Everyone has a backstory. Few of us have perfect lives devoid of personal or family secrets or trauma, which pop back in now and then to confuse and overwhelm us. The absolute truth, though, is that none of us need to define ourselves by our pasts.

My own life includes childhood trauma andIt sucked me into a black hole a first marriage that ended in the suicide of my spouse when he was 42 years old. I was 34 at the time, and it sucked me into a black hole from which I didn’t completely emerge for 10 years. During that time, I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began treatment.

In the ensuing years, G‑d gifted me with a loving man who married me and helped to re-establish my place in the world. He believed in my ability to heal and learn to live again without dragging the chains of my past into the future.

During that decade of despair, I spoke very little, unless it was to relive the horror of my spouse’s death. Even though I was in therapy, no one really explained to me that I could create a future not defined by my past. Over and over, I held on to tragedy, trying to make sense of my present inside the walls of my own making, unable to find a way out.

Allowing yourself to step into a new and healthy reality from a traumatic past is a bit like zip-lining: If you don’t jump off the platform with trust that on the other side of the dense foliage before you there is another platform, then you will never behold the wondrous sights in between.

Stepping out of your past isn’t easy. The past contains all your touchstones—childhood, school experiences, losses of friends and family members, changes in financial status and jobs—a host of defining moments. But they are moments that should be defined in your mind, catalogued and then allowed to become smiles or tears later, not always. Any single life event need not define you permanently and keep you from becoming a whole and healthy functioning adult.

I liken my movement forward in life to that of our forefather Abraham. G‑d told him to leave his past, his upbringing, the idolatry of his father’s home, and forge a new identity and future. The Jewish people are the outcome of his efforts.

Focusing on and living in the moment has been my saving grace. Of course, I still have bipolar disorder and I still carry the weight of yesterday. But I take my recommended medication, see the good in my current life and keep moving forward.

I am grateful for so much. I look with joy upon the children and grandchildren I have been given to cherish. I am glad for the ability to train my thoughts on gratitude for my present life, so I can appreciate every blessing. Judaism teaches us to make blessings throughout our day on every food we eat—to train us to develop this trait.

One of the ways in which I continue my own progression and well-being is to listen to and offer comfort to others mired in difficulties they cannot see past. We were created to help others and do kindnesses for them.

An enormous benefit is being well-enoughPain and healing is a process mentally and physically to have discovered my Jewish soul, and to be able to pursue learning to live a Jewish life. All the pain and healing is a process. Having G‑d as a guiding light has most certainly helped.

Thankfully, G‑d gives us choices and opens doors for us. He gives us the strength and the means to find a new path, and to forgive ourselves and others for their part in holding us back.

The word teshuvah doesn’t actually mean repentance. It mean to return to our true selves and our fullest potential. It took me a long time to reinvent myself as a happy, prospering person. I hope these words may encourage someone else to move forward, let the past drop away and grasp the beauty of the present.