I Am No Longer Held Back. I am Free.

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 fewer 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