Today, I pinch myself as I look over at the table, listening to Alan tell his story of overcoming the worst time of his life. His hopelessness for anything to ever change slowly turned to hope, relief, empowerment, and ultimately – Joy! He is now at Glasgow University, pursuing a degree in Community Development, and has the determination of a man with a ‘gifted mission’ to keep going no matter what life may throw his way. I couldn’t be any happier if I were handed the keys to the world. A little sad as I looked at Alan and saw everything my father deserved as he voiced his desperation for change. Nothing was offered to my father, and he continued suffering and abusing until he did the ultimate inevitable for some – killed my mother when she wanted to leave, make it stop, save her children from further harm.
A journey to redemption
That was 40 years ago. Today I have grieved the dead and lost the potential of what we could have been as a family – frustration, resentment, and pain. Trauma remains but has lost its tight grip. The grief was unbearable; denial was a weak defense but served a good purpose until recovery became the only option for me. Recovery began 23 years ago when I learned I could respond to myself, others, and the past differently. There I found a template for practice which led to peace and trust. Two alien concepts I had never known since the day before my mother’s mother died in 1975. Her heart attack was brought on by the stress and trauma she endured through her powerlessness to make my mother see the risk and safety in her relationship with my father. This is ‘the ripple effect’ families suffer alongside victims and perpetrators as they try to navigate and articulate the dynamics of gender-based violence. My grandmother was a very strong character from the Gorbals area of Glasgow in her youth. Despite her raw edges, I saw her fearless pursuit of what was right for her family and community. I remember how safe I felt in her love as a small child. She was a ‘lioness’ standing tall and beautiful protecting her own. Sadly, though, watching her daughter suffer domestic abuse, her strength met its match and it took that lioness from us. We had no idea what was to come next just eight years later in 1983 when her daughter – my mother was murdered – stabbed to death 12 times in front of me and my sister – Julie.
Fast forward 20 years to my struggles in relationships as a result of trauma, divorce, two wonderful children, and a sister trying to push hers down with alcohol. I remember for the first time I felt I couldn’t hold it all together anymore. It was too heavy. I wanted to end my life for the first time. I knew then that something had to shift for me. I was in a dangerous thinking zone.
Breaking the cycle
Recovery has been the best battle I faced the worst battles with. As I opened myself up to honesty with myself and others, I admitted my life had become unmanageable by trying to have the wrong power over every part of it. I had to trust to let go of so many things: preconceived ideas, beliefs, reactions, behaviours, and lack of boundaries and replace them with acceptance, gratitude, emotional awareness and open up to new ideas from those who went before me.
All this has led to me becoming something new. Not defined by the past but by who I am as if this never happened. Isn’t that the ultimate question, who am I? Let me tell you!
Gone now is the ‘wail of despair’. There is joy in its place. A trusted friend who mentored me a few years back called me – Tender Warrior. I couldn’t see it but I kept her words in the side drawer of my bed and frequently looked at it. I am beginning to see her words are being fulfilled by my purpose. Recovery has led me to give it away to others as I heal and experience deep joy in the area of working with abuse and its victims and perpetrators.
So now, after reaching into the community and its many levels of suffering over the last 20 years, men, women, and teenagers are reached by programs and support I wrote and provided to others via our Community Interest Company – No Feart CIC www.nofeart.org.
Extending a Helping Hand
There are two programs for abuse & trauma awareness, and abuse & trauma recovery. The content consists of my childhood to adult experiences, work background in organizations and institutions, working with trafficked victims, domestic abuse, discrimination, and child abuse in adults.
As pieces of truth trickle through to me from people’s stories of the past, I realize my father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, and siblings, and their hurts were all valid and deserving of healing and truth from the bigger picture of generational trauma and its impact on all.
My task is to reach into the person, and their circumstances and help them walk out of the mess to become something new. If I can, then they can too? Our programs are my heart in a format that opens the path for that to become possible. No matter what anyone had done or been through? If you work it, it works.
Today I have the absolute privilege of seeing this first-hand with men, women, and teenagers here in Glasgow and the UK via online platforms. We are currently developing a new training program for facilitators which will allow us to spread the programs across the world via organizations wishing to use them as a tool to facilitate change.
In December 2023, I attended the CEP Workshop on Gender-Based Violence, and I was honoured to meet some of the team and amazing game-changers from the rest of Europe. I hope that you will talk with me further and see what more we can achieve together.
>>Watch here the interview with Lynn Harris during the CEP Workshop on Gender-based Violence.
We are made to be this brave!
Lynn Harris Founder/Managing Company Director No Feart Community Interest Company