HerStory: Natalie Baird-King

“I am 53 years old. I grew up in a mid-sized town in Florida called Lakeland and have been living in the Tampa Bay area for over 30 years. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My father was physically, emotionally, and psychologically abusive to my mother, myself, and my three siblings. To escape the abuse, I got married at 19 years old. That marriage ended in 6 short years. The year of my divorce became one of the most life-changing times in my life. In my search to find what true love was, I met Shane. After dating a short time, I was isolated from friends and family and that’s when the abuse began. The first incident was when he threw me on the floor and strangled me until I passed out. I tried to escape and filed a restraining order, but that did not stop him from stalking me. The final incident of abuse changed my life forever. He broke my left arm when I attempted to escape. I was forced to move out of central Florida and moved to South Florida as a result. While piecing my life back together, I decided to go to law school to help other women escape abusive relationships. I graduated in 2001 and have been practicing family law, with a primary focus on domestic violence cases, for over 20 years. I am considered an expert in my field of domestic violence. And I have had the privilege to focus my career on mediation practice where I assist families to reach a settlement to avoid having a Judge decide their future.

My struggles began as a little girl. I remember when I was 6 years old when my dad shoved my mother into their bedroom and started beating her with his belt. My sister and I hid in our bedroom closet. We sat there in fear for several hours. Fearful for our mother’s life. Fearful whether we were his next victims. Fear turned to anger over time. Angry that he called himself a “devote Christian” even though he became the devil incarnate and beat his children and his wife. There were many times that he abused us. And when we all left home, the abuse we endured turned from physical to emotional and psychological abuse.

It wasn’t always bad. There were many good times with my dad. But when things were bad, they were really really bad. When they were good they were really really good.

My forgiveness journey began 11 years ago. I wanted to forgive my dad but I couldn’t bring myself to venture down that path. And then I was faced with a challenging, life-changing event where I knew I had to choose. I was about to take the stage to be a Keynote speaker for a local domestic violence shelter. I was speaking about domestic violence and my journey as a survivor. My husband at the time, Cory, had driven to the home I grew up in to check on my dad. My mother had asked for him to check on my dad because she was out of town visiting my sister and nieces and could not reach him by phone for a day and a half. I was angry Cory couldn’t attend my speech to support me. I remember walking over to the venue from my office all by myself. I remember thinking, “Can’t he just die”. With anger, resentment, and bitterness, I arrived at the convention center. Just before I was ready to take the stage, Cory called our friend’s phone to speak with me. When I accepted the phone, Cory said, “Nat I’m so sorry. He’s gone.” I never took the stage that day. And shortly after his death was when I started searching for forgiveness.

My path to forgiveness was anything but easy. I wanted to forgive him and I also wanted to forgive myself for what I thought and said that day. I often thought maybe I caused his death because of my thoughts. Consequently, I carried guilt and shame in my life every day. All these emotions caused me to be depressed and I felt lost in life. All I knew was that I could not live that life anymore. There had to be more to this life on earth than how I was living.

Recently, I authored “Forgiving Unforgivable—The 4 Essential Secrets to Overcome Trauma, Stand Empowered, and Step into Purpose” [due to be published at the end of this Summer]. What I discovered in my quest to find forgiveness is that forgiveness was never for my father. It was for me. I found freedom through forgiveness for my father and all those who caused me pain. Freedom from the pain of the past. Freedom to live my purpose on this earth.

In finding forgiveness, I discovered 4 steps. Step (1): Recall the memory/event that caused me pain. I did not relive the event. I recalled it as an observer. This by far was the hardest step. I was able to attain this step through meditation and attending an Ayahuasca retreat center. These methods helped me so I could face those memories as an observer. There are many many methods people can use to accomplish Step 1. Such as therapy, yoga, meditation, prayer, breathwork, psychedelics, and others. Each person must decide which method(s) works best for them. Step (2): Feel the emotion from the event that caused me pain. I had to see myself as that little girl sitting in her closet as my dad was beating my mom. I had to feel the fear which I lived with every day, and which controlled every decision in my life. I had to feel anger after he stopped beating my mom. Angry that he was hurting my mom and hurting us. I saw how anger showed up daily, weekly, and monthly in my life. How it was impacting my relationships and how it was showing up in my parenting with my own daughter. This step was extremely painful to see as I saw all the pain I caused those who I love.  Step (3): I had to realize that the act of forgiveness was not for my dad or those men who hurt me, it was for me. An act of forgiveness doesn’t change the person we forgave. It changes us. It allows us to remember the past without pain. It allows us to realize that everything that happens in our life happens for us not to us. Step three is eye-opening for our growth. And last, Step (4): Release the emotions which are tied to the past and Accept FREEDOM. When I was able to release the fear, anger, bitterness, resentment, shame, and guilt which all were tied to those past memories, I felt free. Free that those memories no longer dictate my emotional state today. Free that they were in the past—where they belong. When I achieved step 4, it was as if a cloak of happiness was placed over my life and I changed from that moment forward. No longer was uncontrollable anger or depression appearing in my life. I was free and able to live my purpose. My purpose is to help others see how forgiveness is the key to living a happy, joyful, and grateful life.

In my journey to forgiving the unforgivable acts that I survived, I was faced with a crossroad. A crossroad where I either had to choose to live the same unhappy life I was living or venture into an unknown path. I chose the latter. We tell ourselves myths about forgiveness. Such as, “If I forgive them then my act of forgiveness excuses the offender’s behavior and gives them a free pass.” Or, “I just need to forgive and forget”. Those are myths. My forgiveness for my father never excused his behavior. Nor can I ever forget what I endured.

At what cost would you pay for freedom? At what cost would you pay to live the life you have always wanted? Free of all the chains of the past that hold you back? For me, the answer was, “AT ALL COSTS”. That’s when I knew I was ready.

Everyone’s timing is different. But once you understand that forgiveness is the key to living an amazing life, your logic will tell you it’s time. And you too will be faced with the crossroad to choose from.

Never in my dreams did I think I would become an expert at forgiveness. But as a result of being open and willing to forgive, my dreams have and are coming true. I am soon to publish my book. I have been selected to give a Ted Talk on forgiveness. And my life’s dream to be an inspirational speaker is on the horizon.

Dreams do come true. For me, they have come true through finding forgiveness.”

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1002B S. Church Avenue PO Box 18391 nbk@forgivingunforgivable.com

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