“No one gets to write their first chapter of life, but everyone can write their second.”
Thibodaux native Vera Holloway has turned this statement into a beautiful healing journey that has helped hundreds of local women, and now, she can reach many more with her book “Your Second Chapter.”
Vera is a licensed professional counselor who is certified in meditation and specializes in trauma. Having issues of abandonment herself, she turns to God and loved ones around her to hold her up, and she’s used her journey to help others. Not only did she feel abandoned by her biological father, but also by her adoptive father who left her walking down the aisle alone on her wedding day due to religious differences.
Her private practice had seen an influx of clients and Vera didn’t have enough time in the day to schedule and meet the needs of those on the other end of the phone. Vera describes herself as a people pleaser; that part of herself along with her big heart left her feeling like she had to accommodate the needs of the broken. She recognized that counseling is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to healing and many aspects go into the process. In her experience, she said one of the things that help struggling people is a sense of community, “Community and having a network of people that remind you you aren’t alone, or to say what can I do to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said passionately. She noticed the women in her life shared a core of similarities when it comes to healing and she wanted to find a way to help women in the community who were struggling with abandonment, abuse, neglect, trauma and hurt. This led to Beauty From Ashes.
The name Beauty From Ashes was based on Isaiah 61 in the Bible, “God will give us beauty from ashes, but we have to trade our ashes to get something beautiful,” she interpreted. Beauty From Ashes was a ten-week program that began at a friend of Vera’s church. The curriculum didn’t only teach how to communicate, how to heal from what happened to them, or teach how to walk through the fire to get to the other side; she said it was about connecting with other women so they can have support. She had no idea the program would explode the way it did, so she returned to her home church, and offered it to the ladies there. It eventually grew to them having to host two ten-week sessions per year and capped the attendance to one hundred. She started to travel to other areas and trained women as facilitators to be able to help others as well. Vera also had Facebook groups from the East and West coasts of the nation joining them each week. It took off unexpectedly and Vera was being spread thin.
A woman of boundaries, Vera’s main priority is her family and she said she will not overshadow family time with work. “My first ministry is my family,” she said, “There’s no more important job or greater responsibility than taking care of what God gave you first.” At the same time, she said the women going through the program and her clients were encouraging her to write a book about what she was teaching. At the time, she couldn’t add any more clients to her planner, she couldn’t add any more time to Beauty From Ashes, but her heart still ached for the people who didn’t have the resources to get counseling.
Seeing herself go from therapist to a writer was surreal for Vera because she said she’s a communicator, “How do I articulate what I want to tell a woman or someone struggling who’s not going to walk through my doors?” Another obstacle she found out about herself was fear from the level of vulnerability writing brings versus talking out loud. “It’s one thing to be behind closed doors…you are working with someone one-on-one and working through things, we’re able to be open with each other, it’s a different type of relationship,” she explained,” when you move onto the writing side of things, you put your words out there, now anyone can judge it. Anyone can critique it. It freaked me out.” In the book, she helps others heal from their stories by introducing her story of abandonment. The human in her struggled with writing her story simply because it stirred up some past emotions and she admitted she had to go to therapy herself during the writing process.
The book consists of two chapters: Chapter One: Identifying Stuck, and Chapter Two: Walking into Peace, Purpose, & Productivity. Just as life does, the chapters are broken down into phases that cause people to become stuck. Chapter One covers the phases of particular situations that we get stuck in whether it’s abandonment, abuse, mind traps, and so forth. The Second Chapter breaks down into phases of hope and healing such as making room, renewing your mind, healthy emotions, and so forth. The book isn’t only a metaphor to write your second chapter, it offers tools and journaling spaces to write out your journey.
In her letter to the reader at the beginning of the book, she talks about storms and how it correlates to human behavior. After Hurricane Ida passed, she said one of her first thoughts was “We are in the same storm, but not the same boat. So, let’s stop the comparison and start giving compassion.” The fact that storms are the same, we all feel it in some way, but we all process it differently resonated with her and she used it to explain how she has been through struggles but has come through the other side. Although she’s not in the same boat as readers, she extends her hand to welcome the hurt into their second chapters.
To read more about Vera, visit her website at veraholloway.com. Your Second Chapter can be purchased on Amazon.