What Gifts Have You Gained from the Pains of Your Past?

Hair Blowing in the Wind

“To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” ~Sven Goren Eriksson

Recently, I met with a jeweler of whom I am quite fond. My husband decided that he wanted to have a mother’s ring designed for me, symbolizing the love I have for my three children. It was a beautiful gesture. I had met this woman before. When I did, I immediately felt a connection.

She is physically beautiful and an extraordinary artist, but I was also able to see the depth within her gorgeous eyes. I knew she was the designer meant to make my ring.

Some time had passed from the time we originally visited the store. When we returned to begin designing the ring, I could sense a deep sadness within her. Something seismic had shifted.

She revealed to me that she had lost her son. Her only child had died in his sleep, suddenly, at the age of sixteen. I immediately took her in my arms, cradling her, holding her, carrying a piece of her pain just for those moments in time.

She went on to explain her deep sadness, her loss, and her profound, inescapable pain, a pain she explained that she had no need to escape, as she didn’t want to lose any piece of him.

She wanted to continue to feel all of him, the joy and the pain he evoked in her as long as she was left breathing on this Earth.

We talked for a long time, and I never broke eye contact as I held her hands across the countertop.

She told me that most people couldn’t handle the gravity of what had happened or out of ignorance would say insensitive things to her, trying their best to be of help. I sat and listened and understood that this woman would never be the same, nor would she want to be.

She was forever changed.

I also knew that part of her grief for the loss of her son would be built into the artistry of my mother’s ring, and I felt honored to have a piece of that power, the power of the magnitude of both her love and pain in a ring that was designed to symbolize the love I felt for my own children. It would be deeply meaningful to me.

I am someone who experienced an abusive past. I was abused emotionally and sexually. I was neglected. I spent a great deal of time before having children in therapy, working on ensuring that I would not repeat the patterns of my family of origin but rather make my own healthy, conscious choices regarding how I would raise my own beautiful offspring.

And now that I do have children of my own, I am able to see just how different their lives will be than mine. The struggles I have experienced, they will never have to face. Having them in my life shines a light on my own childhood experiences because it is one thing to experience abuse as a child. It is quite another to reflect upon it as a parent.

It becomes unfathomable, unbelievable that any adult, any parent would subject their child to that form of torment. So from time to time I ask myself these questions:

“How might I have been different if she had said…?”

“How might I have been different if he had done…?”

“How might I have been different if this hadn’t happened?”

“How might I have been different?”

And interestingly, I am left with the same conclusion. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I know this is hard to believe or understand, but if given the opportunity I wouldn’t change a thing. No matter how much I struggle, I wouldn’t give up one ounce of the pain I have experienced, because without each and every experience I have had, I might not be exactly the person I am today.

Many people describe themselves as “happy.” Although I have experienced moments of great happiness, given some serious consideration, I don’t know that I would describe myself as a happy person. I am a pensive person, an intellectual person.

A thoughtful person, I consider things carefully and am deeply empathetic. I am able to hold other’s pain when most people cannot because I understand what it is to feel deep pain, and I am not scared or fearful of that emotion.

These are gifts I have incurred because of the experiences I have had.

Without my experiences, I would be a different person with different gifts. I don’t know that I would like or value that person as much. I don’t know that I would have the same profound gifts that I have to offer.

So when people hear my story and ask how I have survived, I simply reply that I survived because that is what people do. They survive. They survive in pain and they evolve into the person they were intended to be, their most authentic selves.

I value my most authentic self. The person I was intended to be. I am grateful to have evolved into myself, and I wouldn’t desire it to be any other way.

I am someone who can comfort a veritable stranger and hold her as she shares unendingly deep and vast pain where most people would be frightened of such an interaction. I am able to listen without offering a platitude or telling her that “it will get better” because I am able to comprehend that it won’t and that it’s okay.

The pain will simply be part of who she has now become and will grow with her as she continues her journey of continually becoming the person she was meant to be.

For all of these abilities, I am grateful. The abuse I suffered as a child resulted in my developing the profound gift of empathy.

What are your gifts? Have you taken the time to become aware of what they are? Perhaps you too have developed gifts as a result of hardships you have suffered. Maybe you are not even aware that these qualities are gifts.

Or they don’t feel like gifts because they make you different from the norm or make you stand out from the crowd. It can be painful to stand alone.

There have been times in my life when my empathy was misconstrued as oversensitivity, being overly emotional or weak. This was painful. It made me feel lonely, and I had moments of self-doubt.

I urge you to embrace each strength with which you have been graced, as your strengths are your offerings, and your offerings are where your true beauty lies. They are your opportunity to give to the world and the people around you in your own unique way.

This is why when I question how things might have been different if I hadn’t been abused, it’s tempting to wonder momentarily, “What if?”

But I am always left with the same conclusion, which is that I wouldn’t change a thing. I do not wish to be anyone other than who I am, as clearly “to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.”

I urge you to consider that same conclusion for yourself. Be proud of your beautiful being, be authentic, be brave, and give freely.

Photo by ibkod

About AmyKate Gowland

AmyKate Gowland works for Single Mothers Outreach as a writer and is the writer and creator of her own blog Come visit!

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  • lv2terp

    This is an amazing post!! The depth in your writing is a true skill and was impactful!!! While reading this, my thoughts were that maybe we do choose our parents/journey in this lifetime, and also an a-ha moment of everyone having amazing gifts, and that we need that variety in this world. I am one of the “happy” people that try to encourage all those around me to find their happiness, joy, etc…Thank you for this post, to give me this perspective to respect, be grateful, enjoy, and “see” each person’s gift, instead of filtering those out while I am looking for the things in their life that I can help them improve upon or have growth to find that perfect happiness. I appreciate and am grateful for you sharing your story, experience, and growth, thank you!!!! 🙂 🙂

  • Beautiful, thoughtful and true. A timely reminder for me at this point in my journey, really hits home for me. Thank you for sharing your strength and your story.

  • AmyKate Gowland


    You are welcome! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your feelings. I am sure you have some beautiful gifts of your own. Pay attention to them.

    My Best,

  • AmyKate Gowland

    Thank you so much! I am so glad you were able to gain such insight from my post. Yes, everyone’s gifts are individual and perfect in their own right. No gift is more precious than another. The beauty is in recognizing what you have to offer and being brave enough to share it with others. Having the strength to allow others to simply blossom as themselves regardless their gift being different from yours would be a beautiful achievement for you! Good for you!
    All My Best,

  • Veronica Brand

    Thankyou for sharing your stories and wisdom, I really enjoy the sincerity of your writings.
    Having also experienced abuse as a child, your writings helped me realise that one of the amazing abilities of a person who has been hurt is their ability to feel…thus when healing comes it is felt with such gratitude that could not be experienced otherwise.I too would not change my past as it has made me strive for understanding into human nature, and search for a forgiveness that would not have been otherwise possible..and with this comes the humility of feeling grateful to have survived intact .
    I honour all survivors and their ongoing journeys, and admire and respect those that make the efforts to heal as it is a kindness you do for generations to come.

    And to all those working in the healing professions too for giving others strength to continue their healing , be it physical and or emotional.

  • randyh

    great piece, AmyKate

  • AmyKateGowland

    You are welcome and I am glad that you found meaning within my article. Your comment shows great depth of understanding as I agree that in being wounded and healing we gain knowledge about the inner workings of humanity we might not otherwise recognize. That is why survivors of abuse are sometimes the most insightful people if they allow this transformation to take place rather than giving into anger or bitterness. And with knowledge we do prevent patterns from repeating in generations to come. I too hold great respect for all of the health care providers who help people to find ways to heal.
    Continue on what appears to be a beautiful journey.
    My Best,

  • AmyKate Gowland

    Thank you so much for reading and I am glad that you enjoyed the article.
    My Best,

  • “She revealed to me that she had lost her son.”

    “She was forever changed.”

    There is much value in what Amy has to say but I selected these two quotes to make a specific point. Most everyone acknowledges change when significant, often unpredictable, unhappy events such as this occur in our lives.

    However small, less dramatic change often adds up as well in the same way a small tooth decay may one day lead to major oral surgery.

    Amy goes on to list some of the things we all should do to ready ourselves for the inevitable changes we all face, and at the top of that list is taking stock of who we are. As she calls it, knowing our “gifts”.

    I would like to add, knowing who you are and are not does not mean you cannot become something else, or that you have to change. However if you wish to, that personal assessment is the point from which you begin your journey of change.

  • AmyKate Gowland

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article and for your input.
    Good luck on your personal journey.
    My Best,

  • AmyKate

    Thank you so much for your writing. This resonated so fully with me. I understand completely the ‘oversensitive’ labels and love your re-wording to empathic. Like you I feel almost as strongly as they do, what others are experiencing. It is who I am, rather than avoiding that, I have fully embraced it and am able to stay aware in the presence of suffering. I no longer need to turn away from suffering whilst at the same time, hold a space for relief from suffering. So glad to know you are in the world!

  • anne

    After recovering from a battle with severe depression and anxiety, there are a lot of things my life is far better now than ever before:

    I learned I am far stronger than I realised.

    I learned I am worthwhile

    I learned I can love again

    I learned I can laugh, with all my heart and soul

    I learned that I am me, no one else and that I matter

    I learned to appreciate the good things in my life

    I learned that just because there were bad people in my past, they can’t control me now and I am in control.

  • Stephen Fraser

    An amazing post…I defy anyone to read this without being moved..thank you so much..

  • roseyq

    I experienced abuse in my own life and grew up finding the positive and appreciating the simple things in life. I also love connecting to other people who have pain to comfort them. I have been having the greatest trouble lately though because I feel people’s pain and emotions deeply and I really care but I feel like others in my life are somewhat cold (I’m sure they don’t mean to be) and I want someone to hug me and care deeply.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for allowing people to understand,its ok to be changed.Life has a way of making you grow like it or not!

  • Nat

    Congratulations =)

  • Gippy Adams Henry

    Great article, AmyKate! I’m glad you are still writing. It’s like breathing. I, too, feel as you state here. People often ask that of others–if we could go back and change anything, what would it be? I always say nothing. I like who I’ve become even with the stitches dropped along the way. Thanks for the reminder & love to the family.