I believe that every one of us has a story to tell because our journeys are uniquely ours, and each season of our past shapes us and our future. Though no one can walk the same path you walk, the pain we feel—rejection, abandonment, abuse, and other trials—is relatable across all walks of life. My journey is one of pain but also of hope, courage, and healing.
There were moments in my life where nothing around me reflected the dreams that God had put on my heart. One could say that mine is a story about a girl living in South Africa, hoping that the legend of America as a place of possibility was true. Ultimately, though, mine is a story of redemption and restoration.
I lost my mum through her second suicide attempt when I was 11 years old. I was the first person to witness her death. I went through all the stages of denial and confusion, from an 11-year-old perspective. The ordeal continued: Rejection and abandonment from my father after he created a new life for himself. Physical abuse from my stepmother. Finally, years later, forgiving my dad before his tragic death.
Living with my auntie’s family reminded me of all that I had lost. Perhaps I spent too much time with my thoughts. I could not stop myself from speculating that if only I stayed with my mother that night when she begged me to stay, she would still be here…and I would still have a mother. If only I stayed, I could have saved my family. If only I stayed, life would be different.
These thoughts played games with my mind and made me feel responsible for Mum’s death. Why was it that Mum had helped bring life into the world almost every day as a midwife, and yet she could not get the help she needed to save her own life? These thoughts fed my guilt, and shame festered in me. I was approaching my teen years, but I had no purpose or drive. I went through the motions of chores and school. I was so fearful of being asked questions about my parents. How would I tell others that I lived with my aunt because my mother killed herself, after which my dad abandoned me?
I hid my past, my pain. I thought covering it all up was my only chance at being accepted, and I was so desperate to belong. Looking back on these moments, I needed to let go of the guilt and shame of not staying with Mum. I could not control my mum’s decision. It was her choice.
We so often live life thinking everything could have been better if we had done something else. I have learned to let go of things I could not control. I found healing by letting go of the idea, “If only I stayed,” The universe keeps moving, and life keeps changing. Living in the present, and not the past, created new doors of healing for me.
At times I felt like my mind was a battlefield. I was fearful of an uncertain future and had no understanding of the loss and pain that had transpired in my past. I chased answers and acceptance until I realized that peace would not come from certainty. Peace is something we must find for ourselves. We do not have the power to change yesterday, but we can use it to make things right or better today.
I am grateful for my journey. Every heartache and every painful moment has given me grateful eyes. I am who I am today because of my journey. Through my healing journey, I realized that learning to forgive yourself is perhaps even more difficult and more important than finding forgiveness for others. By releasing heavy burdens buried deep inside, we begin to experience acceptance and love—and the healing that comes with it. Hope gave me the courage to believe in dreams, forgiveness gave me the power to heal, and a higher love set me free.
The world is not always going to be fair. Instead of turning your pain into anger, let your pain help you rise above the clouds and soar into new possibilities. Let your pain inspire you to be a light to the world. Knowing and fulfilling your purpose in life requires living and walking your unique journey. Better to fail in your journey than to try to live another man or woman’s journey. We must not attempt to chase the paths set out for others; we must create our own roads and walk them as though we own them—because we do.
Remember your strengths through struggles and keep your eyes on the possibilities, for it is our dreams that give us the courage to face the fires of life.