I came across the poem "Welcome to Holland" in my text book for a course on counseling clients with communication disorders. I will include the poem at the bottom of this page in case you haven't read this poem but are interested. Though the poem addresses issues that parents face following the birth of a child with developmental difficulties (and the analogy does not completely align - in sexual assault, "Holland" can initially be a very "terrible ugly place, full of famine, pestilence and disease"), the poem's message regarding the grief process is a powerful one that also applies to those of us who have encountered rape or other traumatic experiences that cause severe life alterations.
When you are severely violated, your world - your reality - is shaken to the core...often times with very little warning. Even if you have the most amazing foundation of self-confidence and security prior to the occurrence of rape, something inside you changes. Something was stolen. If you were a virgin, it wasn't just your virginity that was taken. It wasn't even just your confidence in other people. Something in us - something valuable - is swiped away along with whatever acts were performed to our bodies without our consent.
Sometimes it's impossible to put into words what was taken, and we are left only with our feelings regarding what happened. Often, this inability to express our internal experience leaves us with overwhelming feelings of loneliness. Needless to say, there is a lot to mourn.
I ran and ran and ran from the grieving process. If I never mourned what I had lost, then maybe I hadn't lost that piece of myself. And, well, I ran and ran and ran until I became utterly exhausted and literally could not run another step. That's what lead me to ultimately seeking effective professional help and beginning the grueling healing process.
It would be a lie to say that I am through the mourning process. At times, I think I've progressed through it, but then it creeps in and surprises me. I used to look at these times as failures. How the heck am I still allowing this mess to influence my life? But now, I'm working on just acknowledging it for what it is. It's part of this whole healing process. It's what is going to make me feel whole again.
The beginning of the grieving process was absolutely brutal and disruptive. Something I wanted to speed through. Feel the horrible pain and then forget about it. But I'm learning that healing is not like that. The pain will continue to lessen and hopefully become only occasional episodes of mourning - but I will never forget about it. This experience is just one of many that make me who I am.
I will never live in the world that the old me experienced prior to December of 2002. But that's okay. No longer is my goal to speed through the healing process. It is merely to heal. To learn what this Me has to offer.
Welcome to Holland
By: Emily Perle Kinsley
Finally, the time comes for your trip. You pack your bags and off you go.
Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?!" you say. "Holland?? I signed up for Italy! All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
"I'm sorry," she says. "There's been a change and we've landed in Holland."
"But I don't know anything about Holland! I never thought of going to Holland. I have no idea what you do in Holland!"
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you have to go out and buy a whole new set of guide books...you have to learn a whole new language... and you will meet a whole new bunch of people you would have never met otherwise.
Holland. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy...but after you've been there for a while and you've had a chance to catch your breath, you look around and begin to discover that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a great time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you never got to go to Italy, you may never be available to enjoy the very lovely, very special things about Holland.
(Copyright 1987 by the author)
In Luterman, D. (2008). Counseling Persons with Communication Disorders and Their Families (5th edition) (p. 54). Austin, TX: Pro Ed.