The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Monday, June 30, 2008

Spiritual Healing

For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.

Psalm 139:13

I have had to performed a great deal of difficult emotional work in order to heal from my abuse. Indeed, the psychological aspects of recovery are paramount.

Therapy ultimately brightened the recess of my mind, while my spiritual commitment brightened my heart and soul. My faith has carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life.

The first time I read Psalm 139:13, I felt like an innocent child, discovering something simple, yet wonderful, for the very first time – like my hands or like my feet. Before anyone was aware of my existence, God chose me as His child and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

This comforting verse brought healing tears to my eyes and restoration to my injured soul. Right from the beginning, I was loved; I was not alone.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reconciliation – Recovery time

Each time I had contact with one of my family members, I needed recovery time to absorb a wide range of conflicting emotions: sadness, joy, uncertainty, hope, sorrow, and issues of trust. Contrary to the old ways, of “powering” through each event, I remained present with my feelings, staying true to myself and let my well-being guide me.

At first my movements were slow and tentative. I kept my visits brief and didn’t discuss difficult issues that came up with my family until I had time to work through intense emotions alone or with supportive friends.

I took baby steps while I began to build trust – both in myself and with my family members.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear, does it make a sound?

Listening. It seems so simple, but it is so hard to do. Listening is the ultimate gift that can be given to a wounded soul. As a child I longed to be seen and heard.

When I spoke about the woundedness of my heart, body, and emotions; nobody seemed to hear what I said. I was an invisible youngster. I grew up alone and in emotional poverty, without being seen by anyone. I didn’t have a voice; therefore, it seemed I had no value.

I learned as an adult that when our childhood pain is ignored, our trauma remains fused to us until someone frees us from our bondage by simply listening to our heartache. In other words, a listener tends to the wounds that have festered, unhealed for years.

When I finally found someone to just listen, without judging, blaming, arguing, or advising, the relief I felt was indescribable. At long last, I had the opportunity to “grow from there.”

Once I felt validated, I became unstuck from the point in time that my trauma became fused to me. After feeling heard, my sole focus shifted from that of being heard to that of healing from the offense.

If a child speaks of their abuse and nobody is there to hear, do they make a sound?

We often hear stories about courageous people who “break the silence.” I’m grateful to those who have the courage to “hear.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kaleidoscope of Emotion

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of my new book: Heal & Forgive II: The Journey From Abuse and Estrangement to Reconciliation.


Kaleidoscope of Emotion

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis."One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity. - John F. Kennedy, Speach in Indianapolis, April 12, 1959

On an ordinary morning in the autumn of 2006, fourteen years after I had last spoken to my mother, my receptionist buzzed my office. Jan interrupted my busy morning with the cautiously spoken words, “There is a woman on line two who says her name is Jean Richards.”

“Oh, oh,” I surmised out loud, “she must have read my book.”

I drew in a deep breath, preparing myself for the expected angry rant. I would merely convey to my mother my understanding for why she was upset, tell her that I loved her, and end the conversation with a gentle “good-bye.” Certain I was prepared for our exchange, I picked up the phone. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next.

“Hi, Honey; this is Mom,” came the soft-spoken words that I thought I would never hear again.

Confusion quickly replaced my clear-headed mind. The apology she offered for my abuse, along with her love and a desire for reconciliation were directly opposite to everything I knew about my mother. I told her I was speechless and that I never anticipated she would call again. After sitting quietly for a few moments, I said, “No matter what happens between us, Mom, you have given me a wonderful and irreplaceable gift.”

We talked for a short while and exchanged contact information before concluding our conversation. I hung up and wept.

For the rest of the day, my body was in the state of shock. My thinking was clouded, my resting pulse hovered at around 120 beats per minute, and a dull headache grew with intensity. I grappled to make sense of something that made no sense in the world as I had known it. I couldn’t hold a clear thought as my feelings ran rampant. I experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions, wildly clashing in distorted colorful directions – shock…love…fear…relief…joy…sorrow…excitement...pain...calmness...stress... happiness…sadness….

I loved my mother and had long since forgiven her. Could this be true? Could Mom and I really have a relationship now? Ultimately, I stopped seeing her. Had she forgiven me too?

Copyright © 2008 Nancy Richards. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Translation Rights

A Vietnamese publisher just contacted my publisher to negotiate Vietnamese foreign translation rights for Heal and Forgive: Forgiveness in the Face of Abuse.

How fun is that!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Heal & Forgive II: The Journey from Abuse and Estangement to Reconciliation

I am happy to announce that Heal and Forgive II is finally out!

This book would have never made it to print without the incredible help and support I received from a team of wonderful people.

I would like to thank Alice Peppler of Alice ‘n Ink, my publisher Paul Clemens of Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc., Leona Idom, Chris Richards, Bill Petschl, Mary Morrison, Dawn McArthur, and Colin McArthur for their careful reading of the manuscript. I’m grateful for their editing, knowledge, support, input, expertise, helpful suggestions and in general just putting up with me.

I am grateful to the many men and women who have offered their support in my estrangement support groups. I am honored to have your encouragement on my journey. Your validation and feedback helped to give me the clarity necessary to put my experiences on paper.

I also want to thank those who wrote endorsements for this book: Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, Founder and Senior Analyst of the Faith Trust Institute, Sister Renee Pittelli, Director of Luke 17:3 Ministries, and Leona Idom, a fellow survivor.

A special thanks to Mark Sichel, CSW author of Healing from Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace after Being Cut off from a Family Member, for his exceptional foreword to my book.

I hope this book is enormously helpful to many.

Warm regards,


Monday, June 9, 2008

Reconciliation – Taking the Leap – Part Four

The following is an excerpt from Heal and Forgive II:

Just as with premature forgiveness, there are certainly dangers associated with premature reconciliation. Healing first is imperative for successful resolution. Many people feel external or internal pressure to reconcile too soon – thereby sabotaging all chances for success.

I’ve heard from people who feel desperate to reunite when a family member becomes ill, their parents age or out of guilt or pressure from others. We may be anxious for reconciliation out of a need to receive the nurturing we have always longed for, or to fill the void. No matter how much we desire reuniting with those from whom we are estranged, our family members may be unable or unwilling to have a relationship.

Unless we have healed enough to move past our anger, the time is not suitable for reconciliation. If we can’t trust ourselves enough to provide our own safety, we are not safe enough to see a parent who has abused us. Reuniting is not possible if we haven’t broken old patterns of behaving and responding. We need to be strong enough to maintain our own boundaries and separate identity, or we run the risk of causing further damage to our psyche.

Before I considered reconciliation, I had to ask myself – has there been emotional growth and change on both sides since last we spoke?

Copyright © 2008 Nancy Richards. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reconciliation – Taking the Leap – Part Three

A few days after my initial conversation with my brother Randy, my brother Brandon and I spoke. We made arraignments to meet at an outdoor dinner theater, for a performance of Annie. It was the first time I met his two kids.

There are many painful firsts when we become cut-off from our family members – first birthdays, holidays, successes, and tragedies – all dealt with alone. These same firsts can be bittersweet upon re-entry. Meeting my nephew and niece for the very first time touched my heart with smiles and tears – we had lost precious time, never to be replaced.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chronic Illness and Abuse

During the last several years, I have had the privilege of participating in an online community of survivors. We have shared one another’s stories in an effort to validate our experiences and support our continued healing.

A recurring topic seems to be the question of whether there is a connection between chronic illness and abuse. I have found it curious that a large number of women survivors have shared with me that they suffer from PCOS, (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) because I have PCOS also.

Many survivors seem to suffer from fibromyalgia, lupus, and IBS as well.

Whenever someone asks if I know of any research on the connection between chronic illness and abuse, I am frustrated that there seems to be a connection, but I haven’t come across any studies on the subject.

Another survivor contacted me recently. She has a new website called “Desire to Heal,” in which she is sharing the beginnings of her research on the connection between chronic illness and abuse.

Anyone interested in this topic, please visit her site and feel free to contact her with any feedback that would aid in building a network for survivors seeking answers to questions about chronic illness and abuse.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Side of the Bed Closest to the Door

I’ve moved a lot in my life. In fact, there was a time when my ex-husband’s employer moved us five times in five years.

At a certain point in my life, I noticed that with each move, I often ended up sleeping on the opposite side of the bed than before. I didn’t consistently choose the right side or the left side of the mattress. Every time I moved, I unconsciously chose the side of the bed closest to the door. I’ve instinctively positioned myself for a “quick get-away,” in the event of danger. I’m sure this is a primal survival impulse that is just a part of my “wiring.”

Many years ago, my old therapist told me that I would be “recovering” for the rest of my life. I didn’t believe him; at least I did not want to. At the time, his statement felt hopeless to me. I felt permanently broken. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t bear the thought of dealing with my anguish forever.

In the years since, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning to parent myself, to free myself of my family scapegoat mantle, and to come to terms with my anger, grief, and PTSD.

I have healed at a level that I never thought was possible. Although my abuse will always be a part of me, the majority of the time, my abuse no longer feels present, nor is it the lens through which I view my life.

Although I have greatly minimized the effects of my mistreatment, my therapist was right. I’ve reached a place that “recovering for the rest of my life” doesn’t feel “hopeless.” Instead I feel a loving acceptance towards the part of me who will probably always sleep on the side of the bed closest to the door.