{June 3, 2013}   Broken



I was browsing in Barnes & Noble over twenty years ago when I discovered a tiny booklet stuck inside another book in the self-help section. I flipped through it and felt as though I had been guided there to receive it, because it contained just the message I was seeking. I stored the book in a file in a box of letters and rediscovered it recently. It’s titled, “For Children Who Were Broken…” by Elia Wise. This is the booklet:

For children who were broken,

it is very hard to mend…

our pain was rarely spoken

and we hid the truth from friends.

Our parents said they loved us,

but they didn’t act that way.

They broke our hearts

and stole our worth,

with the things that they would say.

We wanted them to love us.

We didn’t know what we did

to make them yell at us

and hit us,

and wish we weren’t their kid.

They’d beat us up and scream at us

and blame us for their lives.

Then they’d hold us close inside their arms

and tell us confusing lies

of how they really loved us–

even though we were BAD,

and how it was OUR fault they hit us,

OUR fault that they were mad.

When days were just beginning

we sometimes prayed for them to end,

and when the pain kept coming,

we learned to just pretend

that we were good

and so were they

and this was just

one of those days…

tomorrow we’d be friends.

We had to believe it so.

We had nowhere else to go.

Each day that we pretended,

we replaced reality

with lies, or dreams,

or angry schemes,

in search of dignity…

until our lies

got bigger than the truth,

and we had no one real to be.

Our bodies were forsaken.

With no safe place to hide,

we learned to stop

hearing and feeling

what they did to our outsides.

We tried to make them love us,

till we hated ourselves instead,

and couldn’t see a way out,

and wished that they were dead.

We scared ourselves by thinking that,

and scared ourselves to know,

that we were acting just like them–

and might evermore be so.

To be half the size of a grown-up

and trapped inside their pain…

to every day lose everything

with no savior or refrain…

To wonder how it’s possible

that God could so forget

the worthy child you knew you were,

when you’d not been damaged yet…

To figure on your fingers

that the years till you’d be grown

enough to leave the torment

and survive away from home,

were more than you could count to,

or more than you could bear,

was the reality we lived in

and we knew it wasn’t fair.

We who grew up broken

are somewhat out of time,

struggling to mend our childhood,

when our peers are in their prime.

Where others find love

and contentment,

we still often have to strive

to remember we are worthy,

and heroes just to be alive.

Some of us are healing.

Some are stealing.

Most are passing the anger on.

Some give their lives away to drugs,

or the promise of life beyond.

Some still hide from society.

Some struggle to belong.

But all of us are wishing

the past would not hold on

so long.

There’s a lot of digging down to do

to find the child within,

to love away the ugly pain

and feel innocence again.

There’s forgiveness

worthy of angel’s wings

for remembering those at all,

who abused our sacred childhood

and programmed us to fall.

To seek to understand them,

and how their pain became our own,

is to risk the ground we stand on

to climb the mountain home.

The journey is not so lonely

as in the past it’s been…

More of us are strong enough

to let the growth begin.

But while we’re trekking

up the mountain

we need everything we’ve got,

to face the adults we have become,

and all that we are not.

So when you see us weary

from the day’s internal climb…

When we find fault

with your best efforts,

or treat imperfection

as purposeful crime…

When you see our quick defenses,

our efforts to control,

our readiness to form a plan

of unrealistic goals…

When we run into a conflict

and fight to the bitter end,


We think that winning means

we won’t be hurt again.

When we abandon OUR thoughts

and feelings,

to be what we believe YOU

want us to,

or look at trouble we’re having,

and want to blame it all on you…

When life calls for new beginnings,

and we fear they’re doomed to end,


Wounded trust is like a wounded knee-

It’s very hard to bend.

Please remember this

when we’re out of sorts.

Tell us the truth, and be our friend,

because for children who were broken

it is very hard to mend.


Elia Wise–who wrote this poem as a thank-you note to her therapist.



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