Katrina MariaMy entry into the world was nearly in my uncle’s grocer’s van, which was immediately flagged as a bomb threat. Yes, that’s me. Katrina. Making waves even before my first breath. You see, I was born during the Troubles in Belfast. My lovely 21-year-old single mum managed to get out of the van just in time to give birth, but leaving it unattended triggered a bomb alert. Welcome to normal Northern Irish life in the 1970s.

My mum and her boyfriend had already split up before I was born – he left for someone else and went on to start a different family with her – so I grew up in my Grandmother’s (Nanny’s) bungalow, which was already bulging at the seams. Unfortunately, my grandfather had died young the year before I was born, leaving my Nanny with 7 kids and her own ailing mother. It was left to her to care for many of us in such a small space.

I constantly questioned and thought about why my dad left. My little child’s brain reasoned it must have been my fault and therefore I must have been a bad child, so unconsciously I then adopted a ‘Good Girl’ role. The mind is so clever, it did it to protect me, so that I could be liked and loved and no-one else would leave.

This pattern of ‘Good Girl’ behaviour was compounded when I was 7 and a friend of the family began sexually abusing me and threatening me so that I would keep it a secret. My mum eventually found out, but by then the damage was done and again I felt like it was my fault. I felt that I was undeniably broken and that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. My schoolwork began to suffer and – understandably – I developed anxiety. I became reserved and isolated and I so desperately wanted to disappear into the background.

As a teenager I took this quite literally and actually used to hide behind my hair. It also didn’t help that my school uniform marked me out as Catholic, which was like having a target on my back. Chasings, kneecapping, car slashings, petrol bombs and shootings were the norm in my community. There was a lot more to navigate as a teenager in the Troubles.

Katrina and friendYet despite my shyness I found myself a boyfriend, the first to tell me he loved me, buy me a heart locket (you know the type of thing). At 17 we were on and off like Spice Girls on the radio, but we always stayed good friends. But on a fateful night home from an Irish celebration, he was stabbed to death just for being Catholic. To this day, those who did it were never caught. On the day I found out, one of my best friends comforted me, but 6 months later she was tragically killed in a car accident, aged just 16.

By now I had become hyper-vigilant and had developed a fierce persona to protect myself from this hostile world. I decided to leave Northern Ireland and all the sadness behind, so I went to live on Jersey in the Channel Islands, where I had family ties.

Unfortunately an old school friend who had taken me under her wing during this move then died too in a freak asthma attack, aged 21. My mind and body could simply not tolerate any more grief or make sense of all the losses at such a young age, so I decided to up sticks again and set off to travel the world. My head – and heart – were in pieces, and I needed time out for reflection.

After a few years and some deep contemplation, aged 24, I decided to take my childhood abuser to trial. I found a voice inside me that needed to fight the injustice. It was a tough decision, as it meant re-opening a subject with my family that hadn’t been discussed in nearly two decades. A long and soul-destroying path to find justice followed, and unfortunately, I lost the case by one jury vote! However, even though it was one of the toughest experiences of my life, and although he was found ‘not guilty’, I’ll be eternally glad I did it. It gave that part of me a voice, the voice to stand up for the ‘Good Girl’ and to this day I still hope it opens up conversations for others.

After a series of difficult relationships, not helped by the fact that I had no idea how to handle emotions, I finally married, aged 31. We tried to start a family, but after a difficult miscarriage in 2011, they discovered that one of my ovarian tubes was blocked and I had severe endometriosis. Once the tests came back, they hit me with the fact that I had womb cancer, which was extremely rare for my age. I was not only given a life-changing diagnosis, but there was also a high chance I may not have children. There were no words.

As soon as I started cancer treatment, I spoke to the HR department where I worked about what I was dealing with, and they suggested I try the Hoffman Process. Later that week my chiropractor told me they’d just come back from this wonderful course called the Hoffman Process. Then I met up with a friend she started talking about – the Hoffman Process…

I believe there is no such thing as coincidence, so I gave Hoffman a call. By September, I’d finished the treatment and in December I was given the all clear. My Process date was set for February the following year.

The nerves started as I began to fill out the pre-course work. It brought up so much and helped me join the dots about the impact of my absent father and all the ways I’d rebelled against my childhood experiences. I got off the train near the Process venue wondering what on earth I was doing, but a voice in my head said; ‘ If I’m in, I’m all in’.

Maybe everyone says this, but my Process group were incredible, they made it for me. To meet people at a heart level for a whole week and see their souls was a real privilege. For the first time, I learned to meditate and quiet the voice in my head so I could hear my intuition. Some of the powerful memories that remain with me are lying on the floor in the sunshine and sending healing to my womb. Another was discovering I couldn’t let go of the anger I felt against my father… because it was the only way I could connect with him (lightbulb moment!) Letting go of my anger felt like letting him go too. Yet somehow by the end of the course I realised I was able to start to forgive him and was able to release so much that I hadn’t even known I was holding onto.

The first part of the course felt like I was being broken into pieces – I thought I’d never stop crying – but the second part brought me together again with such joy. I was free. It turns out I wasn’t broken after all – I was just taking on other people’s ideas of who I was. I ripped up my ‘Good Girl’ role and left the course feeling far more authentic and whole. Anything felt possible as I leant on the Post Process support, used the Process tools and enjoyed the nurturing connections of my Process group.

Katrina Maria and her childrenShortly after Hoffman, my GP wanted me to start IVF; they felt it was my only chance of having children. However, I had a strong intuition I had found and built on from Hoffman, that said I would get pregnant naturally within two months. Against all the odds, I did! As far as I know, nobody else my age with that particular cancer has ever done that naturally. And 12 months later, aged 37, I did it again! I had two children of my own who were my miracles.

Now with my own children in tow, I finally reached a place where I felt I could meet my father without judgement and with pure forgiveness. With my mother’s blessing, I wrote him a letter, enclosing photos of the grandchildren he’d never met. A few days later – I’ll never forget – he called me and simply started crying. It meant the world. We spoke for an hour and soon met up for a hug and a very long chat. The first birthday I got a text from him was an incredible milestone.

Unfortunately – and understandably – my marriage didn’t survive all this change. We separated with mindfulness and hope, in a way that minimised the damage to the children by integrating all this work. I’d like to think I’m a far better mother now. Understanding the difference between who my children are – which I wouldn’t change for the world – and their behaviour has been key; something I would never have known if not for Hoffman.

Katrina MariaI had to clear lots of internalised stories and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s certainly been worth it. Since the Process I’ve trained in many modalities including NLP, EFT, Timeline therapy, Reiki, massage and notably in Master Transformational Coaching.

I always remember being told on the Process that I’d make a good facilitator – not so feasible with young children, whereas coaching felt more suited to my lifestyle. I know, given my own journey, that I can hold a deep, strong space for others and their stories, so they can release themselves from victimhood and take the next steps towards claiming their power.

I call these days my PowerHood era. You’re worthy of more than what you’re tolerating now. You’re worthy of freedom, peace of mind and love. Trust me, it’s worth searching for.

To find out more about Katrina Maria, listen to episodes of her Rise Strong podcast or learn more about 1-2-1 coaching, visit her website: iamkatrinamaria.com
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