Since I was sixteen, singing songs at coffee houses and selling $5 home-burned CDs of my music, I marketed myself as Jennifer Grassman. My maiden name is on all my albums, posters, social media accounts, and in press coverage.
When I married Jason Greenberg in 2006, my maiden name was already everywhere. On merchandise, marketing materials, newspaper interviews, televised performances, etcetera. At that time, I wasn’t confident in my marketing skills and had no idea how to go about managing a re-brand.
Jason and I mutually decided to keep my maiden name as a stage name. The partial anonymity gave me a sense of privacy. Also, coming from a family of only daughters, it made me happy knowing that I was carrying on the family name, if only in a material way.
For the past 10 years I’ve felt like God wanted me to write a book. That probably sounds weird to many of my readers, particularly my atheist friends. But imagine you felt a sense of definite purpose; a feeling that your life had a grand design, and you’d figured out what part of the design was supposed to look like. It’s an overwhelming sensation. It’s extremely exciting and reassuring.
A little backstory:
As a child I endured domestic violence, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse. However, I was also spared from a great deal of pain. My dad only molested me once when I was very young. Granted, he exposed himself to me multiple times throughout my teens, put disturbing porn on my computer for me to find, and said perverted things to me.
Thankfully, the majority of the sexual abuse I endured was non-physical. However, I sincerely believe that God restrained my dad’s evil, not only for my sake, but for the sake of his soul. I believe he could have done so much worse. He threatened to do so much worse. Several times, he threatened to murder my entire family if I ever left him.
My dad had a violent temper, and emotionally pivoted between depression and apathy. He was rarely to never happy. The few times he did seem happy were disturbing to me, because it was so out of character for him.
I don’t remember him ever telling me I was smart or beautiful. He never apologized for anything, except once, when my mom threatened to tell a pastor that my dad had beaten me. He did apologize that time. In exchange my mom remained silent. I had finger-mark bruises on my arms, and hand shaped bruises on my back and legs. His, “I’m sorry,” bought him continued secrecy and years of future abuse. While it’s impossible to view his single coerced apology as genuine, it’s all I’ve got. As pathetic as it probably sounds, I still treasure the memory of his acknowledgement.
Often, when I tell people stories from my childhood, they ask, “How did you turn out so normal?”
That’s all there is to it.
I survived and recovered from severe trauma. I struggled through PTSD in my early marriage. I say “recovered,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have scars. Thankfully, my husband is very patient. He does his best to carefully work around the emotional landmines buried in my head. He’s helped me dig up and defuse a good number of them. It takes a strong man to be married to me. And he even does the dishes and mops! He’s a keeper.
Now, somehow, I feel strong enough, calm enough, and objective enough to use my experiences to help others. While I have never taken any classes in therapy, and I have no degree in counseling, I feel a unique understanding of abuse victims and survivors or trauma. Most of the recovery books I’ve read were written by therapists, pastors, and psychiatrists, who address trauma from a third person, analytical, medical perspective. Certainly, there is great value in that.
However, I know from a first person perspective where survivors are coming from. I’ve huddled on the floor praying for the beating to stop. I’ve worn turtle necks in hopes of avoiding sexual harassment. I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’ve battled that demon, Suicide, and vanquished him. I still battle Depression, but more as the result of having a depressing past as opposed to an illness.
And so I am writing this book, Those Who Weep. It’s not an auto-biography. It’s not a morbid memoir describing grotesque details. Rather, it’s an in-depth and personal mapping-out of the emotional and spiritual recovery process following trauma.
Yes, there are some personal stories, but I want to be careful not to present them in a sensational manner. I want to be very careful that my readers aren’t tempted to compare my abuse to their own, and feel like theirs was either “not a big deal” or “freakishly horrid” by comparison. Contrariwise, I want to convey that I understand their pain, and communicate my own with dignity and humility.
Those Who Weep is not just for abuse survivors though. By writing it, I also hope to help counselors, pastors, therapists, doctors, and the loved ones of abuse victims, come to a clearer and more personal understanding of the damage abuse causes. In this way, I want to empower them to find the right words to say, and practical ways to effectively optimize the healing process.
Obviously, not every abuse victim is a writer. To paraphrase Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great communication skills, comes great responsibility.”
Due to the permeating pain abuse causes and the life-altering damage it inflicts, most of the survivors I’ve spoken with have a very hard time communicating what they feel in a way that non-abused people can relate with. In addition, there is a great deal of embarrassment and fear of being misunderstood or dismissed as crazy or dramatic. My goal is to bridge that gap. I don’t care if some people think I’m crazy or dramatic. In fact, I expect it.
By God’s grace, there are a good many people in my life who support me, and assure me that I am completely sane and justified whenever I feel insecure. I have several respected pastors encouraging me to launch a ministry, reading my chapters, and meeting with me to discuss particularly complex topics.
I have over 25 sources who I am speaking with on a fairly regular basis. They are male, female, Christian, atheist, straight, gay, young, experienced, single, married, black, white … Some are rape survivors, some were badly beaten as kids, some are recovered cocaine addicts, some are current alcoholics, and some I have had the humbling honor of talking through thoughts of suicide.
Many have suggested that writing this book is cathartic for me. Not really, at least, not yet. The idea that I can eventually use my pain to help others heal is cathartic. The hope that I can assist someone in breaking free and recovering, perhaps faster than they would have otherwise, gives my own suffering a purpose.
The process of writing Those Who Weep is actually quite depressing. Nevertheless, it’s going to be a very encouraging and hopeful book to read. I liken writing it to walking out into a mine-field, digging up rusty old memory-bombs, studying them, and defusing them. Sometimes they blow up in my face, and the rest of my day is spent picking up the pieces of some disturbing memory or painful revelation. But, pick them up I do, and I keep on writing.
Thank you so much for reading this far. You are a trooper! I’m eager to see where this book goes as I network with literary agents and research possible publishers. If you would, please pray that God would guide the process, and that he would protect me from too much depression as I continue to take up my cross.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.