Finding Purpose In The Pain


Rev. Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust is a pillar in the Westbury community, serving as the director of North Shore Child/Family Guidance Center-The Leeds Place, as well as an ordained minister at Westbury Gospel Tabernacle. The strong, confident woman has come a long way, overcoming many obstacles, including a traumatic childhood marked by tragedy and emotional abuse.

However, Taylor-Walthrust wasn’t always the strong, confident leader she is today. Her childhood was marked by tragedy, emotional abuse and crippling low self-esteem, a story she outlines in her new memoir I Am My Mother’s Daughter—The Purpose, The Pain and The Shame.

Taylor-Walthrust was born in Oxford, NC in 1950. However, the usual joy and excitement that surrounds a baby’s birth was absent. Nellie__012016A“My mother was a victim of postpartum and maternal depression. Because of her depressed state, she desired to end my life,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “I was saved, but I grew up under that pretense all my life.”

As a toddler, Taylor-Walthrust was continually called an “unwanted child” by her mother. The sordid title followed her into her childhood and adolescent years, when Taylor-Walthrust and her siblings were sent to live with her maternal grandfather and step-grandmother following her mother’s death at the age of 34 due to kidney failure. Growing up in the North Carolina home of her step-grandmother, Taylor-Walthrust was daily immersed in an atmosphere of favoritism and emotional abuse.

“My grandmother treated me differently because of the way I was born into the world,” she said. “My sister had a lighter complexion and my grandmother favored her because of that.”

Being continually put down by her step-grandmother had a seriously damaging effect on her self-esteem and self-image.

“I accepted the fact that I was different or that there was no purpose. Maybe my mother was right and I didn’t deserve to be alive,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “I always felt like there was something wrong with me.”

Growing up in the 1950s South with strict parental rules, Taylor-Walthrust never returned her step-grandmother’s animosity or acted out in disrespect. She simply accepted what she was told as being true, and began to believe that she was worthless. Her step-grandmother’s attitude also propelled her to want to become the perfect child, and do whatever she could to try to win her love and affection.

“I felt like I didn’t have a place, but that didn’t destroy my desire to want that from her,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “I wanted to do anything I could to gain her love and affection. But you can’t expect a person to give something they don’t have.”

Her home environment made her a very quiet and shy youngster, lacking social skills and not knowing how to engage with other kids. But her godmother and teachers came to her rescue.

Nellie__012016B“I had great teachers who taught me how to interact with other kids, how to ask for what I wanted,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “I credit a lot of my strength and self-esteem and self-image as being validated by my school teachers and godmother. Those were the true foundations. They saw the difference of how I was treated at home and showed me unconditional love and encouraged me that I was special, and could be anything I set my mind to. Throughout the obstacles and challenges, I took that to heart.”

Her faith also helped her push through the hard times and gave her hope for the future.

“I always went to Sunday School and church and believed what I was taught, that God has a purpose for everybody,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “I always embraced that and kept hoping that I would be successful in life.”

Taylor-Walthrust’s step-grandmother passed away in 1968, shortly before Taylor-Walthrust became the first person in her family to graduate high school. And while her step-grandmother inflicted years of pain, Taylor-Walthrust said she has no animosity toward her.

“I wish she had been able to understand my need for love and affection and nurturing as a child,” she said. “I learned people have their own biases and prejudice, and I don’t believe she knew anything about child development or that how you treat a child will impact them and their growth and development.”

In the book, Taylor-Walthrust looks back on the trauma and problems her mother experienced, including losing her mom as a pre-teen, losing an infant daughter and a divorce. Taylor-Walthrust also recounts her own childhood, and how she overcame the obstacles in her life.

The book took Taylor-Walthrust three years to write, and it was a difficult and painful process as she had to recall traumatic memories from her childhood. But, she is thankful for the opportunity to share her story.

“Even now as I read a passage, it brings tears to my eyes. But I’m grateful because the book is authentic. There’s no filler or made up stories, it’s the way life unfolded for me,” she said. “This book was like a freedom for me. I no longer had to hide my story and my life is an open book.”

Taylor-Walthrust, a Hempstead resident, hopes the book will be a page-turner for readers and that they will take a look back on their own childhood experiences and walk away encouraged.

“I hope people know it doesn’t matter how you entered into the world, or whatever trauma you may have experienced, you don’t have to get stuck,” Taylor-Walthrust said. “Be whatever God has intended for you to be and always persevere. Press on through the pain and whatever negative things may have come your way because you can be a better person.”

I am My Mother’s Daughter—The Purpose, The Pain and The Shame, is now available on Amazon. Find out more at

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