‘First Time I’ve Talked About This’: Oprah Winfrey Tearfully Reveals the Childhood Trauma That Still Haunts Her Today

Oprah Winfrey’s story is well known to her millions of fans, with whom she shares the ins and outs of her life every single day. However, the media mogul has a terrifying moment from her childhood that she has only just revealed.

Winfrey was a guest on the April 29 episode of “The Dr. Oz Show” and promoting her new book “What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing.” In the interview she revealed the experience and explained why it has led her to feeling unsafe while asleep.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 29: Media personality and activists Oprah Winfrey speaks during The Dignity of Women Conversation at The University of Johannesburg on November 29, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

“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 said. “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. I run out of the bed with her. It’s pitch black in the middle of the night in rural Mississippi,” she added. “And she goes out on the porch and she starts screaming ‘Henry, Henry.’ There is an old man who lived down the road that we call Cousin Henry, he was blind.”

As Winfrey became tearful, she clarified that it was the first time she had discussed the incident in public.

“Cousin Henry comes down the road in the middle of the night to help my grandmother get my grandfather up off the floor,” she continued. “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. I’m sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves.”

She also recounted violent abuse from her childhood, remembering a painful experience after she received a beating from her grandmother. “When I put on my clothes to go to church, one of the welts from my back opened up, and bled into the dress.”

A major part of Winfrey’s brand is in using experiences to help others heal, and her new book is another extension of that, a collaboration with neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry about trauma therapy, including PTSD and extreme stress.

“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 captioned a video on her Instagram page in which she is unboxing the book

Winfrey said she wants to show people that she is proof positive that a person’s trauma doesn’t have to shape who they are.

“Why don’t I have more problems? Why aren’t I stone crazy?” she asked in the clip. “It’s your relationships with people who cared about you, other than your family members, [that] changes the way you view yourself in the world.”

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