What We Don’t Talk Out, We Act Out

I work with Trauma Free World and frequently get to see how trauma-informed care training  changes lives and helps people find hope and healing for themselves and others. I’m a trainer myself, but my primary role is to support our Affiliate Trainers who train people and organizations around the world. This is a story from a recent training in Africa.

https://traumafreeworld.org/shop/Training in Kenya

Hesitantly, she approached me, tapping my shoulder while I packed up to leave. Our three-day conference was finished, and she finally felt safe enough, felt brave enough, to share.

“I wanted to tell you my story. The training really impacted me.” She nervously fumbled some folded slips of paper. “Will you read it? I wrote it. I can’t say it.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You see… my son….”

 I reached for the paper as tears formed in her eyes and mine as I read…

Orphaned. Abandoned. Pregnant at 16. 


Growing up with abuse and shame

She dropped out of high school and moved away from her familiar environment to the home of a distant relative. In her new home, she worked from early morning to late at night, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, hauling water. 

Every day she was verbally shamed, physically battered, and emotionally abused. Years of maltreatment made her feel unloved, unwanted, shameful, and worthless. And it all felt like it was her own fault.


The Cycle of Abuse 

As a result, her internal pain leaked out in anger towards her own son, the only one in her world more vulnerable than she. Daily, she unleashed years of neglect and abuse onto her son. 

I read and hear about the cycle of abuse very often in my line of work. While studies disagree on the rate of intergenerational maltreatment (as noted by this article), when someone is right in front of me telling me about it, it is so much more than a statistic. And in this case it was absolutely clear, we both wanted to do whatever we could to stop the madness and break the cycle. 

I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. 


Beginning to talk it out

When she finally found her voice, she spoke at me, rapidly, pleadingly, “I didn’t know… I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just hurting so much. I was only thinking about myself. My son is 13 now. He is finishing exams at boarding school and then we’ll be together for the next two months. Is it too late? I’ve seriously hurt him. How will I recover what I never gave him when he was young? What should I do?”

She was beginning to talk it out. She needed the space to pour out her hurts and regrets and worries and someone to hear her. More than answers, she needed validation that, although it would be hard, taking steps toward healing her relationship with her son was possible. 

And, since this training was one of Trauma Free World’s faith-based trainings, in addition to offering encouragement and some practical next steps, I was glad to be able to take the hand of this wounded woman and pray together for comfort, healing and brighter days for both of them.

She needed practical techniques, support, prayer, and hope that things could get better.

And there is always hope. 

Trauma Free World runs on hope. Training can change people’s lives. We have seen this in the past and want to see more people changed in the future. This woman and her precious son have tough days ahead as they wrestle through their tangled histories. There is a LOT to heal. It won’t be perfect, but as they take steps forward, it can be better…for both of them AND the next generation in their family.

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