Gracefully Healing: Our Interview With Grace Farinacci

"I advocate for self-love now because our childhood is the building blocks for how we see the world. I thought abuse was all I deserved, I thought I would always have to prove my love to those who hurt me most. I now dedicate my life to healing and sharing what I wish I knew before."

Recently, Starts With Youth was able to speak with Grace Farinacci from @gracefulmindset! Grace was raised in Niagara, Ontario. She started her healing journey in September 2019. She had read on codependency and started therapy for her trauma and abuse. She created an Instagram account to help express her past into a way to help others.

Gracefulmindset is a journey of her healing where she shares her lessons and advocates for survivors of abuse. She wanted to create a page to help her express feelings that she had held in for a long time.

SWY: Can you share a little more about yourself and your experience with childhood abuse and trauma?

GF: Hello, I’m Grace and I am a survivor of abuse who is dedicated to sharing my healing journey and advocating for self-love. When I was four years old my parents separated. I started living with just my mom and three of my four siblings. My mom was previously married before my dad, and had three other kids from that marriage. When we started living with just our mom, a lot of physical and emotional abuse began. As young as I was, only four years old, I remember lots of it. My mom would take me to bars with her where I would spend hours alone watching her get drunk then walk back home with her at night. We lived in a basement apartment in one of the worst areas in my city. The walls were covered in mould. We never had food. Some nights if she didn’t bring me to the bar with her, she wouldn’t come home. My older siblings were still very young. All of us trying to process what had just happened to our family. While this was happening, my mom kept me from my dad. It was the worst feeling to not know why this was happening, I always felt like it was my fault. One night, my mom didn’t come home and my one older sister ran away. I am so grateful that she did because family and children services finally were involved and my dad got full custody of my full-brother and I.

After my dad got full custody, my mom was allowed one visit a week on Wednesdays and one sleepover at the end of the month. My mom probably made it to 3 of those a year, and maybe one sleepover. I remember waiting with my brother and dad at Donut Diner calling her endlessly on the payphone. No answer on the phone to know where she was, always walking home with a heavy broken heart. When I got older it never changed. Every Wednesday, I would leave school to go to my babysitters, to see her there waiting for me. I knew she would be telling me that my mom cancelled. I missed my mom so much. I always wanted to try to see the good in her after what she did. This led to a lot of manipulation and gaslighting from her when I got older. She missed so much of my life. It was always my fault in her eyes. I was told I was the reason for her drinking. I was told that all I ever cared about was money. She owed my dad thousands and thousands in child support, it hurt watching him struggle financially. It was painful seeing him work so hard and start all over for us. The day that she missed my grade 8 graduation because she found out she wasn’t the first to be mentioned in my speech, I knew something was very wrong. I knew I had to start to let her go. At 13, that was my first real heartbreak. When I was 16, my mom left my life completely. A decision I made for myself, however, due to her absence my whole life nothing felt different. I tried so hard when I was younger to be perfect. I was an honour roll student and even got into university. My mom told me I would never be capable of that with the kind of life I had. I am proud to say that I graduated university this month.

While this was happening with my mom, my dad got a girlfriend when I was 10 who was emotionally and verbally abusive as well. I hid how I felt until I moved out at 20. She would call me a bitch, slut, whore, and other awful names for either how much noise I made or what I was wearing. She would make up rumors about me at the place we worked at together. She was always mean, but worse when she was drunk. Being surrounded by substance abuse and screaming for 20 years of my life caused so much damage. If I made any noise (coughing/sneeze) or even went to the bathroom at night I would be yelled at. At 18 she convinced me to get a credit card, when it arrived I caught her in my room trying to steal it. She gaslighted me by saying that she never told me to get one and she was so upset that I did. I was always, always, in trouble for something. It gave me so much depression and anxiety that I still struggle with today. This lack of love led me to be in an abusive relationship from when I was 17-20 years old. I advocate for self-love now because our childhood is the building blocks for how we see the world. I thought abuse was all I deserved, I thought I would always have to prove my love to those who hurt me most. I now dedicate my life to healing and sharing what I wish I knew before.

SWY: Do you mind sharing with us what helped or encouraged you to engage and commit to healing and recovering from your trauma?

GF: What helped start my journey was learning about codependency. I had read about it and decided to see a therapist at university. I was so scared to get help. I felt like my problems weren’t worthy to talk to someone about. I had been blinded to the abuse for so long. I am so glad I went. I ended up leaving my abusive relationship and started to focus on myself in therapy. I have been in therapy now for almost two years. I use EMDR with a trauma therapist that I’ve seen for a year now as well. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a type of therapy where you reprocess the trauma with a therapist using some type of motion like side-to-side eye movement to process what happened correctly. This method of therapy has significantly helped me with a lot of the abuse I've endured. Creating my Instagram account Gracefulmindset, has also helped me commit to my healing. I am beyond grateful for the community it has created and the opportunities it has brought me, like this interview! I also have a podcast where I create episodes on the lessons I’ve learned along the way. This helps me commit to healing as well.

SWY: What do you value most about your healing journey?

GF: I value a lot from the journey but I value the lessons the most from my healing journey. I became very spiritual in the past two years while healing. Believing in the universe gave me peace. The lessons from my life gave me my purpose. The pain led me here. It led me to my passion. The moments where I thought, “I never want to feel like this again” were the moments along my journey that gave me so much wisdom, so much healing. I value every single one of them. I also value the friends who became my family. The friends who taught me about love. My friends showed me how healing happens in relationships and I am so grateful for them. The ups and the downs, all became a part of my mosaic that I accepted. I value the conversations with other survivors who are going through the same thing.

"Believing in the universe gave me peace. The lessons from my life gave me my purpose."

SWY: There are thorns and roses to everything we encounter in life, can you share some frustrations you have or had with this process of healing (E.g. Societal pressures or standards, physical, emotional, or social limitations, myths/misconceptions)?

GF: Oh yes. Healing is HARD work. I have compassion for all the survivors. Some troubles I encountered were the emotional aspects to healing. I still have a good relationship with my father, that took a lot of forgiveness as he is still with his girlfriend who was abusive. I learned a lot about boundaries from that as well. I do not talk to her and stick to that boundary to protect my inner child. The biggest piece of advice I will share is doing what is best for you even if it might hurt others feelings. I will never feel sorry for what I need to do to protect me. The emotional toll from healing is hard as well. I take lots of breaks for my mental health. Something else that was hard was the fear of what people would think. When I made Gracefulmindset I was worried what people would think. Now, I continue to show up freely and with courage. It just takes time.

SWY: Can you provide any advice for getting through these frustrations that one may have with seeking or coping within the healing process?

GF: Having a therapist has really helped me with the process because there are some really heavy emotions we are dealing with. I know not everyone has access to therapy, so having a good support circle helps too! Set lots of boundaries with people who don’t make you feel good. I also read a lot of self-help books! One of my favourites is The Mountain Is You by Brianna Wiest. Find a way to express how you’re feeling. Maybe it’s writing like me, or singing, dancing, drawing, or even joining a survivor group. Try to find your place of expression. I spent so long keeping my feelings in, when I let them out now it is so healing. Lastly, be damn proud of yourself. You are a warrior. YOU survived what most wouldn’t even understand.

SWY: What inspired you to start your podcast and how has it helped your healing journey, can you share any advice for others who may be thinking about this as an option?

GF: What inspired me to start my podcast was allowing myself to have another platform of expression to help reach more people. I wanted it to be a full-time adventure, however, I learned I vibe better with uploading content when I learn a new lesson. I create better with freedom than force. I think it is a wonderful option for healing if you were like me and never got to use your voice growing up. You deserve to be heard! It seems really hard at first, but it’s actually an easy process. I researched it and it became straight forward. However, there’s just a lot of steps! I say go for it and try it if you’re thinking about it!

SWY: You talk a lot about having a healthy mindset and reframing your thoughts through your Instagram, Gracefulmindset. Can you tell us a little more about the meaning behind it?

GF: Yes! Gracefulmindset is named after my name Grace. My best friend actually came up with the name. It is about taking pain and making it into my purpose. My Gracefulmindset journey is about sharing the vulnerable parts of my life so that maybe another survivor who can’t open up yet, knows they’re not alone. I also want to normalize healing and emotions. To normalize talking about abuse. To normalize standing in our power. It started off as a way to be heard, now I have a community of others who can learn how to do so themselves too. I reframe my thoughts from listening to others and also from inner child healing. Reparenting ourselves after abuse is a wonderful way to heal as well. I do this by showing myself compassion, practicing self-love, having routines, boundaries, taking care of myself, having fun, and being my most authentic self.

"Reparenting ourselves after abuse is a wonderful way to heal as well. I do this by showing myself compassion, practicing self-love, having routines, boundaries, taking care of myself, having fun, and being my most authentic self."

SWY: As we have endured several lockdowns, can you give us two examples of how to engage in a healthy mindset or reframe our thoughts, in the midst of this lockdown and in the midst of trauma?

GF: Such a great question! I found it tricky for me as well. What I did was stay connected with like-minded people throughout the lockdown. A lot of facetime calls. I also got outside a lot for walks. Having a routine really got me through it. I also meditated a lot and used the time I had off work to improve myself. The app Insight Timer was my saving grace. It has a lot of resources on it for self-help. I reminded myself that this time alone can provide me with time to heal. Reframing that thought helped me feel grateful for what I had no control over. I also had a lot of dates on my own, even if it was just sitting in my backyard with a book!

Starts With Youth sincerely thanks Grace for taking the time to share her experiences with abuse and trauma, as well as her journey towards healing. Her dedication and courage to use her experiences to empower others is an inspiration, and we encourage you to take a look at Grace's Instagram, @gracefulmindset.