If one word could describe the recovery process, for me it would be GRIEF'grief over the many losses we all suffer as Survivors.
For me, even the thought of grieving my losses has been frightening. I have been afraid of getting in touch with the pain I knew was deep inside. I believed that if I let myself feel that buried pain, count the costs, and face the losses in my life, I would be forever trapped in a vicious cycle of pain, sadness, anger, and a desire for revenge. Now I know that only by letting it out can I let it go. I am now more ready than I have ever been to let grief wash over me, to let the tears flow, to say the words that have been trapped inside for so long, and to continue doing so till my soul is freed to be all I was created to be.
Part of my grief is coming to terms with the fact that I have suffered losses that can never be restored. I know I will always suffer some of the consequences of the abuse, and at times that cup is bitter indeed.
For instance, I will never be able to be a little girl again. I'll never know what child-like innocence is, because for me that was taken even before I remember. I'll never know what it is like to have loving, protective parents, to feel the safety of their arms around me, to feel their gentle touch and hear their words of comfort when I'm hurting. I'll never know what it's like to be able to run to Daddy and jump in his arms and kiss him the way my little girl used to do with her daddy. I'll never be able to sit on Daddy's lap and tell him all about my day. I'll never know what it is to be accepted and loved unconditionally by my parents'just because I'm their daughter.
I'll never know the joy of that first 'innocent' kiss with a boyfriend my own age. I'll never know the thrill of a young bride as she anticipates her first sexual experience with her new husband, nor will I be able to go back and have that experience without fear, pain, and memories of abuse.
I'll never be able to relive the years when my children were born and experience that time without terrible fear. I can't take back the physical abuse I inflicted on them, or erase the effects of my emotional detachment, or change the fact that I perhaps left them with unsafe people because of my own denial. I can, and have, corrected the problems, but I can't go back and change what I did.
I may never have my biological family restored to me, and I grieve that loss deeply. I may never know what it feels like to have an intimate relationship with my siblings. I may never even be able to see them or my nieces and nephews again. I don't even have the words to describe that pain.
It doesn't seem fair that we can have so much stripped from us as helpless children, and then sometimes have to lose even more as adults trying to pick up the pieces of our lives. We pay the consequences for what others did to us, and sometimes those consequences seem too much to bear.
Yet there is hope in the midst of the pain. Although I can't go back and relive my life the way I'd want it to be, I am seeing these things recovered in another way.
I now know what it is to be loved unconditionally. As I sat in my therapist's office week after week and told him things I knew would cause him to turn away from me, instead I saw the opposite. When I was sure he'd recoil and not want to look at me, he drew closer. I discovered he loved me unconditionally--he valued me. And through him, I've learned a little of what it's like to have a healthy father.
From that point I could finally understand how God feels about me. Now I realize and believe that God loves me and values me just because He created me. I may not deserve it, because I, too, have done many things that have harmed others, but I'm accepted and loved by Him anyway.
I'm finding love and acceptance from my children as well. They have supported me, and in spite of my handicaps in raising them, they love me still. And I know that if one day they have issues to deal with about me, we will be able to work things out.
I have also found comfort, love, and acceptance in a way I never thought possible through another family. They have accepted me, my husband, and children as part of them. I now feel I have a place where I 'belong.' And I am also finding a sense of belonging within my church and support groups. The more I open up and let people in, the more I feel loved, accepted, and valued.
My husband has always accepted me as I am, even though I've struggled with believing it. And now we can deal with the ways we've been dysfunctional, together. I am discovering healing as we strive for intimacy in every area of our lives together, including our sexuality. I believe the day will come, and I look forward to it, when the abuse no longer affects our married life.
I'm in touch with my feelings now more than ever before. I'm encouraged that this time I'm not alone in my grief. With a solid foundation under me, a good group of supportive people in my therapist, my family, my church, my group, and in God, I can face my losses confidently and grieve them, trusting that as I allow the feelings of grief to wash over me, I will come out safely on the other side healed, free, and full of joy.