Despite what we might naturally be inclined to think, the stages of grief do not necessarily occur in order; they are not linear, and they do not have to only occur once. In fact, we can even experience all of the stages at the same time. Wonderful, right?
We made up our minds; we have finally made a decision, committed to it, acted on it. Oh, boy. Now what? We understand why we left. No one really wants to die. No one really wants to live in constant fear or anxiety. No one wants to feel disrespected or unloved. No one really wants to have their freedoms compromised or feel trapped.
When you leave the abuse behind, you are going to begin experiencing a unique type of grief and heartbreak. Things are likely to get worse before they get better. Here is what to expect:
But, despite all of this knowledge, we also recognize this: We still loved them. We still love them. You see, love isn’t one of those feelings we can simply disengage or cut off and on like a light switch. It takes time, circumstance, and willingness to hold onto or let go of love.
And then there is the other big issue. We don’t even know who we are. We have no idea how to operate without this person in our life anymore. It fundamentally changes how we think, act, speak, and feel. It is like a vital organ has now been removed, or like a puzzle piece gone missing.
You aren’t grieving over that actual person as they now exist.
Even though you have physically left the situation of chaos, fighting, and drama, your mind and body will continue to fight the good fight.
please note: If you have suicidal ideation, reach out for support and seek a qualified therapist as soon as possible. The sooner the trauma is addressed, the quicker the healing process can be initiated. Remember that these impulses are temporary and more normal than people make it out to be, and we need to take control of those feelings right away.
This includes developing coping strategies to move past the struggles. First, recognize that these feelings are temporary and will pass. You will come out better and stronger in the end. Coping is unique and individualistic in nature. You will need to look inside to find what’s right for you. I have found the following tips below personally helpful.
Here are just a few starter ideas to cope.
This can be a great way to meet new people and form healthy relationships, especially if this had been a part of yourself that you’d lost before from the relationship. Find a place you feel welcomed, a place where you can fit in without making yourself uncomfortable or nervous. The guidance and wisdom when found from spiritual connection can be useful to feel renewed; it can provide you with a preparation of something to fall back on the rest of the week, should troubled time arise.
For some odd reason, certain sound wave patterns seem to relax those with PTSD. I have found metal or hard rock music to be especially and strangely relaxing to many who are in suffering. Trying ASMR sounds as therapy to relax could also be beneficial. Experiment around until you find the ones that work for you. For example, I enjoy sand noises, crunching of apples, and soap being cut. The sound of water can also be healing, such as from a fish tank, rain, or using simulations of natural water sounds may help.
Sensitivity to sunlight can impact physical ability to see and concentrate on the road which can evoke anger and road rage, and also cause flashbacks and lead to traffic accidents. Candlelight can be soothing and relaxing, since it is a soft warm light whereas fluorescent is a bright cool light which can trigger anxiety.
PTSD sufferers and trauma survivors can feel angry and aggressive for no reason, and as a result can be impulsive or make driving errors while distracted. Play it safe, and make rituals for before and after driving to keep you calm. Practice breathing or other techniques to implement when you start to feel out of control.
Use aromatic oils and scents, healing salts, and anything you find comforting. This really calms my nerves and anxiety. I also find it surprisingly satisfying to allow myself to feel temperature differentials by switching from hot to cold water.
If you sit around too long, you will start overthinking or begin to ruminate. If nothing else, focus on breathing for at least 5 minutes. I’ve found doing things with my hands to be particularly helpful, including crafts or art. Anything that is tangible can help keep you grounded or bring you back if your mind is starting to wander.
Speak up if something has triggered or bothered you. Be respectful and kind while letting them know it is important to you explain you have little to no control over how it is making you feel or respond right now. Healthy people in your life will respect this and try their best to accommodate your needs. Do not hide feelings or hold them in suppressed.
Especially try new activities that you’ve always wanted to try, or activities that your abuser might have specifically discouraged. This will give you a new sense of reward and empowerment, making you feel both mentally and physically strong. My personal favorite is boxing.
Just remember that it took you a long time to get here and to get out, and it is going to take a while for you to heal. Please remember that it is possible, and you will get through this temporary transition to freedom. It may not seem that way sometimes, but remember that you were strong enough to leave and you are strong enough to survive this, too. Join a support group and lean on others that have been through and understand this, too. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.