A few days ago a body of a woman was found in a dumpster. Her husband was arrested last night in a neighboring state for her murder. Family and friends said she didn’t leave because she was afraid of him. Today, she is dead….
This post is written in the honor and the memory of countless women, children, and yes, even some men, trapped in the cycle of abuse, invisible to a world who often blames the victims, There but for the grace of God go I…..
We are a spirit, with a soul, living in a body and having a life experience. The goal is to be integrated as one being living from the spirit during our life experience. We often think of each individually, and treat each individually. When our bodies are sick we go to a doctor, we see a therapist or psychiatrist for soul issues, and go to church, or seek some other spiritual path to care of our spirit selves. While each of these modalities may seemingly work to effect cures in body, mind, and spirit, at some point we realize what affects one affects the whole. When we are emotionally bankrupt we often experience illness or poor health, and we feel spiritually empty. Feeling spiritually empty leads to emotional and often physical upset and illness. See the interconnection?
The road to health and wellness has to involve ministering to the whole being; mind, body and spirit. The hardest step on that road is the first. Sometimes we are not sure where to start or even how to start, and sometimes we fear we will do it all wrong. Rest assured, you cannot screw this up! Healing is very much like peeling an onion, one layer at a time. Beneath each layer is a wound with the potential for incredible beauty. As we change and grow through the healing process the beauty unfolds and radiates in ways we could not have imagined before.
When I started my spiritual journey to understanding I heard on a radio teaching we are all in life situations we had chosen while still in spirit form. In my mind, people who believed this twisted line of thinking had lived idyllic lives, or at least close to it. Today, I have decided to put that theory on a shelf for the time being. Granted, I believe our lives here on earth are for growth, but I cannot go so far as to accept prior to donning an earth suit we decided all manner of suffering was a necessary pursuit to gain compassion, or whatever. What I do believe is we are capable of getting to the other side of a time of suffering with an appreciation for lessons learned, whether the lessons are about self, or others.
Looking back on the years since coming out of a 30 year abusive marriage, the “me” before the abuse is gone. Today’s “me” has been refined by the fires, risen from the ashes, and intentions to live in the moment to the extent I am capable every hour of every day. The process has not been easy nor comfortable, and yet today I can truthfully say I am grateful for having had the experience. That may sound entirely messed up, but hear me out. From any bad, painful, or negative experience or event there is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and to discover greater purpose. The person I am today is likely radically different from the person I may have been had I not experienced the abuse. I am far more tolerant, patient, open, non-judgmental and accepting than I thought possible, and yet there is an edge, or maybe it’s more of a resilience that is new.
The process of getting to the other side has been lengthy, intensely painful at times, challenging, and enlightening. I was not spared the good, the bad, and the ugly of myself. I have had to come to terms, or at least make peace with myself for allowing my kids to be abused. I say “allowing” because I cannot think of a better word. Certainly, I did not condone, participate, or encourage it. In my case, when I protested, the punishment for the kids went on longer and was far harsher than if I kept my protests to myself. In its own way, allowing it without protest was a way to protect my kids. I cannot truthfully say I am fully past it, and I may never be. I take responsibility for all of it. I was overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear of the unknown, what would happen to us should we leave, how would I care for my children? Obviously, the myriad unknowns pale in comparison to staying. I have had this pointed out to me on a number of occasions, and am certain those who were polite enough not to fault me out loud did so in their heads. Sadly, in our society victims are often blamed for the behavior of their abusers. “Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins”is more than a good proverb we attribute to the Native Americans, although it is actually a line from a poem written in the late 1800’s. No matter who said it, truth is truth, and there is a ton of wisdom to be gained from Native Americans and their culture, much of it born of hardship and suffering.
We cannot walk the road to healing alone. My mom listened countless hours and still does. I have never asked her, but in the early days after the divorce I probably sounded like a crazy person standing on the edge of a cliff during many a conversation, yet she listened patiently. My ex-husband had forbid contact with my family for many years. Any contact he may accidentally find out about was dangerous, and so they were left wondering if we were alive or dead, and I wondered if they had moved on. Of course they hadn’t, but abusers are masters of mind games and have the ability to control the thinking of their victims through subtle suggestions, the twisting of facts, and being ever so convincing. And convincing they are; the biggest lie they tell is to themselves, convincing themselves they are justified in their actions.
Survivors of abuse need to learn how to set boundaries. Setting boundaries has never been a strong suit for me, yet the refining fires afforded me the resolve to set sturdy boundaries, firmly and plainly stating what I will or will not allow. My relationship with my mom has deepened, and changed from a parent/child relationship to an adult relationship. Despite my mom’s difficulty accepting I was not capable of leaving because of years spent having my spirit dismantled, piece by piece, I was still able to state I would not, nor would I ever tolerate anyone telling me what they would have done in the same situation. It is impossible for anyone, given the exact circumstance, to unequivocally say what their actions would have been. We still have our issues from time to time, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but we have learned more about one another than may have been possible had my life gone a more idyllic direction. There may never be full understanding of the abuse on her part, or my inability to leave, and quite truthfully, I understand. I really don’t expect anyone to understand. Those who do have lived their own story.
Talking is healing for the soul and the spirit. When we speak fears and regrets out loud some of their power over us is taken away. My kids and I have done our own therapy, of sorts. Like one of my twins says, “we are the only 4 who really knows what happened”, and for all intents and purposes she speaks the truth. As they have grown up the picture becomes more clear from an adult view of the circumstances. Each of them still has healing to be done, we all do on various levels. I am very proud of the people each has become, because of, and in spite of, their abusive pasts. Most abusers target one member of a family, ours was an equal-opportunity abuser. Being a resourceful and creative person, he was able to come up with individualized abuse plans so none felt left out. I say that sarcastically; I spoke the truth in sharing that I have an edge to my personality. I am humbled and honored my children trust me with their hurts, the suffering still felt, and their triumphs, however major or minor they may be. Again, as a result of our collective pasts, relationships touched by trial have deepened, and in their own way become one example of the beauty from ashes.
We hear time heals all wounds, or Jesus will take away our suffering. Neither time, nor Jesus heals all wounds. Healing is work, it is never passive and to say “time” or Jesus” heals all wounds takes us out of the equation. We don’t magically heal from anything. Our bodies are dependent upon rest, good nutrition, and sometimes medicines or treatments, the mind requires processing the hurts, events, or situations, and the spirit requires soul-searching, peeling back the layers, so to speak. Anyone sitting back and waiting for healing of any ailment will be waiting a long time for the healing to magically drop into their laps. Time only provides us perspective, and Jesus, or the Divine, walks the road with us, uncovering each protective layer, one after another, exposing a deeper level of raw pain to be surrendered. How we choose to cope with each new layer is an individual decision; there is no one-size-fits-all method.
So what is the takeaway? Healing is never a single event, nor method, and healing is necessary in mind, body, and spirit in order to be complete. The dismantled pieces of the people we once were, or were not given the chance to become, need to assemble into an integrated whole. Ignoring the need for healing in the spirit as we seek healing for the body or mind will not be successful, not in the long run anyway. Just like my children and I are the only 4 who truly know our story and each of us has worked through healing in our own way and time, so it is with our integrated self. There is a time, a season, and a method unique to each of us for healing the mind, the body, and the spirit. If we listen to the whisper of the Divine, we will know how and when it is time to work, time to rest, time to pull inward, and time to rise up from the ashes…..