better chance we will have at healing.


So, give yourself permission to be kind to yourself. When you notice yourself being unkind or critical of yourself, stop and take notice. Then, repeat what you said, turning it from a negative to a positive, reframing what you tell yourself. For example, if you are frustrated with yourself for not getting the help you need, you can tell yourself, “I’m in the process of getting myself the help I need to move forward”.
The trauma of your past is never going to go away. And, trying to simply forget about it is not going to help you with it at all. However, you can heal and move forward. Practice self-compassion in regard to your trauma.

Being kind to yourself and speaking kind words is very healing – even if you are saying them to yourself. In my Stop Suffering Now Program we focus on self-care and begin your journey towards your fulfilling and joyful life.

The benefits of compassion

When you bring compassion to all of life, you’ll be enlightened by a shift in your thinking and well-being. You’ll step into a powerful emotion, as the energy of the feeling of compassion creates a beautiful two-way interaction. In other words, you begin to feel togetherness, rather than feelings of separation or isolation.

Being compassionate with yourself will bring harmony to the relationships you have with yourself and with others. What’s beautiful about compassion is that you can choose to start feeling it right away. But how?

How can we call upon compassion and use it to heal shame?

Here is a simple three-step exercise I often use with my clients to help them move through shame.

1. Think of a shaming experience. It could be from childhood or adulthood. Focus on that feeling. Now think about what you wish someone had said to you immediately after the event occurred. Who was that person? What was it you wanted and needed to hear? Write it down.

2. Now choose a person that you admire. It can be a friend, family member or even someone you’ve never even met. Picture them in your mind, telling you the words you needed to hear. So, for example, in step 1 you chose your mother and she wasn’t supportive or didn’t believe you. In this step, you would replace your mother with your ideal person - let’s say, Oprah. In this step, you are imagining Oprah saying the words you wish your mother had said. You are feeling supported, respected and safe. Visualize the entire scene, just as you wished it had taken place. Hear their soothing voice and their comforting tone. Imagine how supportive and protective they are. If you are in a space where you can say the words aloud to yourself, say it out loud - if not, say it silently. Breathe into this vision and feel it all the way into your heart. How does it feel to hear these words you needed to hear?

3. In this step, again we’ll use the example above. I’d like you to consider the fact that your mother is NOT Oprah. Your mother has different limitations, capabilities, and a history of her own. I’d like you to try to get to a place where you can accept the possibility that your mother did the very best she could.
Practicing this exercise alone is a healing exercise. Crying during this exercise is common, as well as any other emotions that come up. I would love to hear about how you’ve experienced this exercise, and if you’re ready to take action in a supportive and non-judgmental space, I’d love to have a chat with you and see if my foundation program, Stop Suffering Now, is your next best step.

In the program we spend 4 weeks focusing on what I believe you need to know NOW, today, to be able to really move yourself forward and to start seeing real and sustainable change. Consider it a journey toward recovery and relief and start working towards the life of your dreams, the life that you really want and the life you deserve. The journey takes you through the steps necessary from becoming aware to taking action. And in order to be able to take action, I’ve carefully designed the Stop Suffering Now program, comprised of 4 essential pillars: Insight, Impact, Intuition and Integration which I call ‘The Four I’s’.

Insight is about becoming aware of the trauma itself.

The Impact is how the trauma is affecting you in your day-to-day life.

Intuition is about getting to a place where you can learn to really trust yourself again. Where you can really feel into your answers.

And Integration is about taking what you’ve learned and integrating it into your life so that your life changes for the better - that’s the transformation.
Don’t let shame and grief hold you back from the life you want! Schedule a complimentary call with me, find out more about my Stop Suffering Now Program, and start taking the steps towards having the life you really want with a 30-minute Healing Discovery Session call.
Janine Naus is an internationally recognized Grief and Trauma Relief Specialist, Certified Life, Spiritual and Energetic Coach, a Certified Calm, Accepting, Resilient & Empathetic (CARE) Trauma Practitioner and a #1 International Best Selling Author. Janine works with women who are suffering and stuck in grief due to trauma and supports them on their journey to a fulfilling and joyful life.

Janine’s clients benefit from her decades of experience, her broad range of coaching and support tools and her empathetic nature. Her blog posts have garnered thousands of dedicated followers and is a sought after expert on trauma. Janine lives in Chesapeake Beach, MD.

August 20, 2019

Releasing the Shame in Trauma - Part 3

In week three of this four-week series, Janine Naus, shares her personal traumatic experience and gives us insight into how shame shows up in our lives.

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Exploring Shame: A Deeper Dive

In the first two blog posts in this series, we talked about the effect of shame on self-care and on the limiting beliefs that make us feel we are "not good enough". We also discussed how we should turn down the volume on our “shame gremlins”. But before we go any further, I’d like us to pause and focus on what shame actually is and how we can move through it, to a place of self-compassion.


What Is The Most Damaging Emotion?

Is it fear? How about pain? These two emotions are usually assumed to be the most damaging. However, the most damaging emotion can actually be shame. Shame can rip apart your self-image, destroy your sense of worth, and leave you feeling deeply flawed for many, many years.

Shame is a power emotion. And, unfortunately, it’s one that most of us love to bottle up. I know I used to. The deep feelings of shame that I used to feel and hold deep inside impacted my ability to interact with others for decades. As a child, it stunted my interaction with other children, it made me a fearful and painfully shy teenager and well into my adulthood, it destroyed my confidence.

In many ways, it destroyed me.


It took many years for me to be able to share what happened to me. It was just too, too horrifying. I was too young to know how to express what happened or to know how to get the help I so desperately needed. So I held on to my devastating secret and tried to manage the over-sized feelings on my own. 

Years of personal development and a burning desire to overcome the negativity propelled me to find a way through the grief, to be able to stop suffering, to find the relief and to begin to live a fulfilling life. I wanted to thrive. It was during this process that I was able to finally tell my authentic story.

This is the abbreviated version:

When I was 5-years old, several teenage boys tied me up and gagged me. They then proceeded to take turns raping me. Fearing that I would tell someone, one of the boys came back pressed a knife to my throat and held a BB gun to my chest, and he threatened to kill me if I told anyone. I was terrified. I didn’t know the difference between a BB gun or a regular gun. I was in so much pain and even though I was scared to die, part of me wanted to die. After promising that I would not tell anyone, he cut the ropes from around my wrists and freed me.

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I held a lot of shame around this horrific experience and I lived with feeling constant fear and concerns for my safety. I believed I was damaged and that nobody would ever be able to really love me. I feared for my life. Before I began thriving, I used to think about those shaming experiences of my childhood – and the pain was so real, it felt as if it was happening in the present moment. Holding on to my horrific secret was getting harder and harder. I was always afraid of being exposed. I never felt worthy. I spent my life trying to hide. I just wanted to be invisible - to disappear.

Do you still feel shameful feelings when you think about your trauma? Do you get that sinking feeling in your stomach when something reminds you of that experience? Do you suddenly feel small, inadequate or even “less than” others? Do you feel embarrassed and simply want to hide?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions - you’re not alone.

Shame from experiences we had in childhood can be triggered in our adult lives. The feelings stay with us, but are just neatly tucked away. Some of us are better at compartmentalizing than others. Then, one day, the picture-perfect life can come tumbling down with something as simple as a thought, a phrase, a song, a store, a smell, or a sound. Something that reminds you of those childhood experiences can appear in your life and in an instant it takes you back to that moment. And, yes, it brings with it the shame.

This can all happen so quickly and you are transported back in time – you feel as though it is happening right now, in this moment, rather than all those years ago.

THIS IS WHAT SHAME CAN DO.

Shame can… make you feel inferior to others, worthless and unlovable. 

Shame can… manifest into self-loathing behavior. 

Shame can… result in self-destructive behavior, such as cutting or hair pulling. 

Shame can… lead to drug and/or substance abuse.

Shame can… end in suicide. 

Shame can… leave you with feelings of self-criticism, self-blame, and self-neglect. 

Shame can… cause you to repeat the cycle of abuse through victim behavior – or abusive behavior. 



The shaming experiences you have been through can feel so overwhelming that it can actually define you – preventing you from reaching your full potential. 


Shame is that powerful. And those of us that were sexually abused in childhood tend to carry the most shame.

So, if you were abused in childhood you tend to carry the most shame. Why?

THE DAMAGED SELF

As humans we naturally want to believe we have control over what happens to us. Even though we experienced this trauma as a child, somehow we still believe we should have been able to protect ourselves. And, because we couldn’t, we feel helpless and powerless. Our powerlessness causes us to feel humiliated and that leads to feelings of shame. What a self-damaging cycle, right?!

Many of us who survived childhood abuse also live in a constant state of self-criticism and self-blame. We may even become overly sensitive to criticism from those around us and try to defend ourselves.

One’s self-criticism can have a pretty powerful inner voice. It can manifest by constantly asking ourselves, “Why me?”

I am very familiar with this voice, are you? You may find that voice constantly berates you for imagined or real mistakes. You may find that you set such high expectations for yourself that you can never be satisfied with any of your achievements. You may even find it difficult when someone compliments you or find it uncomfortable to accept expressions of love or kind comments from others.

For those of us that defend against shame, we are doing so in order to build a protective barrier around ourselves to ward off criticism from others. This can show up as you being critical of others in anticipation of their criticisms of you, refusing to talk about your shortcomings, turning the criticism around on another person, accusing others of lying or even exaggerating about the other person's complaints about you and projecting your shame on others.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Healing will come. But before you can overcome your childhood trauma, learn to provide yourself nurturing, kind, and encouraging words to override any negative chatter.

You can experience feelings of shame and grief while moving through your shame and grief. Shame can affect you for the rest of your life – or until you take the steps to begin the healing process. It can hold you back from a life you love. In my Stop Suffering Now group program, we focus on helping you to move through grief to a place of hope where you can feel excited for the future and learn to trust people (and yourself) once again.

Get on my calendar to schedule your free 30-minute Healing Discovery Session call.

Read Part 2





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Janine Naus is an internationally recognized Grief and Trauma Relief Specialist, Certified Life, Spiritual and Energetic Coach, a Certified Calm, Accepting, Resilient & Empathetic (CARE) Trauma Practitioner and a #1 International Best Selling Author. Janine works with women who are suffering and stuck in grief due to trauma and supports them on their journey to a fulfilling and joyful life.






Janine’s clients benefit from her decades of experience, her broad range of coaching and support tools and her empathetic nature. Her blog posts have garnered thousands of dedicated followers and is a sought after expert on trauma. Janine lives in Chesapeake Beach, MD.

August 13, 2019

Releasing the Shame in Trauma - Part 2

This week, Janine Naus, helps you understand why you feel you’re not good enough and how to turn down the volume of shameful thoughts.

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Why Do I Never Feel That I’m Good Enough?

Welcome back to this blog dedicated to Shame. If you missed the first blog in the series, we talked about shame and the impact it has on self-care. Now that you understand the importance of putting yourself first and you’ve had some time to process and maybe even taken new steps towards your self-care practice, I want to cover a common challenge trauma survivors face - the feeling of never being good enough.

“I am never good enough”

Sound familiar? Are these words that clutter your brain and diminish your power with self-doubt or uncertainty? This negative self-talk and the feeling associated makes you question whether you have what it takes to reach your life goals and desires. As trauma survivors, we’ve all been there.

We’ve all experienced intense feelings of inadequacy and diminished self worth. It can feel like a big wall stopping us from where we want to go.

We need to get to the bottom of this in order to help you move out of this negative space. We need to ask the WHY questions...Why are you not good enough? Or better worded, why do you think you’re not good enough?

Here’s a strategy I use with my clients when they are in this dark place. Think of what it is you believe you’re not good enough to do. Become aware of the specific words you are using to tell yourself you are not good enough. Identify what words that you use to hold yourself back from joy and fulfillment. I’d like you to give those words - those thoughts - a name. I call them “shame gremlins.” Now, picture this gremlin as a ridiculous and fictitious character in a movie you are watching. Hear this ridiculous and fictitious shame gremlin speak the words that hold you back. Words like “you’re not confident enough,” “remember what happened last time you tried this” and “I’m not that kind of person.” When you can see and hear how ridiculous and obvious this imaginary shame gremlin looks and sounds, as if you are watching a movie, it can really help to diffuse the moment. The next time one of your shame gremlins pop up, you can just see them for what they are - ridiculous and fictitious...an imagined annoyance. As a matter of fact, you can tell those ridiculous and fictitious gremlins that they are not being helpful. They aren’t useful, so you don’t need them showing up anymore.

Our shame gremlins remind us of childhood traumas, past failures and those limiting beliefs that we were once taught by those around us. But imagine what could happen for you when you quiet down your gremlins, turn down their volume and power ourselves up? That is the journey you need to embark on now.

When Do You Feel Not Good Enough?

This feeling and statement comes from your unconscious ego, which manifests from not feeling worthy. This feeling can come up when something good is happening, is about to happen, or may happen...or conversely, when something bad is happening, is about to happen, or may happen. Notice that it is tied to feelings of good and bad. This is about what you believe you deserve. You do not believe that you are worthy of being, having or doing something good, because you do not believe you are good enough.

How To Start Feeling Good Enough


Again, I’d like you to try a WHY exercise to help you in the moment. Ask yourself, is this really true? For example, let’s say your shame gremlin is telling you that you are the worst mom in the world. Ask yourself, am I really the worst mom in the world? If possible, if you are in a room by yourself, ask yourself this question out loud. By doing this it will help you see that it is not true. Invalidating these shame gremlins is really important in your process to stop them in their tracks. Maybe they are saying that you could never have a loving relationship. Is that true? Never? With all of the people on this planet, is it IMPOSSIBLE? No, in fact, you can take steps that will make it very probable. What would those steps look like? What could you get started on today? Do you see how asking yourself this question takes you down a different, and more hopeful path? Try using this simple and quick strategy to eradicate those false beliefs that you’re not good enough. This will also help you to let go of unhelpful, false thoughts that do not serve you.

The Power Our Thoughts Hold


Our thoughts hold our power. That power is evident when we choose to give power to positive or negative beliefs. The more we hold onto our thoughts, the truer they feel to us, because we become so accustomed to thinking these thoughts that they actually begin to feel real. It is just as easy to give our attention and focus to positive thoughts, and the same principle applies. The more you hold onto positive thoughts, the truer they’ll feel. That’s why I encourage you to use the strategies above to move from a negative thought to a more positive and hopeful thought. Keep doing that and soon these more positive thoughts will feel real to you. I also suggest that you practice witnessing your thoughts and choosing whether to believe them.

Next Time
Everyone, at some point, has not felt good enough. Remember you are not your thoughts. You can change your thoughts and your beliefs. Next time, we take a deeper dive into what shame is, what it can do to us and how we can heal from it.

Shame can hold you back from a life you love. In my Stop Suffering Now group program, we focus on helping you to move through grief to a place of hope where you can feel excited for the future and learn to trust people (and yourself) once again.

Get on my calendar to schedule your free 30-minute Healing Discovery Session call.

Read Part 1


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Janine Naus is an internationally recognized Grief and Trauma Relief Specialist, Certified Life, Spiritual and Energetic Coach, a Certified Calm, Accepting, Resilient & Empathetic (CARE) Trauma Practitioner and a #1 International Best Selling Author. Janine works with women who are suffering and stuck in grief due to trauma and supports them on their journey to a fulfilling and joyful life.

Janine’s clients benefit from her decades of experience, her broad range of coaching and support tools and her empathetic nature. Her blog posts have garnered thousands of dedicated followers and is a sought after expert on trauma. Janine lives in Chesapeake Beach, MD.

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