Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Did I Marry an Abusive Man?

Recently I was interviewed by a radio program called Wise People with Jim Norman. The interviewer was puzzled about why people enter more than one abusive relationship. He said something to the effect that, “I’d think they would have had enough of that and steer away from abusive people.” If only it were that easy.
I’d had enough of abuse after the very first time I was raped as a small child, but that didn’t give me the capability to avoid future abuse. In fact, it made me a likely candidate for more abuse from others. At 46 years of age, I have now reached the place where I do recognize abusers and controlling people and I do steer away from them. But it took time and healing to reach this place.

This week I re-wrestled my way through the guilt and shame that surface when I wonder why I married an abusive man when I tried so hard to avoid anyone who reminded me of my father. I saw only surface similarities and differences. My boyfriend carefully hid his abusive traits while we dated. I must have had some attraction to what seemed familiar even though I did not want more abuse. In fact, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to date anyone, but this charming older man swept right past my defenses. He liked the timidity, shyness, and compliant nature that he found in me. I liked that he was so outgoing and had such an easy time communicating about emotions.

Why did I marry him? I agreed to marriage because I didn’t know how to say no. I agreed because I was exhausted from trying to protect myself and thought a wedding ring would put an end to men flirting with me. I agreed because I was young (18 years old) and did not know the significance of the disconcerting behaviors my date sometimes exhibited. I noticed the irregularities but didn’t know what to do with them except to excuse them. I agreed because I thought my love would help him to become less insecure and wounded. I agreed because my own self-confidence was wounded and I thought this might be the only person who would want to marry me; I considered myself as worthless and soiled from the incest my father perpetrated against me. I agreed because I had never been to counseling, and in fact, didn’t even know it was an option. I agreed because loving the other person and being willing to work hard were the only requirements for marriage that I’d ever been taught. I loved him and I’d always been a hard worker. Perhaps, you Reader, have such a list yourself that led you into a second or third or fourth abusive relationship.

The fact is that we are doomed to more abusive relationships until we engage in a journey of honest looking back and seeking God’s healing of our wounds. . Until we believe that we have significance in God’s kingdom, we’ll be attracted to people who devalue us. Until we know that we don’t magically make good people into abusive people, we’ll believe that others must be better than we are and miss important clues about an individual’s character. Until we know how to say no, we are vulnerable prey to abusers. Until we learn how to accept our emotions and how to take care of our needs, we look like the fatted calf to hungry predators. Until we depend upon God’s wisdom instead of our own, we are easy targets. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is our reality.

The great news is that God can heal our pain! God can help unscramble the twisted beliefs that we carry in our minds, hearts, and souls after surviving abuse so that we can replace lies with scriptural truth
Let’s cry out to our loving God for the help that we need. His help is good, ready and available. We can trust Him even if we haven’t in the past. We can trust Him even if we’ve learned to never trust anyone. We can give God a try and see what He can do with our wounded selves.

P.S. I apologize for the long silence. I have been ill with a transformed migraine.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interview with a Survivor who is Healing

Mary DeMuth is a fellow writer and a fellow survivor of abuse. She is on her recovery journey just as most readers of this blog are. I recently had the privilege of reading her transparent, newly published book, Thin Places: A Memoir. I wanted to interview her to find out more:

Tanya: When you were twenty would you have written this type of memoir? Why or why not?

Mary: No, I wouldn’t have written anything. I hadn’t walked very far in my publishing journey. Plus, I hadn’t experienced enough healing to be able to tell the story with redemption.

Tanya: Some Christians think that if you’re a “good” Christian who is doing the right stuff for God, then you will be protected from all harm. What would you say to such a Believer?

Mary: It’s a false conception of the gospel to think that Jesus calls us to have easy lives. We are to follow Christ. And look what He did. He suffered. He chose His Father in the midst of that suffering. Why do we think we’re owed a pain-free life when Jesus didn’t have one?

Tanya: Thin Places: A Memoir is a transparent book in which you reveal personal information, such as being sexually abused as a child, what has enabled you to share so openly?

Mary: I’m really not sure, except to say God has uniquely gifted me to tell the truth and be authentic. It comes easy to me, for some strange reason.

Tanya: What would be your advice to a reader who has also been sexually abused?

Mary: Talk about the abuse. Share it with a trusted, loving friend. Sharing your story is the first step. Then consider counseling.

Tanya: I love that you wrote about the impact that childhood abuse has had on your intimate relationship with your husband. Our sexual life gets messed up when we’ve been violated by another, but it isn’t the type of topic that goes over well in social settings. Why do you think that more women don’t share with one another about this important topic?

Mary: Because it’s a taboo topic. Yet it shouldn’t be. We share that we struggle with weight loss, or friendships. We might even share struggles in our marriage. I will say, though, that it’s best to start your sharing in this area with your spouse. Open communication will help a lot, particularly if your spouse unknowingly is doing things to trigger flashbacks of the abuse.

Tanya: What hope do you cling to when you feel frustrated that past abuse still scars your present life with the good Christian man whom you’ve married?

Mary: God is always in the process of changing me. Even when it feels slow. I rest in that. I’ve seen enough healing to know that it will continue to happen as long as I yield myself to Jesus.

Tanya: I hate the way the shame of abuse lodges so deeply in our hearts as victims while those who perpetrate such crimes may or may not feel any shame. Have you had any issues with this shame and do you have any Bible verse that has helped you keep a Godly perspective?

Mary: Shame weaves its way through me, so much so, it’s hard for me to pinpoint it. I love this verse in Hebrews: fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus despised the shame too. Yet He learned to endure it because of the joy set before Him. That helps me persevere through today’s shame knowing I’ll be wiped free of it in heaven.

Tanya: On the cover of your book there is a girl hiding her eyes as if in hide and seek, with a grin peeking out and knees smudged from play. They girl looks to be elementary school aged. Is it a picture of you? If so, tell us about the pictures on the front and the back of your book.

Mary: Yes, that’s me. My father took both pictures.

Tanya: In the Psalms, King David did a lot of looking back to remind his soul of all that God had faithfully done. Looking back can help us to see God’s grace. If you could only share one thing about God’s grace, what example would you share from your own life?

Mary: Losing my father at ten, while traumatic, was the impetus for me to search for a Daddy. I found that Daddy in Jesus at fifteen when I heard the gospel at a Young Life camp.

Tanya: God is a major player in your life story. What are two things about Him that have had an especially deep impact on you so far in your life?

Mary: His nearness. I love that God comes near in surprising ways. His love. Yet, I still struggle with really feeling His love.

Tanya: What do you mean when you refer to God’s severe mercy?

Mary: Sometimes God’s mercy comes wrapped in awful wrapping. Sometimes it’s through loss and pain that we finally begin to let go of fear and start to trust the Lord.

Tanya: Pornography has an addictive quality that can be quite destructive to those who have been abused. I applaud your courage in sharing your own journey with pornography. If a reader of my blog struggles with feeling attracted to pornography, what are three things you’d like her or him to know?

1. You are not alone.
2. Hiding it makes it stronger.
3. God will give you the courage to share the struggle with a trusted friend and will deliver you through a journey.

Tanya: I identified completely when you wrote about feeling marked by being a victim of rape. It is a feeling that I think all victims share. It’s as if other perpetrators somehow know… For any reader who is feeling that they are still marked, what encouragement would you like to share with them?

Mary: I wish I could say that the mark goes away. Perhaps it fades a bit. I have to be vigilant when I’m in social situations, especially when men are present. I forget that there are still predators out there, even at my age. My encouragement is that the more you fill up with Jesus, the less the mark attracts others.

Tanya: Is there anything else you’d like to share with those who are in the process of recovering from abuse?

Mary: Prayer is really the key of my own recovery. Not just me for myself, but others diligently praying for me. Pray that God would send you praying friends.

Tanya: Please tell us the details about when and where we can purchase your book?

Mary: You can buy it here:

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Mary DeMuth and her ministry as a writer and as a Christian. Please continue blessing the work that she is submitting to you. And please send praying friends for each reader of this blog who is recovering from abuse. Amen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

God Holds Us

How I wish sometimes that God promised to protect us from all hardship in this life. But he didn't. In fact, Jesus warned his followers that they would face trials. Life is not easy for anyone, and even more so not for those who follow Jesus. For Jesus' way involves fearless love that moves us in directions that we would otherwise avoid at all costs. He walked up Calvary's hill in victory AND in pain. Love made the pain endurable.

How I cried out to God after different abuses, wanting to know why! And how I still have moments of crying out in agony as I continue to face the sexual abuse and many rapes that happened over forty years ago. It turns out that the earliest abuses were the hardest to face and have required the greatest amount of faith to process. When my earthly father began betraying me with harsh deeds that shattered my trust and innocence, I was a little and so helpless. I had no defense that could save me. I could only flee in my mind, doing my best to vacate my body so that I would not continue to feel the horrible pains. How I wish that my loving heavenly father had assigned me to be raised by a gentle father. How I wish that he'd protected me and snatched me away from my harsh father. But that isn't normally how things work in this fallen world. And so I suffered, just as so many others have.

But I did not have to face it all alone. My heavenly Father held me. In my room, as a little violated preschool girl, I tried so hard to keep my mind from the abuses. I was wound up tight and could not rest in any pose long. My mind tricks were crumbling and my eyes wanted to cry but my mind said that would be the end of me. And then I felt God's presence, not that I had a name for Him yet, He just was part of my world. He came and held me, comforting me and telling me that everything would be okay. He stroked my hair with tenderness and held me. He held me in a safe and loving, nonsexual way. He held me and I fell to sleep that way.

To this day, there are times when I desperately need a daddy, and I have a very loving One, who I now know is the great I AM, Lord above all Lords--and my Comforter, my Daddy/Abba.

And how my heart swells as I realize that God loves all the children and grown-ups who have been abused by a parent, spouse, date, or captor. All of them! How great is His love and how available is He! He cares, Reader! Just ask Him to help you feel Him holding you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marital Relations

I won't forget different scenes in Thin Places A Memoir by Mary E. De Muth anytime soon. The scenes are powerful and the language engaging. For some of this blog's readership this book may be triggering as it shares about sexual abuse and feelings of being marked for other abusers, but it is a moving book that spotlights God's redemptive, life-giving grace.

Reading this book, brought to my attention that I haven't blogged on a very important topic: sex in marriage when one or both parties have experienced abuse from a former partner and/or parent. Perhaps I hadn't tackled it because it is such a sensitive subject and not a very comfortable one for this layperson to write about. But Mary E. De Muth brought it up, and it empowers me to write on this important topic too.

As an incest survivor and a former abused wife, I found it easy to relate to Mary's experiences. Not because our past or present experiences are identical. They are not. But because we speak the same language of inner struggle that is a direct result of past abuse. And we both look to God for answers.

For those who are eager for bottom lines: The good news, you can enjoy sex, even if you were abused in the past. The bad news, the sexual experience is marred by the former abuse. It's unfair; but it's true.

And really, when we stop and think about it how could it be otherwise? Abuse of all types attacks our self-worth and self-perceptions. When we give the gift of ourselves to our partner, how can that damaged sense of self not interfere? Abuse of all types destroys our sense of the world being a safe place and it robs us of the ability to trust at the deepest levels. Making love involves trust and safety, so we notice our internal damage at seemingly random moments during intimacy with our beloved. Abuse lodges fearful questions in our hearts that may push forward at the most awkward of times. And for those of us who have been sexually abused the damage is even more intense and pressing in the bedroom.

I love my current husband deeply and trust him more than I have ever trusted anyone. But the sexual abuse I have experienced has been a force to be reckoned with at different times in our marriage, especially in the beginning. I remember curling up into a tight fetal ball position when my husband wasn't interested in sex on the same night I was. Deep shame gripped me and fear pummeled me. Sexual abuse memories had me by the throat. I was so ashamed and confused by the experience. "Why would a woman who'd been raped be interested in initiating sex?" an ugly voice whispered in my soul. It was a tangled mess. No one had warned me that such confusion might occur after I finally found someone I could trust.

I also remember feeling safe, totally safe, in my husband's arms and then being assailed by a voice of panic inside. Was I really safe with this man or was it all a lie? Was I going to become the victim once again? I have now been married to this man for over a decade and know, really know, that he is a good man and that his love for me is sincere. And yet, now and then, I am still startled by a sudden attack of fear, an intense feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the familiar experience of being tricked and betrayed to spring up and grab me.

I don't want this post to become over long or overwhelming to read. Suffice it to say, that I know what it is to yearn for the day to come when my sexual relations with my husband will never be infringed upon by past abuse. Wouldn't that be amazing! As good as my sex life with my husband is, I've wondered to myself what it would be like to have sex that is never, not ever, overshadowed by past memories or high-jacked by yucky feelings.

I've shared these things in the hopes that it will help others who have been abused know that it is normal to see the shadows of abuse in their most intimate moments. It is sad, but not the end of the world. As we learn to trust God and our marriage partner and then honestly reveal our struggles, our healing continues. Moments of great stress or confusion may still be ahead for us, but so to are times of healing and refreshment. We can experience intimacy and rejoice in the wondrous moments. We can receive healing through really difficult and embarrassing discussions. We can release a deep breath and realize that we are quite normal folks, with hurts that take time to heal and hopes that illustrate our amazing resilience and our growing faith.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Releasing Shame

A Sesame Street book taught me a revolutionary principle when my children were young. As I read the often requested book to my kids, it's truth sunk into my soul. The book's title, Everyone Makes Mistakes said it all. Big Bird had a rough day of blunders, including pulling down a long line of freshly cleaned laundry down onto the ground.

In my childhood, I would have been sweating and worrying big time if I did something like that. Most likely I would have paced, feeling frenzy and panic, debating with myself what I should do. I would have thought of going in and making a confession and bravely bearing whatever the consequences were. I would have thought about running off to a friends and behaving as if I knew nothing about the situation. I surely would have felt like running. I hated how small and helpless I felt under my mom's fury that was sometimes icy and silent and other times quite loud with yelling and punctuated by spanking or yanking. I would consider the possibility of confessing to my dad, because sometimes he seemed nice, but most of the time he seemed very gruff and angry in a very controlled way, and he had a way of making me feel utterly stupid.

And then there was the secret that I tried to keep even to myself. The horrible incest that tore me apart and felt like it would kill me. My dad was the one who did those things to me. So I avoided my dad when I could and felt relief when he did something nice or when he was distant and unapproachable.

The options just weren't pretty in my non-picture book life. But I was a good girl. What sense of self I had was tied up in trying to please my parents and earn their affection. I was never good enough but I kept on trying anyway. So, I would have told the truth. I would have faced consequences, feeling brave inside and proving it by trying to suppress the tears that threatened to spill. I would have felt like a failure. I would have been "ashamed of myself," just as my mom chastised me to be so many times. I would have felt so small and worthless--because I messed up and did something wrong, again, despite good intentions.

But in the Sesame Street book, Big Bird doesn't hear, "Shame on you!" No, he didn't. He heard life-giving acceptance of our common human condition, even though he was a bird. He was told over and over, "Everyone makes mistakes" and was allowed to fix the results of his mistakes. As I recall, he even re-washed the laundry with the kind help of an adult.

My children loved the book and so did I, after I wrestled through my old memories that were so contrary to the simple picture book. One day when I apologized to my daughter about missing an important date on the calendar, she smiled at me and said, "It's okay, Mom, everyone makes mistakes." Such a gift she gave me! I felt like weeping, but I gave her a smile and said, "You're right! We all make mistakes sometimes, don't we."

I wonder how many readers of this post have battled with shame. Misplaced shame is a common result from abuse. We feel deep shame over small things and feel absolutely buried under shame when we make mistakes that hurt others. And we feel shame that is really beyond description over the abuse that we did not initiate and could not control. We felt and continue to feel the shame that the abuser refuses to feel.

Once we are free from abuse, it takes time to let go of shame. Time to show kindness to ourselves when we truly do make a mistake. Time to refuse shame when it really belongs to the abusive person(s) of our memories. Healing takes time, but it does happen when we allow it. Our Lord is powerful, good, and kind in his ways and he is ready to give us a big, gentle hug as He wipes away our stress with an understanding smile. "It's okay. Every human on the planet makes mistakes. Share your pain and confusion with Me, I'll comfort you and help you sort things out."

We don't have to keep carrying shame. Jesus can take it away and leave us with peace and gratefulness. One memory at a time, one day at a time, we can walk with Him and release the shame.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


What do we say to ourselves? Do we say things that encourage ourselves and build ourselves up? If we've been abused, then we may not. We may actually use the abuser's voice and words to tear ourselves down. We may do it without thinking.

It is a challenge, a continual challenge for me, to rewrite the "tapes" that play in my head. First, I have to be self-aware enough to catch what I am saying to myself and what automatic assumptions I am making. If I can "hear" myself, then I can make new choices. I can do a do-over and say something more encouraging and true.

This morning I realized that I was just too tired to participate in a neighborhood garage sale, so I didn't load up my stuff to take to a neighbor's driveway and then sit outside in the cold for 4 hours. Instead, I went to the sale with some money in my pocket and bought some items from my neighbors. I was out in the cold air a much shorter time than I would have been otherwise. It was the right move for my body that is still recovering from a bad head cold.

The interesting thing is that I assumed I was going to be "in trouble" somehow. After all, I hadn't done what I said I would do. I had "failed" according to the tape inside me that pushes me to be "perfect." I am combating that voice today. I didn't fail. I actually took another positive step in responding to my own needs in a positive, nurturing way. For years my needs were a problem to be ignored. But I am no longer in a dysfunctional environment. I can choose now, and I do, to practice being kind to myself and addressing my needs in a respectful and caring way.

How about you, Reader? Did you have an opportunity recently to practice a new tape to replace one of your old dysfunctional tape? Or do you have a tape you'd like to try changing? If any of your tapes include words such as lazy, stupid, selfish, needy, ugly, a failure or not good enough, I urge you to talk to someone trustworthy about it and try replacing the old message (that is a lie anyway) with something that you'd say to a friend. None of us need to stay stuck in the mindset we were loaded down with as victims of abuse. Today is a new day that we can live in a healthier way by practicing a gentler voice with ourselves.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Teaching Our Children

It is our responsibility to teach our children. Most of us know that on a deep internal level. But what shall we teach them? In this age of relativism and DNA awareness, what truths will we send forth into our family trees?

I urge all of you to write your own list of values that you would like to pass on. What do you think is essential for future generations? What truth or knowledge has helped you tremendously in life? What raises your passion, your sure loyalty and energy to defend? What do you hope your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be like?

Working on a list will strengthen your resolve and equip you to be intentional in how you behave and what you say. It will strengthen you to do things even when you don't feel like it. It will help you to do things for the next generation that no one did for you. It will help you to be your best self.

My list includes modeling kindness and teaching my children to respect others. Not the type of respect that is modeled by the world--not a kind of respect that depends on power or performance. I have wanted my children to understand on a deep level that they are special and unique, and so is every other human being. Respect among equals is powerful and lovely; I want my children ready to find and keep such relationships.

I want my heirs to know that there are situations in which they need to stand up for themselves, because some people will unknowingly step on their personal set of boundaries and need to be taught the limits of those boundaries. I also want my young sheep to be wary of the wolves in the world, who are prone to be controlling or abusive. I want them to respect that those people are choosing a lifestyle that is toxic to others around them. I want my children to respect themselves enough to stay away from poisonous relationships.

What is something that would be on your list? Give it thought. It could make a huge difference in the years to come.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is this Good for You?

Is it good for you? A short question with huge ramifications.

As former victims, we are more likely to base decisions on unconscious questions such as "Will the other person be mad if I say I don't want to do this?" or "I can survive a little more; what difference will it really make?" or "Will my doing this help this other person out?"

I am learning that this other-focused way of making decisions is insidious and well ingrained. It may have helped me in the past. Perhaps caring more about the other's reaction or needs, rather than evaluating my own condition and needs gave me at least gave me some illusion of power in situations of powerlessness.

But now that I am free from abuse and establishing a more healthy lifestyle, I need to know how decisions will affect me. I need to know if a food choice, medicine choice, or relationship choice is good for me. It turns out that I have a staring role in being responsible for my own health choices. Will I spend time with someone who drains me? Will I do something I do not want to do, because somebody important to me thinks that I should? Will I eat a food that has no nutrient value? Will I alternate sitting and standing throughout the day to respect my physical limitations?

How about you? Do you need to think about whether choices are good for you? The good news is we make many decisions daily so there is plenty of turf on which to practice. Start asking yourself, "Is this good for me?"

If we don't know whether or not something is good for us, we can ask the God who has promised to give wisdom to all who ask.

God, bless our minds with your wisdom, our hearts with receptiveness to the truth, and our wills ready to act in line with Your will. Amen.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
James 1:5 (NIV)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sex Trafficking

Twelve years old is the average age of girls who are sexually trafficked in the United States. Most of them are girls who ran away from an abusive home. I learned these facts at church today and didn't know whether to scream or cry! In my own country! Twelve years old! At puberty's onset for the early birds and ahead of it for the majority of girls. How horrifying!

What can a former victim do to help protect and free current victims of sexual crimes? It is a question that I think most former victims ask at some point. How can we help end the pain and the tragedy? How can we save children from the anxiety, danger, and shame?

I still need to read and digest the literature I brought home, but one thing is clear. This is a problem and different organizations are banding together to give it attention. These groups include the Emancipation Network,The Salvation Army, Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking, US Department of Health and Human Services,and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I am also aware of another group The Silver Braid. Giving support to any of these organizations or participating in their programs is one way we can help.

Other possible ways to help might include:
1. Educating ourselves and then educating others on the problems of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
2. Speaking up, having a voice, when the topic is brought up anywhere.
3. Report it whenever we have suspicions that a child is being abused or exploited.
4. Teach our sons to respect women.
5. Treat pornography as evil and educate your children about how damaging pornography is to both individuals and society.
6. Put porn protection programs on our family computer.
7. Let the shame be the perpetrator's and share our story with others. It helps others to know where to turn for help. It also helps educate others around us on the helplessness of a dependent child and the damage caused by abuse.
8. Create a home in which all family members feel safe, loved, and respected. Allow children to have a voice.
9. Get help and support from counselors and organizations if any of your children are ever sexually abused by someone. Don't let family or friend connections stop you from getting your child and yourself help.
10. Carry phone numbers of help agencies in your purse, so that you'll be able to give the information to someone who is hurting.
11. Pray for the children who are being abused.
12. Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Someday your obedience may allow God to use you to change a child's life.

We are former victims. We understand the pain. We are no longer helpless. We can help to whatever extent God urges.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Impediment to Relaxation

A former life full of abuse does not make one laid back. Truly, deeply relaxing is foreign when you've spent years being on constant alert, watching your abuser and assessing your level of danger. Like a rabbit or dear, your ears are attuned to the constant threat of the predator.

Years after I stopped engaging in abusive relationships,I realized that I was rarely relaxed. There was always a tightness inside and always a suspicion that at any moment abuse might walk back into my life. Working on abuse survivor issues with a qualified counselor has helped considerably, but relaxation itself has taken concentrated effort for me. I am improving step by step.

I recently a doctor mentioned to me that "sometimes you just need to relax and watch a good movie." I love a good movie, but too often I keep my hands and eyes busy doing something productive during my "watching." Splitting my focus like that doesn't allow for optimal relaxation. I knew it as soon as she made her comment. I need to allow myself to just focus on one thing at a time so that my mind and body can relax more.

I'm far from an expert on the topic of relaxation, but I am writing about it anyway because it is important. Not just nice, but necessary. God didn't design our bodies to be on constant alert, pumping adrenaline frequently. It damages the body over time when we never relax. I have learned this the hard way. My body has gone on strike and left me with fibromyalgia.

So how can we relax when we've been terrorized by one or more abusers, who insisted through words and/or actions that our needs had no significance?

Here is what I am discovering:

1. Getting to know God on a deeper level and asking Him to help me trust Him more has been revolutionary. I now know, absolutely know, that God is for me, not against me. I know that my Creator loves me. I know that my soul is safe with Him forever. Knowing these things with my heart and soul has made it safe to relax.

2. Relaxation exercises are helpful. The simplest one is to breath deeply and slowly, allowing your chest and stomach to rise and fall slowly and restfully. It brings down your stress level and sends lots of needed oxygen to your limbs.

3. Taking a warm bath (not hot) relaxes the muscles and the mind. Adding lavender or bath salts adds to the relaxation, as do light candles near by.

4. Sitting outside and staring at the clouds, the birds or the breeze moving the tree branches is soothing.

5. Exercise on a regular basis lowers stress levels. So set up a schedule and get moving. If you have been sedentary, start small(i.e. a 5-10 minute walk) and build up.

6. Spend social time with people who are upbeat. Life is too short to invest your precious downtime with negative people.

7. Learn to say no to overburdening your schedule. Every second should not be committed.

8. Repeat to yourself that it is healthy and healing to spend time doing things that you love. (It is not wrong or selfish!)

Let's say yes to times of relaxation, smiles, and laughter. This life is full of trials but it need not be all work and no play. You're too precious for that. You'd be worried if your child or sister refused to ever recreate or relax--you're just as important and your needs are just as real. So learn how to let go of responsibilities for a few minutes each day. Breath deeply and do something enjoyable and renewing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ways to Help Your Children Heal

How can we help our children heal from abuse? As much as we would like to, we cannot wave a magic wand and fix all the broken places in their spirits. Abuse hurts everyone in the family. If we separate from the abuser and focus on healing for ourselves and our children--we have made a huge, positive impact on our children's futures. But there is much more we can do, if we focus on helping ourselves and our children to heal. Not just survive--but heal.

1. Ask God to heal you and your children. Too often we forget to ask, but without God's help nothing of lasting value is possible. God alone knows every hurting place in each child.

2. Resolve to create an abuse-free home. Resolve to never live in denial again. Both things will take effort, but the rewards will be invaluable.

2. Find counseling for you and your children. Don't let lack of money deter your search. There are counselors who give reduced fees. Ask for contacts from your church and from your county health department.

3. Trust your children's pacing. Allow them to initiate conversations about their other parent. Focus on listening. What is your child feeling or wondering? Respond simply and briefly.

4. Tell the truth in simple, calm language and tone when your child wants to know why you and the other parent are separated or divorced. Be trustworthy.

5. Keep as much routine in your life as you can. It will help the children feel more secure.

6. Do not drop discipline. Yes, the children have gone through a lot, but they need reasonable boundaries to feel secure and loved.

7. Create fun times with your children. It will lift all of your spirits and help relieve some of the stress. Try being silly now and then. An upside down dinner (dessert first) or a race across the park or playing follow the goofy leader can generate laughter that is much needed.

8. If you are divorced, don't date anyone for at least a year. Such a stand is not common these days but it could save you and your children from a lot of grief. Your children need some undivided attention from you. And you need time to heal enough to become attracted to non-abusers.

9. Pay attention to the quality of any daycare you need to use. Be picky. Your children don't need any more neglect or abuse. If something isn't right, confront the daycare provider and if that doesn't resolve the problem, look for new daycare.

10. Seek God's help in forgiving your abuser and yourself. Letting go of bitterness will go a long way toward creating a healing environment. I do not mean a quickie forgiveness that is ultimately artificial. Dig into real forgiveness that is grounded in truth about the wounds inflicted and the need we all have for a Savior. God can help you forgive at the best pace. All you need to do is to be honest and to reach a place of sincere surrender to the need for forgiveness.

11. Learn to take care of your own needs. You can't help your children if you are constantly overwhelmed and burnt out. Your abuser taught you that your needs were unimportant, but that is simply not true. Simple measures can make such a difference--ask the neighbors to watch the children and go on a walk, hike, or run, draw a warm bath and light a candle, or postpone a decision until after you've had a chance to calm down or to seek wise counsel. You bless your children when you treat yourself with respect and loving care. You're modeling healthy ways and teaching them that they too can voice their own needs.

It is not too late to help your children heal. Your children need you. Be present. Your actions will speak straight into their hearts, so show your love by treating them in loving and respectful ways. God will show you the way, just lean on Him and follow Him.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft