MOVING FORWARD AFTER ABUSE
After an abusive relationship life can feel overwhelming, and it can be hard to figure out which direction to move. You might find yourself overwhelmed with feelings of loss and loneliness and the feelings of missing the abuser can be surprising. OR you might feel relieved and excited for the future. Most likely, it is a mix of both.
Either way, there are some things you will want to consider. First of all, you are 100% worthy of love and peace in your life. The abuse that you suffered is not your fault - that responsibility is on the abuser.
You now have the opportunity to heal and grow and create a new life for yourself and your children. This will take work, it can be painful, but it is worth the time and effort needed to go forward. Consider doing this work as a way of loving and valuing yourself.
One thing to remember is that feeling the feelings is essential. Allowing yourself the time to grieve all of the feelings such as anger, disappointment, and even sadness at the time and relationship lost, is the only way to freedom. The old adage is true: the only way out is through. And the best way to make it through is by seeking support.
Let's talk about healthy ways to move forward after abuse. You do not have to add all of these things to your life, nor is this an exhaustive list of things to do. Feel free to start small and pick what feels comfortable and safe. You get to choose your pace.
An amazing place to find support is your local domestic violence agency. You will find counseling, support groups, housing and food resources, and much more. In Fremont or Custer counties, call 719-275-2429.
Domestic violence agencies offer their resources free of charge and with a high level of confidentiality.
One of the biggest factors to moving forward is having people around you that love you and want the best for you. If you are surrounded by loving people, great. If your support system is weak right now, that is OK. You probably have more support in your life than you think. Keep in mind that your support system can and will grow, but it does take time and effort.
Look for support here:
12-step programs or other recovery groups
It is OK to start with one or two people you can trust. Life has a way of growing and getting better as you are growing and healing. The important thing is that you have people that you feel safe around and with whom you can be open with about what is happening in your life right now.
Therapy, Counseling, and Support Groups
Reaching out to a counselor or therapist can feel scary if this is your first time. This support, however, can be life changing. Being able to speak your truth in a setting that is both understanding and validating is priceless.
Therapy and counseling provide a safe space to express and process emotions. When emotions are overwhelming and confusing, having the guidance and support of a counselor or therapist helps. It is common to carry feelings of shame and hopelessness after abuse. Your counselor or therapist can help you navigate these feelings.
You will also be able to learn about new tools for going forward in life such as dealing with heavy emotions, working through shame and regret, growing your self-esteem, boundary setting and more.
Support groups provide community at a time in life when you might be more isolated than you would like. You will feel less alone talking with others who have had similar experiences and who are moving forward with their lives. Groups provide hope for the future since some of the members will be farther along on their road of healing. When you are starting out, this can be highly motivating.
Groups are also the perfect place to start building your support system.
To find counselors and groups geared towards healing after abuse, visit our website: familycrisisonline.org
Abusive relationships tend to bring up self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance (among other things). It takes time to reclaim your life.
Using affirmations each day helps to overcome some of the negative stuff swimming around in your mind. Abusive relationships usually include mental and emotional abuse which affects our thoughts. In fact, a large portion of our thought life comes from the things our parents, teachers, and partners have said to us in the past, and if those things are largely negative, it can create pervasive negativity in our thought life. Rehearsing these negative thoughts continues to do damage.
Writing down affirmations and leaving them in places you will notice them often will help you start this habit. Saying at least one of these affirmations to yourself 20+ times a day will bring about change after some time. You are worth the effort it takes to do this!
Try these affirmations or create your own:
I know and trust my own mind.
I am worthy of love, just as I am.
I accept myself as I am.
My home is becoming a haven of peace, safety, and love.
I have firm boundaries and the strength to stick to them.
I am capable of making decisions on my own.
I am healing step by step, day by day.
I am strong enough to feel my feelings.
I am a whole and complete person on my own.
It is an honor and privilege to know me, it is no one's right.
Self-care after an abusive relationship is an important way to engage in your healing. An abusive relationship is traumatic and emotionally taxing and your body and mind need time to rest. Giving yourself that time to rest is self-care.
You may be feeling a lack of energy at this point, and that is 100% normal. Often, in the early stages of being on your own, simple tasks such as brushing your teeth and bringing the mail inside are overwhelming. Give grace and compassion to yourself, even if you think you should be doing "more".
If you have lots of energy and feel very positive about the relationship ending, you can take on more at the beginning. The whole point is to do what works for you and what feels good.
The best way to start with self-care is to start small. Don't create a giant list of things to do or you will end up burning yourself out. Keep in mind that self-care is "being mindful of your own needs and doing what it takes to care for yourself".
Asking yourself these questions will help you figure out what you need:
What refreshes you? What makes you happy?
What makes life meaningful for you?
What are you choosing that makes you happy or unhappy?
It might take some time to answer these questions, and that is OK! Ideally, self-care will be a life-long process for you, and you can add or change things over time.
Take a look at this list of self-care ideas. You might find some things that work for you, but feel free to add your own ideas. Self-care is all about YOU and what you need each day. A perfect way to start your day is to ask yourself "WHAT DO I WANT AND NEED TODAY?". Begin by picking one or two items and see how that feels. If you have more energy, do more. It is 100% up to you!
Brush your teeth
Movement, exercise, dance
Spend time with family and friends
Ask for help
Do something creative
Get enough sleep
Read a book
Listen to music
Clean one room in the house
Organize a closet
Take care of plants
Go out and get ice cream
Don't forget to add your own ideas!
It might feel "selfish" to make yourself a priority but be assured that it is not. Self-care is a way for you to love yourself, maybe for the first time, and it will help with your healing process, and you will find yourself liking "YOU"!
Healing after abuse takes time and effort, but it can be done. You are worth the effort it takes!
Reach out to us (Family Crisis Services @ 719-275-2429) if you need help. We are here for YOU!