Oprah Winfrey recently opened up about a traumatic story from her childhood – a terrifying experience that still affects her today. Speaking to Dr. Oz, Winfrey explained that she woke up one night to her grandfather strangling her grandmother.
And although they managed to get away, the memory of that night (and the protective measures they had to take afterwards) continues to impact her.
“My grandmother and I slept in the bed together. My grandfather was in a room on the other side of the wall and one night in the middle of the night, my grandfather gets out of bed and comes into the room,” she explained. “And I wake up and he has his hands around my grandmother’s neck and she is screaming.”
“She manages to push him off of her and step over him. He falls. She steps over him and runs to the front door,” Winfrey continued.
Winfrey quickly followed her grandmother out into the night as they searched for help. “I run out of the bed with her. It’s pitch black in the middle of the night in rural Mississippi,” she explained.
“And she goes out on the porch and she starts screaming ‘Henry, Henry,'” she said. “There is an old man who lived down the road that we call Cousin Henry, he was blind.” Fortunately, Henry came to their aid. “Cousin Henry comes down the road in the middle of the night to help my grandmother get my grandfather up off the floor.”
After that night, they took measures to keep themselves protected at night. “And after that my grandmother put a chair underneath the doorknob and some tin cans around the chair. And that is how we slept every night,” Oprah said.
She still sleeps with those cans in mind. “I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves,” she added.
Oprah’s story fits with her most recent book about trauma therapy, titled What Happened To You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, which she wrote alongside neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry.
She explained the purpose behind the book on Instagram, writing, “Most of us have experienced various levels of trauma that have informed how we operate and interact in the world, which is why Dr. Bruce Perry and I have been working on a book called #WhatHappenedToYou that will be available on April 27.”
“We hope that through these pages, we help people hold more empathy for themselves and others as we learn to shift from asking ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What happened to you?'” she wrote.