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I’ve held on to grudges when I knew it was time to let go and struggled at times to cope with feelings of anger and the desire for revenge. I haven’t been a victim of an atrocious crime, but I’ve had ugly encounters with men who tried to take advantage of me. When I explored my family history and discovered I hadn’t been told the complete truth about my family’s escape from the Nazis, resentment hit hard. These are some of the reasons I was drawn to Doris Gray’s book, Leaving the shadow of pain: A cross-cultural exploration of truth, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing (Logos Verlag Berlin, 2020).

How does a victim of trauma forge a path to healing and survival? Who benefits the most from a victim’s decision to forgive? Does reconciliation necessarily lead to healing? These are some of the central questions at the heart of Doris Gray’s powerful and moving book. In weaving together her own traumatic experiences of loss and rape, the discovery of her father’s hidden past as a Holocaust survivor, and her research on Tunisian women who are victims of oppression and violence, Gray offers insights on how to confront the most deeply painful experiences a person can endure. She helps us see why forgiveness may be too heavy a burden for victims. If we choose not to forgive or reconcile with a perpetrator, the alternative need not be vengeance or everlasting enmity, she says. 

It is a false logic to believe that silence and with that a deceptive sense of harmony serves the larger good of a community or a state. It does not.

But it takes courage to leave the shadow of pain and it’s an individual choice how to do so. “To walk back out into the light is scary, and I believe we cannot do it alone,” says Gray. Her strong and courageous voice is a compelling guide for anyone seeking to come to terms with trauma, a guide that may help someone feel less alone on their path to healing. Her book also illustrates how our shared humanity connects us with the tragedies of others across cultural, historic and religious lines.