Pride is Power

By Rick Dougherty

Similar Goals:

As we come to the end of Pride Month in the United States, we have all hopefully been reminded of the important language of inclusion necessary for the continued advancement of members of the LGBTQ+ community.  Many of us can remember a time when multinational corporations were not rushing to show their support for these marginalized communities.  The LGBTQ+ community has led the charge towards gaining support; controlling the narrative; and eventually empowering the language in a way that forced the acceptance we see today. 

Intersectionality is real, and many Domestic Violence survivors have yet to realize the strong connection we should feel towards a group of people that shares many similar characteristics and obstacles.  We need to make sure that we are always leading the charge in acceptance, and that we are learning the techniques that have been successful for our LGBTQ+ friends.  Most importantly, we must recognize that a large number of victims and survivors are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Heteronormative Conversations:

So much of the dialog surrounding Domestic Violence can take on a heteronormative slant.  This is not a problem exclusive to Domestic Violence.  Topics of racial, religious, and ethnic identities and issues also commonly fall into this trap of heteronormativity.  We must break out of this narrow viewpoint to really thrive in our desire to include LGBTQ+ allies into our movement, and to be better allies to those in the LGBTQ+ movement.

Pride was created as a way to escape the closet, and to raise awareness.  Visibility has been a prominent reason for many of the advancements that have occurred in recent years.  The work of inclusion, and equality is never finished, but many heterosexuals began to ally with LGBTQ+ goals when they saw the common bonds.  A Gay relative, Lesbian friend, or Transgender co-worker has often provided an example to many people that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. 

This visibility should not be limited to issues of marriage, adoption, and health care.  As survivors of Domestic Violence, we must make sure that the LGBTQ+ community is heard in the conversation.  Too often we paint the abuser and victim narrative in simple male and female terms.  This framing completely removes same-sex relationships from the conversation.  It also often removes straight men or straight women who were abused in a domestic setting by a member of the same sex, who is not a romantic partner. 

Heteronormativity is inherently patriarchal.  It presupposes a way a family is supposed to look.  These are the same preconceptions that allow Domestic Violence in all of its forms.  The more visibility the LGBTQ+ community gains in all conversations, the more we will see that all families are different.  The more we stop accepting the outdated narratives surrounding power structure in the home, the more we will empower survivors. 

Pride is About Power:       

In the Domestic Violence conversation, we are aware that abuse is almost exclusively about control.  Somebody with power tries to maintain or expand that power through physical, emotional, financial, or psychological abuse.  In short, the purpose of Domestic Violence is to remove the victim’s pride.  The abuser intends to humiliate, and subjugate the target.  Pride is about power. 

Stonewall, often cited as the igniting incident in the fight for Gay Rights, should be an event to which many Domestic Violence survivors can relate.  After years of having their Gay bars busted by the NYPD, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against the random threats.  The raids of Gay bars were meant to be arbitrary.  Just like an abuser will alternate between love-bombing and tantrums, the NYPD would go for long spells without random arrests in Gay bars.  That would be followed by sweeps that would find many members of the community put behind bars with ramifications that extended to their jobs and home lives.

These are the patterns of abuse.  A person who is always afraid, is always on-edge.  This is one reason that Pride celebrations have proven to be so important.  Standing up and refusing to live in fear is a powerful statement against patriarchy, abuse, and inhumane treatment.  Beyond gender identification or sexual orientation, all survivors of Domestic Violence can take a message from that.  Pride is power.  Pride is the very quality the abuser is trying to take from you.  Pride is what gives a victim the strength to escape an abusive relationship.  Just like it led the brave customers of the Stonewall Inn the courage to stand up for themselves back in 1969, pride is what can lead so many of us to stand up for ourselves in the battlefields of the home.

Learning From Our Allies:

It is no coincidence that Stonewall happened in 1969.  Members of the LGBTQ+ community had been watching other groups make great strides through concrete activism for the better part of the decade.  Black activists fought for justice, and it directly resulted in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  The American Indian Movement raised awareness to issues faced by a group of people this country and long been ignoring.  Women began to demand equal treatment, and went a long way towards changing the conversation for future generations.  Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers fought and won many battles.  Pride did not happen in a vacuum. 

Again, intersectionality is real.  Many of those heroes at Stonewall were also members of other marginalized groups.  The first brick was thrown by a Black-Transgender-woman.  It is here where our movement against Domestic Violence can learn lessons from Pride.  The same methods that the LGBTQ+ community used to raise awareness to its issues and concerns, are the same methods that will work in combatting Domestic Violence.

When the NYPD successfully scattered the patrons of a Gay bar, those people were easy to control.  When Queer people were kept in the closet and ashamed, they were easy to control.  They lost their power.  Pride parades and celebrations were ways for LGBTQ+ people to remove the stigma surrounding their lives on their own terms.  As survivors of Domestic Violence, we can take so much power from that.  The stigma that surrounds abuse permeates through so many of our stories. We can remove that stigma by refusing to stay silent.  By sharing your survivor stories with us at BTSADV, you are throwing a metaphorical brick like those tossed so many years ago at Stonewall.  Instead of scattering into the dark allies, we are coming together as a community with pride. 

There is no monolith among Domestic Violence survivors.  There are women, men, and gender-non-conforming survivors.  Survivors are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and European in ancestry.  Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other religious groups suffer from (and members of those groups also commit) abuse.  Yes, survivors are Gay, straight, Transgender, Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, and many other classifications.  Pride can remind us of the diversity in our ranks.  It can also remind us to stand up for ourselves. 

The Language of Pride and Phobia:

Quite possibly, Pride has made the greatest impact on society in our language.  Recently, even the business networking website LinkdIn added an option to include your gender pronouns on your profile.  We are learning to speak in ways that include more people.  We are learning to avoid phrases many of us once incorrectly thought were inoffensive.  We have started to separate from some of our preconceived notions of masculinity and femininity.  With that, we have changed our terminology in these areas.

The way we talk about things matters.  Homophobic phrases that serve to emasculate men for sensitivity or compassion only perpetuate the same patriarchal preconceptions of toxic masculinity.  We have all heard male survivors of abuse be subjected to these slurs.  By challenging transphobic, homophobic, and sexist terminology in our daily lives, we are actually making it easier on survivors of Domestic Violence to reach out for help.

Yes…All Men

all men

Hiding Behind A Hashtag

#NotAllMen was trending once again on Twitter within the past few weeks.  It rears its ugly head quite frequently.  Whenever there is some public sexual harassment or sexual assault scandal, we hear the same cries from “the good guys.”  These men will post about how they “respect women,” and may even mention that…surprise, surprise…there are also female members of their family, and they love those female members of their family.

Unfortunately, it is all men.  

The Problem With “Not All Men

Why this hashtag, and sentiments like “nice guys finish last” have such a negative effect on our discourse about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence is that the people who are saying it honestly believe it to be true.  Of course, there are men who intentionally and deliberately use this as a weapon to control the narrative, but bad-faith actors aren’t the only ones using the hashtag.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have never intended to hurt a woman.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have probably even tried to be allies to women in difficult situations.

The sheer fact that #NotAllMen can trend on social media indicates that many men are oblivious to the problem.  In fact, the absurdity of men flocking to Twitter to say that they have never sexually harassed a woman is a big part of the problem.  They are setting themselves up as the defendant, defense attorney, and judge in a proceeding that doesn’t even have an accuser.  These men may not be aware of times that their words or actions have made a woman feel uncomfortable sexually.  These men may have had interactions with women that have been resolved through a conversation.  They may even have learned from those interactions and conversations.  Learning does not absolve.  Forgiveness does not absolve.  It is still a mistake.

Missing the Point

#NotAllMen isn’t a symptom of the problem, it is the problem.  The hashtag reframes the discussion to be one of intent.  With an act of rhetorical slight-of-hand, sexual harassment is no longer the center of the conversation.  The proverbial magician has created a diversion with his left hand, while pulling out the Ace from his right sleeve.  Conversations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence need to focus on the women, and often men, who are victims of this behavior.  This isn’t the time to coddle male egos.  Instead of hijacking the conversation with a hashtag intent to vindicate you from any potential criticism, join the conversation.  If you truly are a “good guy,” irradicating sexual harassment would be a higher priority than a preemptive public relations campaign against non-existent accusations.

As a man, I have 100% made mistakes in this area in my life.  It was never my intent to make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter.  It may be a hard pill for a lot of us men to swallow, but there are probably times that we have made people feel uncomfortable sexually in public or business settings, and nobody ever told us.  We could be blissfully ignorant of the joke, comment, or well-intentioned compliment that someone just accepted as a “cost of doing business.”  How can we claim #NotAllMen, when there could be dozens of these little moments out in the universe?  

Accountability of All Men Over Taglines

Justice is hard.  We have to be able to admit #YesAllMen, so that we can turn the mirrors towards ourselves and our own actions.  As men, if we accept that we have almost certainly made mistakes, we can work on not making those same mistakes in the future.  In recent years, it has become glaringly obvious even to the most unreceptive observer that sexual harassment is a huge problem that permeates all aspects of society from sports to politics to Hollywood to offices.  People are being harmed by this every day.  We can’t shirk responsibility.

Luckily, many women commandeered the hashtag to tell their stories about harassment.  We need to hear those stories.  Men, we need to stop making this about our intentions.  Most abusers don’t view themselves as abusers.  Most harassers don’t view themselves as harassers.  It is a small segment of society that goes out and tries to harm people.  Until we can all listen to victims of sexual harassment without getting defensive, we will never learn ways to be even better.  We can’t be “good guys” until we have learned what that actually means, and how it looks in our societal interactions.  We can’t be “good guys” until we can look back on a situation and admit we made a mistake.  To truly be a “good guy,” you have to work towards equitable workplaces and public spaces where people can feel safe and comfortable to interact.            

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.  

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
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  5. Rowling, J. K. (2014). Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix. Bloomsbury Childrens Books.