My Permanent Celebration of Healing

This morning when I told my eight year-old daughter that I'd be getting a tattoo today, she asked me, "What is your tattoo going to be of, mommy?"

Here's the conversation that unfolded:

"My tattoo is going to be some really special words. Song lyrics, actually."


"Well, when I was thirteen years-old someone hurt me. They hurt me for a long time, actually, until I was sixteen years-old, and the things they did and said to me broke my heart and my mind in a lot of different ways."

"A bully? Another kid?!" 

"Yes, a bully, but not a kid. He was a grown up, and another word for what he did to me is abuse. He was an abuser. He said awful things to me and made me do things that I didn't like. Hurting me made him feel powerful and strong."

"Oh no! Like, he made you run around on rocks in your bare feet?"

"No. But he did other things that hurt my body and my mind. And after he stopped hurting me I was very, very sad and angry about the things he did to me. As a matter of fact, my mind didn't work the same way anymore because his abuse broke parts of mommy."

"Oh no! Did you tell your mom and dad that he was hurting you?"

"No. I didn't tell them. I kept it a secret for a long time because he told me I was supposed to. That's part of why we don't allow secrets in our house, right? Secrets can really hurt people."

"Yeah. Were your brothers being hurt by him, too?"

"No. Just me."

"Why didn't you tell him that you didn't like the way he was treating you?"

"Well, I really cared about him and I thought he cared about me, too. It was very confusing for me when he would hurt me, because I didn't think that's what people who loved you were supposed to do, but I didn't tell him that I didn't like it because I was afraid of him hurting me more."

"Oh. So you never, ever told anyone?"

"I did tell someone, but not until I was seventeen years-old. I told my parents. And the things he did to me were against the law so he was arrested."

"And then you felt better?"

"Well, it takes a long time to get better from the kinds of things he did to me. The bruises on my body got better quickly, but lots of other parts of me were still really sad and broken, and I'm still working really hard on getting better. Every day when I wake up I work on getting better, and even though I am getting better, it takes a long time."

"So, what are the tattoo words?"

"I'm getting a tattoo on my arms that will say "I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside, I am Light." It's to remind me everyday that the bad things he did to me don't define who I am. They aren't bigger or stronger than the parts of me that are made of light and love, and I get to look at my arms and see those words every single day for the rest of my life."


I've wanted this tattoo for a long time, and I honestly couldn't be more thrilled with the result.  India Arie, one of my biggest musical inspirations, wrote the song these words are from. The artist, Thad Froio, at Bitterroot Tattoo, is insanely talented, but he also showed a great deal of care and mindfulness in helping me design the tattoo and choosing the different fonts. The design of each word was carefully chosen to reflect something really important to me, and he listened so well. My best friend, Jamie, was there with me, and my sweet husband and mother watched all four children for the afternoon so I could finally get my highly anticipated tattoo -- my permanent celebration of healing. 

As days moving toward healing go, this was a pretty epic one. 

"I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside, I am Light."


  1. I think the way you explained abuse to your daughter is a good way to explain abuse in general to children. Also, children are perfectly capable of understanding that some people are less fortunate than they are, so I know they would be capable of understanding that grownups can be bad too and can hurt other people.

  2. Me again. I really think your article would be a good thing for (non-abusive) elementary school teachers to discuss with their students, because it could be a good introduction to the issue of abuse with kids - pst kids are not being abused, and maybe the ones that are, even if they don't question the abuse now, may remember this and it may help them get help sooner.


  3. Congrats on the tattoo! You are taking control. Next time you bump into he who should not be named, flash your tats at him.

  4. Having been raised up in a kind of IFB household, preacher dad, my parents would never be my choice to go for help and they were the last ones I would reveal myself to, for obvious reasons I do not need to explain here. That you hold your children dear to your heart and share with them openly and in an appropriate fashion that fits their age development, is a testament to your character, brave soul. You deserve every bit of family joy that your husband and kids bring you and you are a large part of the foundation of that joy. You are indeed light and it shines all the way over the hills here, way up in B.C.


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