“We don’t move on from trauma, we move on with it.” In her new TEDx talk, Samra Zafar shares her personal story of healing after the trauma of an abusive child marriage, to examine universal narratives of pain and resilience. She explores meaningful and accessible pathways to healing and thriving after trauma while instilling a hopeful message on the power of the human spirit.
At the age of 16, Samra was a child bride and a new immigrant to Canada. Isolated and far from home, this was not the life she had dreamt of. After a decade of abuse, she managed to break free from her marriage to save herself and her two daughters from the cycle of abuse. Today, Samra is a four-time TEDx speaker, a bestselling author, named one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women”, and is currently in medical school studying to become a doctor.
The Reality of Trauma
While it’s been decades since she was that 16-year-old girl, and she has since accomplished so much and taken great care to heal from her past, Samra said it only took one second of seeing her old Pakistani passport to transport her right back to that moment.
The reality of living with trauma, Samra said, is that it hits you unexpectedly like a ton of bricks. It’s impossible, she continues, to “move on” from trauma; healing is learning how to move on with it.
The pandemic was an especially trying time for Samra, as it was for so many. For the first time since she left her marriage, she found herself, once again, isolated and alone. While intellectually, she knew it was a pandemic, her body carried memories from her traumatic past and experienced it the same way.
The past couple of years have been traumatic for all of us, she said, with many losing loved ones, experiencing financial difficulty, surrounded by negative news, and struggling with isolation and lack of support. With mental health challenges on the rise, the pandemic may end but the trauma sparked from it will be felt for many years, Samra said.
Healing from Trauma
Healing starts with unlearning everything we’ve been told about suffering — “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” is a lie. Suffering is not a prerequisite for living, she said, and it certainly isn’t necessary to becoming a resilient person.
Instead, we need to learn how to love ourselves. Self-compassion and kindness are our greatest tools, with them we can learn to support ourselves when we need it the most. Through self-awareness, Samra has learned how to identify her triggers so she can be proactive in managing her mental health.
In addition, Samra surrounds herself with a support system who lifts her up, built through learning how to set boundaries and teaching people how they should treat her. And, she seeks help when she needs it, having participated in short-term therapy, trauma therapy, and family and group therapy with her daughters.
Self-awareness, a strong support system, and asking for help are key to proactively managing our well-being and mental health. Watch the video below to learn more about Samra and how she learned to move on with trauma and is helping others do the same.
“We don’t move on from trauma, we move on with it. Trauma breaks us, it causes pain, and it echoes for a lifetime. But just because we were once broken, does not mean we are damaged or unworthy. Our trauma may stay with us, but it doesn’t have to define us.
We have the capacity to make art from those broken pieces. We can heal, we can become whole again, and we can transform into a stronger, more beautiful version of us. That doesn’t mean that what happened to us will ever be ok — it won’t. It means the capacity of humanity to heal is much more powerful and beautiful. That even with the scars, we can survive, we can thrive.”
After escaping a decade of abuse living as a child bride in Canada, Samra Zafar has became a beacon of hope for many people facing exclusion, abuse, and gender-based violence. She shares powerful messages and actionable takeaways on topics that include DEI, mental health, social justice, authentic leadership, and resilience.
Contact us to learn more about Samra.