This story was written by one of my clients and posted with permission.
My mother died when I was two, and then an abusive stepmother raised me.
I have worked with Benita Esposito for 10 months. I have done both personal counseling as well as incredible couples counseling with my husband. I’m so grateful that I accepted her invitation to attend a Deep Emotional Healing Retreat that included breathwork. I was apprehensive. It seemed a little unnerving to not have control over the outcome, or know what would come up during breathwork, but I enrolled anyway because I trusted Benita.
I’ve had a life-long insecure attachment style that has impacted all my relationships, including my marriage of 17 years. One psychotherapist suggested that I do a year of CBT (cognitive behavioral talk therapy) and start on an anti-depressant. I knew deep in my soul that what I needed was healing on an emotional level.
My birth mother died when I was barely two years old and my father remarried four and a half months later. I had been the third of four in my family, and then overnight I had three older step siblings, so I became number six of seven. My birth mother was very sick during my first two years of life, and she also had another young baby. So you can imagine that getting individual loving attention from her might have been challenging. I was often cared for by aunts and grandparents before my birth mother passed away.
My stepmother was not a nurturing woman. In fact, she was either mildly or extremely abusive during my childhood. The abuse included verbal, emotional and physical aggression. The verbal abuse lasted until I was 40 when I finally began to stand up for myself. Needless to say, I was not “attuned” with my stepmother when I was growing up. I still call her weekly and do my best to care for her. I do this out of love for my deceased father and my commitment to being a Disciple of Christ, not out of a great love for my stepmother. I have grieved for years about not having a deep mother-daughter relationship.
From the beginning of my 17-year marriage, I tried to develop a healthy loving bond with my three stepchildren. They rejected me from the very beginning. Even though we had lots of counseling with other therapists, I continued to feel very vulnerable and emotionally unsafe with my husband and his children. I’m sensitive to criticism and triggered when I feel emotionally abandoned. My husband’s family has told me that I am touchy and defensive. The optimist in me kept thinking, “If I can’t have a loving attachment with my stepmother, maybe I can have one with my stepdaughters.” Fortunately, God does compensate, and I have a daughter-in-law that I’m very close to, as well as other young women that are open to the love I have to share.
During the Breathwork
My overall goals for the retreat were to develop a deeper relationship with all my stepdaughters, to heal my feelings of abandonment, and to finally earn a feeling of secure attachment.
My focus during our first session of breathwork on Saturday was to (1) heal the grief of my mother’s death, (2) heal the hurt of the childhood neglect and abuse, and (3) heal the grief of my father’s sudden passing when I was 35 years old.
I was surprised at how quickly I began to cry, but this was no ordinary cry. The crying turned into vigorous sobbing that was loud at times. I am still amazed at how much grief came out of my body. I cried for almost an hour! At one point, I was grieving the absence of my mother’s loving embrace. I could not remember ever having a loving embrace. Oh how I wanted to feel that! The intensity of the ache was more than I can describe.
Just then, Benita knelt next to me, and reached down and hugged me heart to heart. I sobbed and sobbed in her loving embrace. I think she must have held me for ten minutes. She hugged me until I could finally take a deep breath. Then she released her embrace, as I did.
When we finished our breathwork session, I was filled with extraordinary love and peace. I was overwhelmingly grateful! I felt so known and loved by my Heavenly Father. I felt so known and loved by my Savior. I felt so known and loved by the Holy Spirit that He directed Benita to embrace me exactly when I needed it. This was a life-changing embrace!!! I am forever changed!!!
My heart had been occupied by grief, but now it was open, ready to enjoy deeper loving relationships with those around me.
On Sunday, round two of breathwork started. I quickly found that there was nothing to clear. It was all gone! The image of a fire truck came to my mind. I know that may seem weird, but it was as if it required a huge fire hose (not a small garden hose, or even a pressure washer) to aggressively wash away all the grief on a deep cellular level. I knew that my healing was complete. In fact, the message I got was that I was now “whole and complete”.
After the Retreat
A few days after the retreat, I had a phone call with one of my stepdaughters to clear up some things that had happened months before. I’m so grateful that I could start the conversation by sharing with her that I had completed my grieving, and that I now had a greater capacity to love her. During the conversation, I allowed her to share anything that was upsetting her so I could apologize. The best part was that I did not get emotionally activated at all! I could see her points, and commit to creating a deeper partnership with her. In the past, I could not do that because there was way too much hurt inside of me.
How grateful I am for Benita’s exquisite expertise and her powerful intuition and caring Christian heart that facilitated such profound healing. In addition to Benita, I found the other participants to be loving and wonderful as well. It was a powerful, safe, beautiful environment to have such a healing experience.
Forever Grateful and Forever Healed.
LH, Atlanta, GA
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