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The Healing Process

Overview

During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abusive ex-partner through the break up, or you may want show them how you’re better off without them. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.

Try different methods to avoid contacting your ex-partner, for instance delete their phone number and change yours. If you’re picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk away or if you just want to talk to someone call us at Rehouse to Rehome instead, we’ve always here to listen to absolutely anything you want to talk about.

Resist the urge to look your abusive ex up on social media, unfriend them or better still… block them!

If pictures, news feeds and status’s keep popping up on screens it could be really helpful to remove any mutual friends you both had. Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your abusive ex but don’t send it. If you’re having counselling sessions to help you heal show the letter to your counsellor and allow them to read it.

After reading your letter your counsellor will have lots of healthy tips with great advice and suggestions, all beneficial to your healing process and these tips will make you feel good too!

Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened was not your fault. Find things that make you happy, and do the things that make you feel good. You don’t just wake up one morning and fall in love with yourself. It takes time, it takes patience but more than that it takes compassion, empathy and kindness from yourself towards your own heart.

Forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made or for the chances you didn’t take. Just like all other forms of love, you will fall in love with yourself and your new life by practicing self-love.

Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun.
Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people and make new friends.

If you have children, find ways to make family time fun and enjoy these moments.
Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic abuse organisations provide childcare while you’re attending support classes and groups.

No matter how big or small make sure you praise yourself for accomplishments, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and what you say about yourself can help shift negative any thoughts.

The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.

Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them.

Remember to remind yourself of everything you’ve been able to overcome. All the times you felt like you wasn’t going to make it through, you proved yourself wrong.

You’re more powerful than you thought.

The Details

Seven Steps of Healing from Domestic Violence

The first time Nancy came into counseling she had a hard time looking at her therapist. Embarrassed and ashamed of the bruises on her body, the mental torture from her spouse, and sexual acts he coerced her into doing, she struggled to talk. She believed that she deserved to be treated this way and her actions were causing his rage. Nancy minimized his acts by making excuses for his abusive behavior and blaming herself.

It took a while for Nancy to summon the courage leave her husband. Once she did, she thought that all of her problems would be over and she would be healed. However, what she thought was the finish of a race, was really just the beginning. It took her over a year to recover from her trauma and get to a place of feeling at peace. Heres how she did it.
  1. Safety first. The healing process begins when the victim of abuse is finally away from their abuser. Unfortunately this step can take months or even years of planning and preparation before it can become a reality. Safety means the victim is physically away from their attacker and can sleep without fear. After Nancy left, she had a hard time believing she was safe and needed the reassurance of others literally saying, You are safe, over and over until it began to feel real.
  2. Stabilise environment. The temptation of therapists is to dive into the healing process after a victim is deemed safe. But doing this before the stabilisation of a new environment can re-traumatise. Rather, the victim needs a period of rest to adjust to a new normal before the therapeutic work begins. The length of this necessary step is dictated solely by the victim and the amount of abuse endured. It took several months before Nancy felt like she could breathe again as the confused fog of abuse lifted.
  3. Support unconditionally. Between her therapist and two close friends, Nancy felt loved unconditionally even when she talked about how much she missed her abusive husband. It was as if Nancy was forgetting the trauma and only remembering the good times they shared. One of her family members became so frustrated with Nancys sadness that they yelled at her and pulled away. This was so painful for Nancy but the continued support of her two friends more than made up for the lack of family support.
  4. Share experiences. One of the most helpful steps to recovery from abuse is to find a support group with other victims of abuse. This shared common experience allows a person to realise that they are not alone in their abusive encounters. Abuse is very isolating, personal, degrading, humiliating, and shameful. Knowing that other intelligent, beautiful, talented, and kind people have been abused is both saddening and relieving. Nancys support group gave her additional people that she could lean on who understood from their own experience what she was going through.
  5. Settle incidents. This is often the most difficult step from an awareness perspective. As the obvious abuse is recounted, new obscure abuse comes to light. Most victims dont even realise the extent of their abuse until they reach this step. When they do, it can be overwhelming and will likely restart the grieving process all over again. As Nancy examined each major traumatic incident, other types of abuse surfaced. She came to see that she was also mentally, verbally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and sexually abused in addition to her physical abuse. Processing this information was hard at first, but it put a nail in the coffin of her abusive relationship for good. There was no turning back now for Nancy.
  6. Stitch wounds. In order to stich the wounds of Nancys abuse, she needed to rewrite her internal dialog of what happened. In the past, she would minimise his contribution to an incident and take excessive responsibility for his behavior. When she stopped doing this and instead held him responsible for his actions, things changed. Nancy no longer believed that she was worthless or deserving of his abusive treatment. As time progressed, she began to take pride in her scars as evidence of her strength, determination, fortitude, and perseverance.
  7. Set standards. The final step towards Nancys healing was to set new standards for how she expected to be treated. These became the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. Anytime a person would violate one of her limitations, she would confront them. If they demonstrated respect by their actions and not words, Nancy would remain in the relationship. If they did not, she ended things. These new standards helped to reduce her fear that she would reenter into another abusive relationship.

It is important to note that abuse can happen to anyone in any relationship. While this article highlights Nancys experience of abuse from her husband, a man can also be the victim of abuse from his wife. Partner relationships, parent/child relationships, and friendships can be abusive as well. It is not the nature of the relationship or the sensitivity of the victim that determines abusiveness; rather it is the actions of the abuser.

Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board               Written by Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC on November 17- 2017

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