‘I was the victim of a rape. I had a professor who propositioned me, a boyfriend who passed away, a stalker, and cancer—twice. I’m no stranger to a painful past.’

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“Easter is about waiting.

I know, that sounds absurd. I get it. It appears as though this is a holiday about a Friday free from work and fake grass you’ll be finding around your house for the remainder of the year. It’s about Peeps and your people. A guy on a cross and a guy in a (rather scary) bunny suit.

That’s what we’ve come to learn about this infamous Sunday. We carve the ham and move toward summer plans. Easy enough.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

But my perspective shifted on the meaning of Easter, and the meaning of life, when I heard this profound statement:

‘First the pain. Then the waiting. Then the rising.’ – Glennon Doyle

If you’re a believer, this summarizes the story of Easter in its entirety: crucifixion, three day wait, resurrection.

But if you’re more skeptical than spiritual, maybe you’ll see this: it’s also the story of us.

And it’s certainly the story of me.

Let’s start with the pain.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

I’m no stranger to a painful past. To say I’ve had it hard would be an understatement. From the word go, the sea was unsteady. At three years old, I was molested by my father. At fourteen, I was the victim of a statutory rape. I had a professor who propositioned me, a boyfriend who passed away, a stalker, and cancer—twice. A prince found my glass slipper, and I slipped into picture-perfect suburban life, until my husband was found unresponsive on the floor and we learned he has a severe heart condition. Then I had two miscarriages, followed by two babies with autism. Depression and anxiety run deep in my veins, as does body dysmorphia.

Pain. Lots of rotten, no good, painful pain.

Now for the rise.

At that same age of three, I told my mother about my sexual abuse and she acted. My father lost parental rights and I never saw him again. Victory.

At fourteen, following my rape, I found a flyer for a public speaking contest and entered without any preparation. Somehow, I won—then won again for the state of Florida—then went to the national competition where I used my platform to talk about how young women can have boundaries for their bodies. My greatest pain became my greatest purpose. Victory again.

And then, six months ago, I finally freed myself from fear. After years of hiding in plain sight—never telling anyone any of the above—I decided to make my private journal public.

The day my daughter was diagnosed with autism I opened a private Instagram account just for me. The very first post was a picture of me holding her. She’s smiling; I have dark circles under my eyes from crying so much. I remember while she napped, I buried my head into a pillow and screamed. After a life of chaos, I thought it was finally my time to coast. I didn’t understand why life had to be so heavy.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

I spent the next year and a half living a duplicitous online life. I would post the pretty on my public profile, then pour my gritty into my private account. But slowly concealing my cracks started to feel icky. It may seem easy to hide your truth, but it’s actually exhausting, and that’s because it’s acting—and acting is a job. It’s work. It’s a profession people get paid for.

But no one was giving me a cent to stay afraid. I was the one who convinced myself that if people knew my story, I could kiss my inner circle goodbye. I’d be judged and shamed. I’d lose friendships, my social standing, admiration.

But the only thing I was really losing was myself.

So finally, with a shaky and uncertain finger, I hit submit on that private Instagram account and made my story public.

The rise that resulted—pure acceptance for who I truly am—still feels surreal to me.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

So, what about the wait? It’s easy to overlook that step because when bad things happen, we’ve been told to get back up again. The quicker, the better. You fall, you rise. There’s no mention of the in-between, the wait.

But the wait is what healed me, because that is exactly where the work was done. The wait is where I decided to read that flyer on the wall, or use my voice to report abuse, or make a journal public in hopes it would connect me with my people.

This life is full of inevitable pain—waiting for a baby, a marriage to turn around, forgiveness to be given, a cure—at some point we’re all going to be asked to stand still. But the good news is, we get to decide what to do when life feels stagnant. We’re in control of the rise. So, don’t be afraid to stay down. Because if you rush that process, you’ll miss the progress.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

Jesus waited three days; it took me thirty-three years.

But here I am.

So, this season, as you crack open a Cadbury, just remember:

First the pain… then the waiting… then, when you’re ready… the rising.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website hereSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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