A note from the author Shaun Brink
I share this book with you as a tribute to those who have experienced trauma and loss. I have met many children and adults over the years who, like me, have experienced loss or trauma. They taught me about courage and dignity and living with honor. Their influence is seen in who I am and in how I view the world. I hope that I can do justice to their wisdom and courage.
This book is written in the style of a children's picture book though it is suited for ages 10 through adult. I chose to write it in an almost child-like story form rather than a more clinical, research-based style because of two people - the monk and the teen mom.
THE MONK The first was an old man, a monk who visited my childhood home while on a speaking tour at the local university. My parents and their friends hosted a cocktail party for him, the rooms brilliant with polished silver and flowers.
He was a gentle man in saffron colored robes. He ate very little of the Western food and sipped on Earl Grey tea, showing no signs of distress or criticism while passing the buffet table.
I was eight at the time, uncomfortable in a dress-up dress and shiny patent leather shoes. The monk found me sitting on the kitchen floor when he wondered in for a bit of peace - like me.
We talked, the scent of his robes bringing pictures to my mind of far away lands. I was distressed that day, lonely and tired of grownups. My world seemed confusing - part fun and light, part dark and sad.
The monk seemed to sense my turmoil and sorrow. I was used to adults lecturing me, talking and giving facts. I was used to hearing them read long stories and articles out loud and be quizzed on what was read. I was not used to what the monk did next.
"Let me tell you a story," he said, squatting down, his robes spreading out on the floor.
He proceeded to tell me a child-like story, almost a fable in a sing song voice. I listened with my spirit, not just my ears, as his words weaved images.
I heard and read hundreds of books as a child, yet few stayed in my memory as clearly as the monk's child-like story. His story telling style influenced the way I wrote this book.
THE TEEN MOM - She was only 14 the first time I met her and six months pregnant. A school teacher referred her to the Teen Parent program I directed.
I did a little of everything in the program including writing grants, conducting trainings and leading groups for the teens. The young girl faithfully showed up at the weekly groups I led. She had flashes of humor but mostly she sat sullen, now and then mumbling with anger about a list of people and events that had "ruined" her.
She'd rolled her eyes, crossed her arms or talked to her seat companion when I or a speaker presented information. She actually stomped out of the room at the end of group most days; and yet she came back.
I was sure she learned very little and that we had not helped her.
Ten years later I met her at a grocery store. I did not recognize her; she was the one who came up to me.
" Remember me? I am ____," she said smiling.
I literally stepped back and stared. She looked like a together, calm, well educated woman. Gone were the scowls and resistance. She actually looked radiant.
"Wow," I blurted out. "Wow."
She shared what her life was like, including that she was a room mother at her child's school and had gone to Community College. She even had a house mortgage; this last she shared with pride.
"I bet you didn't think I learned anything from the program."
Could she read my mind?
"I did learn things, maybe not what you wanted me to learn," she laughed. "What I really liked were the stories and pictures you shared. You filled my mind with new things, like I was kid hearing a bedtime story."
I try to listen and learn so when I began to write this book I thought again of the monk and the teen. I thought too about talking to the child within me, teaching that hurt part of myself about the gifts of understanding and healing. A childlike picture book seemed just right.
At the end of the book there is a more "professional" section with specific details, explanations and techniques for reference purposes. They help but I hope you enjoy storytime.... reading and hearing The Next Chapter.
This is not a book about abuse. It is about the amazing ways people survive abuse and trauma. There are no graphic descriptions or specific details of abuse or traumatic events in the following pages. The exclusion of such material is a deliberate choice on my part. I believe there is enough trauma and sadness in the world. I did not want to give you any more mental pictures of hurt and ugliness.
There are many good books, films and textbooks that will offer you specific information about the types of abuse children suffer or traumas adults endure should you need that kind of information for your personal or professional work.
Instead this book is intended to offer hope, understanding and help in living fully after abuse and other traumas. It is a book of respect for the creative ways children and adults survive.
The drawings in this book come from a special place and time. At first I was not sure about including some of them as they are child-like. I changed my mind. The decision feels right.
These pictures are the expression of the child in me who drew in her head when it was not safe to draw on paper. It was only recently that I began to draw again, this time on real paper and canvas. The ones in this book represent a small portion of the 3000 plus paintings and drawings I have done in the last few years.
My creativity is not unusual. Children and adults who experience abuse or other traumas are creative by necessity. I marvel every day at the unique and imaginative ways that children survive dark and scary times.
Society unfortunately labels some of these children and adults as mentally ill. They are not; they have experienced profound hurt and deep confusion and are adapting in the best way they know how right now. In time they can learn more ways to live well in the land of after.
I hope this book will help you understand and honor all children, young and old, who have been impacted by abuse,loss or other traumas.