Rhonna Del Rio She's a mother, painter, designer, believer, and yogi. This is her story on and off the yoga mat of how she pushed through the impossibilities of her story and found forgiveness against all odds.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello my name is Rhonna del Rio. I love life to the fullest. I am a proud mother to my daughter and my faith in God goes deeper daily. I am a landscape and architecture designer, a painter, and a Feng Shui Master. I can be a serious, hopeless philosopher or a fun and silly mother, friend or family member. I became a survivor when I was 10 years old and it wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I overcame this trauma. Overcoming what happened to me has given me the resiliency and stamina to withstand a lot of the challenges in my personal life and work that came later.
I was able to finally let go of my trauma at a yoga retreat in 2011. It felt like it happened in an instant but in reality it took me a lifetime to get to that point on the yoga mat. I picked up yoga after becoming a mother and I knew something was different about my goals and purpose in life. I never thought it would be possible to forgive my perpetrator. Ever. EVER. I would cringe at the thought of forgiving my abuser, but I persisted with faith as my strength. But I heard other survivor stories over the years and this voice inside me nudged me to just believe it was possible together. On November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) the emotional load from the trauma was “lifted off” of me during yoga.. That was the day I felt God’s presence in a way that I have never felt before. The overwhelming emotional weight from the sexual trauma was lifted in almost what felt like a miraculous instant moment! I never thought this was possible, and just like that, I let the trauma go and forgave my perpetrator. I am FREE! And my art and passion to bring healing through paintings was born out of this powerful time.
What was life like before trauma? I saw the world with a child’s eyes. Everything and everyday was new. There was no looking back, there was only looking forward. I definitely was more carefree. I didn’t worry as much at all and I didn’t second guess asking for help.
What has life been like after trauma? My trauma happened at a time when I was living away from my immediate family. That in itself was a challenging, shattering time in my childhood. I kept the abuse to myself. I didn’t how to even talk about it. At that age I didn’t even have the vocabulary to speak about it. There’s was instant false belief, fear, and self-blame that took over and I felt I had to keep quiet. So I went about life like it never happened. Looking back now I realize that all unhealthy decisions I made in my life, big or small, were influenced by this trauma. Fear of abandonment and lack of self-worth were big players in my life after trauma.
How would you describe your healing?
Healing wasn't straight as an arrow, and through the years I’ve taken many complete U-turns! As a child I don’t know that any healing happened at all. There was a lot of subconscious hiding of the memories in the corners of my mind. I changed the subject each time that period and chapter in my life was brought up. As a teenager, I finally had the courage to tell a best friend that I trusted, but as a young adult I pushed it aside again. When I was married I shared it with my then-husband and it helped me to bring it into the open in our marriage. As a single mom today and as someone who has forgiven her perpetrator, I’m inspired daily by my daughter and I feel very empowered to help other women, survivor sisters arrive at their own healing. I know my art brings a lot of healing to women too, and it means a lot to me that my art has a special place in homes, yoga studios and other healing spaces around the world. Places where women come in looking for similar answers as I was looking for that day I got healed on the mat.
Where are you at in your healing journey? I’m at a point where I feel called to help others heal because I know the path my survivor sisters will take is similar to mine and I know how to hold space for their healing journey.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in your recovery? SELF-WORTH! Feeling, knowing, and believing that I am enough is a feeling that has absolutely empowered me to empower other women to step to their own unique healing.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in your self-love? Realizing that God loves me back and being able to wake up every day knowing I can choose to be the difference in someone’s day. Knowing that I matter and that my story can inspire other survivors means a lot to me.
What does “completely healed” look like to you?
I’m not sure if we can truly be “completely healed” but I believe and know I have been absolutely better at handling the memories of the trauma without allowing it to trigger me into reactions and decisions that are unhealthy. Today, the memories no longer have power and grasp over my life. I can talk about it to others in a way that empowers healing, without feeling a burden in my heart.
Does forgiveness play a part in your story? YES!!! The key to healing to say the least.
Who have you had to forgive? My perpetrator.
I remember during the yoga retreat when I instantly felt the burden of trauma lifted off of me, I was in a certain intense pose on my yoga mat where I placed my hands in prayer on my forehead. I closed my eyes and without intending to I was taken to the time and place of the trauma, only this time God showed me how He’s always been there with me and that I was never truly alone. I came out of the yoga pose in tears and with new found GRATITUDE for God! That small glimpse of thankfulness filled my heart and soul with a deep sense of cleansing and I wanted more of it! I was so eager to make room for the feeling of healing in my life after that experience that that’s what led me to FORGIVING the person who did harm to me. It suddenly had become easy. I could feel how much space unforgiveness was taking up in my body and mind, but especially in my heart and I also know without a doubt that it was in letting it go and forgiving that more gratitude started to enter my life. Once you’ve had a taste of gratitude, pure gratitude, it’s like tasting the holy grail of love and peace and compassion and you just want to keep propelling in life, inspired to help others, knowing that if this was possible for me it’s possible for them too.
What advice would you give a survivor going through trauma right now? When it feels Impossible to even say the name of your perpetrator, when it feels impossible to imagine a day that you can be free of this heaviness caused by trauma, when it feels absolutely unimaginable to think that you can forgive such an act without getting that churning, nauseating feeling in your stomach and every fiber of your body, KEEP BELIEVING TOTAL HEALING IS POSSIBLE!! BELIEVE ALWAYS! BELIEVE ANYWAYS!!! BELIEVE that the day will come like it did for me. Believe that you will get there! Pray everyday that you can forgive because the authority in your life over your destiny is way, WAY bigger than the hate / anger / disgust and many other things you might be feeling.
What would you like other people to know about your story? I'd like people to know that my story is just one of many that can help my sisters feel less alone, and that if me and my other survivor sisters can heal, so can you!!
KEEP BELIEVING that you will be HEALED!!
Rhonna's art for healing, called "Community of the Breath"
Love language: Compassion
Self-care routine: Painting, Pray, Yoga, Gratitude
Self-love splurge: I love splurging on savings or trying out ways to promote my art! lol
Best compliment you get: I feel safe to be with.
Most said prayer: Thank you God.
A dream in your heart: Yoga and Art Journey/ @artforhealing to be commissioned and invited to share its story around the world to all healing spaces.
Idea of the perfect day: In nature with my daughter talking about all the beautiful blessings we have.
Time or place you feel the most safe: While praying anywhere, and when with my daughter/family and best friends.
Favorite quote: "The most important and beautiful gift one human being can give to another is, in some way, to make life a little better to live." ~ Ellen Browning Scripps
Secret wish: It wouldn't be a secret anymore if I shared. :)