Shame Can Kill You (or make you wish you were dead)



“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown

My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.

The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”

I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.


Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.

I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay

… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.

I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed

… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”

I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal

… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.

Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.


This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …

Be silent and feel ashamed.

Speak out and be shamed.

This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.

And …

 I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.

  • No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
  • No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
  • No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
  • No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
  • No longer letting shame silence us.

So …


I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”

No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …

In This Together,




17 responses »

  1. Kim, I’m so sorry that you had to live through that kind of abuse; I did too, and it’s awfully hard to justify surviving, the shame can be so bad.

    And some aspects of life just can’t be fixed.

    Having lived through that, it’s one of the things that makes me lose patience with the Internet Political Trolls who borrow their outrage from other groups, so that they can feel righteous. Most of them don’t know the pain of abuse in the past, or the frustration of a totally dysfunctional medical system in the present.

    I voted for Donald Trump, and I won’t hide it. I would do so again.I’d never turn my back on someone who voted differently, but if anyone wants to trash my friendship because of my vote, I figure there wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with.

    • Thank you, Andrew. ❤ I thought of you last Sunday during the sermon when our minister said if we were allowed to come up front and share our biggest success story, most of us would leave church that day feeling like a failure (although I think we should share successes and celebrate with each other, but i got his point). However, if we had a chance to share our lowest point, we'd hang around for hours, connecting and being there for each other. I think the latter is how you and I found each other, and I love our friendship on here.

      You know I voted for Trump too, and I'd also do it again. You're so right, it's not much of a friendship if politics can break it down … I just prefer fairytales, but this election didn't allow for that. It's probably best.

  2. I think this election brought the worst out of a lot of people, but honestly it had to come out. They did not change, they were always that way. They just never had anything that hit their insides enough to let it show. For me, it weeded out the attitudes I did not want in my life or around me. It might sound harsh, but I decided I don’t want anyone who would treat me bad because of an election to even know my friends, my children, or my grand children. I thought some of the election responses were abusive and I sure don’t want anyone I know and love to be subjected that junk. People always reveal who they are when something really hits a nerve. We are all wounded but the “mother” in me does not want anyone who would wound me to even be close to anyone I love. It made it easy for me to say “bye bye” and give them that as a gift. 😉

  3. Kim, we have way more in common than I already knew…. YOU are a brave, valiant, caring, honest and loving soul and I am so proud to call you my friend ❤ You have a beautiful and freeing way of bringing out the truth and the best in people… YOU are a blessing to so many, including ME ❤

    • Linda, what a beautiful comment and compliment from a beautiful friend. I hope there are some things in this post we don’t have in common, but I wouldn’t be surprised because I’ve always felt a special connection with you. I’m so grateful for our friendship! ❤ I love you!

  4. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    Peggy New, Sally J. Taylor and 21 others

    Karen Dishman Jantzi You are so wonderful! Love you much and grateful you are my sister!! ❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 24 at 4:46pm

    Kim Henson I love you, Karen Dishman Jantzi. I always feel prayed for having you as a friend. ❤
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 26 at 11:32pm

    Karen Dishman Jantzi ❤⭕️❌❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 26 at 11:34pm

    Jana Greene OMG I LOVE YOU. Keep on keeping on, my friend!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 24 at 8:50pm

    Kim Henson You too, Jana Greene! You too. I love you more! ❤
    Like · Reply · February 24 at 10:00pm

    Diane Wilson Dale I love this so much! Thank you for sharing!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 25 at 7:01am

    Kim Henson I appreciate you reading and commenting, Diane Wilson Dale! I also continue to be grateful for your friendship when Mom was sick and dying. It meant a lot that you kept me in the loop. ❤
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 26 at 3:01pm

    Lucille Zimmerman I'm so proud of you.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 26 at 5:03pm

    Kim Henson Awe, thanks, Lucille Zimmerman. ❤
    Like · Reply · February 26 at 10:15pm

    Barbara Hilgeman You are amazing. I admire your strength and courage!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 26 at 11:17pm

    Kim Henson I sure appreciate your comment, Barbara Hilgeman! ❤ Love you and DaDave.
    Like · Reply · February 26 at 11:31pm

    Maria Franken Very good article! …. My Mom, the counselor, use to tell me, "Guilt says, "I made a mistake," while shame says, "I am a mistake." It's important to understand the difference…
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 8:14am · Edited

    Kim Henson I knew there was a saying, Maria Franken. Thanks for sharing it. I couldn't remember exactly how it went or I probably would have included it. Goodness, last year made me nuts before it made me better! 😉 I appreciate your friendship through it all. ❤ I love you. xoxox
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 2:32pm

    Maria Franken I love you oodles, dear lady!!! 😘💕
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 2:46pm

    Kim Henson Maria Franken, I know. ❤ And I sure appreciate it.
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 27 at 2:46pm

    Christy Young Inspirational!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · February 28 at 12:46pm

    Kim Henson Thank you my Sugar Girl friend! ❤
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 28 at 3:29pm

    Kim Henson Christy Young, I need sugar after posting these. It's kind of like having a beer. lol.
    Like · Reply · 1 · February 28 at 3:30pm

    Christy Young I hear ya girlfriend! I know where we can share a massive piece of cake if you meet me this weekend. lol. Dangling a carrot. So not right…
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 17 hrs

    Kim Henson Christy Young, hahaha. Are you thinking East Bay or does Capt. Juel's have massive cake too? I want to tomorrow, but there's this work stuff …
    Like · Reply · 8 hrs
    Kimberley Turner McKenna Love this!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 1 at 6:27am

    Kim Henson Thank you, Kimberley Turner McKenna! ❤
    Like · Reply · 8 hrs

    Sally J. Taylor Wow this one spoke to me. I had all the same problems with the election.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 1 at 4:39pm

    Kim Henson It's been such a crazy time, Sally J. Taylor. I keep reminding myself that God can use all of this, but sometimes I just feel overwhelmed and scared. And then there's the shame … it sure needed some daylight, so I'm relieved to drag it out of that dark corner and hope I (and others who are feeling it too) will heal and move on from it. Thanks for your comment. ❤
    Like · Reply · 8 hrs

    Laurel Hughes Senick So beautifully stated💖 Thank you for the encouragement and peace that post brought me😙
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 10 hrs

    Kim Henson Thank you, Laurel Hughes Senick. ❤ I know you know how it feels to write something and just watch it sit there. Sometimes I can't breathe right after I post something really personal, but I can't live with it inside anymore since I feel like i'll explode if I don't write and post it … a gift from God, I guess. lol. 😉
    Like · Reply · 8 hrs

    Tammy James Quinn Big hugs and love Kim~you always lift me up. ❤ ❤ ❤
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 7 hrs

    Kim Henson You're one of my encouragers, Tammy James Quinn … so you're doing the same for me. ❤ Love you! xoxox
    Like · Reply · 1 · 7 hrs

    Kim Henson Hahaha, just so you know, Tammy James Quinn … when I was typing xoxox, I originally (and accidentally) typed sos. Maybe I need some help from you? 🙂
    Like · Reply · Just now · Edited

  5. From Facebook (S. Kim Henson) ~

    Angie Mojica, Elizabeth Haas Morris and Wanda Doyal

    Angie Mojica Great post Kim!!
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 1 at 9:06am

    S. Kim Henson Thanks so much, Angie Mojica! ❤ I appreciate you and your feedback.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs

  6. Kim, I am so sorry you had to go through that childhood experience–and I’m so glad you finally spoke up about it. I believe that’s the beginning of healing. Your excellent post brings up something that I always try to remember when discussing politics or anything else for that matter: we have all had experiences in our past, both good and bad, that make us who we are and what we believe. Those experiences can also trigger stuff that causes anger, hurt, bad feelings toward others, hateful actions, etc. I’m thinking about one friend in particular who endured spousal abuse for years. Her husband beat her, also abused their children and pets, and tried to kill her twice. She is still in therapy but beginning to recover now that he’s been dead for 2 years. During the presidential campaign, however, she experienced severe ptsd because of the words and actions of the current president, which took her right back to the awful situations she had been through. People who didn’t understand what she had been through, and the shame she was still experiencing, lashed out at her based on what she posted on her FB page. On the other hand, I believe many voted for the president not only because they believed in his policies, but because he triggered something positive in them. So I think you have hit on some important concepts in this post that go far beyond the politics of the moment. Shame can last a lifetime and can color almost everything we do or don’t do. We all need to see other people through that lens and know that emotions such as shame exist in all of us but send us in different directions, which means that we need to love each other regardless of the stuff that gets in the way. Hope this made sense; I feel like I’m rambling.

    • “We have all had experiences in our past, both good and bad, that make us who we are and what we believe.” This should be a tweeted quote, Mary. It’s true. I’ve lived by this premise for years and it’s clearer by the day as I deal with family and friends and continue one of my favorite pastimes, people watching. 🙂

      I don’t think you rambled at all. Your message is clear, precise, and it tells about the common bond we all have … we’re all human and we’re all reacting to what’s happened to us as humans. I pray we as a country find that common ground and the compassion in that space. ❤

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