In this blog: Discover the 5 stages of healing from abuse
Healing from the trauma of abuse is a journey. It requires you to take the risk, to believe that your life is worth the effort to heal, and to trust others again. Abuse destroys the feeling of safety in the one who has been abused. It destroys the person’s belief that the world is good, and it can even distort their view of themselves.
My journey of healing from abuse had five major stages or milestones. When I began to heal, I did not know that I would follow a five-step journey. Candidly, I did not even know if I would be able to heal from the abuse I had experienced. All I knew was that I wanted to heal.
I have named the first milestone on the healing journey, Hope Beyond your Experience. Many victims of abuse struggle to find hope. Their experience of abuse is heavy and separates them from the life they long to have. The first milestone centers around processing and facing the pain that has held you captive.
Stage one for me was to look at how the abuse had shaped my life. I had to make the decision that I wanted to heal from the abuse, and I had to begin to separate my abuser’s actions from my life story. I embraced three very powerful truths.
· Abuse is not my story.
· My story is created by the decisions I make.
· I did not make the decision to be abused.
These truths allowed me to begin to view my life through the lens of the choices I had made. I began to recognize that I no longer had to be trapped or held captive by the choices my abuser had made. He, not me, had to face the tragedy of his terrible decisions.
This stage of healing from abuse helped me learn to see the story of my life in a different way. I learned to place the responsibility of the abuse back on my abuser. When I did, he lost the power he had over my life. My life began to be defined by who I was, not how he had made me feel.
Milestone (or stage) two on the journey of healing from abuse is creating Partnerships on the Healing Journey. All survivors can benefit from a team of supporters. In this stage, you learn how to grow relationships, and yourself, along with the healing journey. You learn how to maximize the relationships that exist in your life.
The second milestone in my life centered around beginning to understand the roles friends, mentors, and counselors have played in my life. I needed to understand boundaries, seasonality, and how to be vulnerable in these relationships. I learned to appreciate that often other people saw a better version of me than I saw of myself at that time. I learned that I could be loved, and could learn from relationships. I recognized that relationships could be a blessing to me and that I could, in turn, could be a blessing to those I cared about.
In this stage of healing from abuse, one of the hardest things I did was allow myself to be open and vulnerable. I shared emotions that I had previously protected for only myself. I learned to allow others to love and support me. I learned that my healing was not all about my past, but that living in the moment and enjoying the things around me were of key importance.
The third milestone on the healing journey is, Creating an Atmosphere to Grow. The optimal environment for growth enables survivors to celebrate and dream in a safe and secure atmosphere.
This stage of healing from abuse restored my ability to celebrate growth. I learned to recognize heart changes that were occurring in me long before full healing had occurred. I celebrated that the sum of the small changes occurring in my life was creating monumental changes in my life overall. I began to dream about my future, free from the entanglements abuse had placed on me. I began to return to the belief that my life mattered and that my life had the purpose.
This renewed energy in my life gave me the confidence to set appropriate boundaries to continue my healing journey. I recognized that abuse itself is an unhealthy boundary. I realized that boundaries could be set in compassion, in self-respect, and in a desire to promote health and safety. I had the confidence to remove myself from situations that were preventing my healing and to embrace my future.
The fourth milestone of the healing journey is about Understanding your purpose. This stage challenges us to recognize that it is in the love of Christ that we are complete. As we experience His loving kindness and His deep desire to share all of Himself with us, we learn who we are. We are His children; we are protected and safe. As His children, we grow to become like Him in the safety of that relationship. In this stage, you learn to open your heart in new ways to experience the acceptance, love, and completeness Jesus offers.
During milestone four, I had to address hard questions about my belief in God. Where was He when I was abused? Why had He allowed my abuser to hurt me? How could He turn the bad things that had happened to me into good?
As I wrestled with these questions, I became overwhelmed with Jesus loving kindness. I felt Him drawing me to Himself. I learned that I was chosen, loved, and accepted and that my identity was in who He was, not in what I had done. I responded to Christ in love and confessed Him as the Lord of my life.
The fifth and final stage of healing from abuse is about Embracing your Story. You are not ordinary. You were created extraordinary, in the image of Jesus Christ Himself. As you embrace your story, you will experience the freedom to be uniquely you. You will recognize blessings and experience the wonder that exists around you every day. You will relax and grow. At this milestone, you embrace your story, the story of victory. It is the blessing of being uniquely you.
In this stage of my healing, I learned that as I grew my perspective had changed. I began to see how the hard things that had happened in my life had been formed into something positive today. I began to see that God’s blessings were not found in my definitions, but in His creativity. I celebrated that I was made in the image of Christ, that I was special, beautiful, unique, and loved.
Healing from the trauma of abuse is a journey. This article has covered stages and milestones I have experienced on my healing journey. But, unfortunately, the article is in no way conclusive. I have written a full book discussing this topic. I believe it would benefit you and encourage you to read it.
Additionally, if you would like me to expand further on any of these milestones, feel free to place a note in the comments and I would be happy to share more thoughts with you!
You can also read about Discover Your Passions