Moving Beyond Trauma into Creativity and LIfe

You might have noticed I’m not blogging much. This is because I’m living instead, and having a lot of fun at it. It feels odd to say it, but I’m not so interested in trauma any more. I worked so hard for about 15 years in therapy, also writing my memoir of healing (The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse), and letting the world know about the book. I also wrote that little booklet, Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups.

I’ll always have a tender spot in my heart for people working on healing from abuse, and I do hear from a lot of you from time to time. I always answer those emails and I will continue to do so.

I sit with my Inner Child every day to find out how she is, and she lets me know when she’s feeling sad or vulnerable, as well as happy. I pay close attention to her needs.

But these days I’m putting my energy into poetry about spirit and nature and love. I’m gardening. I’m painting wild abstract paintings. My creativity has continued to unfold, and my spirituality, too.

I think many people find their creativity as they work to heal from trauma and abuse. Poetry, writing, art, music all are wonderful outlets and help us to be seen and heard and to express ourselves. Then for some people, the impulse passes and life simply takes over. For me, the creativity continues to grow and I feel extremely fortunate to have the time and resources to grow with it.

How are you doing in your journey, friend?

Translating the Language of Trauma

The language of trauma is wordless. Whatever words we may have at the time of impact, whether we are well-published professors or toddlers, none of them serve to express What Happened.

What Happened may be named by outsiders—a rape, a car accident, a molestation, a war —but these words merely shape the abstract air around the shapeless primordial reality. Pain is wordless. Betrayal is beyond words. Our reality is shattered—that’s the core. Whatever we depended on—a parent, good health, the rules of the road, the goodness of our neighbors—whatever feeling of safety and stability we had, that is splintered, and with it go the words we used to describe our previously normal world.

How, then, can we convey experience that is beyond words? Normal sentences feel treacherous. Subject, verb, adjective, object, adverb: traitors, all of them.

Fragments, phrases, poetry, images. These come closer.

Toni Morrison did it brilliantly in Beloved, as she described the horror of slavery. The language roils and rebels, scenes and sentences split, spilt, refusing to lie down on the page and make sense. Because what she’s describing is too traumatic for linear storytelling.
All of it is now . .  it is always now . . there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching others who are crouching too . . I am always crouching . . the man on my face is dead . . his face is not mine . . his mouth smells sweet but his eyes are locked
[Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Knofp, 1987. Periods added for internet formatting]
Each of us finds her own way to tell what cannot be told in words.

Review of The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A Haunting, Redemptive Novel

This gorgeous, well-crafted, tender book is a gift of the heart. Victoria Jones, the prickly protagonist, has just turned eighteen and aged out of the foster-care system. She trusts no one and has no plan, so she sleeps in the Golden Gate Park with her few possessions. Gradually her life moves forward as she is befriended by a flower-shop owner who notices and values Victoria’s knowledge of the language of flowers and her gift for arranging those flowers.

At the same time, Victoria’s past is not gone. We learn slowly about what happened when she was 10, when a woman seriously tried to nurture and adopt her. Those events and misunderstandings form a tragic backdrop to her life, and Victoria is convinced she could never be forgiven and never connect to others with normal love and respect.

Slowly this uncertain life unfolds.

Diffenbaugh’s descriptions of the girl’s loneliness and lack of connection are deep and ring true (the author has fostered several children and bases her writing on those experiences plus her research). We can’t help empathizing with Victoria—because don’t we all have that mistrust somewhere inside us? Especially those of us who were abused in one way or another early in life, we resonate with the paralyzing fear that can keep us from giving our hearts in love.

I’ve been haunted by The Language of Flowers ever since I read it a couple of months ago. I recommend it to all my friends. The slow, imperfect, but deep redemption that develops is healing to read about and warming to hold in our hearts.

Abandonment and the Inner Child

Everyone experiences abandonment at one time or another. But abused and neglected children get hit with it far too early. If you were physically or sexually or emotionally abused as a child, you were abandoned emotionally. The people who were supposed to protect you and love you were not there when it mattered, so you were essentially alone.

I was abandoned at age two, when my sister Suzie was sent away to a special school for kids with Down syndrome. Not only was she gone, but my grief was ignored—worse, I was expected to be cheerful and fix up my parents’ feelings. The grief-stricken two-year-old was all on her own. I feel it afresh now that my sister Suzie has died. But now I’m able to listen to this Little Girl and console her and tell her it’s OK to grieve. Grieving feels scary; it means going to painful, lonely places, but I need to do it. I sit with this little girl every morning, and she cries often these days.

I was abandoned again by abuse. My father, whom I loved, used me sexually, and so this adored person turned into someone else, an alien stranger at times. I was only 3 years old, and suddenly my world was exploded, no safe core of protection. When my mother refused to listen, she betrayed and abandoned me yet again.

It’s through years of therapy and creative-arts healing that I have found a strong Inner Adult to hold, love, and cherish my abandoned Inner Child. I describe this transformative process in my ("inspiring," "unforgettable") book, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.

Abandonment calls up the most basic human fears. We are social animals. We need to be raised socially and be shown how to have our emotions and live a full human life. Early abandonment means that there’s always a howling child inside, wondering where love and connection have gone. We need to reconnect and heal that wounded inner child.

Using writing as a tool for personal transformation--free Teleseminar

Tuesday, February 7th at 4 PM (Pacific Time)

Laura Davis is an internationally known author and teacher, co-author of The Courage to Heal.

During this live one-hour call, Laura discussed 5 strategies for using writing as a tool for personal transformation. The call was recorded and you can listen to it any time.

Download the free file (It's big, though) at

I'm delighted to be featured on Mari McCarthy's terrific blog about journaling. My topic is

How Journaling Helped Me Write a Memoir.

I discuss the purpose of a private journal, how it differs from writing for public consumption, and how keeping a journal during the difficult years of my healing from abuse helped in writing my memoir, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.

Death, Grieving, and the Inner Child

My older sister Suzie died a month ago today. She’s the one with Down Syndrome. Suzie’s death was peaceful and I was with her to the end. It was as good a death as I can imagine for her. I had lost Suzie once before, when she was 3 and I was 2, when my parents sent her to a school far away (those were the old days when people like her were called “Mongolian Idiots,” I kid you not).

My Inner Child remembers the first loss, the confusion and disorientation when my buddy was just gone, the loss of the security of someone to hug. This new loss brings memories of the old losses. My psyche remembers being told not to cry. It was the first big trauma of a childhood that brought other traumas. My family dealt with such things by avoiding them, not speaking, not expressing sadness and fear. My family successfully repressed sexual abuse the same way. As a child I was disoriented and scared--No one talks about things. What is happening? What is reality when we don’t go near the real things?

Now I sit with my Inner Child every morning, and when she needs it I rock and hold her as she cries about Suzie. I’m not avoiding grief now. I know how to be with it and let it unfold. I also can let my Child Within be happy or have other feelings; I don’t dictate what she is to feel. This is one blessing of all the hard work I’ve done around abuse and trauma. Gradually over the last month the grieving has shifted and peace has come.