They say that your deepest wound is your gift and unique connection to the world.
My hope is that if you are a teenager struggling, you will find the gift of hope that things do indeed get better. If you find yourself in the adult world still holding on to grief and trauma that has been weighing you down for many years, may you find the gift of closure. These words are but a part of my story but this chapter is my deepest wound, my unique connection to the world and my gift to you, myself and the world.
I was young, naive and I thought that I knew better than anyone else, especially my parents. Teenagers reading this are like heck yea! Parents reading this are like oh dear. When my dad told me not to date that guy because he was older and he was trouble, I dated that guy to prove a point. To prove not only that I could do what I wanted but that the guy was in fact harmless and a great guy but most of all, to prove my dad wrong so that maybe he would finally trust me and my ability to make decisions.
What my dad really meant to say though was that the guy was older and therefore most likely sexually active and dad did not want me to lose my virginity at such a young age. After all, I was only in grade 9. The problem with this lack of authentic open communication is that it left many things unsaid. Had he taken the time to be vulnerable, honest and to share his perspective that giving away your virginity should be special and sacred rather than something that you “lose”.
Had he told me this special act is a gift which you give someone worthy of it’s precious beauty and that giving a gift won’t end in grief but losing something always does. But alas words were left unsaid as always and with my stubbornness you can’t tell me what to do attitude, I dated the guy.
My boyfriend and I had talked about sex a few times, he knew that I wasn’t ready to take our relationship to that next step, and he respected that. Until one night at a house party we got drunk, and I mean really really drunk! If anyone wonders why to this day I don’t drink red wine and why the smell of it alone makes me gag, this night is the reason why. I must have consumed 4 or 5 bottles of home made red wine. I blacked out a few times, but I do remember leaning against a building outside throwing up and a friend came to check up on me. Bless her kindness because she must have eventually gotten me inside and in bed because my next memory is waking up in the morning next to my boyfriend and the sheets having small blood stains on them. Fuck. What happened?! I was embarrassed, extremely hungover and so confused.
Let’s face it, by now I had become an expert at not talking about things that are uncomfortable, my family had practiced that for years and taught me that lesson very well. If it couldn’t be funny or sarcastic, just don’t talk about it. So I didn’t. I quietly packed my things and I left the party.
The whole drive home sadly rather than wondering what happened, my biggest worry was wondering what would people think of me? What are they saying about me at the house right now?
A few weeks later, I found out that my boyfriend had been cheating on me for awhile. When I confronted him, he refused to admit that it was true and seemingly felt zero remorse. In normal circumstances I would have ended the relationship right then and there, but then my dad would have been right! If we weren’t a couple then would that mean that I had sex without consent? Would that be considered rape? No no no, I’m a great girl and he’s a great guy so we are going to make this work and we will be happy together. If we are a happy couple having regular consensual sex then that means the first time was just akward, and it’s kinda meant to be awkward isn’t it? I continued to date the guy for several months, even though he would cheat on me on a regular basis. I had to stay in the relationship or else I would have to face the pain of having lost my virginity in a traumatic and sad way rather than just the awkward adventure of a teenager in love.
Then one day, my illusion all came crumbling and he broke up with me. I was devastated! What now? I realize it’s not healthy and he doesn’t love me anymore but who will love me now? Will everyone that I date expect me to have sex with them now because I definitely don’t want that. Will the great guys be disgusted by me because I’m damaged goods now? I’ve got to fight for him. The more I fought, the more he rejected me. And that is when my first suicide attempt happened. I wasn’t unfamiliar with suicide as you’ve read, it had sadly become a trend at my highschool that year. But as I felt the cold ceramic tile on my cheek with tears running down my face, I could see flashbacks of the pain in the friends left behind grieving after each life had ended and it made me realize that I had to stick around a bit longer, my work here wasn’t done. So I grabbed my toothbrush and shoved it down my throat like I had done many times before but this time it wasn’t to reject food, it was to reject all the pills I had just swallowed. That night I prayed for the first time in a long time.
“Dear God, if there is a God, please forgive me and please don’t take away my pain, but make me strong enough to survive any pain that comes my way.”
God clearly had a plan because the pain definitely did not go away. A few weeks after that night, I found out that I was pregnant. I confided in a friend, I didn’t know what to do and I could barely breathe, nevermind think of a solution. She encouraged me to tell my ex-boyfriend to at least get some clarity and peace of mind before making any decisions or consulting a professional. So I reached out to him and asked him to talk. He not only refused to talk but told me to never come to him again. I find myself yet again devastated, confused and heartbroken. What do I do now? Not only am I pregnant but I’m pregnant and alone! I wrote him a letter to tell him the news about the pregnancy because I knew that no matter what happened or what I decided, I needed him to know and give him the opportunity to voice his desires.
Sadly, because of my horrible communication skills and my dad’s extremely short temper, suicide yet again seemed like and easier option than telling my parents or anyone else, But I finally worked up the courage to tell one of my brothers. I told myself that he’s a sensitive soul like I am, he will understand or he will at least be a safe place for me to start. We both cry, he’s as worried as I am but he tells me that if dad hates me and kicks me out then he will run away from home with me and we will be just fine. My now adult mind thinks that is horrible and hilarious advice especially since the most either one of us could cook were hotdogs and microwaved meals but at the time it was the most comforting and empowering advice anyone could have ever given me. His words and support felt like a warm safe blanket tucked in tight when one is in bed afraid of the boogeyman..
Days later, I finally worked up the courage to tell my parents. As expected, my mom was silent and I could tell that her heart was torn. My dad was furious. We don’t talk about it because dad sends me to my room while he can come up with a solution and as always, dad would come up with the solution but he couldn’t face me so he made mom his messenger. She talked to me with so much love and compassion and explained to me that my dad wanted to protect his political career and his image so it would be best if I had an abortion. Dad’s career is what gives us food on the table and the comfortable lifestyle that we live so it’s important that we live up to people’s expectations of us as a family. Something like this could make some people talk, gossip and essentially make them choose to not vote for him in the next election. I knew these were my dad’s thoughts more than hers but still I listened attentively. She explained to me that I was still so young and I had my whole life ahead of me including my ringette team, my friends, school and my desire to travel the world and be a flight attendant. A baby would make all of those things very difficult and extremely challenging. She also told me that unfortunately although an abortion would make the pregnancy go away, it would never make the emotions and energy around it go away. Something like this will stay with you forever sweetie, you will be triggered by many things over the many years to come and it’s important that you understand this but also, it’s important that you never talk about it with anyone because we must keep this a family secret, for your dad’s and your protection.
So the decision is made and we go to great lengths to keep it a secret. So much so that even my memory can’t recall what happened next because it’s all a blur. I can remember crossing over the border to consult with a doctor so that there would be no medical record of the consultation anywhere in our country and then making our way to the abortion clinic where mom rubbed my hair as we sat in the waiting room and finally the very quiet car ride home where none of us spoke for a few hours. I could sense that my mom was heartbroken and wanted to console me but as always, she needed to play her role and say nothing. If we don’t talk about it, it will go away like it never happened.
This series of trauma along with unprocessed grief affected many relationships, circumstances and my health for years to come. Suffering in silence while putting a smile and being the most cheerful person ever had become a role that I played very well. Award winning even. I also found myself never able to make a solid decision, always scared of doing the wrong thing and always wanting dad’s approval and to make him proud and to right the wrong that I had done. This endless cycle was my hamster wheel and I had created it therefore I figured I had to stay in it as the consequence to my actions.
When my dad got cancer, it was devastating. As his illness progressed and his life was coming to an end, I wanted closure. I wanted to be set free and for us to finally talk about this chapter of our story together. I wanted forgiveness from both of us to set each other free and to let go of the heaviness that would still come up from time to time. One afternoon when I was finally alone with him, I reached out and took his hand and told him that I loved him. I said, dad I want you to know that I forgive you for all the pain that came from my story in grade 9. He got angry, frustrated, annoyed and then kicked me out of his hospital room without saying another word. I understood and respected that the story that had been kept a secret for so long still needed to be kept a secret. For his peace of mind and to honour his end of life journey. I needed to forgive him for myself and I needed to be ok with the conversation that never took place in person but could later be had in spirit. I made peace with that and I felt empowered and even joyful to be set free. That is, until it came time for the funeral and to write dad’s obituary.
One of my brother’s and his wife had sadly and quite tragically had to bury two of their babies who did not live more than minutes here on earth. It was important for them to include in dad’s obituary that he was predeceased by 2 grandchildren. This brother did not know my story, our family secret was so secret that it was even kept from him. Although his desires were beautiful and understandable, my heart was completely broken. But I could not be angry at him even if I wanted to because he didn’t know any better.
There were 3, I cried in my emotions.
For fuck sakes there were 3, I screamed in my mind.
There were 3, I whispered in my soul.
There were 3, as I walked away yet again not saying a word.
In December 2019, during a practitioner training healing session, my dad’s spirit came to me and he reminded me of the prayer I made that night on the floor. He also reminded me that his initials were GOD (Greg O’Donnell) and he then gave me a new version to my prayer.
“Dear GOD, thank you for forgiving me as I have forgiven you and thank you for not taking away my pain, but for making me strong enough to survive any pain that comes my way. I’ve become an amazing inspirational leader because of it.”
So today, I honour my dad, this new prayer and I also honour my unborn baby.
I’ve named her Melody because over the years, she has been the music to my soul.
The other side of grief / Life Lessons
Freedom and healing comes from authentic communication.
You can’t expect others to know that you are grieving unless you tell them. My mom and I have amazing unconditional, no judgement communication now and nothing is ever left unsaid. This has created such a solid foundation in authentic communication for me and I’ve learned to apply this principle to all of the relationships in my life now. Of course sometimes it’s challenging to be completely honest with people and the words come out all wrong but if the person who I am speaking with cannot respectfully keep the conversation going until we are both crystal clear on each other’s message then they simply aren’t the type of people that I choose to associate with anymore. Life is way too beautiful and too short to live it with a muzzle or a mask.
I have also learned to be mindful of not projecting unprocessed grief on to others. When you wish to console someone, it is important to hold sacred space, nurture and soothe but to remain neutral to their unique emotions and experience. How we experience trauma, grief or any life experience for that matter is unique to us and our beliefs formed over a lifetime along with our perspective. I had made peace with this chapter of my story in a big way but every healing session or deep meditation I would participate in, it would seem to come up but with no known reason or purpose. I came to learn over time that it was to teach me the importance of being neutral as a therapist. The practitioner who got raped for example was adamant that I call what happened to me rape if I was to ever heal from it fully even though that word did not feel like it applied to me or my story at all. The practitioner who was not able to get pregnant was adamant that I must mourn this loss and trauma forever because losing a baby is tragic.
Even though each practitioner meant well and truly wanted to support me in my healing journey with good pure intentions, several times I received projections of how they perceived my story rather than having them allow me to share it how I experienced it. Just because someone doesn’t react to grief or trauma like you would, does not mean they are in denial or not processing in a healthy way. Honour them and their journey.
Allow them space to authentically communicate their emotions without judgement.
Forgiveness is what sets you free and allows for closure.
Sometimes you have to accept the apology that you never received. We forgive others, not because we think what they did was right, but to set ourselves free from the pain, anger or whatever heavy emotions we have felt following a life event with them.
I spent my whole life hoping that my dad would apologize even though I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted him to apologize for. Everything I guess? I had watched all the movies where on their deathbed people had soulful conversations with their loved ones and forgave each other for this beautiful closure to happen before the person dying took their last breath. Although I was there holding my dad’s hand for his last breath, I did not get that euphoric feeling of peace, forgiveness and closure. It wasn’t what he needed and later I came to understand that it wasn’t what I needed either. The morning he died, when I left the hospital, I turned on the radio and a song played and I sat in the parking lot and cried for the entire duration of the song as I let each lyric touch my soul.”You can let go, your little girl is ready to do this on my own, it’s gonna be a little bit scary but I want you to know, I’ll be ok now daddy, you can let go.”
It was at that moment that I chose to fully forgive him and to fully forgive myself. It was time to finally let go of any heavy emotions attached to that part of our story. On the drive home I came to the realization that those movies were beautiful but they were also created by someone else, it’s their story. We are the writer, producer and director of our own story. We get to choose the cast in our movie too and I had given my dad a leading role my whole life. I chose that! Maybe it was subconsciously but if I was going to continue to blame anyone then it would have to be myself. His role ended when he died so imagine the frustrations that would come up if I was still waiting for an apology from someone who’s dead while I was living the rest of my life still suffocating under this heavy load and unfulfilled expectation along with the guilt of having given him that power in the first place.
The beautiful part about forgiveness is the ripple effect that it can have. Years ago I forgave the boyfriend in this story while I was at a silent retreat. His sister, who had become a close friend while I was dating her brother, reached out a while later. She wanted to tell me that she felt maybe I had experienced anger over the years because I had to suffer alone and her brother got off easy and not even having to tell anyone about this. She wanted me to know that he had indeed told his parents and before he got married, he even told his partner because it was important for her to know this part of his story before they committed to a lifetime together.
I was so incredibly touched. I had already forgiven him and let go of the anger, but her message was extremely heart felt and validated the power of forgiveness for me. In a moment of inspiration, a few years ago I reached out to him one day to say thank you for the tremendously important role he played in my life. He was extremely confused, but grateful for the message. He shared with me that he and his wife had beautiful children now and that he was very much happy and in love. He was also thankful for the role that I played in his journey. I was truly happy for him and his little family and felt so much joy from knowing that he created a good life for himself. That was our unique happily ever after and the closure and end to our story.
The key to forgiveness and letting go is taking the person who has hurt you out of the equation. To truly heal your emotions, you need to feel the feelings that came from the trauma or the circumstances and then sit with the feelings unattached to a person or circumstance. Emotions do not have personalities or expectations, but people and circumstances do. Trying to clear an emotion while it is still attached to a person or a circumstance can lead to a very frustrating loop and make the process painfully long. It can also lead to you attracting that feeling in many life circumstances. When you clear the emotion, you might discover the magic of it being healed with more than one circumstance, life event or person and suddenly you create a life free of circumstances that bring up those heavy feelings.
This process and healing can ultimately positively impact your relationship with that person you had originally attached the emotion to. The ripple effect of healing limiting beliefs and heavy emotions is nothing short of magical. I’ve worked with clients that have shared stories of saved friendships, family relationships and even some who’ve managed to avoid divorce and be in love with their life partner again. The key to a happy and healthy life is to start with your own emotional work. If it’s not a relationship meant to be mended for your own safety or any other reason for that matter, then this process can fully set you free from the person once and for all. Moving forward, every time the emotion comes up, it will simply be an emotion rather than an emotion attached to that person or a traumatic memory.
Unfortunately society has created the idea that raw emotions and our shadows are something to be ashamed of and handled privately or alone. Grief is a part of life. A normal and beautiful part of life for that matter. There are no good emotions or bad emotions, all emotions serve their unique purpose in making us experience life to it’s fullest. Could you be happy 100% of the time? Maybe, but life would get a little boring after a while wouldn’t it? Once upon a time you were in spirit form and you were 100% pure love, joy and bliss and you looked down on Earth and said “Hey that looks expansive, I’m ready to go there to learn and grow some more.”
Now that we are here, most of us try to suppress all the emotions that made us want to come here in the first place and then we wonder why we feel emptiness or feel like we are never good enough.
I encourage you to create sacred space in your life every day to connect with your emotions and to listen to the beautiful message that they have for you. Rather than judging emotions, allow them. Next time you see someone who is angry, crying or acting crazy, instead of saying or thinking “ what is wrong with you?” try shifting that to “what must have happened to you for you to be feeling these emotions?”
Don’t just believe in magic and miracles but expect and create them daily.