Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 7


In her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno reflects on the second chances she unlocked after doors closed. Read on and examine the ways you, too, can step through those doorways and into second chances—and often, greater opportunity.

Crossing the (Slammed) Door

“When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are denied a second chance, what can you do?

HEBphotoAlthough we rarely choose to separate ourselves from other people by tall stone walls, we can bump up against rock hard and permanent barriers erected by others. These walls appear too high to climb and too far-reaching to walk around. And, even if we were to find a way over the wall, we wouldn’t be welcomed. No forgiving second chance would await us, no matter how much we long for reconciliation.

Rejection, abandonment, and shunning all trigger the pain center of the brain as powerfully as a slap across the face. Heart ache is real: muscles contract. We hurt.

What choice do we have when our choices are taken from us?

My great-grandmother, born in Caltinasetta, Sicily, had been a widow for years when she met a widower at daily Catholic mass; over time they became close. She asked her son, my grandfather, for permission to marry. My grandfather told her if she remarried, she could “not cross his door or see her grandchildren again.”

She chose to marry the man she loved. My grandfather put a resounding end to the visits his wife and children paid to Nonna.

Being disowned: Have you heard of it? Some cultures, like my Sicilian one, have an “off with your head” dynamic: you are no longer allowed in the family. My grandfather told my aunt Josephine she would “not cross his door again” if she smoked. When he found her cigarette pack, he disowned her.

For my great-grandmother and my aunt, there would be no second chances to rejoin their family.

This practice of disowning may sound like a relic from another century or another continent. But is it? Have you experienced or witnessed one person or group shutting out another person or group with finality? Here are some modern-day disowning processes:

  • A 4-year-old girl on the playground puts her arm around another little girl and announces, “I’m not going to play with Madison for a hundred years. Are you?”
  • A 6-year-old child, born a boy, but who feels like a girl, is bullied by classmates.
  • An otherwise excellent teacher is terminated for making a mistake; no one else will hire her.
  • A young black man, wearing a hoodie, is shot dead while walking home because he looks suspicious.

What choice do we have when our choices are taken from us?

I can try pretending that a wall hasn’t been erected. I can try not acknowledging that I have experienced a loss. Denial only postpones feeling the pain. As Robert Frost cautions, “The only way out is through.” When we are denied a second chance, we have to make our way through the darkness to find the light. Pretending the wall hasn’t been erected or that a loss hasn’t occurred is not an option for me.

The steps I take to reclaim the light have become clear to me only with hindsight. Looking back, I realize that what I thought were dead ends turned into my greatest opportunities to grow. In no set order, here are the steps that help me:

  • I grieve the loss. I grieve with sadness, anger, and sometimes (gallows) humor.
  • I ask for help. I share my grief with people I trust.
  • I choose to accept what is and let go of asking, “What if . . . ?”
  • I pray for serenity and a soothed heart.
  • I pray to let go of resentment.
  • I examine my part in the rupture and take responsibility for my wrongdoing.
  • I do my best to make things right. If I cannot do this with the person who has closed the door, I pay it forward by doing acts of kindness and/or courage for others.
  • I pray for the other person’s wellbeing, regardless of how much I have been hurt.
  • I become grateful for the freedom that comes from accepting the things I cannot change and changing the things I can.

In the end, I give myself the second chance I had wanted from the other person.

Even though my process sometimes takes years, I am heartened by my belief that things do get better. As author Henri Nouwen advised: we become the most spiritual in the places where we are the most broken.

Share your stories and tell me: When an important door has been closed on you, or when you have been disowned by another person or group:

  • How have you managed to deal with the loss?
  • Who or what has helped you the most?
  • What have you learned that might help others facing the same rejection?
  • Did you find a way to give yourself, and perhaps others, a second chance?

When I am forbidden from “crossing the door” shut in my face, I still have a choice. By choosing to look in another direction, I discover my own door to liberation awaits.

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

If you’re new to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Share Your Stories series, you can learn more about the project here and read previous posts here. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want—on this post, previous posts, and future posts. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes her next book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

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2 Responses to Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 7

  1. Pingback: Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Crossing the (Slammed) Door | Holly Elissa Bruno

  2. Heather Wenig says:

    Several years ago I was “disowned” by the field that I loved. I had been working in early care and education for almost 20 years, but had no formal credential. I had earned a CDA while working in a classroom but did not renew it because by that time I was working in a child care resource and referral agency, not in direct care, and so I did not meet the renewal guidelines. After many years of this work, the qualifications for my position were changed and I was forced to leave. Not long after, a friend who knew my abilities despite my lack of formal qualifications offered me an opportunity to work with at risk school age children and teenagers. I poured my heart into that work, only to be wrongfully terminated. Disowned again. I spent almost a year unemployed, unable to even crack back into the field that meant the world to me, because of my lack of credentials. Finally, the same woman who had been my supervisor when I was forced out of the resource and referral agency heard of my situation and offered me temporary work. While working this temporary job, a child care center director job opened up in the agency. I was given a second chance. I was offered not only “a job” in my field again, but a job I had long dreamed of. Not only was I offered this job, but I was offered the opportunity to complete my degree while working. It was amazing. (I’ll just add that the moment I got off the phone from accepting this job, Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back” came on the radio. Ha!)

    Since this experience, my eyes have been opened to second chances. As a center director, I had the opportunity to enroll children who had been expelled from other programs, knowing my staff could give that child a second chance and help him/her feel accepted. I had the opportunity to hire people who had made mistakes in previous jobs and help to develop their skills and confidence. I’ve even helped people who I had been forced to “disown” due to performance or other issues to find those second chances with new employers. I am so grateful to have had both experiences–being disowned and being able to offer second chances.

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