One day, I opened the Instagram app and had a message from Vivia. The first time we spoke was about a year ago, and after listening to her inspiring story of healing and forgiveness, I asked her to become one of Lacuna´s Real Life Heroes. We did our first interview at the beginning of February 2020. Instead of publishing it, we teamed up, and I became one of her editors and support team for her memoir, “The Girl Who Cried Forgiveness”.
One of Lacuna´s core values is our belief in the stories of other people and our proposal has always been to reach out and help people make their dreams come true. As an editor of Vivia´s memoir, I could make the promise come true, and being a part of her book will have a special place in Lacuna´s and my story as well.
Vivia´s life has been one long journey from abuse to forgiveness and an inspiring tale of healing and growing. She writes with raw vulnerability and the rare strength of an overcomer who has fixed her heart and mind on healing others.
“The Girl Who Cried Forgiveness” is more than a memoir. It is a beautifully designed book full of photos, quotes, and bible verses. Vivia´s personal story is emphasized by several guest writers who add their own experiences to expand the narrative. It´s not a book to read once and then abandoned on a shelf, and the worksheets invite the reader to set out on their personal journey of growth. Every unit helps readers heal from their traumatic past and thrive to become their truest selves.
Lacuna: When and how did your healing journey begin?
Vivia: My healing journey began the day I told my school counselor about the abuse in my home. I was 10 when molestation happened and 13 when I turned it in. Then, I acknowledged my strength, discernment, and self-worth. I think that once I felt it in me that this was wrong, I don’t deserve this, it needs to change and then acting on that, that’s when healing began.
Lacuna: What led to your decision to write a memoir?
Vivia: I decided to write my memoir when reflecting on the Bible verse Revelation 12:11 “You will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimony.” I believe this verse to be solid and true. When others opened up and started sharing their stories with me I no longer felt alone in my pain. I feel their empathy before even sharing my story. When I hear others being so transparent I felt invited to do the same. I feel invited to be just as brave owning my story as a healing process to my overcoming. When I share my stories I witness someone receiving my empathy and their invitation to admit that things are not okay right now and that is okay. Be brave. Speak up and begin healing.
Lacuna: Share your writing process with us.
Vivia: Writing wasn’t as easy as I predicted. I thought I could write my stories with the power of forgiveness in one year. Four years later I noticed my need for patience. I wasn’t finished with my healing process. It will forever continue, even when I become a licensed psychologist myself I will receive counseling because people need people. I needed support when writing about my toughest memories. When my family was broken by my dad’s abuse. When my best friend died of a postpartum psychosis suicide. When remembering how afraid I was when stalked by men. It seemed easier to write Chapter 3 in most parts. I felt a sense of boldness, victory, and justice when writing about my superhero complex and discernment compared to now. What I mean by that is that then I felt like I needed to help people and that was the only way. That was very much pursuing the superhero complex where you feel responsibility to help them because of what you´ve gone through. It helps you but it doesn’t actually help them. In writing that I felt like I have really grown and I have come so far. Even though those memories were triggering for me I still felt the sense of celebration and encouragement in how much I have grown from that with boundaries, forgiveness, and letting go. It was really healing to write that chapter. It also is the longest chapter in the book.
Lacuna: During writing, you must have experienced flashbacks and triggering situations. How did you deal with them and which resources helped the most?
Vivia: As I wrote there was always an initial fire of what flashbacks might occur that night. When I began writing this memoir I was also starting a business, majoring in psychology at a local university, and nannying full time. I wrote after work, late afternoons. To assure lack of flashbacks I would always draw a bath post writing, prop my laptop on the toilet seat and find a positive distraction in watching “I Love Lucy” episodes. Other times I found writing in my favorite pizzeria where the music was upbeat and the faces were friendly. I set up my writing space at the pizza bar, plug my earphones in, eat, and write. When I felt waves of negative emotions begin to flare up I would remove my headphones, often playing instrumental/classical music, and talk to those friendly faces in the pizzeria and tune into that upbeat music and atmosphere. When these flashbacks lingered I would meet with my psychotherapist, an EMDR specialist, on several occasions. There we would bring peace to my anxiety, and I would find courage and support in pushing forward. I pursued therapy once a week.
All of these resources and tools were effective but I found EMDR to help me the most.
Lacuna: What did you learn from writing, about writing trauma, and about yourself?
Vivia: In the moment, writing about my traumatic experiences made me feel relative to the Hulk. I felt big and strong like my veins were pumping a supernatural fluid into my brain empowering me word by word to gain justice over my situations. But in my recent toughest experiences I`d fall, get hit, and knocked down by a supervillain named Defeat, reminding me about the unhealed parts in my mind and heart, returning me to a scared state of that lost little girl that night her daddy molested her.
Writing about myself had its challenges. I’ve been used to journaling in diaries that no one else would read because I had a need to understand my thought processes. For this memoir, I needed to write with details and in an order others could grasp. This was challenging for me to do, especially while balancing the trauma in the description. I had to take the memories forming as triggers, growing as nightmare-like flashbacks, and write them out with structure and in order. When your mind spins from trauma, that’s just not a simple task.
Lacuna: Which advice would you like to give other people who want to write about their traumatic experiences?
Vivia: If you wish to write about your traumatic experiences I encourage you to dive in with an on-call therapist in your pocket and a support system to hold you up and encourage you through the triggers and flashbacks. Now would be the time to recognize appropriate positive coping mechanisms and use them. If you write you must also recognize when to put the pen down and shut the book for your own good. Breaks are good. Changes of scenery really help.
Lacuna: How does it feel to hold the result of hard work and tough healing in your hands?
Vivia: When my book slid into my mailbox I was watching the postman like a hawk. I am beyond excited to hold the first copy of “The Girl Who Cried Forgiveness”. I absolutely cartwheeled home from my mailbox across the street. It is unbelievable imagining my book impacting others‘ lives. I believe that part has me a bit nervous. My whole life is open to any reader. While I have always been a transparent woman, this is the next level of honesty.
Lacuna: Tell us how you´ve structured your book and why you decided to combine your personal story with worksheets?
Vivia: “The Girl Who Cried Forgiveness” structure is purposeful for a sensitive reader. Each chapter begins with an encouraging introductory poem. Next readers will dive into my story with photographs and quotes to welcome a peaceful intermission from imagining my trauma and reflecting on their own. This book is also packed with words from the wise professionals who supported me in the midst and post chaos. This way, readers may grasp my story and reflect on their own. This is followed up with strategy and knowledge from guest writers. I have placed intentional worksheets throughout the book to act as an avenue to healing and forgiveness for the readers reflecting on their own lives. Reading this book will be a unique and powerful experience, especially for those who not only read but write their responses to the worksheets. This is a very interactive book.
Lacuna: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Vivia: My hope for my readers is an increase in their ability to emphasize with experiencing like situations. For them to have guided healing and a renewed perspective on forgiveness. My desire is for readers to grow more self-aware and able to cope even better with a restored sense of hope and encouragement to always be selfless and patient in their healing journey.
Lacuna: Which other projects are you involved with?
Vivia: At this time I am pursuing my bachelor in psychology. I´m also dreaming up and pursuing a plan toward my unique vision for businesses normalizing mental health support. I´m also working with a second-grade teacher and a psychologist on children´s books geared to support their coping mechanisms and emotional intelligence.
Lacuna: What’s next for you?
Vivia: Next I will enjoy and celebrate this healing that I pursued. As I continue receiving therapy I will pursue Clarity Coaching, supporting others who wish to share or write their story. My fiancé and I will marry in February 2021 and we will be growing our family. Only good things are coming. One of my biggest dreams is to be a mom. I can’t wait!
Lacuna: When you look 10 years back – how did your life look then? Now look 10 years into the future – how does your life look?
Vivia: Ten years ago I couldn’t see a clear future. I may have tapped in and out of imagining a productive and purposeful future but didn’t always believe it possible. As I imagine my future ten years from now, my life looks intentional with much vision for supporting others well. I see myself growing in love with my husband, being a great mother, continuing to write, and celebrating mental health with other overcomers.