Medicine for the Soul: How giving can heal the broken pieces of a survivor’s heart

By Dana Rutherford

For a survivor of domestic violence, the word “giving” can bring back memories of distorted views from years past. Giving often meant of themselves but not in a healthy way. In these cases, victims repeatedly give of their bodies, emotions, mental states, money, etc., completely neglecting themselves all to appease a human being who never had their best interests at heart, to begin with. It can feel exhausting to think about giving one more ounce of yourself because it simply feels like there’s not one left to give.

Your gift of giving as a survivor of domestic violence isn’t just beneficial to many, but it’s also healing to a wounded heart that deserves to be mended.

Many have heard the statement that one of life’s greatest joys is giving to others. It feels good to have a hand in people receiving a blessing, especially when they are grateful and appreciative. Healthy giving is a stark contrast to unhealthy giving. One is beneficial to everyone involved while the other only profits the selfish needs of the person on the receiving end who is far from thankful. Martyring and giving are two very different things. 

So, how can we give healthily as survivors?

For one, we can give our story. As Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence states in its name, speaking about the things that we have endured can save lives. It may be uncomfortable and take some time, but eventually, giving this world your story is a gift. It bursts through the barriers of what many societies, religions, families, and abusers would love nothing more than to see lie dormant and never be mentioned. The moment you open your mouth you are exuding power, and as a survivor, it feels incredible to take that back after feeling helpless and without it for so long. Numerous people have yet to find their own voice and will be inspired by yours, so think of it as one of the greatest gifts you will ever present to this world.

We can also give our time. Find something or someone who is in need, and simply be there. Maybe it’s a single mom who needs a break and could use a babysitter for a few hours, or maybe it’s an organization that could use a volunteer. It may even be another survivor who needs a shoulder to cry on. Whatever the case, your presence is valuable. Look at it as such and find what is worthy of it. Survivors again have spent so much time on people who didn’t see their value, and it’s critical to expend your energy elsewhere.

Lastly, we can give of our resources. It’s not about a certain amount. Some have more to give than others. Again, it’s about finding something or someone who stands out to you as in need of help. It can be as broad as finding a charity or nonprofit organization to give to, or it can be more personal in helping a friend pay a bill. Many love to give presents to children for the holidays. BTSADV has a wonderful campaign called Holidays of Hope that helps families in domestic violence situations receive gifts for the season. That is just one example of numerous foundations and events that are close to the hearts of survivors. If money is tight, bake some cookies for that person who may be struggling. The possibilities are endless in terms of giving!

What it all comes down to is that many have given to us along our own journeys, especially in the moments of getting out of abuse. It is such a full-circle moment to return the favor to someone else and pay it forward. It’s never out of obligation. What someone did to bless you shouldn’t guilt you into giving back, but instead, it should inspire you. With that inspiration brings unexpected healing to those pieces of the heart that may still be broken.

Giving truly is medicine for the soul.