By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
You’ve left the abuse behind. You’re determined not to go back. You’ve realized that you deserve more than an unsafe, abusive partner who controls and demeans you. You deserve better--a happy, fulfilling life in which you can make a positive difference in the world. You know, deep down, that great things are in store for you, even if you can’t fully picture what that will look like or how you will get there. You’re ready to step boldly into your new life, free from abuse.
But first, there may be some messes that you need to “clean up” in the process of moving on from your abusive partner. Your finances may be limited--or even non-existent. Your abuser may have blocked you from going for your educational or career goals, and you’re frustrated when you think of where you could be or should be if you hadn’t fell prey to that person’s controlling tactics.
Today, I want to encourage you. You can do this! You are not alone on the challenges you’ve faced. We’ve heard from hundreds of survivors of abusive relationships through our See the Triumph research program. Time and again, we’ve seen that recovery, accomplishment, and triumph are possible in the aftermath of abuse. It’s true that the path to this new life may be more complicated for you now, but you showed your strength surviving in and leaving the abusive relationship, and that same strength will be your inner guide as you rebuild your life and career after abuse.
At See the Triumph, we’ve heard from many survivors that the abuse they experienced left them feeling disappointed by all that their abusers had taken from them, emotionally, financially, and in terms of lost opportunities. As one survivor told us, “I am completely behind the rest of the world because I have had to spend so much time dealing with an abuser.” Rebuilding after abuse may involve starting over completely, from scratch. Safety risks may persist, as abusers can continue to use their abusive tactics even after the relationship ended. As another survivor said, “I had to move twice running from him. People don’t understand how afraid you can be. Others only judge and don’t help.
And yet, what we’ve seen in survivors is a fierce determination and tenacity to move forward, by doing whatever it takes. Consider the following quote from a survivor in our research: “I am over $100,000 in debt (living off student loans and credit cards), all while working four jobs and going to grad school to try to get my life back in order.” Although it is unfortunate that this survivor is incurring more debt during the process of rebuilding, we can only stand in awe of her commitment and dedication to bettering her life--working four jobs is no easy feat, and then she added graduate school on top of that. This survivor, like many others we’ve heard from, shows just how determined people can be when they put their mind to it and commit to building a safe, fulfilling life in the aftermath of abuse.
In many cases, there are no easy solutions to rebuilding your life following abuse. Of course, there are strategies that can help this process, such as (1) surrounding yourself with as much positive, encouraging social support as you can find, (2) mapping out a vision for what you would like your future life to be like, (3) developing a plan for how to get your life from your starting point now to making that vision a reality, (4) setting meaningful, realistic goals to help you track your progress along the way, and (5) practicing intentional self-care so you can cope with the frustrations and challenges that arise.
It may be tempting at times to wish you could simply wave a magic wand to completely erase the past and fast forward to a future time when your life feels more stable and “rebuilt.” At times, it is a good idea to simply notice and appreciate those feelings and allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise with this tempting wish.
However, I also encourage you to remember to appreciate the beauty in the struggle of rebuilding your life following abuse. You will find strengths in yourself that you might never have known existed as you face each challenge, one-by-one, and see that you can overcome this. You can leave the past behind, but still benefit from the powerful person it has made you today. You can move forward toward building a life that reflects the unique person that you are and the positive impacts that you can have on the world and people around you.
With each challenge you face in the process of rebuilding your life after abuse, rest in the confidence of knowing that this process offers you opportunities to learn about yourself, identify people in your life who are tried-and-true supporters, and tap into the depths of your strength and courage. You are worth it.