I Have Sisters Now Who Have My Back

“I have sisters for life that have my back and remind me that I am strong and I am brave and I am capable “

-Michelle, Survivor-

I didn’t even realize how many aspects of my life were affected by my trauma until recently. It has been 20 years and I feel like I am further on my healing journey now than ever before thanks to The Haven retreat offered by the Younique foundation.

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the retreat. It was life changing! You are not required to talk about your trauma at all, though I did feel comfortable doing so as the week went on. I was bonded to these ladies from the get-go just knowing that we all had experienced this horrible trauma in our lives and the relationships we built in 4 days are unbelievable to me.

I have sisters for life that have my back and remind me that I am strong and I am brave and I am capable and I am beautiful, I am loved and I AM WORTHY! The entire retreat is focused around reclaiming hope and it helped me do just that. The staff is amazing and I have never felt so safe. I realized things about myself that I never even thought about before. The entire experience was amazing and I left there a better person, wife, and mother!!

For some of us, the trauma was more fresh in nature and for some, it had been almost 50 years, but that didn’t matter, we all walked away with something and every one of us are now on a better path to healing. I can’t thank The Younique Foundation enough for giving me this opportunity to learn about myself, to grow and to recognize my true potential. My life is forever changed!

-Michelle, Survivor

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5 Ways to Find Healing for Those Struggling After Attending The Haven Retreat

The Younique Foundation Haven Reatreat

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again.

And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine.

Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary.

That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.

And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

-L.R. Knost-

Many may not realize that six months after The Haven Retreat, we reach out to participants to see how they’re doing. We’ve found that while most feel that their life has improved, there’s a small number – about 10% – who don’t.

This blog is for you.

There could be a myriad of reasons why things haven’t improved. It may have been as simple as having a bad day when you filled out the survey, or it could be much more complex than that. Whatever it is, we hope that this blog can help you work through this and find yourself in a happier place.

With that in mind, here are 5 things that we think will help those of you struggling after The Haven Retreat:

1. Professional and personal support.

Find a therapist you trust who can be a support for you. Create a support system of friends and family members who you can turn to when you need help. The women you went to retreat with can be a great source of encouragement when you’re down.

2. Be honest with yourself and others.

Maybe there’s something you aren’t addressing, a roadblock on your healing journey. Perhaps there’s a relationship, a coping mechanism, or a way of thinking that is preventing you from moving forward.

3.  Setbacks can happen.

Healing isn’t always a straight path forward. There are ups and downs, and sometimes the downs can be devastating. Don’t give up. Don’t let the downs derail your progress.

 4. Embrace the Faith Strategy.

One of the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope is Faith. It’s all about creating an amazing future for yourself. Sometimes you may not be able to do more than wish for something good to happen, but keep hold of that wish. Visualize the life that you want – even if you can only take one small step toward it today.

 5. Change one small thing today.

Are you overwhelmed? Tired right down to your bones? Exhausted from fighting every day? We understand. So today don’t overwhelm yourself with goals – just pick one. If all you can do today is get out of bed and get dressed, that’s enough. Do what you can do and celebrate yourself for every single step you take.

Although you’re home from The Haven Retreat, we here at The Younique Foundation have not forgotten about you. We want to continue to help you on your healing journey. We want to lend our support. You are not alone – we’re here for you. And we always will be.

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It’s Time To Live My Life To The Fullest

They are my soul sisters who encourage me every single day to heal, to live a full life, and remind me that I am beautiful and strong when I feel weak.

-Hailey, Survivor-

Because of The Haven Retreat and The Younique Foundation, I have found a way to jump start my healing. I realized I am not alone and have learned not to be ashamed of what happened.

I finally have the tools to help myself and live a life free of fear. I also got to meet 7 other women whom I have an amazing connection with, they are my soul sisters who encourage me every single day to heal, to live a full life, remind me that I am beautiful and strong when I feel weak. This retreat is truly a life changing experience that I am so so thankful for.

-Hailey, Survivor

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I Am No Longer Held Back. I am Free.

I am no longer ashamed or afraid, but rather I could not feel more free.

-Aliyah, Survivor-

In 2015, I attended the Haven Retreat for survivors and it completely changed my life, my perspective and most of all it brought me the closest to finding forgiveness and closure that I had ever been.

I honestly never thought that I would be able to forgive someone else, but I never realized just how much I really needed to forgive myself. The retreat was the exact opposite of what I thought it would be. There was no singing of “kumbaya”, very little crying, and no rehashing every trauma I had ever experienced.

Instead, it was more like setting foot inside a castle and being crowned queen for a week from having a chef prepare all of our meals to massages. In the classes, I learned how the brain works with trauma and coping skills that no one else had ever taught me including mindful walking, therapeutic drumming, yoga, and art journaling. But by far the most important lessons I learned were to love myself, accept myself, accept my traumas, and most importantly to forgive myself.

I became a more positive person. Once I came home, I continued with much of what I had learned and began the process of taking care of myself and becoming independent of others for the first time in far too long. In 2016, I had less turmoil over my traumas and even experienced less symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. I had finally gained my life back!

I was finally able to move on and forgive, but importantly I was able to accept and love myself for the first time since my trauma. I am no longer ashamed or afraid, but rather I could not feel more free. I feel a butterfly free of the cocoon.

-Aliyah, Survivor

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Am I a survivor?

Written by Marisela Rowley, Intake Manager at The Younique Foundation

Do you believe you are a survivor? As we go through our busy day-to-day lives and years pass by, the pain of trauma can still live within us. When we are alone or have a slow moment, the sad thoughts of our abuse creep in to try to define us. These thoughts try to instill guilt and shame and tell us that abuse was our fault. At these defining moments, you are a survivor instead of a victim because you continue to be resilient and work to thrive in spite of hardship or setbacks you may have.

Once I talked to a woman and told her to ask herself, “Am I a female survivor?” She responded, “I am a female but not a survivor.” I could feel the sadness from her and how she wanted to be a survivor but didn’t believe she could be. I have also talked to women who introduce themselves as a survivor, and joy and confidence radiate from them as they speak those words because they believe it to be true, and it is.

It might be difficult for you to believe that you are a survivor, but there are strategies you can use to help send yourself this message. One strategy is repeating positive declarations. Positive declarations are sentences that you say to yourself to remind you of the positive future you have ahead. You say these as if they are already true, which allows you to believe that they can be true. Positive declarations can change your attitude, behavior, and perspective. The first step to being on a path to heal is believing that you can heal.

Choose to call yourself a survivor to help you on your healing journey. Repeat the words “I am a survivor” out loud. Each time you say this phrase, you have the opportunity to feel validated and stronger. Speaking these words can help you heal more than you might expect. When you change your words to reflect that you are a survivor, you are reflecting who you want to be and who you are becoming.

 

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I Am Not Alone in My Healing Journey

I let the abuse control and take over my life for too long. When I went to the retreat, I didn’t know what to expect but being with women who feel the same way made me realize that I wasn’t alone. I am proud to say I went to The Haven Retreat because it changed me for the best. Going is the BEST thing you can do for you!

– Marie, Survivor

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I Will Knock Down Barriers

“I kept knocking down barriers and each time I did I felt more empowered!”

-Cassie, Survivor-

For months I debated applying, then finally I did. Then I said I wasn’t going to go, but I did. Then I swore I wasn’t going to share my story while I was there, then I did. I kept knocking down barriers and each time I did I felt more empowered!

Being given the tools to move on was amazing! The friendships I have made along the ways are for a lifetime! They are a support system of soul sisters! I honestly wasn’t expecting the emotional week I would have, but it was so healing! And now I walk through life feeling like I am worthy. I am enough. I am strong.

-Cassie, Survivor

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Supporting Survivors on Their Healing Journey

You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.

–Jeanne McElvaney–

If someone close to you is a survivor of sexual abuse, it can be hard to know exactly how to lend your support. While it’s true that survivors have to take ownership of their recovery, you can do a lot to help. You can’t do the healing for them, but there are things you can do to make it easier for them to heal themselves.

In addition to the trauma that survivors can suffer when abuse initially happens, survivors also risk suffering new trauma when they disclose their past experiences if loved ones don’t respond in helpful and healthy ways. Gurvinder Kalra and Dinesh Bhugra point out, “Victims of sexual violence face the danger of suffering negative reactions upon disclosing their trauma.”

When a survivor opens up to you about what has happened to them, acknowledge how much courage it takes to talk about past traumatic experiences. Survivors have often kept their abuse to themselves for years. To them, it might seem easier to stay silent. Let the survivor know that you appreciate their bravery in facing memories and issues that might have happened years ago. Here are some specific things you can do to support your loved one.

Do . . .

  • Thank her for telling you.
  • Reassure her you are there are for her.
  • Validate her feelings.
  • Ask what you can to do help and support her.
  • Let her know that the abuse is not her fault.

Don’t . . .

  • Criticize, blame, shame, or judge her.
  • Excuse or minimize the abuse.
  • Demand to know details of the abuse; she’ll tell you when she’s ready.
  • Take control and tell her what she needs to do to heal.
  • Tell her to forget about it or just get over it.
  • Question why she didn’t tell you (or someone else) sooner.

Remember that sexual abuse can create serious problems with trust for survivors because in most situations, perpetrators are people the survivor knew and trusted. The fact that she is willing to open up to you shows that she trusts you. Work to continue to build and maintain that trust.

Your goal is to empower your loved one to make good choices that will lead to healing from past abuse. You can’t heal for her, but you can make the healing process easier.

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I Am A Woman Full of Hope

 

“She told the seashell her story, whispering every secret her memories held. Then she laid the shell at the ocean’s edge and watched the tide pick it up and carry it out to sea…”

I arrived at The Haven Retreat a shell of a woman; someone who did not realize how broken she was until it was time to start putting the pieces back together. I had spent many years downplaying my abuse and pushing it to the back of my mind that I truly did not know where to begin my healing journey. I spent the next couple days learning who I was again and remembering that young girl who was still inside me.

As my time at the retreat came to a close, I still felt as though something more needed to be done. I had packed a 3-page note that had my entire story written on its pages. I could feel its weight as I carried it with me through life and knew that it was time to let it go. Surrounded by my new soul sisters and as the crisp air whipped my hair and as the tears flowed freely, I ripped that note into a thousand tiny pieces and watched it flow down the stream. It was in that moment that I knew my soul was cleansed and that I was worthy of all the things my abuser tried to take away from me.

To say that The Younique Foundation saved my life is an understatement. Surrounded by the snow-capped mountains, the brightest blue skies, and the freshest air I have ever breathed; I was finally able to heal. And for that, I will forever be thankful.

-Carrie, Survivor

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How to Find Healing from Sexual Abuse in Nature

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put to tune once more.

-John Burroughs-

The weather is changing. In the northern hemisphere, it’s spring; in the southern, it’s fall. It’s the perfect weather to go out into nature, whether you want to hike, read, or write outside. And each of these activities can help you on your healing journey.

Why Nature?

Too often we let the chaos in the world around us create chaos inside ourselves. This can be especially detrimental if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The soothing rhythm of nature can calm the chaos inside of us and create a quiet space where we can get back in touch with our bodies, our emotions, and our truth.

Stepping away from our multi-tasking, noisy life and into the steady rhythm of nature can do wonders for you. Even doing a daily task outside that you would usually do inside can have a positive effect on your day. A variety of benefits have been found in regards to spending time outside. You can make the most of this time if you go with a plan in mind.

1. Decide what you want to accomplish before you go.

 Make the decision before you even go out the door. Do you want to find peace? Do you want to get back in touch with your physical body? Do you want to find insights into a problem?

 2. Pick the best place for you.

If water calms you, find a lake or pond. If your mind is most clear when you’re exerting yourself, take a difficult hike. If trees give you energy, find one to sit under. And if you’re not sure what you enjoy the most, try it all. Give yourself a chance to experience different natural areas around your home.

 3. Bring a journal.

This may seem a bit silly, especially if you’re planning a strenuous hike, but being able to write down the insights you have is important. Even if you journal on a regular basis, writing outdoors near nature that you enjoy may bring a new view of things in your life.

Even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as outdoorsy, you can still benefit from a little time in nature. Take some time on a day with good weather this week and see what truths you can learn about yourself from spending time outside.

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