Saturday, November 19, 2016

~ Helen ~ Grateful for My Sister and for the Gift of Healing Together

October 2015

“Hello. You’ve reached the Enchantment Resort and Spa.  How may I direct your call?”

“Yes, could you please connect me with Chi Ah Chi Restaurant?”

“It would be my pleasure. Please hold just a moment.”

As I waited for the transfer, my excitement grew thinking about the day of celebration being planned for my sister. I had carefully selected a perfect place – and as it states on their website, “A place curated exclusively for you.” What could be better? Strategically nestled among giant rock formations patterned with rings of chocolate lightly ensconced into the earth’s rich rust layers is one of Sedona’s most elegant places of indulgence – The Enchantment Resort and Spa. I wanted my sister’s 60th birthday to be special.  I wanted her to feel special. 

A warm inviting voice broke my momentary trance. “Good afternoon, Chi Ah Chi Restaurant. How may we help you?”

 “I would like to make a reservation, please, for brunch on Sunday, October 18th. There will be four people and I’d like to make it for 11:00 am?” Knowing how popular the resort is, I crossed my fingers hoping my two week advance request could be accommodated.

“Yes, we have a few tables available.  Would you prefer to be seated next to a window? And what is the name for the reservation?”

Calming my excitement, I requested a window seat and relayed my name. The hostess was just about to confirm with a reachable contact number when I jumped in with one more request. “This brunch is going to be a 60th birthday celebration for my sister.  I see you have some lovely deserts on your menu, but I was wondering if the chef could make something special…something chocolate and sort of decadent? You see…she loves chocolate.” 

With enthusiasm, the hostess responded, “Of course, Mrs. Kenley.  I will make a note to the chef to create a chocolate surprise for your sister! It will ready for you on the 18th. Just let your server know when you are seated.”

“Thank you so much!  I really appreciate it!” After confirming my contact information, we concluded our call. I was pleased with the beautiful birthday plans.  And although we would be celebrating almost a month after my sister’s actual birthday, I was confident she would feel no less loved or cherished.  

During the ensuing two weeks, I spent a lot of time thinking about my sister Helen.  It was still so strange to pick up the phone and call her, knowing she was just a few miles away.  We had lived apart for the bulk of our adult years – she and her husband Keith remaining in our central valley home town of Stockton, California, while my husband Dan and I lived most of our adult married life in the mountains of Southern California. After Dan and I relocated to Prescott, Arizona in 2011, Helen and Keith visited several times over the years, falling in love with Prescott’s mountainous beauty and her rustic charm.  Retirement for both Helen and Keith in June 2015 gave them the freedom to move away from Stockton.

In October 2015, they began a new chapter in their lives.

In October 2015, a new chapter began to unfold for Helen and me. 

Little did I know how grateful I would be for my sister and for the gift of healing together.


Helen is one of my two younger sisters. She is the third of four sisters and she is four years younger than me.  When I think back to our childhood growing up together, I have only warm loving memories of her and our relationship.  I remember when she was born. She was a good baby and she reminded me of a pretty doll.  Helen had big green eyes and sandy blonde hair.  She didn’t resemble anyone else in our family, and I secretly wished I looked like her!

Two years after Helen’s birth, another younger sister was born into our family.  Although I was only six at the time, I remember taking care of Helen along with help from my older sister. Because our family was quite dysfunctional – an alcoholic system riddled with a constant flow of angry outbursts and unwarranted criticism, combined with an authoritarian parenting style which was rigid and restrictive – my older sister and I quickly fell into the roles of parentified children. Helen was always sweet, kind, even-tempered, and generous. She was easy “to mother”, unlike our youngest sister who suffered from emotional problems and physiological disorders. I remember worrying about Helen, wondering if she received much of our mother’s attention which was largely taken up by the incessant and increasing demands of our youngest sister.  I know I felt the loss of a motherly presence, and I wondered how deeply Helen felt our mother’s emotional absence in our lives.

Although there are hundreds of wonderful memories with Helen, the one significant shift in our sister relationship took place when I was entering high school and she was about to start junior high. With financial help from my grandparents, my parents were able to remodel our home expanding it from three bedrooms to four bedrooms, with an additional bathroom and a large den.  When the remodel was done, there was a natural hierarchy which dictated that the two “older” sisters would each have a bedroom of their own while the two “younger” sisters would share. Two weeks after moving into my bright yellow new bedroom, my sweet sister Helen came to my room. Her big green eyes were filled with sadness and sorrow. She looked desperate.

“Holli, could I possibly move into your bedroom with you?  I can’t stand it any longer sharing with Kelly (the name I will give our youngest sister). She is awful…she is so mean. She is constantly screaming and crying.  And she stays up all night …I can’t go to sleep…”

Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Of course, you can.  There’s plenty of room! You can have the twin bed next to the window and the dresser is plenty big.  Get your things!”

Helen and I shared our bright yellow room for the next four years. We decorated it with our little trinkets and the few possessions we each held so dear. We were both neat and organized.  I loved that!  We never fought or argued. It was just easy…and we both loved the sense of safety and trust in our relationship. And even after I left for college, when I came home during breaks or vacation, Helen and I shared our room and our clothes, told one another about our crushes and romantic escapades, and giggled late into the night with our secrets and stories.

Every time I would leave to go back to college, I again worried about Helen. The angry outbursts and explosive episodes in our home had escalated significantly over the years. Our parents were detached from the needs of their children and absorbed into their own. I could tell Helen was strong and was dealing with it in her own way, but as my giving gentle sister Helen generously organized and packed all my clothes for a study abroad program in France for my junior year, I wondered how well she would survive. I would learn later how incredibly tumultuous it was for her during my time away.

I believe that one of Helen’s saving graces was meeting the love of her life during her high school years. Keith, who eventually became her husband, was a strong support for Helen as well as a devoted husband. Although Helen and Keith moved away for their college educations, they returned to Stockton to grow their careers and start their family.  After a few years of separation due to additional pursuits in education, I too returned to Stockton securing a teaching job there.

For several years, Helen’s family and mine shared loving memories together.  Dinners out.  Our children becoming best of friends – close cousins. Holidays together at each other’s houses.  In fact, for two years Dan and I lived about six houses down the street from Helen and Keith.  Just as it was before, our relationship was easy…comfortable…and safe. During this time, although we didn’t discuss the difficulty and dysfunction within our family, we supported one another in unspoken ways.  At the time, neither of us had the understanding or the words to identify all that was wrong. That would come much later.

In 1987, Dan and I moved five hundred miles away to Southern California. For the next twenty years, Helen and I remained close. However, we were both busy with children, careers, and a constant stream of demands which befalls young couples. I was so proud of Helen when she returned to school after her sons were a little older to finish her Bachelor’s Degree and obtain her teaching credential. Aside from being an amazing teacher and a dedicated wife and mother, Helen took over all holiday and celebration responsibilities for our family in Stockton. For thirty years, she prepared Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners. She always went out of her way to make Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and our parents’ birthdays special, cooking their favorite dishes to their exact specifications. Although I knew of Helen’s desire to be a loving daughter to our parents, I knew these tasks were not easy. Regardless of the time and effort she put into making a “perfect meal”, time after time celebrations were ruined by the same dysfunctional alcoholic family patterns of our past. I often wondered how much of toll it was taking on her.
Over the years, we visited one another and remained close. As I embraced my own recovering along with learning about the dynamics of alcoholic family systems, I began sharing my new-found knowledge a little at a time with both Helen and my older sister.  I remember giving them books on codependency and sharing what I had learned, hoping it would help them with understanding our past as well as our present. After attending AL-ANON for several years, I recall how encouraged I was when Helen began attending as well. After obtaining my Master’s in Psychology and becoming a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I was mindful about not placing my expectations of wellness on my sisters, understanding and accepting that each of us has our own journey. I know there were times when I failed at remaining silent about about how our past and present unhealthy family dynamic had impacted each of us and about the importance of making healthy choices for ourselves and in our relationships with our parents. I remember feeling badly about it and wondered if my sisters felt judged by me or were made to feel less than – just as our parents had done to us.  Because I deeply cherished my friendship with Helen and the special bond which we had shared for so many years, I re-focused on my journey of recovering and worked hard at respecting hers.

Little did I know how our different paths would intersect and how we would heal in unison, leaning on the strengths and truths of one another.


Glancing up at my wall calendar, I see that there are just a three days before Helen’s birthday brunch. Feeling excited, I do what most sisters do. I call Helen to discuss what we will wear to this place which is “especially curated for us”!

Punching in her number, I think about how I have taken to calling Helen “Honey”.  “Honey” is actually a diminutive which my sisters and I have used with our children and they with us. And even in their adult relationships with one another, they continue using it! “Honey” is also a family name and was used by a relative of ours whose birth name was Helen. It feels so natural to call Helen “Honey”; it suits her perfectly.  And yet, I want to check in with her and make sure she feels respected by my usage of it.

“Hi, Honey.  Are you busy for minute?”

“No.” Her voice raised slightly in intonation.

“I wanted to ask what you were thinking of wearing to The Enchantment Resort.  Do you want to do dressy, or smart casual (a phrase we adopted from “cruise attire protocol”), or other? I think it is going to be a lovely warm day.”

Helen responded excitedly describing her options.  I too shared mine.  We determined that "smart casual" summer dresses were in order with light sweaters in case it turned cool. Of course, we had the shoe conversation and then confirmed our departure time and plans for the day.

Ending the call, I was determined to make Helen’s birthday a day of love, joy, and blessing. Most importantly, I wanted to keep the focus on her and not on our mutual pain. So, over the next couple of days, I worked hard placing the previous six months of family trauma and turmoil into their respective cognitive compartments. However, as it often did, my mind drifted to the horrific events of last spring and replayed them.


In the mid-morning of Wednesday, April 8th, 2015, I spoke with my elderly father by phone, something we did several times a week.  I knew he was failing.  At 86 years old, his health had been fragile for a couple of years and an open wound on his leg which had plagued him on and off for most of his adult life was beyond treatment. Sensing his depressive state, I offered up a few options, none of which he found viable.   We said our goodbyes with a commitment on my part to check into Hospice.

On the morning of Friday, April 10th, 2015, I called my older sister after not being able to reach my parents.  Although she lives two hours away from Stockton, I knew she would try to get a hold of them – either by phone or by driving to their home. Although Helen and Keith were both working, my sister notified them and they quickly intervened.

What felt like an eternity but within a relatively short period of time, first-responders arrived at our parents’ home along with Helen, Keith and their older son. What was discovered at the scene was horrifying. Both our mother and father had methodically planned, carried out, but had not completed a dual suicide. An overdose of medications had not granted them their last wish, but instead had cast the final layers of brokenness onto an already fractured family.  Both parents were still alive; however, our father was in very critical condition. Our mother, serious but stable. Both were taken to the hospital.

Although I remained in Prescott, I stayed in close contact with both of my sisters attempting to keep a pulse on the whirlwind of events and emotions. However, with the entrenched dysfunctional patterns of our family, the terror and trauma of the attempted suicides and their ensuing physiological and psychological impact on our parents’ lives and on ours created an even more chaotic and unstable dynamic than our pasts had previously prepared us. With the parental hierarchy shattered, so was the fragile homeostasis which hung by a thread.  The ensuing days were filled with episodic bouts of reactivity and rage, calamity and confusion. A family lay in ruins.

Within a week, our father was moved back to his home where he wanted to be and where he passed Thursday, April 16th, 2015, under Hospice care. Our mother was moved to a nursing/rehabilitation home where she proceeded to recover. During her time in recovery, I called her frequently. With emotions raw and tender, I worked hard at having honest and open conversations with her, something our family rarely did. However, our mother began accusing Helen and my older sister of unconscionable acts such as stealing money from bank accounts and material items from her home. In checking in with Helen by phone, she too was experiencing first-hand accusations and was trying to make sense out of the craziness.

By mid- May 2015, although our mother was physically stronger she was beyond trying to reason with.  In a desperate attempt to salvage some semblance of our family’s wreckage, I placed a phone call to my mother while she was still in the rehabilitation home. I asked her if we could speak, candidly and honestly. I asked her to listen. She agreed. And I agreed to listen to her as well. For the next two hours, I begged her to acknowledge the truth about aspects of our family history. I defended every accusation levied at my sisters (and at times myself), and I pleaded with her to restore some kind of relationship with us. Our mother denied responsibility for her actions (both past and present), continued to cast blame on my sisters, and chose to disown them and me.

The level of pain I remember feeling at the time was mirrored by one person only –
 my sister Helen. 

After the events of that spring and during the summer, she and Keith traveled to Prescott a couple of times planning and organizing the building of their future home. Although we were talking frequently by phone, it was her in-person presence which brought incredible comfort and solace. She and Keith typically stayed in a motel, but we ate our meals at our home and spent as much time together as possible. We talked for hours and hours, cautiously and carefully processing the events of April and grieving the multitude of betrayals and losses. We cried together. We held one another. We told each other how much we loved one another.  Our husbands, too, grieved with us. Our collective pain was palpable. It was like a heavy blanket wrapped around us holding us together, keeping us from falling apart.

In October 2015, Helen and Keith moved to Prescott settling into a comfortable rental with their house under construction. And just like it was when Helen moved into the bright yellow bedroom, the closeness was there. It was easy and natural. And yet I wondered, were we ready to tackle what was under the blanket of pain? Were we each willing to speak our truths and would we be able to navigate them respectfully? And although we shared many familial pieces and connections, given our different personas and life experiences, would we each be willing to be transparent about our past or present injuries and injustices from within our family and honor them accordingly? Could we find safe common ground to move forward?

I thought about the bright yellow bedroom once more. Being together had served us both well. 
I trusted it would again.


November 2016

While writing away at my desk on an unusually warm November afternoon, I received a text from Helen. I opened it.
“I wanted to check and see if you and Dan would like to come to dinner here Sunday for your birthday?” The words are followed by emojis of a wine glass, a piece of cake, and a celebration noise maker.

I waited for a bit until I reached a stopping point in my writing and then I called Helen.  I left a voice message saying how sweet and kind the invitation is.  And of course, we would love to come! I also asked if they were up to going to a movie later in the week. I then texted Helen that I left a voice message at her home phone.

As I look at our backlog of texts, they are all very similar.  Arranging for dinners out, especially at our favorite Mexican place. Dinners at each other’s houses. Movies together.  Attending one of many events around town or listening to a local group of musicians. Short trips out of town once in a while.  And of course, lots of lots of conversation!
Thinking over the past year, this fall is much different than last year. Although there is still some residual pain and perhaps there always will be, the time that Helen and I and our husbands spend together is much lighter. There is laughter! We are building new memories - individually, as couples, and as a family.  This has come with much hard work. This has come with a commitment on both our parts to do things differently than our family did growing up.  Although there are many facets to our journey, Helen and I have purposely navigated our tender territory embracing several key recovering principles.

First and foremost, Helen and I have committed to speaking the truth – the full truth. 
This means there will be no more secrets, half-truths, covering up or sweeping stuff under the rug.  It means being completely honest and open about issues within our family and/or our perceptions of the past. It means that each of us is transparent about our choices, and we each hold ourselves accountable for them, without deflecting blame elsewhere. This commitment also requires us to be vulnerable about how our family’s dysfunction affected and impacted us and how it continues to do so. This degree of truthfulness has established and continues to establish a solid foundation of trust between us. And although today, our disclosures are not as frequent as they once were, when something comes up we address it in a timely manner. As we often ask of one another, “I'm struggling a bit and I'm wondering if we could talk. Is it ok to check in?” An example from a year ago comes to mind.

I remember last November sitting in my living with Helen and Keith. After having a difficult day regarding a family issue which surfaced unexpectedly, I called and asked them to come over. They did so immediately. For the next five hours, I talked and they listened. They talked and I listened. Dan joined in the conversation later in the day. At times, we cried.  And we grieved more uncovered loss.  More secrets exposed and more betrayals revealed. As difficult as it has been confronting the chronic unhealthiness of our family, both Helen and I, along with our husbands, have found comfort in the joining together of our truths. As our bond of honesty continues to flourish, it serves us well, providing us with a strong healthy bridge from which to navigate the pain from our past and to nurture us on the healing road ahead.

The second extraordinary healing principle to our shared journey - honoring and respecting one another's  process - actually came about very naturally. 
I suppose it is because of our personalities and the relationship which Helen and I have shared all of our lives.  Although I am four years older, I have always felt we are equals. Even as a little girl, Helen was mature and wise. She was grounded in her thoughts. I knew she had to be. However, we never argued or fought. There was never a power or control issue between us. We never told each other what to do or what not to do.  And so, as Helen and I have opened up our hearts and shared our heartache with one another, we have also both been naturally mindful and respectful of what each needed to do in order take care of herself. We both have honored the space and time each has required to do so. The following example is just one of many.

Over the past year as other family dynamics have shifted, I have chosen to shore up boundaries and create spaces from unhealthy relationships. I have never asked Helen to do same, nor has she with me. Neither of us has ever spoken words such as “You need to….” or “You should….”. Neither one of us has positioned ourselves in a place of superior wellness or dictated the terms of it. Helen and I are committed to not placing expectations on one another or judging one another’s place of healing. We respect where each of us is.  We support one another unconditionally.

The third principle that Helen and I have blended into our journey requires an incredible commitment of  selfless hard work and it demands a high level of emotional regard for one another. 
After having worked with couples and families in therapy for many years, I learned that one of the most challenging pieces for two or more individuals healing together, especially within a family, is the integration of each individuals’ life experiences along with his/her interpretations of them into the process. When there are deeply entrenched dysfunctional patterns, it is very common for one or more family members to cast blame on other members and/or for one or more family members to feel his/her position is the “right one”.  Unhooking couples or individuals from unhealthy “scapegoating” or from rigid self-righteous mindsets requires a selfless suspension of one’s beliefs and needs in order to be fully present for another’s. When this is accomplished, healing takes hold.

And thus, every time I reflect upon our different paths and perceptions, I am humbled by the unconditional positive regard that Helen and I have held for one another. This has been and continues to be the integral part of our recovering together which distinguishes and separates it completely from the unhealthy patterns of our family. As we each have revealed the pain-filled pieces of injury and injustice from our past, each of us has served as a safe harbor for one another – a loving accepting sister filled with empathy and compassion. If our perceptions of events, relationships, or issues differ because of diverse life experiences or choices, each of us has deliberately and consciously chosen to suspend those beliefs and assumptions in order to be present and available for the other.  Although a vivid example of this happened many months ago, its healing legacy plays over and over in my mind.

Helen and Keith were over our house for dinner.  We were all standing in the kitchen gabbing away as usual.  Often Helen and I will revisit fun memories of time together sharing our room and of our teen years.  We laughed as Helen described how she always turned down my bed at night when I came home from a date. We chuckled even more as I described how my younger sister Helen “taught me some things about boys” after she started dating Keith.  Our conversation moved into the time where I was studying abroad in France and Helen shared how difficult and tumultuous that year was. With our  mother going through an undiagnosed depressive episode followed by a psychotic break and our father’s anger reaching new peaks, Helen was the recipient of repeated verbal attacks and assaults. As I listened intently to my sister, my heart swelled with empathy. I looked into her big green eyes and felt her hurt. I imagined her feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness over the chaos in our home and of the careless disregard for her being.  Although I had heard pieces of her narrative in earlier years, this time was different. With the magnitude of it all and with our mutual love for one another, I responded, “I am sorry…. I am so sorry you had to endure that….you deserved so much much more than that. I’m sorry…”  Our eyes connected with understanding and with unconditional regard. In that moment in time, Helen’s spirit entered into my port of empathy and docked safely there.  I held her there, just as she had done for me many times over the past eighteen months.

What makes this exchange incredibly meaningful is that although I had healed my relationship with our father many years earlier, it was imperative as we continued healing together that I meet Helen in her pain and join in with understanding. To do otherwise negates her truths and her voice. To do otherwise re-injures her.  For me, and I know for Helen, the mere thought of inviting a morsel of hurt into one another’s life is simply not an option.

What Helen and I have managed to accomplish has been purposeful and intentional. It has been based on truth. It has been hard work. Courageously embracing transparency with one another and trusting in that process is not easy. Being fully present for someone who has experienced tremendous injury is not easy. Being completely still with someone who is in pain, being able to let go of one’s own beliefs and expectations, and being an available and accepting safe harbor for someone else is not easy. 

What Helen and I have learned is that anything worthwhile rarely is. 
What Helen and I have come to know and trust is that we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away.  Although Dan and I are especially looking forward to spending a few days with our daughter and her husband in California prior to Thanksgiving, we will return in time to celebrate the actual day with Helen and Keith along with members of their family.  Helen and I have been planning our meals and divvying up the tasks. Although I am great at making the cranberry sauce, the yams, and l love making gravy, I am horrible at deserts! That is Helen’s expertise!  She makes a mean apple and pumpkin pie as well as to-die-for brownies! My mouth starts to water as I imagine biting into one of her chocolate delights. Unexpectedly, my mind flashes back to Helen’s birthday brunch over a year ago – and to her chocolate surprise.

“Excuse me for just a minute.” As Helen, Keith, and Dan finished up their delicious brunch entrees, I slipped away from the table to find our server.  Although they looked a little anxious about my rather quick departure, I was on a mission to see if Helen’s chocolate decadent birthday desert had been prepared by the chef.

Worried that they might see where I was headed, I looked back in the direction of our table before heading towards the kitchen.  Three sets of eyes were gazing out the massive windows taking in the majestic red bounty of beauty surrounding Chi Ah Chi Restaurant.

Within a few moments, I located our server who confirmed that Helen’s desert was prepared and awaiting its arrival.  I returned to our table, fielding questions about my sudden exit.

“Are you feeling ok?” Helen asked. 

I smiled and reassured her all was well. Shortly, our plates were cleared and our server arrived with a large chocolate treasure flowing in wavy shades of filling and smooth rich layers of cake. I think I remember a few small scoops of ice cream floating about the dish before a barrage of forks descended upon the magnificent creation!  We all laughed, devouring it as if no brunch had preceded it.  

I smile as I think about that memory. I remember how surprised Helen was and how something so small made her feel so special.  I think about all that has taken place since then. The talks. The truths. The transparency. The hard work. And…the empathic harbors where we both found a safe place to rest our weary hearts and release the heaviness within.

My eyes well with tears recalling the words Helen spoke to me after many long hours of processing our pain and reaching the other side of it. One evening after dinner as we tenderly said our “good-nights” and hugged each other tightly, she gently whispered,
 “Holli, you saved my life.”

Instantly, the image of the bright yellow bedroom - a cocoon of safety, trust, and love -  flooded my mind and swept through my soul.

To my sweet Helen, I want you to know,
 “I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.  
I am grateful for my sister and for the gift of healing together.”

Thank you, Helen and Keith, for allowing me to share our story publicly.
~ I Love You ~

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Secrets: The Good, The Bad & The Unspoken

Secrets.  Just the word sparks our interest. Why? Because something is being kept from us or we are concealing something from others.  Although the word "secret" feels light and airy, it carries with it a mysterious weightiness which only its holder can attest to. For today's blog, we are going to explore the anatomy of secrets - differentiating the good secrets from the bad, and more importantly, exposing the unspoken destructive characteristics which accompany a lengthy hibernation. Lastly, I'm going to encourage you to respond to a few writing prompts. Because secrets are uniquely personal and private, we often learn best from our own experiences.

The Good

Secrets, of course, can be good.  They can be fun! It's planning a surprise baby-shower for a friend; it's not telling the rest of the family about your plans to propose to your partner (so no one else will spoil it); it's making the effort to show up at a special event for your best friend after telling him you had to work; it's saving for months in your private account in order to pay for that special anniversary vacation or gift!
A Surprise!
Secrets are good when...
 they conceal information and/or carry the confidence of someone
 with the primary and purposeful intention of bringing joy to others.  

The Bad

Secrets can also be bad. Secrets can be dangerous and destructive. It's agreeing to hide the truth from someone or something; it's choosing to lie for someone or something and concealing it; it's covering up wrong-doings for personal gain or pleasure; it's misleading others regarding one's intentions within any relationship or situation.
Manipulating what others know.
Secrets are bad when...
they manipulate others by controlling what is known and not known,
with either an intentional or unintentional consequence of harming others.

The Unspoken

Most of us don't like to acknowledge the pain and discomfort of  keeping a secret. And although holding a good secret is not typically harmful, the longer we hold onto or hide anything, the more it weighs on us and depletes us. Holding a bad secret is extremely self-destructive. And the longer it is held, the more damaging it becomes. Why? Let's take a look at the Unspoken lifespan of a secret and its insidious impact on us.

Also, I've provided a few writing prompts for your reflection. Responding to them will assist you in connecting to your experiences with secrets and how you may handle them differently in the future.  

1.  Phase One - Seduction and Satisfaction 

Unhealthy or bad secrets are conceived out of necessity - to cover up, manipulate, or withhold truth. In the moment, we are seduced by them because they serve a purpose or they fill a need.  As secrets are born, there is an intoxicating measure of satisfaction as we experience their successful implementation and integration into our lives and into the lives of others. At times, there is an unusually heightened sense of relief, as if we have obtained a stay of execution from the truth of our reality. We are safe in our secret, at least for a while.

When I was in my early twenties, I was in a highly unhealthy relationship. The person was an alcoholic and abusive - emotionally, psychologically, and financially. Although I didn't know much about alcoholism and abuse at the time, I remember I was so ashamed of how I was living and with whom. Therefore, I kept the truth of my turmoil from my family and friends. However, the longer I pretended that everything was ok, the more I hurt myself in the process. When I finally had the courage to share my secret with family, they were supportive and assisted me when I left the relationship. 
Secrets hide shame.
Reflective prompt: Think about a time you agreed to keep a secret or you held one of your own. How did that feel at first? How long did that feeling last? What would you differently next time?

2. Phase Two -Repression and Regulation

It has been my experience that shortly after the period of seduction and satisfaction, we enter into phase of mild to moderate anxiety as our energy must be focused on repressing the truth and regulating or managing our secret. Typically, it is during this time where lies upon lies are told and/or stories are changed, altered, and amended in order to sustain the secret. Depending on the severity of the secret and its potentially damaging consequences (if exposed), the holder of the secret may experience physical, emotional, and psychological effects.

In 2010, quite by accident I stumbled across a deeply buried family secret - my parents had lied for 60 years about their wedding date. Although today it would not illicit the shame, scandal, and stigma of years ago, their lie was kept secret to cover up an unplanned pregnancy. Not wanting to dishonor my parents or  hurt my sisters, for several years I kept my parents' secret as my secret. However, being a person who has worked hard to "live in truth", I felt the burden of faking and pretending. At times, I felt angry at the hypocrisy of my parents for fabricating lies for so many years to cover up their secret while being extremely judgmental and critical of their children's choices and how we led our lives.

Reflective prompt:  As you repressed the truth and regulated your secret, how did you feel? What did you do which was out of character for you or which ran contrary to your healthy ways of being? What would you do differently next time? 

3. Phase Three - Suffocation and Strangulation

It is my belief that as we continue to manage our secrets by spinning our lies and weaving them  into our being, they will eventually suffocate our truths and strangle our spirits. Tremendous emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, and at times, financial resources and energy are needed to sustain their longevity. Tragically,  because of the insidious nature of secrets, over time the secret itself evolves into the new altered truth. It is in this phase when we justify the secret and deny it's potentially destructive ramifications. Many individuals turn to or relapse into self-soothing or self-medicating behaviors to cope with the internal turmoil.

Many years ago, I was working with a client  in her mid-twenties on personal growth issues. She had a conflicted relationship with her mom but she adored her father. He was her hero. My client was disturbed by her father's recent relapse into alcoholism after maintaining years of sobriety. Several months after working together, my client discovered her father had kept secret a first marriage and family along with a serious felony record. As her father would disclose to my client later, "The toll of carrying the secret for thirty years almost destroyed  me."
Keeping a secret for a long time can feel like being imprisoned by it.
Reflective prompt:  If you kept a secret for a lengthy period of time, when did you realize it was affecting you?  How did it affect you?  What would you do differently next time?

4. Phase Four - Revelation and Restoration

A secret will continue to live on until it is exposed or revealed. The irony is that we believe keeping the secret is saving us from pain when in truth concealing it fuels and feeds our fear, anxiety, and turmoil. Our secrets actually hold us hostage and keep us bound in unhealthiness. Healing and restoration can begin only after its revelation.

When my daughter was a child, I wanted to share a few secrets from my past with her. However, I wanted to wait until she was age-appropriate. Although a few family members knew of some of the painful parts of my past, "I" wanted to be the one to talk with her about them. Unfortunately, an unhealthy angry family member shared one personal piece of information with my daughter in order to hurt me. Even though my daughter was confused by the information, I was able to talk to her honestly and answer her questions. Not only did the experience  provide a strong bond and foundation from which to navigate future conversations,but I felt a tremendous level of release and renewal by freeing myself from their hold on me.
Revealing secrets brings renewal
Reflective prompt: When your secrets were exposed or revealed, what consequences - both positive and negative - were experienced?  How would you describe your feelings? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

I believe that someone might be reading this and thinking, "I have held onto my secret to protect my family." Or, "It is just too painful to talk about. I can't ever disclose my secret." Or, "What good what it do to tell others now?  Too much time has passed And it would just bring unnecessary injury to others." I would say to you the following:
You know yourself and your situation best. 
 Honor what is healthy for you and for those who are or will be impacted by your decision. 
Most importantly, keep a  pulse on the unrest you might be experiencing by not living in truth
 in contrast to the peace you will regain by the reclaiming of it.

Peace comes with living in truth.
Lastly, although there are similarities between keeping some matters personal or private and  holding a secret, there are important differences.  In our next blog -  Secrets & Private Matters - we will examine those differences along with a few strategies for how and when to disclose a secret.

For more healing tools and resources, please visit Holli Kenley
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If you feel betrayed because of a "truth which became a lie" or a "belief which was shattered", 
~ It is time to find your peace ~

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Collective Trauma: 3 Coping Tools for Adults, Children, and Families

During the extremely difficult events of the past week, I found myself not wanting to turn on the TV, or view my Facebook page, or see what is trending on Twitter. Although I want to stay informed, I feel overwhelming sadness over the ongoing traumas such as environmental disasters, mass shootings, and chronic political turmoil which  are continually being replayed, re-tweeted, re-posted, etc. And with a cloud of anxiety hovering around me, I am wondering when the next tragedy is going to happen.

Cautiously surfing through the TV stations one evening, I stumbled on a calm rational news contributor who reported on the "collective trauma" we are all experiencing. She acknowledged that although the recent as well as past plethora of killings and devastating hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes have become almost a "norm" in our society, familiarity doesn't diminish the emotional, psychological, and physical toll it is taking on adults, children, and our families in general.

Collective trauma takes its toll.
Because I have worked extensively in  the areas of trauma, I would like to offer 3 coping tools for families. They are really just common sense. But as we all are reeling from the fall-out, it doesn't hurt to call them to our attention.  

It is important to remember that if we "as adults" are having a hard time grappling with these various atrocities, imagine how frightening and unsettling it is for our children.

3 Coping Tools for Families 

1. Curtail exposure and access.

Because we are connected to our technology almost 24/7, it is difficult "not" to be exposed to the on-going coverage of the horrific events. However, the more "trauma" we place upon ourselves, the more it will affect our well-being. And although experiencing trauma at any age is damaging, adults - to varying degrees - are able to compartmentalize their emotions, allowing them to navigate their days with manageable levels of disturbance. However, children, whose brains are not fully developed or equipped to process such horrific acts, are not able to do so. For their undeveloped minds, witnessing or watching a horrific incident is like throwing mud onto a wall and watching it stick. It stays with them and they relive it. It shows up in their dreams, in flashbacks, and in their thoughts,behaviors, and feelings. Therefore, it is extremely important to curtail not only our exposure but that of our children's. A few suggestions include the following:
  • Adults, monitor your intake. I recommend an hour to two at the most of listening to or watching the news, especially if it is just rehashing what you have already seen or heard. It is also best if your viewing or listening time in "not" right before going to sleep. 
  • Adults, keep a pulse on how much time you are spending on the social networking sites where the events and/or others' opinions and interpretations of them are being shared. Be mindful of how you are feeling and make adjustments accordingly. 
  • Adults, view or listen to the news when you have "alone time", without your children present.
  • Adults, monitor your children's access very closely. Although maturity levels are important to keep in mind, I believe children under the age of 14 should not be viewing traumatic events. (We will discuss talking to them about it in the next section.) 
You know yourselves and your children best, so adjust the guidelines as needed.

 Remember, once our minds have been exposed to anything - especially a trauma - 
it is difficult to eradicate its images. 

Protecting our children's  minds.
2. Communicate (age appropriately) about the traumatic events and the feelings around them.

Because of these ongoing atrocities, emotions and feelings are running rampant. There is tremendous loss, despair, anger, frustration, and fear. There is helplessness and hopelessness. And the list goes on. Although there is much out of our control, within our families (and other safe environments), we can communicate about the traumatic events and our feelings around them. It is also important to remember that although we may have shielded our children from firsthand accounts of the traumatic events, they are quick to pick up on our words, thoughts, and actions. They can easily sense tension, anxiety, and fear and they will take on those emotions.  A few suggestions include the following:
  • Adults, talk with one another about what you are feeling and thinking. Do so in safe environments which are conducive to healing and which are constructive in nature.
  • Adults, talk with your children.  First, ask them what they know.  Invite them to ask you questions.  This lets you know their level of awareness and understanding. Share with them what you feel is age appropriate or clarify any misinformation or misunderstanding. Then, ask them what they are feeling. Really listen to them. Avoid telling them "how" they should feel. Normalize their fears and anxieties. Comfort them and love them.
  • Adults, remain truthful with your children.  At the same time, reassure them and let them know you will do whatever it takes to keep them from harm. Be their safe harbor. 
Remember, although talking about our feelings may not change what is going on around us,
it helps ease the fear and anxiety inside of us. 

Really listen to our kids.

3. Cultivate compassion and caring for one another.

One of the hopeful signs for me during the past few weeks are the stories of compassion, of comfort, and of caring for one another. I know they "aren't enough" and our country has much work ahead to do, but it is important to remember there are countless individuals who are really good people - who carry a deep human regard and respect for all.  Within our families and our communities, it is important to grab hold of those moments within our daily lives which lend themselves to cultivating compassion and caring for one another. Although this may sound like a "no-brainer", when we have been inundated with traumatic events, we can often lose sight of what is in front of us. It is vital that we are purposeful and deliberate in our expressions of kindness and love. A few suggestions include the following:
  • Adults, make family time a priority. If you are already doing so, great!  Whether it is at the dinner table, or going to and from a sporting event, or completing chores, take time to talk to each other, listen to one another, and enjoy each other's presence.
  • Adults, with all the heaviness around, plan fun activities with your children: a family dinner out, go to the movies, play games, or camp out in your backyard!! Give yourselves permission to laugh, together!
  • Adults and children, if you watched or listened to some of acts of heroism, compassion, or courage, talk about them. Bring out their positive healing qualities and use them as teachable moments.
  • As a family, give back to your school, neighborhood, place of worship, or community in ways which are meaningful. When our souls are hurting, we can lift our spirits by helping others.
Make the most of family time.

In closing, "collective trauma" is a serious issue. I'm afraid it is one that may be with us for some time to come. In addition to the above coping tools, I challenge myself each day with the following question:

Will  my actions and attitudes propagate harm or will they promote healing?

Committing further to my mission of wellness - promoting healing in ways that are within my means - I think to myself...

What a blessing it would be to have "collective compassion". 
Collective Compassion!

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Protecting Our Youth Against Campus Sexual Assault: 3 Key Strategies

Today's blog is for mature audiences: ages 18 and over.

Today's conversation is not an easy one to have, but it is critical.  What I am about to share may seem exaggerated and even fabricated.  Tragically, it is not. In the words of Susan Marine (Former Associate Dean of Student Life at Harvard University), "Sexual violence has always been part of the college experience". We know this to be an accurate statement from studies conducted on "campus violence at our universities and colleges" which date as far back as 1987 (CNN Films, The Hunting Ground).

Before I offer you 3 Key Strategies for Protecting Our Youth Against Campus Sexual Assault, it is important to understand that the recent case at Stanford University (in which an accomplished swimmer was convicted of sexual assault against a female student) is one of thousands which occur each year in the United States.Today, one out of four female college students will be a victim of rape or sexual assault. Male student victim numbers are far less, largely due to lack of reporting.CBS Evening  News (June 23, 2016) reported that The Big 12, one of the major conferences in college sports, ordered an accounting into how Baylor University handled sexual assault allegations after "three university students filed suit this week against Baylor claiming they were raped and the school did nothing." One victim, who knows twenty other female victims, referred to  Baylor University as "a hunting ground for sexual predators."

Why don't we hear more about this? 

There are several reasons:
  • Universities and colleges are big businesses. Because they are selling a product and do not want bad publicity, they will do what needs to be done to protect their brand. 
  • In order to protect themselves first and to suppress the rape or assault,  universities and colleges discourage victims from going to the police.  They do no want a public record. Therefore, they prefer to handle the assaults "in house", with their own campus resources.
  • Victims who do report are frequent targets of on-going threats and violence. In a recent study, 88% of victims sexually assaulted on campus did not report (Washington Post & Kaiser Foundation, 2014).
  • In 2012, 45% of colleges reported zero sexual assaults. (Washington Post, 2014). However, over 100 colleges and universities are currently under Federal investigation for sexual assault.
As with many social injustices, I believe it takes a triage approach: prevention,intervention  and protection in order to address this issue. First, it is important to establish laws which will hold offenders and universities accountable. Another important preventative measure is to educate young people about the culture of violence and the rights of each and every individual to live,study, and work in a safe environment. And yes, parents and guardians have a responsibility to teach young people how to respect one another and treat each and every person with dignity and human regard. However, I believe the legal system is lagging way behind in addressing this problem, and we cannot wait for the universities and colleges to step up and do the right thing. Too many young people continue to be victimized. But until that happens, we must face the disgusting fact that many sick individuals view our college campuses as Hunting Grounds. 

CNN Films, 2015 
"Any parent sending a child off to college should consider this required viewing." 
- New York Magazine

Secondly, it is critical to have sources of intervention: crisis centers, help-lines and websites, counseling and support services, safe reporting procedures, etc. Organizations such as RAINN  (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) have helped thousands of youth and continue to do so. For many victims, RAINN has been their only life-line. Therefore, we must have methods of prevention and intervention in place; we must also have protective measures in place as well.

I want to make clear this isn't about "victim blaming". No victim is ever to blame. However, we must also embrace protective strategies any time we put ourselves in harm's way. When a soldier steps out into a mine-field, he/she wears protective armor. When a football player suits up for a game, he is in full protective gear. The minute we get into our cars, we strap on our seat-belts. Everyday, we implement protective measures in order to lessen our risk of harm. Tragically, going off to college is no different.

Let's take a look at 3 Key Strategies for Protecting Our Youth:

1. PLAN AHEAD.   Parents, educate yourself and your young adults about the culture of violence on our college and university campuses. 
  • Do your homework. Read articles with your daughter or son about the culture of violence which exists on our campuses. Study the facts by researching the universities and campuses to which your children are applying and/or are attending. A recent article, Breaking The Silence: Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus (Huffington Post, January 2015,Tyler Kinkaid) lists 94 colleges under investigation. Know what is going on and where. No university is immune. 
  • As difficult as it is to watch, view the film The Hunting Ground with your college-bound or college age children.  Discuss it with them.  Learn from it. Know what is going on.
  • Whenever there is an item  in the news such as the Stanford University assault case, do not shy away from talking about it.  What can be learned from it? What is your son or daughter feeling about it?  Listen to them.  Together, start thinking about and writing down some ideas for "protective boundaries" (to be discussed).
Plan Ahead

2. PREPARE YOURSELF with insights into the profile of an offender.  Offenders typically implement 3 phases when targeting and assaulting victims. Knowing this pattern will  help youth to implement appropriate "protective boundaries".

 3 phase plan: 
  • Identify their victim : Perpetrators tend to be repeat offenders, but not always.They usually know or know of the victim, or they may single out a victim they do not know within any given situation. Either way, offenders target the more vulnerable students: freshman; those who walk alone or spend time alone or who separate from their friends at social gatherings; those who appear naive or unaware of the risks of social behaviors; and those who seem to respond to flattery easily or who trust easily. Many victims have revealed that they "knew and trusted the offender"or they "thought he was a friend". Remember, offenders are not interested in you - they are assessing your vulnerabilities and how to use them to their advantage.   
  • Intoxicate their victim: After an offender has identified a potential victim, the second phase is to get them intoxicated. Perpetrators use alcohol and drugs as weapons. They use them to render victims more vulnerable, make them easier to over-power, and to break down their defense mechanisms or inhibitions (their gut instincts or levels of trust, their ability to fight off or defend themselves, their ability to get or call for  help). Offenders want their victims weakened or unconscious! 
  • Isolate their victim: The third phase is the most dangerous. Perpetrators may appear concerned about the victim's well-being or pretend to have feelings for her/him. They may offer to take her/him home.They may ask the victim to go back to their place to sleep it off, to take a taxi with them, to step outside to get some fresh air. Offenders want to isolate victims from their friends or from anyone who may be a potential witness to the crime. Offenders want their victims alone!  
          *Note - Tragically, many times perpetrators offend in groups or in gangs (fraternity sexual  assault rituals or gang rapes). Under any highly charged social settings or  circumstances, do no allow yourself to be isolated or separated from your friends or sources of support.  

3. PUT PREVENTATIVE STEPS  into an action plan with protective BOUNDARIES.  Once you have an understanding of the epidemic of sexual assaults on our campuses, your awareness is increased and heightened. This is good. Secondly, now that you have a clear picture into the mind of an offender (and of the  3 phase plan for offending), you have the power to implement preventative steps. And although we can never prevent 100% an assault from happening, we can absolutely decrease our risk of victimization.

When I am speaking to young people about issues such as this, I ask them and challenge them to come up with their own "action plan" with their preventative steps.  I call these steps boundaries. 
  • Boundaries are healthy. They are good.  
  • Boundaries safe-guard what is important to you.
  • Boundaries are  not about pushing others away. Boundaries are about creating a safe space to protect what matters to you. 
  • Boundaries message others about what you will do or won't do.  
  • Boundaries message others about what you will accept and what you won't.  
  • Boundaries message others about your worth - and how important it is to you!
My Personal Boundaries
So, just as I do with other young people, I am going to ask you to make a list of your boundaries with regards to how you want to protect yourself  given the new knowledge you have gained.

My Personal Boundaries

Healthy Parameters                                                   Unhealthy Behaviors

1. Going out in groups.                                                 1. Drinking (amount ?)
2. Never leaving my group of friends at parties.            2. Leaving with a guy,intoxicated.
3. Always designating a sober friend at social events.    3. Going to a stranger's place. 

Spend as much time on this as needed!  This is a fluid self-protective action plan. Change it. Add to it. Alter it.  As you learn more about yourself, your college culture and environment, and you learn from your choices, revisit it and reinforce your boundaries! YOU are your first line of defense!

When your boundaries come from you, you are  more likely to implement them. 
You have the knowledge.  You have the power!  Now, take action!!

In closing, I want to share with you that when I was in practice, I worked largely with survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and trauma. I worked with adolescents, teens, young adults, adults, and many couples. Although their narratives varied, most victims' assaults, rapes, molestation, etc. occurred within "closed systems", which means there is a hierarchy of power established to protect its brand and its reputation at all cost. Universities and colleges are examples of "closed systems"; however, they are not alone in perpetuating this cultural epidemic of sexual violence. Parents, guardians, and young people (ages 15 and over), I ask you to read a previous blog which addresses this issue more thoroughly:  Sexual Abuse Thrives in the Secrecy and Silence of Closed Systems. Although we cannot live in fear, we must be informed; we must be vigilant; and we must be proactive in protecting our youth. 

For more resources regarding sexual assaults on our college campuses,
 please visit and support See Act Stop and RAINN ( 800 - 656 HOPE)

For more wellness strategies and tools, please visit Holli Kenley - Keys To Recovering!
Follow us @ Holli Kenley

Kenley's Keys to Recovering!

* Note - Some of the information in this blog was based on the film The Hunting Ground (CNN Films, 2015), and on additional research of my own.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blindsided by the Betrayal Bandit? Understanding why it hurts so badly!

Over the past several weeks, we have been talking about a very debilitating injury - betrayal. To gain a better understanding of betrayal and the recovering information we've covered, I encourage you to read the previous blogs before moving ahead: Blindsided by the Betrayal Bandit? (1) Hold is on the way!! ; (2) What is behind the mask?(3) Feeling "Confused, Worthless and Powerless"? ; and (4) Free yourself from four painful traps!  Today, we will tackle our last blog in this series, but it is perhaps the most important one - understanding why injury from betrayal hurts so badly. 

When we can make sense of why we are feeling incredible pain, 
or when we come to learn that there are sound explanations for the debilitating
 states we find ourselves in, an inner level of comfort takes hold and our healing begins.

Let's examine two features of betrayal which explain why we hurt so badly. 

#1 Underlying principle of betrayal 

Each and every encounter with betrayal has its own unique and distinctive characteristics as well as damaging effects. Every person has his individual threshold for and tolerance of pain. Everyone has his inner strength as well as support systems. However, given those and other differing features and factors, I have observed a common indicator of the duration and severity of symptoms. 

The degree to which we invest, believe, or trust in someone or something
is directly proportional to our degree of injury from betrayal. 

It is important to mention that "degree" has several important connotations which also help us to understand why we feel so much pain:
  • Degree as to length of time
  • Degree as  to what we gave of ourselves or what was taken from us
  • Degree as to what was lost: personal, relational, material, inter-personal qualities, of characteristics, beliefs, or  even our identities or personas
Although we have discussed many different kinds of betrayal in previous blogs which connect to these three examples of degree, I have found that individuals who invest tremendously in their relationships with friends, family, spouses or partners and/or other meaningful and purposeful connections experience devastating injury from betrayal.

Many years ago, my husband and I were attending a large church where the pastor was quite revered and respected. After allegations of misconduct by the pastor surfaced, the elder board asked him to step down. The pastor refused to do so and eventually was forced out of his position. The church body became extremely divided over the incident. Longstanding members expressed "feeling betrayed" either by the pastor or the board. Their feelings of betrayal were deeply rooted in their levels of investment, trust, and belief in the pastor and in the church. Hundreds of parishioners, who had been attending for years and years, invested into the unwavering vision of its leader and the ever-expanding mission of the church; many had served in numerous programs and ministries giving generously of themselves and their financial resources; and countless others recounted how they had trusted in their faith only to find themselves questioning their beliefs and their foundational principles. For so many faithful supporters, their degree of time, their degree to which they gave of themselves, and their degree of inter-personal loss resulted in deep feelings of deception, distrust, and disillusionment.

Therefore, regardless of the kind or type of betrayal, with great investment comes enormous loss; with strong belief comes shattered truths; and with profound trust comes unspeakable violation. Being aware of the degree to which we gave of ourselves helps us come to terms with of our degree of pain.

#2 Underlying principle of betrayal

As I think about my  many clients and their respective injuries with betrayal, as well as my own, I believe their severity and duration pain were directly related to the occurrence(s) of betrayal and to ensuring exposure to one's betrayal experience. In other words: 

The number of  betrayal occurrences and the degree of exposure 
to the betrayer and/or to the betrayal environment is a predictor to the degree of injury or re-injury.

As with other features of betrayal, each person has his unique experiences and thus, there can and will be exceptions to the explanations. And, it is critical to remember that the degree of investment, trust, or belief in someone or something should always remain paramount in our assessment of injury. However, drawing attention to the types of occurrences can serve us well in understanding our level and span of pain.

Because each of these is very important to understanding its impact on your levels of injury and ensuing discomfort, I encourage you to read Chapter Three Breaking Through Betrayal 2nd Edition : "To What Degree and How Long Will I Feel This Way."  There are longer explanations with examples for each one.  For now, it is important to know them:
  • Acute or short term - The betrayal happens once and/or does not last long. However, short term betrayal can involve horrific trauma and require long-term recovery. It can also be of a lower level, yet still painful.
  • Chronic or on-going - The betrayal (s)takes place over time; the betrayal environment is conducive to perpetual injury, abuse, or trauma.
  • Recurrent or episodic - The betrayal takes place; then subsides. Usually because of environmental factors, betrayal injury resurfaces.
  • Multiple betrayals - Betrayal is perpetrated  repeatedly by the same person, thing, or environment over a short span or longer periods of time; or betrayal is perpetrated or exacerbated by one or more individuals, things, or environments.  
  • Re-injury from self - Turning to destructive behaviors or self-soothing behaviors as a result of the betrayal resulting in additional injury to self. 
Although any of the above examples of occurrence can and will evoke debilitating symptoms and manifestations from betrayal injury, it has been my experience that on-going and multiple betrayals can be the most damaging. Working in the areas of abuse and trauma, I was witness to many survivors who not only endured months and years of horrific violations by perpetrators, but who were also betrayed and re-betrayed by friends and family members who did not believe the abuse and/or who came to the defense of their abusers. In addition, often the legal system did not bring adequate restoration or justice to the survivors, again adding to the layers of betrayal. Still today, I can recall the faces of my clients who never gave up and who reclaimed themselves. their lives, and their truths. 

No matter what the varying degree or types of betrayal, we can rest in the knowledge that hope and healing remain within our grasp. With hard work and specific tools, we can lessen our pain and shorten our stay in the bondage of betrayal.

There is so much more to share with you. However, it is up to each of us to grab hold of healing resources available to us and decide when we will begin our healing journey. If you are struggling to move past your betrayal experience, I want you to  know you are not alone. I hope you will take this journey with me. I hope you will be brave enough to do so.

Betrayal has know us far too long.  It is time to change that.

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           For a comforting and healing conversation on betrayal, 
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Protecting Our Youth Against Campus Sexual Assault: 3 Key Strategies

Today's blog is for mature audiences: ages 18 and over. Today's conversation is not an easy one to have, but it is critical.  Wha...