By Anonymous Survivor
I closed the door to my home. He was gone. I could breathe. I looked around. My children and I were safe and alone, and there was an overwhelming sense of calm that came over the house.
Of course, I was afraid, because I didn’t know if I could handle all of the changes that would come next. The life that lay ahead--it looked so daunting. I didn’t know if I could really do it. There were a lot of unknowns, so many questions about what would happen next.
But, in that moment, I felt peace. It was perhaps the deepest sense of peace I had ever experienced. It has been years since that day when my abusive marriage ended, but I will never forget that feeling of deep, palpable peace that came over me when he was gone.
In my journey to prepare to end the marriage, I had learned a lot about how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. Domestic violence experts talk a lot about all the challenges that survivors face when they leave--and these are true. But, those of us who have walked through the leaving and recovering process understand on a deeper level what that process feels like. It’s one thing to understand that it’s hard to leave an abusive relationship--it’s another thing entirely to live through the harrowing moments of joy and peace, but also self-doubt and fear, that come along with that process.
When someone talks about “leaving an abusive relationship,” it can sound like that’s a one-time event. It sounds like it happens once, and it’s done with. One moment, you’re in the relationship, and the next moment, you’ve left. It’s done. End of story, right?
In truth, leaving an abusive relationship is a process that is made of a million moments.
There are the moments leading up to that decision. Moments where you question if you’re about to make the right choice. If you’ll be safe when you leave. If your friends and family members will support you and stand by your side, or if they will judge and condemn you and walk away.
And then, there are so many moments after you’ve actually left. Leaving is both a physical process--involving one or both people actually moving out or moving on--and an emotional process. Even when the relationship is technically over, there are emotional ties that connect you to your former abuser, and you have to painstakingly untie each one. After leaving, there are moments of joy and excitement about what lies ahead, and there are moments of panic and fear, also about what lies ahead. The uncertainty of these moments can be overwhelming.
What lies between the moments leading up to leaving an abusive relationship and the moments after you’ve left? For me, it was that moment of peace that I felt when he was finally gone, once and for all. It was a spiritual moment, one where I could feel God’s presence in my life, offering me the comfort of knowing that I’d made the right decision, that my kids and I were going to be okay, and that my life would certainly be better without him and without the abuse.
Since that moment of peace, I have certainly had many other moments where that peace felt far away. And yet, even when I am in the midst of those extremely difficult moments, I can always return in my mind to that precious moment of peace. The certainty of that peace affirmed the deep truth that lay within it--I had made the right decision, and my life had just taken a turn for the better. In one simple moment, peace surrounded me, and I knew deep in my heart that I was going to be okay.