The Maze of Healing

Now, most people have heard the term “stages of grief”.  I find this is a misnomer.  We do not go through stages.  You don’t go from one to another.  Sometimes you skip over one “stage”, sometimes you revert back to an earlier “stage”.   In my mind, I see an abuse survivor’s path is more like this:
women entering a dark maze
While I believe we share some of the grief stages, we go through more than that.
  1. Acknowledgement – Whether you know at the time it is abuse, or it isn’t until later in life you realize it was abuse – the first step toward healing is acknowledgement.  Not just the abuse though, you must acknowledge the impact it had on your life.
  2. Blame/Anger/Guilt – Once you acknowledge your abuse, you may begin focus on blame and become angry.  For many survivors, this means blaming ourselves.  Our first step in anger and blame is turning it all towards ourselves.  We blame ourselves: “if I hadn’t worn that”, “if I wouldn’t have said this”, “h/she was drunk and didn’t mean it”, “if I was good mom/dad wouldn’t do this”.  We become angry at ourselves: “if I was stronger I could’ve stopped it”.  This is when we need support – counseling – therapy.  We need to learn how to properly lay the blame and work through the anger so we do not self destruct.  Blame is and always should be placed on the abuser, not the survivor.
  3. Depression/Self-Destruction – We, as survivors, have lost so much.  Our childhoods, our innocence.  We feel we are broken, unlovable, ugly, etc.  Some of us have been hurt so deeply we cannot find a reason to continue.  Please, seek out help if you are feeling suicidal or find yourself in a cycle of self-destruction.  Medication, counseling, and surrounding yourself with those who support you are imperative.
  4. Acceptance – Once you can accept the abuse happened and you were not to blame, you truly begin to heal.  Accepting you were not allowed a “normal” childhood.
  5. Mourning – It is important you give yourself time to mourn the loss of your childhood, your innocence.  As survivors, we lost so much.  We have a right to grieve those losses.
  6. Forgiveness – not necessarily forgiving your abuser(s), but yourself.  If you feel you need to forgive your abuse(s) for your own mental health, then that is your decision.  No one should make you feel as if you need to forgive them though.  It is a personal choice for each survivor to make on their own.  However, you do need to forgive yourself.  Part of the shame that goes with abuse is our bodies betraying us.  Sometimes the abuse made us feel physically good, or we experienced an orgasm, or at that moment it made us feel loved.  Sometimes, we were forced to do things to merely survive.  Forgive yourself.  Your body did not betray you.  It had a physical reaction to outside stimuli.  This was nothing you could control.  Every child needs to feel loved.  Do not blame yourself for wanting to be loved.  Whatever you had to do to survive – forgive yourself.  You were placed in a situation no child should experience.  Whatever you did to survive it worked because you are still here.  Forgive yourself.  You were faced with impossible choices and you did what you had to do.
  7. Learning to Love and Trust – We step out into the world.  We learn to love and trust ourselves.  We learn not everyone will hurt us.  We learn to respect ourselves, our emotions, our bodies.  We learn we are worthy of love and happiness.
As you walk your own path of healing, you may find yourself revisiting “stages” you thought you were finished with, but a smell/sound will trigger a memory and you find yourself going backwards.  It’s ok.  Recognize it and continue your path.  Work through it again and move forward.  There is no timetable, no right or wrong turn as long as you continue to work to improve yourself, to love yourself. You may also find yourself going through something not listed here.  That’s ok too.  Each person’s path is different.  By no means do I believe my list is inclusive and the end-all-be-all for every survivor.  It is merely my list and I share it with the hope it will encourage others. I have visited the “depression stage” more than I care to admit.  I find myself mourning something new as I work through my own experiences.  I find I forgive myself for new things I’ve acknowledged as I begin to open up more, talk more, share more with others.

Surviving, Healing, Thriving – it is a never-ending process.  It is our life.  The process does not have to be negative though, with the right frame of mind.  Every time I acknowledge something new, I find myself feeling a greater sense of peace.

Hug yourself.  Love yourself.  Forgive yourself. ______________________________________ The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross. Work on it with manual discipline, and the bitter tanning of acid and grief You’ll become lovely and very strong ~Rumi

There is no timetable, no right or wrong turn as long as you continue to work to improve yourself, to love yourself.

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