Getting out of an abusive relationship is one of the most difficult obstacles single moms can face. Summoning the courage and tenacity to walk away when they have no clue what the future will hold takes gall and serious faith.
Fortunately, there is hope on the other side. Leaving an abusive relationship is only the beginning. Here are five ways to begin the journey of healing to help you not only survive, but thrive.
1.Talk to Someone
Get professional help. Sharing your story is one of the most crucial ways to heal productively after surviving relationship violence. Although the hurt and shame of it may continue to feel like a dark cloud over your head, one way to lessen the pain is to regain control and own your own story.
Sharing with close friends and family members is a start, but going to a licensed professional is much better. A psychotherapist trained in relationship trauma is prepared to offer a safe space as well as an objective disposition. His or her job is to guide people through pain while they are on the road to becoming their whole, healed selves. It is powerful to work with someone whose primary duty is to listen and help dissect the truth. Communicating with a person capable of supporting you in the journey of healing while sharing tools of empowerment can make a world of difference.
2. Invest In Yourself
Choose a creative hobby or learn something new. Chances are that in the midst of a toxic relationship you lost touch with yourself. Who were you before this relationship took you out of your element? What did you do for fun? What were you passionate about? It’s possible you may not remember. If that’s the case, this is a great time to get to know yourself.
To fully know your worth, try spending some time figuring out who you are and why you’re here. Coming into a strong sense of purpose and self-worth creates a standard that makes it nearly impossible for anyone to treat you poorly or without respect.
How do you get in touch with yourself? A great way to start is by journaling. See what words and feelings come to mind when nobody’s around. What do you care about? What makes you happy/sad/angry? What kind of life do you envision for yourself and your children?
Next, maybe create a vision board. Choose images that resonate with you. It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as they speak to you. Add some affirmations: “I am enough.” “I deserve happiness.” “I will create a life I love.” Read some personal-development and self-help books to spark inspiration or motivation. Develop a personal library to return to time and again when you need a little pick-me-up.
3. Create Distance from the Abuse by Changing Your Environment
A change of scenery invites a breath of fresh air, psychologically speaking. It’s possible that flashbacks of horrific incidents show up at the most inconvenient times.
If moving is not an option for you, try making some small changes in the form of DIY projects. Maybe paint the walls a color you love. Perhaps a slipcover for your sofa, fresh linens, or maybe even a few potted plants would do wonders to lift your spirits. Grab a bundle of sage to burn and clear out negative energy, if you’re into that sort of thing. If moving is an option, it’s a great chance to create a loving and welcoming space for you and your children to dwell in.
4. Join a Community of Survivors
If there is ever a time to connect with other women, it’s now. Sometimes those we love and feel closest to aren’t able to relate to our situation.
Family and friends who know you can sometimes be a hindrance to your healing. They usually mean well, but they have a history with you. It can be second nature for them to offer unwelcome advice. Because they likely know and have spent time with the partner who abused you, their feedback might include the all-too-familiar, “I told you so.”
Someone who has walked in your shoes can most likely offer a safe, judgment-free space, and a fresh perspective. Recovering emotionally from trauma can create feelings of intense shame and isolation, and combating those feelings alone could prove extremely difficult. Meeting new people who might be empathetic could do wonders for your heart. This gives you a chance to make new friends without having to explain everything you’ve gone through.
Even if making new friends isn’t on your agenda, consider meeting regularly with a support group. Listening to other people’s stories can provide clarity and validation for what can be a very muddled haze of feelings about your past. The act of gathering gives you a reason to get out of the house regularly and can be empowering.
5. When You’re Ready, Give Back
Giving back can take many forms. Providing hospitality to someone else in need could be a wonderful experience if you’re up for it. Be mindful of your own needs first, though. Create healthy boundaries, and know that doing something like this is always optional.
Sharing your story is another way to give back. If you want to help another woman overcome similar obstacles, opening up about your struggles could be a wonderful way to do it.
By the time you feel ready to step up to the challenge of supporting others, you will have learned how resilient you are and how much you have to offer the world. Your voice will start to emerge. By empowering others, you will feel empowered. Keep in mind that you must first be healed enough to share the story and insight without feeling triggered.
Nothing about the journey of recovering from abuse is easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Allow time to heal. Be willing to do the emotional work of uncovering the pain that’s been buried deep.
You deserve the chance to heal and know what it’s like to be fully free. Moving past old habits to learn new ones is highly important.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Being a victim of abuse does not define you. That part of your past is only a small chapter in the big book that is your life.
Bio: Former Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia, ESME’s Resource Guide for Domestic Violence, is a painter, published poet, speaker, and facilitator. Through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts, she offers original paintings and products, and teaches workshops. Her first poetry collection, Butterfly Spirit, was published in 2015.