Your Healing Journey
When a woman experiences estrangement or shunning from her biological family, it is important that she recognize this event as Trauma. Our healing process needs to incorporate tools to heal that trauma–tools that will be able to reach us at a deep place where the trauma resides. Our intellect, the ability to reason and understand with our mind, is an important helper in our healing journey, but it cannot do the entire job for us. Non-verbal healing modalities (like art, music, meditation, dance/movement, yoga, prayer, walking in nature, etc) are key in the wounded daughter’s healing process. Whatever we do that makes us feel alive and joyful opens our heart again, and this is profoundly healing.
The wounded daughter must return to (or find for the first time) her sense of self as whole–to see herself as complete even without the biological family members who have shunned her. This is absolutely possible.
Having our experience witnessed by a caring therapist, by someone who can help us understand the complex reasons why our biological family is destructive, can be a key component in our recovery journey.
Below are some tools to help you tap into the part of you that has been wounded by the act of familial abandonment and betrayal–devastating wounds to be sure, but wounds that CAN heal. The Guided Imagery CDs are particularly helpful in eliminating negative thinking and developing positive, loving ways to understand the experience of betrayal.
1. Guided Imagery Downloads/CDs at Health Journeys–www.healthjourneys.com. “Grief,” “Abandonment & Betrayal,” and “Healing Trauma” are especially helpful.
2. Only share your experience of family estrangement with friends who will support you unconditionally. If a friend says “what did YOU do?” or “they weren’t that bad,” etc. find someone else to share your experiences with–you need love and support, not someone to create doubts or undermine your healing. You have a right to be heard and supported.
3. Develop a new family. Non-biological family members can be the strongest, most nourishing bonds we have. Who is your new family?
4. Plan ahead for the holidays you wish to celebrate (they don’t have to be the ones you celebrated with your former family, in other words). Make sure you have joyful plans with people you love. If you do not have a community or religious affiliation that feels right to you then check out organizations like the Salvation Army and your local homeless shelter or women’s shelter. They all need volunteers. Your work there will be warmly welcomed and deeply appreciated. Avoid being alone on the holidays and plan something that will open your heart.
5. When you are ready, you might consider creating a special place in your home (like a personal altar) where you place symbolic images of the family you used to have. They can represent what YOU want to remember–just because we were shunned does not mean they have the right to keep/or destroy the memories of our life together. We can keep whatever we like. For example, maybe find a small action figure to represent a sibling who has shunned you and let whatever warm memories you have of this sibling touch your heart. Not everything is lost and having fond memories does not mean you want this abusive person in your life again–it’s not either/or, all or nothing. You can have memories and have boundaries at the same time.
6. Perhaps you may want to keep a small object in your pocket that represents a family ancestor who you were close to or who you never met but feel a connection with–a beloved grandparent or aunt/uncle. You can touch this object throughout the day and really feel your connection to her/him deep within your heart. Let this person’s love help heal you. You have not lost ALL your family and the currently living generation does not have any right to speak for past generations. They don’t get to decide that you don’t belong to your ancestors just because you have been shunned. They aren’t omnipotent!
7. It may be helpful to take some deep breaths everyday and remind yourself “I am breathing with all the other daughters who have survived estrangement. Together we are our own community of healing, connection, and love.”
8. Develop a daily ritual that you do, if possible, first thing in the morning that reinforces your healing journey and connection to your ancestors, the earth, Creator/God/Goddess, etc. Find a passage to read that has deep meaning for you; make an intention or prayer for the day; look into the eyes of someone in a photo that holds deep love for you and draw that love into your heart–really FEEL it, don’t just imagine/think it. Feeling it makes a difference. Our bodies are powerful storehouses of memory and experience–put love back into your body’s storehouse.
9. You may wish to explore:
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, Body and the Healing of Trauma. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
- The Courage to Heal by Laura Davis.
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron (Shambhala Classics 2000)
- Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess by Demetra George (HarperCollins 1992)
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (New Directions 1951)
- When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond (Three Rivers Press 1997)
- Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. Translated and Introduction by Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books/Penguin 2002)
- Energy Medicine for Women: Aligning Your Body’s Energies to Boost Your Health and Vitality by Donna Eden (Penguin 2008)
- Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Ballantine Books 1992)
- We’Moon Gaia Rhythms for Women datebook by the We’Moon Women’s Collective (www.wemoon.ws)
- The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd (HarperOne 2006)
- SageWoman: Celebrating the Goddess in Every Woman magazine, www.sagewoman.com
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Baghdad Cafe
- Babette’s Feast
- The Color Purple
C. WOMEN’S HEALING CONFERENCES & HELPFUL WEBSITES
- Southeast Women’s Botanical Conference (healing gathering of over a thousand women every October in North Carolina). www.redmoonherbs.com
- Find a Woman-Centered Professional Therapist in your area at: http://www.goodtherapy.org/feminist-therapy.html
- Custom Made Goddess Rosaries: http://www.lunaea.com/rosaries/
- Women’s Shelters/Transitional Housing, www.womenshelters.org. List of housing options anywhere in the United States.