When Abuse Hides Behind Love

abuse hides behind love

I am afraid to tell you my story. Afraid because in my story, I am a victim, and I have never seen myself as a victim. Afraid because – even in the thick of it – I didn’t see the abuse, and I’m afraid you won’t either. The abuse hides. Afraid because I will have to relive the pain, the fear, the emptiness. I will have to see those parts of myself that I have tried to forget and hide and bury. And I am afraid of crying when I tell my story because I’m not sure if I will be able to stop the tears from falling.

Hides in Love

The abuse was cloaked in love and longing. In logic and rationality. In silence and distance. I spent so many years normalizing and excusing the abuse. Even now, I find it difficult to call it abuse. His love hid the abuse – and he had no idea.

We met at a Christmas party when I was 19 years old. Our eyes met across a crowded room, and a passionate long-distance romance began. We wrote letters to one another on carefully chosen stationery. I spent hours crafting my thoughts into words in the hope that they would make him love me. We moved in together when I was 22, and so began the first signs of control. We discussed our finances, and he expressed the need for all of my income to cover our living expenses. I agreed and only later realized that this left me with no financial autonomy. When I over-spent, I don’t remember there being angry words or shouting—just the shame of his disapproval and disappointment.

This was to be the pattern for the next 18 years of my life: subtle and insidious control slowly eroding my sense of self and my place in the world.

Hides Within Family Pain

My greatest sadness lies in my family’s pain in watching my story unfold and knowing that they were powerless to intervene. Early on, they had tried to tell me that this man was not right for me and that there was trouble ahead. He himself had told me when I first met him that he was “not nice.” My family warned me, one of his friends warned me, and even he warned me… But I felt loved and in love. I couldn’t reconcile the warnings with my reality. 

The years that followed brought us both successful careers, amazing travel adventures, and upper-middle-class wealth material trappings. I had come to accept that my husband didn’t wish to spend any time with my family and didn’t like most of my friends. I let his feelings guide my own actions in distancing myself from those who loved and cared about me.

His Loss of Power

We had never planned to have children, but as I approached 30, I longed to start a family. We talked about trying to have a baby and agreed that it was something we both wanted. But it quickly became obvious that I suffered from subfertility, and we were advised to commence IVF treatment. My husband understandably felt like an observer most of the time, powerless to influence any outcomes and bewildered by the many unsuccessful cycles. One night, we discussed what to do if we didn’t fall pregnant the next time around. I suggested donor eggs or adoption. He adamantly refused to accept a non-biological child. At that point, I realized for the first time that we were two very different people. But all of our differences were quickly forgotten when we fell pregnant the very next cycle.

The pregnancy was high-risk and downright hard on my small 5-foot frame. But nothing phased me. I was ecstatic to be pregnant finally and took it all in stride: the constant sickness, gestational diabetes, and the “house arrest” from 20 weeks onward. I think all of this likely made my husband feel powerless and afraid. Outwardly, he seemed calm and supportive, but he could also be very distant and even mean. 

Hiding Behind Parental Struggles

Caring for babies is hard. My husband and I struggled as new parents and struggled as a couple.

I returned to work, and life moved forward. My husband became increasingly stressed. There were financial pressures. He was drinking more. We didn’t talk much, and if I tried to discuss my concerns, he would shut the conversation down. He would only touch me in the context of sexual intimacy. We were both becoming increasingly socially isolated.

At this point, my mother had entered into a wonderful new romance and was getting married. My sister was flying her family over from Europe for the wedding, and my brother was flying his family over from Australia. We hadn’t seen each other for several years and knew that it would be several more before we all met up again. With this in mind, my husband agreed reluctantly that we could attend the wedding.

Isolation

But my husband did not want to see my family before the wedding, and I didn’t have any energy to try to do so without him. Following the wedding, my husband agreed to visit my mother’s house, which didn’t have any child safety measures. My husband and I were racing around trying to prevent any toddler accidents when he suddenly yelled that he’d had enough, picked up the twins, and said that he was leaving. I pleaded with him to stay – this was the only opportunity I had to spend time with my family. I also knew that if I stayed against his wishes, he would see me as disloyal, and a period of emotional distancing and silence would follow. I was too exhausted to protest and stay.

I will never forget my entire family begging us to stay and then standing on the driveway crying as we pulled away. I, too, cried silently as I waved them goodbye, knowing that I would not see them again for years.

Reflection

I recently asked my siblings for their recollection of events because I still don’t trust my own memory of what happened. And when I imagine looking at my story from the outside, like you are now, it doesn’t seem that bad. It doesn’t seem dramatic or damaging. But every one of these small, hurtful daggers added up to almost two decades of being slowly hollowed out, of losing myself.

I have since asked myself, “how did I actually let that happen?” I have looked inward and tried to uncover the psychological flaws in myself that could have led to this abuse. I have also wondered what motivated my abuser – he didn’t know then and doesn’t know now that he was abusing me.

Jess Hill, in her polarizing book, See What He Made Me Do, explains the complexities of being in the shoes of both the victim and the abuser. She highlights that the issues are societal and individual; the solutions demand individualized treatment through community-led, collaborative programs. 

By the time I turned 37, I understood why some people choose to disappear from their current lives – leaving their family, friends, and familiar surroundings. Not that I myself was going to disappear, I felt deep despair at losing myself. I knew that I had somehow lost my truth, my way, my light.

Saving Myself

When I was 39, my husband chose to take a 12-month overseas work posting on his own. As a result, I was suddenly set free and reveled in my newfound freedom. Over the course of that year, I reconnected with friends, family, and myself.  I realized that every decision I had made up to that point in time was my own. There were outside influences, but ultimately no one could save me but me. I was going to have to save myself. And so, I did. By the time my husband returned, I had decided to leave our marriage.

Thankfully, after the break-up, I continued to work full time and quickly established my financial independence. There was no requirement for child support payments, and I found myself free of my ex-husband’s financial control. I give thanks every day for this. I am deeply aware that this is not the case for many victims and that financial autonomy can remain an ongoing source of trauma.

But my ex-husband’s pattern of emotional distancing, silence, and control continued despite the divorce. He hasn’t spoken a single word to me in 8 years, even though we have 50:50 shared custody of our children. Without any in-person dialogue, we initially agreed to communicate by email. Predictably, my emails would frequently go unanswered, and I often found myself pleading for replies. After a while, I gave up begging and waiting for responses. 

Seeing the Control

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we had begun a system of “parallel parenting.” Parallel parenting allows parents to take charge of parenting decisions while the children are under that parent’s care without the need for the other parent’s approval. It is often the chosen parenting method for high conflict ex-partners.

Withholding of information has been my ex-husband’s dominant strategy of control over the past 8 years. Luckily, now that the twins are teenagers, they can message or call me with any important updates. We have also moved from email to a parenting app called “Talking Parents,” which has facilitated much better communication when needed. 

My ex-husband remarried several years after our divorce and now has another child. He enjoys great success professionally, and I find that I am still immensely proud of him and all that he’s achieved. I truly hope that he is happy and doesn’t repeat the abuse pattern in his new relationship.

My New Story

I have now written a new story: one based on love, kindness, generosity, joy, and the simplicity of being. I give thanks every day for my two beautiful children, an amazing family, wonderful friends, and work that I love. In just over two years, my children will turn 18, and there will no longer be any need for regular communication with my abuser.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones and that for many other victims, there can be no such happy ending. Many will tragically die, and many will be irreparably damaged; as Gloria Stein points out, in many societies, “most women are one man away from welfare.” My greatest wish is that our children will not have to continue the fight against domestic abuse. That with this war fought and won, they themselves will never have to go into battle.

Victims and Survivors Talk About Money: Financial Education Against Domestic Violence

talk about money

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely challenging. More and more online and nationwide in-person programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse. However, as the adage goes, knowledge is power! Let’s talk about money and begin your financial education journey today.  

What does financial abuse look like?

Financial abuse is a red flag that can escalate to other types of violence, such as physical abuse, between partners.

The abuser will attempt to and perhaps succeed in controlling and/or stealing their partner’s finances and information. They can also stalk them at their workplace or prevent them from having a job. Victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable after leaving their abuser. Escaping is a financial burden in and of itself; it may mean single parenthood or difficulties finding a stable home and job. Victims may lack the financial knowledge to (re)gain control over their economic situation.

According to Judy Postmus, director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, when explaining why it can be challenging to leave abusers, survivors complain about their lack of access to financial resources and knowledge of money management. Undoubtedly, survivors of domestic violence have unique financial needs. For example, they may require information on how to separate joint accounts, improve credit scores that their abuser damaged, budget as a single parent, and draft financial safety plans.

Financial empowerment refers to, among other aspects, employment, budgeting, housing, debt, and assets, but here, when talking about financial empowerment, we’ll focus on three things – knowledge, personal savings, and separate credit – as well as how victims and survivors can use these to their benefit.

Talk About Money Knowledge

The first step for both victims trying to escape their abuser and survivors of domestic violence is to build strong financial and money management knowledge and confidence. Knowledge is power! Fortunately, there is a growing list of financial literacy resources available online tailored to victims and survivors. Here are some you may find helpful:

The next steps include listing out all your IDs, debit and credit cards, birth certificates, personal accounts, assets, and debts, which may require a lot of research and digging if your abuser has hidden these documents and information from you. Make a note of what financial resources and documentation you have and don’t have. Ask yourself: Is the abuser keeping the documents and financial resources you’re lacking? Is there a way you can get them back, cancelled, or re-issued? If you’ve never held these documents and financial instruments, what’s stopping your access? Is this something you can get around or get help with?

Keeping Your Personal Info Safe

Remember to keep all your IDs and your Social Security number, and any other personal information safe. Avoid sharing any personal details and passwords with others unless required. It may be a good idea not to store passwords on your computer or phone. These steps will ensure your identity is protected and that the abuser cannot steal it.

As a safeguard, be wary of any requests for your personal information and passwords over text or e-mail, especially soon after you leave your abuser, even if they appear to be coming from your bank or any legal authorities.

Separate Savings

If possible, always keep some savings under your name, perhaps by regularly putting some of your paychecks into a separate account or under a close friend’s name and address, to keep it hidden from your abuser. Victims leaving an abusive relationship should try to take at least half of the money from all the accounts they own jointly with their abuser. Keep in mind that abusers may attempt to drain jointly owned accounts after their victims leave.

Check out Domesticshelters.org, an online searchable database of domestic violence shelters around the country, which can assist with housing after abuse.

Separate Credit

If possible, have your credit card and (bank) accounts to ensure you can build a credit history in your name and that you are not left with a bad credit score or unmanageable amounts of debt after escaping your abuser.

Final Thoughts

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely draining and challenging. Financial concerns can also keep victims in abusive relationships and postpone their escape. More and more online and nationwide in-person resources and programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse, however. There is a lot of power and hope in knowledge. Click on some of the links referenced here to further or begin your financial education journey and reap the benefits.  

A Pastor’s Daughter: Road to Recovery & Forgiveness

pastor's daughter

Pastor’s Daughter

Having been raised as a pastor’s daughter with little hope or help in my brokenness, I know the lack of response on the part of churches when abuse strikes families of faith. My dad was a pastor and missionary with the first denomination to recognize the need for victims to be heard and helped. In 1997, the denomination faced tragic abuse allegations at the denomination’s academy in West Africa during the 1950s – 1970s. A committee on discipline & restoration was set up in 1998 to help many survivors who were tragically abused at that boarding school as children as their parents were doing missionary work.

As a pastor’s daughter, I never thought I had a story until I began a relationship with an imprisoned heroin addict. He and I had a link: dangerous sexual abuse as I began to write him. Over eight years, I was emotionally codependent with this hardened criminal as we brought him in & out of prison and our home. Early on in our marriage, severe PTSD and infertility following decades of trauma led to our eldest son’s adoption. But pornography and infidelities rocked my marriage to the core. Many years later, I realized my husband’s sexual addictions and deep anger towards me resulted from his not having dealt with his father’s suicide.

I knew nothing about his world but was willing to help him get into detox and drug treatment programs. I thought that I could help him, but I learned that I was the one who needed rescuing. Because of my faith, I am a caretaker with deep empathy, but I had to learn who I was and what happened to me so these strengths could become my purpose in helping other survivors. My long road to recovery from childhood incest from ages 2-8 and clergy sexual assault from ages 11-12 took decades. Along this road, I found my passion and purpose.

Road to Recovery

In 1998 after watching a show on confronting family secrets with my elderly mother, I realized that secrets destroy your soul and ability to live free. I gained courage and Pandora’s box opened as I wept and told my mother what her father did to me as a very little girl – only to learn that she too had been violated.

The following summer, I finally found my God-given passion and purpose after going back to the camp where I was violated by a clergy member. The house of cards began to fall as triggers surfaced and I saw one of my childhood friends. I discovered that she too had experienced sexual assault by the same pastor as I had. We both wrote letters to the denomination’s headquarters and reported what happened to us. The committee on discipline & restoration, with several pastors and well-known psychologists, led four of us adult survivors forward to face the elderly youth pastor for what he did to us in the 1950s. He was in complete denial when I confronted him and chose to forgive him. He was charged with six counts against myself and the other women, having caused severe PTSD. Just seven weeks later, I received a phone call and was shocked to learn that he fell down the stairs, broke his back, and passed away.

My Purpose

It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but necessary to my restoration, closure, and healing. My story has received international attention. A film crew flew to my mission compound during my humanitarian aid work in the Philippines and made a short YouTube movie about my life. I now co-host the NAASCA Stop Child Abuse NOW Talk Show.

An Open Letter to Grief

to grief

To Grief,

We’ve grown close over the last couple of years. I wouldn’t consider you a friend. But, instead, an acquaintance I’ve gotten used to being around. Perhaps, even a teacher– the kind of teacher that’s hard to deal with but earns respect. 

We met on a beautiful fall day– a day I would give anything just to be a typical day again and not a new, significant date on my calendar. 

At first, you felt bottomless– a dark, cold pit that no ladder was long enough for, no light was bright enough for. 

To be honest, I’m not sure I would have even wanted a ladder or a light. Leaving that dark, lonely place meant I had to face a world that my loved one was no longer a part of. I’d have to meet people who never even knew them. And people who don’t understand you, Grief. 

Life suddenly felt too long. There were too many days to “get through.” Too many days, I’d have to experience the gut-wrenching, breath-taking pain of you, Grief.

I remember forcing myself to go to sleep at all hours of the day/night in hopes that I would wake up and everything would be a dream. Before I laid down, I would beg whoever I deemed was a higher power to bring my loved one back. 

I would do anything, I thought, if that “higher power” could just grant me this one wish. But I soon learned that you, Grief, are just as unconditional as the love I had for the person I lost.

As the days went on, it felt like I was in a parallel universe. How could everyone be going on with their lives– listening to music, binge-watching their favorite TV shows, eating delicious food? I could no longer find any joy in the simple things because I spent all but minutes with you, Grief.

Overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and dread, I was no longer excited for the future and couldn’t find the slightest joy in the present. I looked to the past because that’s where my loved one lingered– if I could just lie in my bed in my room and not move, maybe I wouldn’t have to continue in a world without my best friend. 

I was afraid to do anything that could bring up memories of my loss. I turned off the radio in fear of a song coming on that I once listened to with the person I lost. I stopped seeing people in anticipation of having to talk about my loved one. I felt anger when I watched movies that had a happy ending because they reminded me of how unfair my loved one’s ending was.

I was jealous of all the people who didn’t know what it felt like to know you, Grief. 

You affected every nerve and bone in my body. You made me physically sick– headaches, zero appetite, no energy, hair loss, and a dense, mental fog were just some of your side effects. 

But worst of all, you consumed my mind. Memories of my loved one never left my head, and, at the time, those memories were painful. They reminded me of what I no longer had and made me feel hopeless about my life. 

You made beautiful days less beautiful, laughing feel like a betrayal, and smiling feel unnatural. 

But, as bottomless as you felt, I’ve started to build my ladder and create my light. 

I started to build my ladder because you left me no other option. You weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I had to make a choice– I could let your darkness swallow me whole, or I could choose to adapt and grow. 

So, I made a choice. To take control of my bereaved mind, I convinced myself to take steps towards healing. 

I am a strategic person who prefers to think logically and concretely, so that was how I eased into my journey through grief. I knew I found solace in the world of ideas and knowledge, so I began journaling by writing down my favorite memories of my loved one. 

Using an intellectual journey to control my emotional one, I began to understand how I was feeling. Drawing from those feelings, I wrote what I was learning through the process– forgiveness, the fragility of life, and the importance of intentional living. From there, I was able to find books, poems, and podcasts that were relatable and made me feel less alone. At the very least, these concrete steps, although small and simple, made me feel like I was back in control of you, Grief.

Of course, my relationship with you hasn’t been a linear one. It hasn’t been as simple as a few therapeutic journal sessions. Each day, I have to actively choose to be mentally stronger than you. 

There have been ups and downs, and sometimes you hit me at the most inconspicuous times– a smell of my loved one’s perfume, the change of seasons, my happiest moments. 

But, as time passes, I’m starting to see the lighter side of you, Grief– the things you are teaching me about myself. Burned down and reborn, I’m noticing differences. I’m beginning to see things through a new lens.

Before you, I was very reliant on following an expected path. I had my life planned out down to what time I drank tea each evening. I had more than a five-year plan. I felt invincible. Life was taken for granted. 

After you, I was forced to reconsider everything. The person I imagined my life with was gone. I had no choice but to embrace change, step out of my comfort zone, and do things that would scare me. I have become an expert at making the best out of not-so-good situations. 

Before you, I would get upset over simple things, like doing poorly in a sporting event or being rejected for a job. 

After you, I am more aware of the kind of things that deserve mental distress. I no longer “sweat the small stuff.” After all, I have experience with emotional and intellectual resilience because of you, Grief. 

While I will never agree with the statement, “Everything happens for a reason,” because nothing could ever feel justified in loss, you have helped me look for the light in the dark. 

I was forced into grief, survived through coping mechanisms, and experienced the most unwelcome Post Traumatic Growth. 

From you, Grief, I have gained tremendous mental resilience and have begun to embrace and learn from change. I am becoming more self-aware. I have a newfound comfort in knowing that I can go through challenging situations, frame them in the best possible light, and come out even stronger. 

Grief, you destroyed me but also helped to clarify who I am.

Sincerely,

Someone, anyone, who has met Grief

Investing in Yourself After Leaving an Abusive Relationship

investing in yourself

After leaving a violent or abusive relationship, focusing on yourself can be a hard adjustment. You’ve spent so much of your time and energy focused on your partner’s mood, and letting that go to take care of yourself can be a bit of an internal battle. Deciding to leave the situation is the first step in making things right with yourself and for yourself. Now begins your new journey of self-discovery and healing. A good place to start is by learning the ways you can invest in yourself after leaving the abuse behind physically. 

Begin Working Through Your Emotions

Physically leaving behind an abusive relationship is liberating. The emotional aspect, however, can be a little more difficult to leave in your past. This is a time that it is imperative to focus on you

One of the harder things to work through is feeling at fault, even partially, for the way you were treated in your relationship. It is important for you to remember that no one deserves or asks to be abused. To move forward, you need to re-learn to love yourself before you can progress further in life. 

Investing in yourself starts with knowing your emotions, who you are as an individual, and what you deserve in life. Abuse is a lot to cope with, however, it can be done and you can begin to feel like yourself again.

Reconnect with People

Being in an abusive relationship can be isolating. Whether your partner is responsible for those you were once close to alienating you, or you felt ashamed by the way you were treated, it can be hard to face people after experiencing abuse.

However, connecting is a major step toward becoming and investing in yourself again. If there are people who were in your life before or during your abusive relationship that you miss, don’t be afraid to reconnect with them. It’s important to be honest about why the connection broke in the first place, but people who truly care about you will always be there and understand in the end. 

It’s also important for you to make new good friends after an abusive relationship. These people won’t know your past unless and until you feel comfortable telling them about it. They are people you can truly be yourself around without feeling analyzed and can help you work toward reclaiming your identity.

Look Toward Coping Mechanisms

A great way to reinvent yourself is by taking up new hobbies. Thankfully, many hobbies also double as coping mechanisms for dealing with the trauma inflicted upon you during the relationship you left. 

Look for hobbies and coping mechanisms that allow for some form of self-expression. Many people find healing through art or even writing about their experience and hopes for the future. Working in this way can lead you to discover a hidden talent, get your feelings out in a creative way, and can even develop into a new passion. 

Remember to be doing this for you though. This has to be something that you enjoy and find value in, otherwise, it will end up being something you resent and will no longer be helpful to your progress.

Become Financially Independent

When you think about investing in yourself, finances are likely one of the first things that come to mind. After leaving an abusive relationship, it is extremely important for you to establish yourself financially. This is especially true if part of your abuse included being financially restrained or reliant on your abuser. 

Financial independence begins with developing a plan to help you navigate your personal finances after leaving. Once you have a plan in place, you can begin to execute it and work toward living life on your own terms.

If you require some financial education because you’re not accustomed to managing the funds, ask your bank for an appointment to help walk you through the basics or seek advice from a registered shelter or organization with education programs for survivors. 

Restart Your Career With Fresh Eyes

To help you invest in yourself, you need to rediscover your passions and career. It is common for abuse survivors to be lower in confidence and feelings of self-worth. However, those feelings are often not a true indicator of your potential. 

If you already have a career that you love, use it as an outlet to work through the changes happening in your life. Your career can be your constant in the midst of everything else changing, which is something that you can hold onto and be grateful for as you begin to invest in yourself and change as a person for the better. 

Sometimes being in an abusive relationship can cause your career to take a backseat. Use this as a time to invest in yourself by working on your professional development and making sure that your career is working for you. If it isn’t, there’s no time like the present to explore your options and find something that you’re passionate about.

Make Your Own Home

Now that you’re independent, it’s time for you to make your own space and claim it as yours. The best way to do this is by creating your own home that you can feel comfortable and safe in. 

If you are ready and in a good enough place financially, then it’s time to discover your options. For example, you may have racked up some credit card debt in the process of reclaiming your life or you might be working on building up your credit score, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own your own home. Should either of those describe your situation, then researching a FHA loan would be a good option for you to consider. 

Having a place to retreat to and independently make your own space is a liberating feeling. It is also something that can make you feel like you’ve truly overcome the abuse you once faced. Reclaiming a home for yourself is perhaps the best investment you can make both emotionally and financially.

Although focusing on yourself can be a tough adjustment after leaving an abusive relationship, it is a necessary step. By investing in yourself, you are telling yourself that things will get better, and you are taking the steps to create that reality. There will undoubtedly be hard times, however, by creating that base investment, you’re setting yourself up to be able to overcome anything else that comes your way.

Post Traumatic Growth: Thriving and Finding Meaning After Trauma

post traumatic growth

We have all heard the phrase,  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

As survivors of domestic violence, this saying can be hard to grasp. It can leave you wounded, with both visible and invisible scars. It can sometimes be hard to imagine you will ever recover from the trauma you faced, let alone come back stronger. 

However, as much as it doesn’t feel like growth is occurring, data states otherwise. Studies show that about 71% of interpersonal violence survivors experience some type of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) [1]. Thousands of survivors have learned not just to survive but to thrive. They have used the pain inflicted by their trauma as an avenue to find new meaning in their life. 

From Trauma to Opportunity

In short, PTG is a positive transformation that occurs in the life of many survivors of intense trauma. 

People who experience PTG do not merely bypass the negative consequences of trauma. Instead, the emotional battle is what challenges survivors to reevaluate their perception of life. This new perception works as a catalyst for positive growth [1]

In other words, the aftermath of trauma can change your mindset (in a good way). It can alter the lens through which you view the world. It is like a photographer who adjusts their lens and angle to see the most powerful possible shot. People experiencing PTG choose to react to their trauma in a way that allows them to see the best in their situation. 

According to the Post Traumatic Growth Inventory, people typically experience PTG in one or more of the following ways. 

  • A new, enhanced appreciation for life.
  • Improved social relationships and an increase in positive emotions derived from the relationships.
  • An openness to new possibilities/opportunities in life.
  • An increase in mental resilience and personal strength.
  • Spiritual connection.

The Journey of Post Traumatic Growth

There is no timeline for coping, healing, or growth. Every survivor’s experience is different, and that’s okay. PTG usually occurs naturally, and unfortunately, not everyone experiences it. 

However, there are five evidence-based ways to help facilitate growth:

Education

Growth after trauma requires some serious self-reflection. You may not be the same person you were before the trauma, and you have to face the reality of determining your new identity. Also, many of your perceptions about life have likely changed. 

The first thing to facilitate growth is to acknowledge these changes and understand that your situation will require you to view your circumstances in a new, positive way. You need to try to change your mindset while at the same time, allow compassion for yourself and your trauma. 

Disclosure

Talking about trauma can feel like a release. It can also help you make sense and find meaning in the trauma. There are many different ways you can talk through and process your trauma. You can try counseling, venting with family/friends, joining a support group, sharing your story on a blog/domestic abuse network, or starting a journal. You could even record yourself or talk to yourself in an empty room.

Service

Helping others has profound benefits for your mental health and healing. To add, it can give you a sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and gratitude. It can also aid in finding meaning in your trauma. 

Consider doing service directly with causes associated with the trauma you went through—such as being a domestic violence advocate or starting a blog about your grief and growth.

Emotional Regulation

Regulating the intense emotions you feel after a traumatic event can be difficult; but, trying to experience PTG when surrounded by negative emotions is impossible. You should refrain from dwelling on your negative emotions– try your best to frame things positively. Instead of focusing on your situation’s negatives, consider what you have gained through your experience– perspective, a fresh start, an opportunity to learn and grow.

Another practice that can assist with emotional regulation is breathing, mediation, and acknowledging/observing emotions while you are experiencing them. 

Narrative Development

You are solely in charge of deciding what your story will be and what your trauma means. It is an individual choice to focus on the negatives and talk about everything you lost from the abuse or grief. You can also acknowledge those losses while choosing to focus on the positive things you learned from the trauma and the growth you experienced. 

Lessons from a Broken Cup

@9231458 via Twenty20

The Japanese have a tradition called kintsugi, which means “golden repair.” It is the ancient art of putting broken pottery dishes back together using gold [4] causing the pottery to be more beautiful and worthy than before it suffered the break. 

Likewise, you can use the trauma you endured as a way to recreate yourself in a beautiful, strong way. You can experience post-traumatic growth.

Viewing the World Through a New Lens

“Thoughts could leave deeper scars than almost anything else.” 

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

It’s essential to recognize that you are not defined or controlled by your traumas. 

Unfortunately, no one can take away the trauma or pain you endured, but you can choose how to react to what the world has handed you. It is up to you to change your mindset and decide to frame your life experiences positively. 

Remember, broken things can transform into something even more beautiful. And you–survivors and angel families— can thrive after trauma. 


A Note From The Author:

Let this serve as an inspiration. None of this is to say that the abuse you experienced or the loved one you lost to an abusive relationship ended up being a blessing in disguise. Anyone who experiences post-traumatic growth realizes the cost. Most likely, most would happily give up all the growth if they could change the truth of their trauma. 

Not everyone experiences growth after trauma, and that’s okay. It does not mean you are not a survivor, and it does not mean you will not thrive.

The growth you experience does not make your suffering any less valid.

References

  1. Elderton, A., Berry, A., & Chan, C. (2017). A Systematic Review of Posttraumatic Growth in Survivors of Interpersonal Violence in Adulthood. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 18(2), 223-236. doi:10.2307/26638176
  2. Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of traumatic stress, 9(3), 455–471. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02103658
  3. Tedeschi, R. G. (2020). Growth after trauma. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/07/growth-after-trauma#:~:text=Although%20posttraumatic%20growth%20often%20happens,%2C%20narrative%20development%2C%20and%20service.
  4. Mantovani, A. (2019). Kintsugi and the art of repair: life is what makes us. Medium. https://medium.com/@andreamantovani/kintsugi-and-the-art-of-repair-life-is-what-makes-us-b4af13a39921
  5. Rowling, J. K. (2014). Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix. Bloomsbury Childrens Books.