By: Mary E. Latela



Where do you begin a healing journey? Where do you start when you are hurting and in need of healing? The simple answer is,  begin where you are.

But really, where do you begin to become WHOLE again when you have been shattered, when your world – which ALWAYS seemed upside down – comes crashing down? You have left your abusive situation, and now you are living with the consequences. You may be involved in counseling and group work to sort out what to do with the past and how to move from now into the future. In invite you to begin to seek healing for your spirit. Imagine a place within you where God dwells. I remind you that God is with you and within you. At this point in your struggle, you may feel that God is nowhere to be found. You may have learned to think that God is just another one of those “authority figures” who are there to judge you, waiting for you to make a mistake, and to punish you for guessing wrong.

And since you have heard so often that you are defective or inadequate, you may have to struggle to convince yourself that it is OK to invite God into your heart for a new moments.

Invite God to fill you with light and love. You may be able to consider this only briefly before returning to that nagging question, how could God love someone like me? I don’t know if I even like myself. Besides, the person I loved the most in this world turned away from me. The idea that God is on your side may seem strange. For a long, long time you may have thought of God as a powerful and not very friendly presence, who knew all your secrets, even the “family secrets,” and yet did nothing.

So the healing journey begins, not with a step, but with a process through which you begin to accept and rejoice that God called you into being, that God loved you first, and that God chooses to love you forever.

This process involves a shift of thinking. You will gradually stop seeing yourself through the eyes of your critics, and start looking out at the world through your own eyes, your vision sharpened by the growing realization that God has not abandoned you after all.


Making Peace With God…


You may wonder how you can possible be comfortable with God new, when God seems to have forgotten you just when you needed help the most. You may be facing the reality that God does not always act in a way that we approve of, or understand. Where was God? Why did God keep silent when you cried out for comfort? Why did God do nothing when you begged for help, for mercy? Why did God allow you to be abused? Why didn’t God stop your partner from inflicting pain and suffering on you? This is the mystery. And there are no comforting answers. You know that people are free to choose to do good or to do evil. You know that people have their “free will,” and that they act without being stopped. God gave us free. If God made the rules, and set down the guidelines, then why can’t or won’t God suspend the rules to prevent people from being hurt so badly? Why could not God rescue me? Why could not God rescue you? Why not a miracle – just this once?

Don’t apologize for feeling that God has forgotten you. It’s OK to tell God that you feel abandoned, to ask god, Where were you when I needed you most? Where were you when the children were being hurt? It’s OK to be angry with God. God can take it.

Somehow, you have survived! That is cause of r rejoicing. Somehow, you did muster the courage (or the fear) to end your abuse, to stop your abuser. Could you have done this alone? Perhaps, but you may sense that you have exhibited strength which you didn’t know you had, that you have done things which you never thought you could do, that you managed to rise above your fear, your terror, and your rage, to take steps to free yourself and your children from family violence. You decided to see for yourself whether there is “life after family violence.” And here you are.

Perhaps, God was there all the time. And if you are not ready to talk with God, at least remember that God has promised to be with you…through it all. “Be not afraid.” How can you stop being afraid, unless Someone helps you? We never know how much we can do, until we step out of our comfort zone. We surprise ourselves with our ability to do what we were so afraid to do, when we take a stand for our life, for our survival, when we say NOT to conditions to which we had submitted, when we refuse to allow our souls to be damaged anymore. We begin to be healed when we decide to heal, I need healing for my body. I need healing for my soul. I need healing for my SELF.


Acknowledging Your First Steps…


You may feel that you are just beginning, and in some sense you are. Now that you have started to separate yourself from your abusive family situation, you can focus on healing. Be sure to give yourself credit for the very important steps you  have taken.

You did come to that point where you knew something must change – and that “turning point” made all the difference. Perhaps your turning point came when you thought you had reached bottom, when you felt very down on yourself, when you thought you had nothing left…and some would agree. Then, you turned a corner – and whether or not someone noticed or pointed it out to you – nothing will ever be the same. Some are inclined to give credit to angels …and who can say? You may have realized, quite sadly, that your relationship was over – emotionally, spiritually. You may have experienced what felt like an “emotional divorce.” And as painful as that was, you began to think of your relationship in a whole new way. You began to detach yourself from what you knew was a dying or dead connection. Reaching that point has empowered you to begin living again. You are ready to pick up the pieces…to find wholeness for yourself, to be the person whom God created you to be. Thank God for turning you! You can almost hear God saying, “I will keep you safe in the palm of my hand…Those people who wanted to abuse you, where are they?” what are mere people compared to God’s power and overriding love? This change of heart, this metanoia, allowed you to change course…away from death and darkness and fear and toward light and life and hope! Certainly, this can be a frightening shift, and the way may seem dim, but you have decided to go on with your life, to take care of yourself, to learn to be alone and OK. It was scary. It is scary, but you have come so far. You are well on your way in this journey to recover your SELF. Though you may be hesitant to believe it, God is holding you up and guiding you and perhaps giving you a little push. Not so very long ago, you were terrified of finding out the truth, of unmasking the secrets, of really getting to know yourself. And now, you want to know the truth and deal with it, and be real. OK!


Being Alone: Being There…


What now? You have made your decision. You have left behind your abusive situation. And now you feel…alone and empty. You have felt alone before and, God knows, you felt alone in your relationship. You have been isolated from others  who used to mean so much to you. You have even tried to hide form yourself. Your inner aching was covered up by fear and anger and uncertainty. Now you are acutely aware of that emptiness and you may wonder, What have I done? Have I burned my bridges? Perhaps…perhaps I was better off then…at least, there were some things that could be counted on… STOP! Yes, there were some things you could count on – anger and chaos and abuse, loud shouting or cold silence, physical pain, pain in your heart. Enough! You do know loneliness. You may have fought your battle for survival ALONE. You may have kept your secret because you truly believed, back then, that you ”caused the abuse. What was really happening was that you simply could not figure out how to please someone who would never be pleased. And if you did gather the courage to turn to your friends, to your physicians, to the people who were supposed to help, even in this so-called enlightened age, you may have been rebuffed, because so many people are afraid to get involved in what they consider to be a “crazy” situation. The real “craziness,” you see, is the fear of good people to recognize injustice, to look it in the face and to condemn it. Perhaps you are disappointed that “friends” did not support you, even after you fearfully told your story. It is often easier for others to concentrate on their own familiar problems that to risk involvement in your “tense” situation.

What do you do now? I think it’s important to not simply flee aloneness. Some are tempted to try to fill up the empty space frantically and without much deliberation. Reading everything in sight will buy time, but eventually, you will still be faced with the reality of being alone. Cleaning, tearing down walls, painting the bathroom, will buy time, but eventually, you will still be faced with being alone. It’s OK to buy time, as long as you occupy yourself with wholesome activities. Getting entangled in an intimate, shallow relationship, may fill your time, but you risk being hurt again, before you have built up your resources to deal with the past, let alone with the present.

At some point in your filling-up-time frenzy, as the saying goes, “You have to fish our cut bait.” You have to take a stand for yourself. You have to face your life as it is, not as you wish it were. Live with your aloneness. That is scary! But feeling how you feel, leaning into it, is a healing step. It is healing because you will be facing your deepest fears and your most painful worries – head on. You will begin to peel back the layers of self-protection which you have needed so far, but which are becoming like too many sweaters on a warm spring day. And you will survive! And each day that you survive brings you closer to choosing – once and for all – living over survival.

The reality, friend, is that we are each alone. In the beginning and in the end, we are alone. All our relationships either help or hinder our growth as individuals, and our coming to maturity as individuals. Before God and before ourselves, we are alone. Caring about another, being close to others, loving others…is good. However, we cannot depend on others to make our life meaningful if we do not find meaning on our own.

Being alone and loneliness are different, but they often overlap. In the night, when we realize our vulnerability, when we reach out for someone else and no one is there, when we just long for a hug and it’s not possible, when we miss our children and cannot have them with us – we experience loneliness. This may not help, but it’s true – loneliness is a part of the human condition. Everyone – unless oblivious to others – experiences loneliness at times. The point is – try not to fear loneliness. It is not permanent condition. It is not life-threatening. Loneliness is similar to chronic pain, which is uncomfortable and needs tending, but which will not kill you. Tend to your loneliness with a bit of good humor. Even if you had been in a good relationship which ended reluctantly, even if you were in a healthy relationship, sometimes, you would have been lonely.

NOW you can take care of yourself, you can attend to your needs without constant fear. You may have to struggle to believe it, but you will find healing moments, even in the midst of your aloneness. Begin to really care about yourself, and take care of you with love and gentleness.


Working Through Guilt….


Do you believe that you are to blame for your situation of family violence? Do you believe that you were foolish or naïve to think you could change your partner? Are you feeling a failed relationship reflects on your worth as a person? You are worth it! You are valuable! You are gifted! You trusted in your partner and, in a healthy situation, this would have been appropriate, but you were abused for your trust, abused for your ability to try to mend the brokenness, abused for your nonviolence. Talking about these feelings  can help. You may feel that you never want to talk about your experience as a former victim of family violence. You may feel that you want to “shout it from the rooftops” so that everyone will know.

 Perhaps you will find some healing in telling your story to one person and knowing that he/she believes you and respects you. Do this only if and when you are ready. Do not share your story just because you hear that it’s a good idea, or because you want to “get it over with,” or because people ask you to, or because you are afraid of what people will think if you don’t talk. Telling your story can be healthy if you do so freely, if you find someone who is prepared to handle the reality. If you want to get outside of your story and tell it so that you can understand and learn from it, you may be happier in future relationships.

Try to give your feelings of guilt over to God. If we deliberately do something evil, to hurt someone else or ourselves, then we probably ought to feel guilty. At least, we should try to “right the wrong” by apologizing, by making amends, by changing our behavior. When we are victimized by someone else, we may also feel guilty, but it’s not the same. In some ways, unwarranted guilt is more challenging to deal with than the kind we know we ought to feel. I suppose this is because these are powerful feelings so the intensity almost convinces us that we deserve to feel guilty.

Turn to God, if you can, for help in relieving this burden, which you did not earn, which you do not deserve, and which you do not need.


The Secret Is Out!...


Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved and set me free. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see!”

It’s as if you were blind and now you have the ability to see your life and what you have endured. And the ability to see can be painful, because you can no longer avoid reality. You may feel that your life has become incredibly complicated.

Accustomed to staying in the dark, you feel as if a spotlight is shining into all those secret corners that you had tried to avoid facing. Accustomed to feeling trapped, you are suddenly – fearfully – empowered. Accustomed to thinking of yourself as a victim of someone else’s sin, you must now see yourself as a whole person – a person with a purpose beyond suffering. You cannot be blind to your circumstances, or to the consequences of turning yourself toward the light. And this is always a little frightening.

You realize that you are accountable – not that you are to blame for the past, but you are responsible for what you do with your future. Your time of feeling relieved, of rejoicing at your freedom, is soon tempered by everyday living, by the many things you have to do. Life will never be the same! Hurray! Hmmmm…

And that is the point! Once we have taken out our secrets and held them to the light, we cannot go back into the darkness. We may want to, but we know that we cannot. We can never go back to life the way it used to be.

Once the bright of truth has shone into your face, and into your heart, you cannot go back into hiding, back to the dangerous, though relatively safe, position from which you could say, I don’t know and I don’t want to know.

Through your work in healing spiritually after a time of family violence, you have gone up to the attic of your life and opened up the memories – some dusty old stories which you would rather have forgotten. You have become aware – or have been reminded – that everyone has struggles, even a strong and resilient person. You have found the keys to secret trunks, and you have bravely opened them. You have found that secrets are definitely more fearsome hidden than in the light.

You may be surprised to know that people who care about you have known for some time about your pain. And they  may have tried to intervene, to talk you into leaving sooner, to convince you that your life is worth fighting for. No regrets! When you were ready, you took to heart the notion that you must change your life in order to live. Thank God, you left in time. You are alive. You have made the decision to live. And that is a powerful beginning.

You may have noticed the discomfort and sadness of “knowing,” as opposed to just “surviving.” You may have been frustrated that the quiet, comfortable tension level has been upset, perhaps increased to migraine level. The secrets are out. The wound  is open, and you have this new ability to see- and this obligation to face what you see – the nastiness and the beauty. You will never be the same.

Friend, you have become a truth- teller: you openly affirm goodness and condemn evil as you know them. You surely have become an embarrassment to some others because of your power to speak out, and their need to continue the secret, or at least, to keep the truth “in the family.” You may even find that some people prefer the “old” you. You may find that some people will test you, not because you are weak, but because they have a need to abuse someone who is vulnerable. Brace yourself! Now, what do you do with the powerful emotions, the feelings of being betrayed or unloved or unwanted or…uncertain? For some time, in the history of psychology, the notion of “catharsis” was very prominent.

People were urged to let out all their raw emotion – anger, terror, resentment. The “experts” said it was good to “get it all out.” And now, don’t you feel better that what was locked inside has been uncovered? Not really!

Real healing begins after you have “let it all out.” You are a wonderful person, full of love. Perhaps you have never been able to enjoy a relationship in which your love was returned and nurtured. You have strengthened yourself by perseverance and determination. What happen next? This is the life you have been given, and for which you are accountable. You must decide what to do with all the pain as well as with all the joy and spiritual power. Will you seek healing? Will you find healing? Will you keep on trusting that the Lord is here for you at this time and in this place? You know too well what it’s like to wander around “in the valley of the shadow of death.” You are ready to be lifted out of that valley by the love of God and the support of community.  The Lord is here, as from the beginning, to walk with you during this is-between time. God is listening. God sent you here for a reason: this is a special time in your history, a turning point. And now I see! And now I see!

May you know that God is with you in the days and in the nights ahead, as you continue the journey, open to the Spirit of God working within you and in others who care about you.


Grieving For So Much…


Whenever we suffer a loss, we grieve. When a loved one dies, when a dear friend moves away, when our children grow up and leave home, we have an emptiness…which cries out for attention.

You have lost so much! You may actually feel that you have lost everything, and this may seem accurate, but there IS something is left. Healing your spirit involves being attentive to the pain and emptiness of loss as well as trying to identify a seed of possibility.

No one needs to remind you of what you have lost. But you may find it useful to say it out loud. I have lost my marriage. I have lost my self-esteem. I have wasted my youth. I have been robbed of my innocence. I have lost my will to go on. I have lost my children. I have lost my faith…in others…in God…in myself…I no longer believe in love.

Any of these losses is major, and your sense that you have suffered several – or all – of them may be overwhelming! Your pain is excruciating. Your pain is sharp and dull and flat and pointed. Your pain flares up and around, so you feel engulfed by the white heat of grief. How do you begin to experience all this without crumbling? Some victims of family violence discover that, once they are safe, their familiar feelings of tension and fear are replaced by what seems to be sheer terror. What we see as terror is really a complicated mix of feelings and emotions. Begin by trying to sort out what feelings you are actually experiencing. My terror may be partly anger, partly shame, partly loneliness, partly sadness, partly fear. Yours may be another mix, equally troubling. The very ability to sort out your feelings, to name those feelings, gives you a smidgen of control, and you need that to start working toward healing.

A note of caution: remember that grieving is a process. This is not a neat-and-tidy process from one step to the next, to acceptance and total freedom. No, grieving is very much like the process of growing up – it happens not in a straight line progression, but in spurts and stops, a few steps ahead and one back, tumultuous at times, but resulting in maturity…somewhere down the line. Even in the healthiest grieving, there is almost always some pain that never goes away. You may keep that pain in your heart, taking it out once in a while to cry about.

Tears are a good release for your loss. Perhaps you cry easily, and have spent a lot of energy in fruitless tears during the time when you lived with family violence. Tears now can enable you to be “cleansed,” to be bathed in that salty water which releases emotions. Some people say they are afraid to cry. More than one survivor of family violence has articulated this fear. Once I start crying, I won’t be able to stop. It’s not an irrational fear, given your familiarity with out-of-control scenes, where rage – shouting or hitting – seemed to erupt like a volcano in the one who promised to love the most.

Remember , YOU were not out-of-control. You were victimized, terrorized, by someone else’s lack of control. Besides, it is impossible – seriously – to cry forever. After a bout of sobbing, you will stop! That may give you permission to use crying as a healing balm. Your unfortunate training in suppressing your own feelings for fear of being battered is still with you. You will not fall apart in front of the whole world. You will find a safe haven for the expression of your sorrow. You will! You have learned to do what you had to do to survive. You will not forget that now.

Life is bittersweet. Even at best, life is joy and sadness, flourishing and dying, silence and noise, storm and calm – usually by turns, but sometimes all at once.

You may be in the process of leaving behind a naïve approach to life, where you thought that with the right adjustments you could “live happily ever after.” Real living is neither pure happiness nor pure emptiness. Our cup is always being poured out and being refilled. Now, you are stung by the need to be filled. Be patient. The Lord is near. And the Lord is at your right hand, to protect you and to shelter you. You have inner strength. You have come so far. You will be filled.


What About The Children?...


Every child involved in a situation of family violence is affected by that experience. Some children learn to use violence themselves, learn to imitate the abuser. Others learn to abhor violence, vowing never to repeat the parody of family life from which they come.

As you mend yourself, as you attend to your spiritual healing, you know that your children need healing as well. If your children are with you, you need to understand them and help them. If they ask you why you left, and they are old enough to understand, tell them why…that you were being hurt and that hurting is not allowed when someone loves you. Those who think they are sparing the children by telling them something more gentle often find that children make up their own mind, and that sometimes they will forget the abuse and remember only that they miss their old home.

Unfortunately, part of your own pain may be that your children are not with you. More and more, the use of children as pawns in a separation or divorce has impacted those families afflicted with violence. Perhaps your partner threatened to take your children, and perhaps you averted that. Or perhaps, your worst nightmare has become reality, and your children have been taken from you. How can you even begin to deal with that most horrible pain? Some pain that will remain, pain that you will take out sometimes and cry for.

If you have lost your children – physically and/or psychologically – you may wonder how to keep from falling apart. You may even wonder whether you should return to the abusive relationship in order to be with them. If you had known that the children would not be with you, you certainly would have stayed. And yet, would you have lived? Would you have survived? Would you have been able to be a real parent?

There probably are no words that will comfort you. There is certainly no way for you to accept this affront. And yet, you may have little choice. In your heart, you know that you would not harm them, just to please yourself. You may have to let go of the feeling that you need to know everything…whether they had a good breakfast, whether they caught the school bus, whether they are warm and dry. You may simple have to wait. Will they return? At first, people will tell you, “Of course , they will come back, as soon as they understand what has been done to you.” As time goes on, you may wonder.

Perhaps the hardest adjustment for you is trying to find spiritual healing – something akin to peace for your soul – when all is not right with your world, with your family, with your children.

What can you do? In some situations, all you can do is watch…and pray…and trust God to take care of what you cannot take care of yourself.

After you have done everything humanly possible, what else can you do? You have choices. You can choose to give up all that you have accomplished in terms of our freedom from oppression and your ability to have basic human rights. But what would that accomplish? You can allow yourself to get sick, to stop functioning. But you have some control over these things. You may not be able to prevent yourself from feeling depressed, perhaps badly depressed. You may not be able to prevent yourself from losing sleep. You may not be able to stop from crying, or from refusing to eat. No parent is happy without the love of the children of the marriage. And this is where mystery and suffering intersect. You cannot solve this problem yourself. Only God can help to see you through. You may meet another person who knows your pain – really knows it because that one too has experienced it – but mostly, you are aware that you are alone in your pain.

The Serenity Prayer has been popular for its application to recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. But this prayer can help you now. It was written by an American theologian and it is meant for all those situations in which your control is limited. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

These words may offer comfort, and they may not, but, friend, you are not alone. Others know your pain…and they do care. And the One who is with you always, God of mercy and compassion, cares too.


What About Your Anger?...


No matter how well you have maintained your composure…outwardly…you surely recognize that all is not well inside. You are filled with emotions which you do not like. Possibly, you are very, very angry. You had to keep your emotions in line when you were in your abusive situation, because anger on your part surely caused a greater anger, and perhaps violence, on the part of your partner. You may be so accustomed to keeping your anger in that you almost don’t feel it – almost…because you do feel troubled. Perhaps you have developed some physical ailment, such as an ulcer or migraine, to express or suppress your rage. Actually saying, I am so angry! Is the first step to dealing with rage. And you must deal with your rage in order to find healing for your spirit. Some people advocate expressing your anger openly…and this way may work for you. However, you may want to be cautious about pounding pillows and attacking punching bags, because when you have a lot of anger you may also have a great deal of guilt, so expressing anger in big chunks can unleash terrible anguish. You want to be able to deal with yourself – and deal with your rage – in manageable portions.

Most of us were taught as youngsters that showing anger is “not nice.” Most of us do not differentiate between righteous anger – anger that is appropriate – and uncontrolled anger, which is inappropriate. And living with a perpetrator of violence has taught you the destructive power of anger, and the toll it can take on human lives and human hearts. So you are undoubtedly hesitant about your own anger. Well, you don’t need to figure this out alone. You may want to find a good counselor to guide you during this rough period of facing your anger and dealing with it.

And remember, God surely loves you. God has loved you with an everlasting love. God knows you, knows what is in your heart,, and knows that you are hurting. I think you can be certain that God is with you in your anger and pain and will see you through.




Let’s begin by agreeing that we are not under any obligation to forgive someone who betrays us, someone who hurts us deeply.

Morally, forgiveness requires an apology, repentance on the part of the offender, and a commitment to change. It might even be hypocritical to accept an apology which is not offered.

Anyway, is it possible to forgive grave injustice, betrayal, abuse, hatred? You may feel betrayed by someone whom you trusted to love you, and you may be struggling with how hard it is to even think about forgiveness. As a person who has survived family violence, you may well know the deep hurt that comes when someone you have loved betrays you. Is it necessary to forgive? Is it possible to forgive?

Is it helpful to forgive? Perhaps we need to redefine “forgiveness.” I invite you to join me in looking at forgiveness through a different lens. Opportunities for healing seem to flow from redefining “forgiveness” as “letting go.” It just may be possible for us to “let go” of…and release…that poisonous venom that is called “bitterness.” I can retain my dignity by condemning the wrongs done to me while refusing to waste any more of my energy hating the wrong-doer…or hating others in my abuser’s place.

Few of us have been betrayed unto death, but many have been hurt by deliberate or thoughtless acts and words. Confronting our hurt is a complex issue. I think it helps to consider what happens when we hold on to our hurt, to our anger and pain, and to our resentment. Hatred is a powerful force. People who are filled with hatred are capable of great destruction. You know that from your own experience. You may wish to guard against capturing hatred into your own heart, because it can make you sick.

You may have decided long ago that you could never let go of some things – the deliberate hurts, the cruel actions, the awful rhythm of abuse. As a result, you may be churning inside, burning with unspoken rage, depressed from keeping it all in, exhausted from using your energy to hold on to the injustice, the real, actual injustice. You may now find that, for your own well-being, you need to – and CAN – let go. Remember, you can choose to let go without condoning evil. I believe that you will be healthier – physically and spiritually – when you reach the point where you begin to let go. There is a time to let go. When we hold on too tightly to something, we risk really being hurt. Even if I hold a rose in my hand, if I hold on to my anger too tightly, my hand will look like a fist, and my dignity is impaired.

When I stop holding on tightly, there is a release of tension, there is a change in my energy, from toxic to healthy. Some of us hold so tightly to these past wrongs, that we literally make ourselves miserable. Some of us hold so tightly to having been hurt, that we try to protect ourselves from ever being hurt again. And in the process we lose something very precious – our peace of mind and heart. We can’t enjoy life if we are always looking out for trouble, always hiding from what might hurt us. We can’t be ourselves, if we are hiding behind shields. At some point we are challenged to put down our shields and to look at ourselves.

Some time ago, I heard a preacher note that when we hold on to the hurts of the past, we are only hurting ourselves. The actual persons who caused the original hurt probably don’t even know they are still affecting our life, and sadly, if they did know, they might not care. So this preacher counseled that we need to take care of ourselves, bind our wounds, and seek healing for ourselves, regardless of where our offenders are.

When you do let go, when you begin to empty yourself of unnecessary hurting, you make room for good things in your life.


Beyond Survival…


You have been a victim of family violence. And you have chosen to leave that situation in order to save your life. You have chosen to stop being a victim, in the literal sense. How do you reach beyond survival to begin really living? You have known others who remain victims…forever. They get stuck in the role which they know they resisted and which, deep down, they hate.

If we hold on too tightly to being a victim, we get into the rather uneasy position of simply feeling sorry for ourselves, of defining ourselves by the wrongs we have suffered. In this way, we block off the love which really needs to come from deep inside us – for our own good and the good of others. While we need to remain sensitive to the need to acknowledge our history, and to grieve, we surely sense that there is more to life. By holding on to the familiar negative thoughts and feelings, you miss the opportunity to nurture the goodness in yourself and in others. You can gradually focus less on your troubles, and more on the possibility of thriving, of living life deeply and joyfully.

Isn’t it time to forgive yourself? Forgiving – or refusing to forgive- yourself makes a powerful difference in your quest to heal your damaged spirit. You may even believe that God is tired of you and has gone away, until you are willing to forgive yourself and allow God’s healing love and forgiveness to replenish you. You are not to blame for your abuser’s negative talk or negative behavior. You were not being punished by God. You did not deserve to be hurt. Not one does. And worrying about whether you stayed too long, or whether you could have left earlier – or should have left earlier – is futile. You have to deal with things as they are, not as you wish they had been. You need to discard your belief – your wish – that all your relationships will be perfect. You have to surrender your illusions about living “happily ever after.”’ You cannot relive the past. You do have this day, and you can help yourself into a more promising future, but you cannot change anything which has already happened.

Our spirituality is based on connections – with ourselves, with others, and with God. Blocking any of these connections hurts us and all the people of God. Try to begin to unblock those connections. Start to listen and be attentive to your own stirrings within – your need to know that God is near – in times of silence and sorrow, as well as in times of hope. In contrast to the chaotic existence from which you come, you now have the dawn and the sunset, the rhythm of the hours passing, the predictable and surprising changing of the seasons to remind you that there is order, that Someone is watching over you, helping you through to some point  of more peace, more hope.

To put this in perspective, try to be aware that all this “stuff” that we go through as human persons is just temporary. Why not make the time you have as healthy and happy as possible? Why not begin to say, That was then and this is now. Why not unclutter your life by embracing each day as an opportunity – to live, to grow, to learn that you are loved?

Your own perseverance is your strongest testimony to the reality of hope. Friend, can you begin to think of this world as a learning place? Perhaps you would feel less angry when trouble came along. Perhaps you would not feel that life is being interrupted on the bad days, and is only worth celebrating on the good days. What a comfort it is to know that we are bigger than our problems. We are strong enough to stop thinking of ourselves as victims…of other persons, of illness, or loneliness. We can let go and cling to the hope that has brought us safely thus far.


The Challenge For Churches…


You know what can kill a family from the inside out. You know what it’s like to be a person disempowered in your own home. And you may have felt that members of your faith group, and of the wider community, are not there for you. And you may be right. Many prefer to think that family violence “could never happen here” – in this church, in this town. Church communities have an obligation to care about what happens to those who are in need. The question is whether the individuals in those faith communities are actually willing to make commitments – for the sake of families, for the sake of children, for the sake of women and men everywhere – to try to understand and to eliminate what is euphemistically called “domestic violence.” Most people say, in theory, that a person who would abuse a spouse is not a mature person. Most people wonder what kind of person stays with a spouse who is abusive. They do not understand. So you may feel that you stand alone in your struggle for spiritual healing.

Why do so many churches stay away from this problem? For some, the resistance seems to be rooted in the archaic notion that a family is “owned” by the husband/father. For some, the resistance is rooted in perversion of the Bible, but of course, people have been using the Bible to justify their behavior for quite some time. Traditionally, churches have given the message that marriage is forever. If your spouse beats you, that is your cross to hear. People have died trying to preserve a dead marriage. Some churches choose to look the other way because they believe that their support of family life will be compromised.

Most abusive relationships are not meant to last, and divorce may be the only way to begin to work toward healing. Churches are stretched to take a stand against abusive relationships. Some churches resist the problem because it is so “messy.” It is frightening to actually confront the abuser, to say, No, you cannot do this! It is uncomfortable to face the victim and the children, and to assist them as they deal  with the consequences – and there WILL be consequences – of saying NO to oppression in their own home. This is a continuing challenge, not a once-and-for-all issue. You may have felt the lack of support of your own church community. You may feel that people are “uncomfortable” with your story. You may have decided that you want no part of church, of faith…at least, for a while. But then, what will you do? Can you find support in the place, and within the community of faith where you learned to believe in God’s love and forgiveness, even if you have been sorely disappointed? Churches are changing! People are speaking out! You will find that more and more pastors understand the dynamics of family violence. More and more pastors are willing to confront issues which used to be considered “family matters.” Many are listening to the voices of those who advocate for justice for all women and men and children – by empowering them with an identity within the church as persons with gifts and personal worth, by denouncing abusive acts perpetrated against them, by demanding that they b provided with legal and supportive help. When parents put their life on the line for their children, this is not heroism. This is a perversion of the commandment of love. Family violence is not limited to those who are unchurched. Some families which call themselves “Christians” or “churchgoers” are torn to shreds by violence. And family violence is too widespread and too damaging to dismiss it as an aberration in our society. Persons of faith and communities of faith can help you by not assuming that this is someone else’s problem. But you may have to show them how.

Your decision to continue to seek out those within the church who have power and compassion,  can help make things new – new life, new visions, new structures, new hopes, new relationships. You seek spiritual healing, and you want the support of a loving spiritual community. This is not too much to ask. Search for such a community. This struggle demands all your resources, as well the resources of others.

Remember that God is with you on your journey!

Friend, go forth in peace!