The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
**Content Warning: This article discusses domestic violence and abuse. If you have or are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for help and resources.**
There are very few situations or events as traumatic as domestic violence. Abuse can leave you with physical and emotional scars that can last a long time. This can cause significant distress and difficulties, even long after the abuse has ended.
However, though it may not always feel like it, the truth is that a more positive future is waiting for you. Once you have left your abusive situation, you are free to heal and find the joy that you deserve. Read on to learn how you can begin to rebuild your life and heal after surviving domestic violence.
Your first priority after surviving domestic violence is finding a sense of stability and security. It has probably been a long time since you felt safe or had any stability or sense of autonomy. Therefore, you need to care about your basic survival needs before doing anything else.
Make sure you have a safe place to live, a stable job, and the money to buy all your essentials. Create a sense of independence and security so that you aren’t tempted to go back to an abusive situation again just to get your needs met. Being on your own and creating a solid foundation with clear the path forward to further healing and recovery.
Process Your Experiences
Once you are safe and have a solid foundation, it is time to process your experiences. Ignoring your pain or trauma will not make them go away. The emotional scars will remain until you find ways to process the distress you experienced.
Talking with a counselor is the best way to start this process. They have the training to help abuse survivors work on their limiting beliefs and develop strategies that will ensure a better future. They can also treat any mental health conditions or other consequences of domestic violence, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, you can also process the emotions on your own. For example, you can write in a journal to analyze your thoughts, practice mindfulness or meditation, or partake in other activities that facilitate emotional healing.
Find A Support Network
It’s also essential to create a support network so that you don’t experience your healing journey alone. This can include going to a support group for domestic violence survivors or reconnecting with friends and family.
Abusers will often isolate their targets from their friends and family so that no one can help them. Therefore, once a survivor leaves an abusive situation, they may feel isolated and alone. It is crucial to reconnect with loved ones or create a new support network so you are no longer alone.
Create Goals To A Happier Future
As you progress on your healing journey, you should start planning for a more positive future. When experiencing domestic violence, survivors often lose their sense of individuality and any hope for their future. Their dreams may be squashed by their abusers, or they become so focused on survival that they don’t even know what their dreams are. Now that you are safe and taking control of your life, you can plan for a happier future.
If you don’t know what your dreams are, take some time to think about what you want from life. You can use a journal or ask your counselor for help with this. When we spend months or years under the control of someone else, it can take some time to figure out who we are and what we want. Therefore, there’s no shame in taking time to do this or consulting with a professional along the way.
Once you have an idea of what you want, start setting goals to achieve your dreams, and then take baby steps to reach those goals. It is essential to be patient with the process and set achievable goals. The path to any dream can take a long time and require an enormous amount of energy. However, by creating goals that are achievable, you will find yourself on the path to progress soon enough.
The path to healing is rarely straightforward. It comes with challenges and setbacks that can stumble you along the way. That’s why no matter what is happening, you should practice self-compassion.
Don’t beat yourself up for being emotional or struggling with basic tasks. Domestic violence can affect you long after the abuse has ended, so know that your challenges are normal. Furthermore, your emotions are valid, and it may take a while to heal fully. Remind yourself that this is okay, and keep working on your healing strategies.
You should also find ways to motivate and empower yourself when life seems difficult. Though you may have some bad days, having strategies to recover and keep being positive will keep your momentum going.
Furthermore, no matter what is happening, always take time for self-care. Eat nutritious food, get plenty of rest, and exercise often. Also, take time to relax, treat yourself, and set appropriate boundaries to ensure you have plenty of “me time.”
And, of course, remember that your past does not define you. Though the experience may have been traumatic, you can heal. The healing process is not a race; it is a journey. So make sure to be patient and compassionate with yourself every step of the way.
For more guidance and tips on healing from domestic violence, click on the link below: