A Soul-Nurturing Experience

Hurst Home

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

This past weekend I attended a Safe Communities retreat in Ephrata, Pennsylvania at the beautiful Hurst Bed and Breakfast. The retreat was led by Linda Crockett, Lyn Barrett, and Mark Harris, and it was exactly what I needed at this time in my life. The retreat was described this way:

Resistance, Renewal and Re-emergence is an apt descriptor of the cycle of seasons, as well as our lives as we heal from trauma. We find ways to resist what threatens [to] devastate our lives; we build our resilience muscles as we push back against despair and loneliness to make space for life; and we re-emerge not as we once were, but as someone who has been made strong at the broken places and moves into a different stage of life.

Before this retreat, I had a negative view of the word “resistance” in terms of healing from trauma. To me that word meant resisting the hard work of healing, rather than facing the pain one has been through. However, as Lyn Barrett talked about resistance, I realized mine was a narrow view of the concept. She outlined the three ways we normally resist as a child: fight, flight, or freeze. I did resist as a child, and for the first time I realized this was a good thing. I employed all three kinds of resistance at different times in my childhood, but the one I used most often was “fighting” through voicing the injustices in my life. Mem called that “backtalk” and the punishments were swift and severe. The whippings sometimes silenced my voice for days as I succumbed to despair. But eventually my voice re-emerged, which brought about more punishments. Maybe I would have saved myself a lot of pain if I could only have stayed silent. But then again, I may have lost my voice forever. As it was, Mem was never able to silence my voice for long.

Lyn went on to outline the ways we continue to resist as adults. There are unhealthy ways to resist that include drug or alcohol addiction and other forms of self-harm. Then there are also healthy ways to resist through therapy, building community, working on trust and relationships, creating a life, growing in spirituality, and daring to dream. I realized that even though I have resisted in unhealthy ways, I’ve also resisted in all the healthy ways listed.

Photos by Joyce Petty


After a lunch outdoors with a beautiful view of a pond and the Pennsylvania countryside, Linda Crockett talked about resilience, and how it builds on our strengths. She said research shows that those who have experienced childhood trauma and are healing have developed more resilience than those who have not experienced chronic trauma. It is through our resistance that we develop our resilience. She also talked about resilience being the process of making meaning out of our trauma. She offered the idea of “post-traumatic growth,” which was a whole new concept to me. How powerful!

Linda asked us to do a writing exercise answering three questions: “What broke me?” “what saved me?” and “in what ways am I strong and resilient?” This is what I’ve written in response to these questions:

My mother broke me. First she loved me. She cared for me and nurtured me in my young childhood as only a loving mother does. And then she broke me when I began forming a self. She punished me for telling my truth and for speaking out against the ways I was being wronged. She whipped me when she was frustrated, when she was overwhelmed, and when she felt chastised. She broke me for using my voice. Her aim was to silence me.

My voice is what saved me. Telling my story and being believed was what I’d craved my whole life. I had to put 600 miles between Mem and myself before I would discover what it felt like to no longer hold my untold story inside me.

I am strong and resilient when I’m learning new ways of thinking as I did when I pursued a formal education at Smith College, when I experience a breakthrough after a long struggle, when I develop deep and abiding relationships, and when I dream, articulate, and move toward the future I envision. But most of all, I am strong and resilient when I can speak for that vulnerable and resilient little girl who once had her voice suppressed. It’s so true — I am stronger at my broken places.

Linda ended her presentation with this profound thought, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do.” This is such an affirmation for me. Owning my story has caused me a lot of heartache, but it is also what has saved me. I find believing in myself and loving myself are two different things. I can believe in myself when others (especially family members who echo Mem) show disdain for my perspective, but loving myself is more of a challenge through all the judgment and ostracism. Linda’s words of wisdom remind me to love myself right through the negativity that comes my way.

By the end of Saturday, I felt nourished in mind, body, and soul. Without any sermons or references to religion, I felt spiritually nourished, and I will carry this with me. I hope I will have another chance to take part in a Safe Communities retreat. I will take that opportunity!

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  1. Joan C. on April 25, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    “I am stronger at my broken places.”
    You’ll find the comparison funny, but that’s exactly what the podiatrist told me when I had healed from a stress fracture. He assured me that the same spot in my foot wouldn’t break again, because the healed section of bone was stronger than the rest of the bone.

    • Saloma Furlong on April 25, 2023 at 7:50 pm

      Joan, that is very interesting. So maybe more importantly than being stronger at our broken places, we are stronger at our healed places. So we are resilient right down to our bones. That makes me smile.

  2. Ann on April 25, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    I read the Amish magazines from Pathway Publishers. It always gives me cold chills when I read the opinion that a child’s will has to be broken.

    • Saloma Furlong on April 25, 2023 at 8:58 pm

      Oh, I know what you mean, Ann. A child is the most defenseless of humans, and some think overwhelming them with corporal punishment is a good thing? Why?

      And it keeps getting passed right on down through the generations. How sad.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Katie Troyer on April 25, 2023 at 9:34 pm

    I am glad you are back to writing and sharing. And I look forward to more. Thank you.

    • Saloma Furlong on April 25, 2023 at 11:33 pm

      Katie, I’m so happy to see you here, and thank you for your kind words. I look forward to more also. I hope you are doing well.

  4. Esther Stenson on April 27, 2023 at 8:10 pm

    This is powerful to think about. Thanks for sharing… I’m wondering if this is the same Lyn Barrett who used to write the “Back Roads Magazine” when she lived near my home area??

  5. Saloma Furlong on April 28, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    Esther, it’s great seeing you here. I don’t know if this is the same Lyn Barrett. She is the author of a book called, “Crazy.” Perhaps looking up her bio would tell you that.

  6. Darcy Eddy on May 23, 2023 at 10:32 am

    It was such a pleasure to meet you at the Retreat, and to hear your wise input to the group. I wish you lived in this area. You are a strong and amazing woman, with much to offer to the world. I hope that I will see you again –

    • Saloma Furlong on May 23, 2023 at 11:06 am

      Thank you, Darcy, for your kind words. I hope to see you again also.

  7. […] I started a part-time volunteer job at Safe Communities. I wrote about the restorative experience here on this blog of being a participant at the retreat led by Linda Crockett and Mark Harris in the spring. I was […]

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