Finding Closure After Abuse
Moving on after any breakup is challenging, but healing after an abusive relationship can be especially difficult. All breakups may have their aftermath of sadness and loss, but for someone transitioning from victim to survivor, the fallout may include continued harassment or attacks. The resulting ongoing mental trauma and emotional stress can make a survivor question, “Was leaving really worth it?”
YES. Yes, leaving is worth it.
Why is moving on after abuse so difficult? Abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abusive partner holds that power by minimizing their victim’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit. If you’re leaving an abusive relationship, rebuilding your life can be a hard process, but with time and space, finding closure and peace is possible. A violence-free life is waiting, and you are so very worth it.
Cut off contact with your ex
During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abusive partner through the break up, or show them how you’re better off. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.
Try different methods to avoid contacting your former partner. Delete their phone number and change yours. If you’re picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk away — or call the hotline instead.
Resist the urge to look them up on social media. Unfriend or block them, and if pictures or news keep popping up, it could be helpful to remove mutual friends as well.
Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your ex and don’t send it — or, if you’re in counseling, send it to your therapist instead.
Surround yourself with support
After an abusive relationship, allow yourself to get help and support from others. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to keep you from answering phone calls from your ex, stop you from texting them back, etc.
If your abusive partner isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group. If you call the hotline, one of our advocates can connect you to services in your area.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened wasn’t your fault.
Find things that make you happy. Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people.
If you have children, find ways to make time for yourself. Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic violence centers provide childcare while you’re attending support groups.
Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself can help shift negative thoughts.
Remember that you’ll get better with time
The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.
Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them.
If you feel that therapy might be helpful, sooner is always better. Therapy can be beneficial for everyone because it’s a place where you can learn increased self-awareness, clarify your goals and look at the choices in front of you.
Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing.
Entering counseling does not necessarily mean that you are mentally ill or can’t cope on your own. Therapy is about how much you’re putting in place to support yourself in healing and succeeding.
Speaking with a trauma specialist can help survivors to deal with their remaining anxiety and find ways to relieve that stress. These specialists can help to process traumatic memories or experiences so that it is possible to move on. They can also aid survivors in learning to regulate their strong emotions like fear and anger.
A good match between therapist and client is one of the most powerful healing factors in a therapeutic relationship. Look for someone who makes you feel heard, understood, safe and comfortable.
Tales of Hope and Inspiration
To read these survivor’s stories and others, head to our “Share Your Story” section.
“Today I am grateful to be alive, to have two beautiful children who weren’t raised in a home filled with emotional, physical and mental violence and to have the opportunity to serve other women who are or have been abused. ” — Sil Lai
“Our new life would not have been possible without the help of Mom’s friends. Know your neighbors; know your friends. If someone is hurting your friend or family member, it IS your business. Get involved.” — Christina
“Surviving domestic violence is one day at a time. I believe that forgiveness is important in moving on but not forgetting because this made you a stronger person. You lived through something that most people couldn’t.” — Shana