Healing As a Family

Before I delve further into this post, I just want to say that I write this with the greatest love for my kiddos. This is not an attack on either of them in any way. I am extremely proud of both and truly believe that they are fundamentally good people. In writing this article, I simply want to raise awareness of certain issues that arise in the aftermath of abuse. I understand why and how we reached this point. Maybe this post will help others to recognize that they might be in the same situation, leading to some sort of helpful dialogue and eventual resolution.

In recent months, things in our household have not been great. We are 3 survivors of abuse, trying to heal and learn how to be functional, but the truth is, we’re not all on the same page. I have had more time to heal and empower myself through counseling; I’ve read many books to help me understand the dynamics of abuse. Unfortunately, my children still have a long journey ahead.

It is because we’re at different places in our healing that we clash. I strive to maintain a sense of calm because I know that practicing self-care is the best way forward. I know that it’s better to be positive in my daily life because I lived with negativity for so long and I was tired of it draining me. I know the value of breaking the cycle of abuse.

My children saw and experienced emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse. Even if they weren’t aware of what they were seeing or experiencing, the dynamics, the interactions, the mannerisms became part of their education. I made every effort to shield them from the abuse ~ within the household and in the legal arena ~ but it was a futile exercise. My abuser didn’t care if the children were watching us argue; the Court didn’t allow me to mention the abuse because my legal team explained to me that the judge would rule against me if he thought I was trying to end my daughter’s relationship with her father. The reasoning didn’t matter; the Court viewed my daughter’s relationship with her father as “worth preserving” at all costs. The judge ordered maximized contact between my daughter and a man whose regard for her well-being was non-existent. In my opinion, anyone who makes it his or her sole mission to destroy the relationship between their child and co-parent does not have that child’s best interest at heart. I wasn’t trying to destroy my daughter’s relationship with her father; I felt it was important that: 1. the judge had all of the facts before making a decision about our family’s fate; 2. had the judge known exactly what was going on in our house, he would have granted my daughter limited, supervised visits with her father to minimize the effects of the abuse while ordering some sort of rehabilitation for him. But no…that didn’t happen.

Fast forward 4 years.

My son and I have a great relationship for the most part. However…when it’s time to tell him something he needs to hear, I see flashes of anger and disrespect in response. It’s not all the time; he is protective of me and supportive when I need it and, for that, I’m extremely grateful. Constructive criticism, helpful suggestions or approaching him about something that’s bothering me usually end in an argument. I understand that he observed my abuser doing the same thing to me. What makes the situation worse is that I have PTSD and arguing is a trigger. As a result of this, I feel hesitant about talking to my son about anything if I think it’s going to end in an argument.

My daughter and I have more serious conflicts. During the maximized contact ordered by the judge, her father was permissive on purpose. She had the freedom to do anything she wanted during visitation so that he could bring her back to me, knowing that I would have trouble enforcing boundaries. He had ample opportunity to alienate her from me and that’s exactly what happened. Not only did she witness our arguments while we were still living with him, he continued his efforts to drive a wedge between us after we moved out. His lawyer openly admitted to mine that he was going to do whatever it took to keep her with him. For a little over a year, she was exposed to his hatred of me. As a result, she doesn’t see me as a parent and acts disrespectful ~ and abusive ~ if I try to parent her or enforce boundaries. I understand why it’s happening, but it doesn’t make the situation easier, particularly if I’m dealing with PTSD.

As I was driving home earlier, thinking about our situation, I made the decision to write this post because I’m pretty sure that other abuse survivors have experienced these issues. Children do not come out of abusive situations unscathed and I wish that people would stop telling me that children are “resilient” because it really depends on the situation. As I’ve said before, children can be resilient with the right kind of care {and willing parties to implement such care}. When parents divorce, how they conduct themselves throughout the process is paramount to how the children are when all is said and done. How the legal system protects children in an abusive situation is paramount to the long-term well-being of those children. How the relevant agencies help children in the aftermath of divorce and/or abuse is paramount to the healing of those children. How the relevant agencies support the parents in crisis situations is paramount to the overall healing of the family unit.

I can’t emphasize just how important it is to prevent things from reaching crisis point. Preventative measures are easier to implement than rehabilitation. The abuse robbed my children of their innocence and forced them to grow up before they were ever ready. In my situation, the law was not on my side when it came to protecting my children. I was forced to allow my child extended visitation and I wasn’t even allowed to state my real reasons for limiting her contact with her father to one day a week. Withholding visitation would have penalized me. What happens when a child dies at the hands of an abusive parent? The other parent gets the blame for not doing enough to protect the child. If this had happened in my situation, the first words out of anyone’s mouth would have been, “Well where was the mother in all of this? Why didn’t she do something?” The truth is, I was right there the whole time, fighting for my children’s safety…and losing.

What happened to us then is the reason for what’s happening to us now, a decade later. We’re still dealing with the mess and will be for a long time. I want to reiterate that I love my children more than life itself and I’m doing what I need to do for their healing. I know to not take everything they do or say personally because it’s their pain talking. Sometimes I wish they weren’t so resistant to my help but I understand that it’s something they must realize on their own. The only thing that I can do is to continue to practice self-care while supporting, loving, and comforting them while I wait for them to catch up to where I stand on my path of healing. Only then can we all move forward, taking the good memories with us.

If you have experienced such behavior from your children, how have you dealt with it? Have you sought support through counseling or support groups? Have you found a method of coping that works? If you have experienced this and are looking for answers, please feel free to get in touch, via our contact form. If enough people get in contact, we would be willing to start a support group.

As always, we’re here to help.


2 thoughts on “Healing As a Family

  1. Parenting is difficult enough under ‘normal’ circumstances. I cannot imagine trying to navigate things under circumstances like you have faced. It was good that you wrote the post, I hope you find support! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have found support for all of us. Unfortunately, my daughter refuses to participate anymore, which is something I must accept until maybe she’s older and mature enough to decide to ask for help. I understand that teenagers think they know everything; I just have to exercise extreme patience and wait for her “a-ha” moment to happen.

      In the meantime, I attend therapy {individual and group} as part of my self-care and I find both outlets extremely helpful. Additionally, I have THE most awesome network of friends who have held me up every step of the way. My mom was also my rock through it all before she passed.

      My experiences have made me want to support others going through the same thing; finding someone who can relate makes all the difference, especially since I know what it’s like to talk to people who made me feel like I was just “another case” or a number to them.

      Thanks for dropping by and for your comment. I hope you’ll continue to visit! 🙂


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