Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mourning for the Inner Child - Thoughts on healing from childhood sexual abuse

Written by: Adryelle

I recently watched a TV show where a woman was telling a story of a book that she had written. The book (Now You See Me) had a focus on her experiences of the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City several years ago. Her grandchildren were killed in the event. She and her daughter were devastated, obviously, but learning to forgive the bombers and letting go was the hardest part. The bombers took something from them, but not just some “thing”. The bombers killed two children; this woman’s own flesh and blood. The grief was overwhelming as well as letting go of them, letting go of the precious children, the memories and what could have been. I think the grieving process is very universal in many different contexts, not just the death of a person we know, or a tragedy. Although healing from childhood sexual abuse doesn’t involve a child physically dying, this process works the same way. Going through the different grieving stages is important for you to be able to heal and move forward.

This story broke my heart, and I could relate to it in several different ways. I think a lot of people would be heartbroken by a story like this. Whenever we hear of innocent people, especially children, being killed or hurt, we are saddened. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I also felt like a child was killed. Just like the woman who lost grandchildren in a bombing, I lost my inner child. 

There needs to be mourning for the inner child that was hurt. We need to allow that child to be sad, and give him/her space to mourn and grief. Even as adults we may have never allowed ourselves to grief for that child. Whether we were 3 or 8 or older, I believe that a part of us stays in that age unless we allow the grieving process to begin. It isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy but every day gets better and better. There is a program called Teen Challenge, a faith based drug rehab that I have volunteered for in the past. Most of the individuals in the program are in their 30s/40s/50s. It is called Teen Challenge because most of the addictions started in their teens. A lot of those individuals had been sexually abused too and drug abuse is a symptom of that, to kill the pain. For them, it is a process of going back and facing the younger self and allowing ‘him’ or ‘her’ to go through that healing and grieving process. It can be hard to figure out how to do this.

There are 5 stages of grief:

1. Denial/Isolation

2. Guilt/Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

At first you have the “Denial/Isolation” stage. Doubting yourself and the memories is common. There are questions like “Why would this happen to me?”, but it did happen and something needs to be done about it. That is the bottom line. You need to admit that something went wrong and that there is brokenness in need of healing. Knowing this gives strength to go through this stage. For me, it took between 21-24 years to admit what happened was reality. I at first thought what happened to me was “normal” because as children we don’t know any better. I had specific triggers that told me something was wrong and I needed to get help to work through it. I finally admitted that yes, I had been sexual abused, but it took a while for it to really sink in. I felt alone, but reaching out to different communities helped with the feelings of isolation.

Then there is “Guilt/Anger”. We internalize the anger and blame ourselves as well as the person who was involved (the abuser, the people who knew the abuse was happening and allowed it to happen). We may think it was somehow our fault and reality sets in, the realness of what has happened. For me, I felt angry about my whole life, why didn’t I realize what had happened to me earlier on so I could enjoy my life and not be in denial about the truth? I wished I could have somehow worked through the pain earlier on, rather then starting in my 20’s.

"Bargaining" is the next stage. This stage is where questions like “What if?” come in. ‘What if I was…?’, and so on. Pain is hard to face. We may make deals with God, or deals with ourselves to try to procrastinate facing the pain we must go through. It’s easy to postpone the process.

Then there is the “Depression” stage. This is where the sadness comes and the real mourning starts. Mourning for that child. Mourning the loss of a childhood. The child was “killed”, not physically, but emotionally and mentally because childhood sexual abuse kills the soul. It is the worst of all abuses because it affects the core of who a person is. Once the process of tears and intense sadness subside there is a letting go. It is always darkest before the dawn.

The final stage is “Acceptance”. This leads me to conclusion in saying that once your painful past has been accepted you can move on, be happy and live your life in each present moment. I’m sure you have heard things such as “just get over it” and “don’t focus on your past” as I have, but people do not understand that it is very much a process and it isn’t something that someone can just get over. Know that healing is possible and I encourage you to start your grieving process and, like the woman who lost her grandchildren, find peace.

Written by: Adryelle
Country: United States
Twitter: @adryeIIe
Instagram: @Adryelle


  1. Thanks for sharing this. It takes a brave soul to face what you have faced and then move through it to a better place. It takes the bravest soul to engage others in dialogue about it to both educate and help those who have or are facing the same abuse.

  2. Wow. This is an awesome post. For information and what a lot of people need to hear. Thanks for sharing. Abuse is very real. I was sexually abused as a little boy by my step father and another time by his brother my step uncle. So I know what it's like.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I think healing from trauma, abuse and dysfunction can be a challenge. Thank you for shining a light here for the many in need of it, myself included!