Later in my life, when I was a single mother, I bought a four-bedroom home for my sons and I to live in. I made sure my master bedroom had a walk-in closet big enough for me to stand or lay down in. When I didn’t know how I was going to make ends meet financially, or when my children’s father would disappoint them again, I took 15-minutes aside to kneel down in my closet and pray for guidance, scream or cry my eyes out until there was nothing left to purge.
Over time, I started to see my closet as a safe space I could process emotions that I thought to be toxic and ugly. I never wanted to be a burden on anyone. Even in my darkest days of surviving horrific abuse, I would sit in my closet, in the dark, to handle living in fear rather than reach out to someone to ask for help.
Despite my claustrophobia, whenever I sat in a small enclosed closet I felt protected. I felt taken care of. I looked at it as my support team and I would purge the feelings I couldn’t stand to harbor anymore. The closet was the only place I could really purge and find release in.Throughout my life, the various bedroom closets I’ve owned have been my hideaway to survive abuse, support my son through cancer, recreate myself after a divorce and thrive as a single mother.Gratefully, my closets helped me reach a point in my own development where there was nothing left to purge. I processed the fear and anger from old love. I came to peace with the circumstance of being a mother to a son in the fight of his life against a disease. I found strength to grow into a woman of joy and hope for me and my children.At some point, after my son’s cancer went into remission, I noticed that my hideaway turned into a sanctuary. I was still single and searching for answers for how my little family would get from point A to point B, but I felt calmer and could hear my thoughts easier. When I would turn to my closet I didn’t need to cry and scream and release. Instead I craved guidance and clarity.

It was with that new found clarity that I made three commitments to myself within my sanctuary that have served me well over the years.

  1. I refused to speak negatively about my children’s father in front of them.
  2. I promised myself that I would always provide for my children no matter what it cost me.
  3. My sons would know me as a pillar of strength.

Even though I no longer need the comfort of a closet to find guidance or clarity as I continue to grow into a woman of greater joy and substance, I am grateful for what I’ve both lost and gained over the years. Both purging and prayer have been great friends of mine. And I found them both within the small confines of a closet.


Holly Dowling is a dynamic, Global Keynote Speaker & Inspirational Thought Leader passionate about the privilege of leading others. As an expert in strengths-based leadership, change management, and corporate women’s empowerment, Holly designs & delivers customized keynotes and programs for Fortune 500 companies. You can find Holly at

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