This is a continuation of a series every Friday where I will be highlighting the growth and healing of one of my readers, a new reader each week. These, my sweet ones, are their brave and vulnerable stories. Take heart…you are not alone. -Elisabeth
My earliest memories are around my mother cautioning us girls that my dad’s anger was something we must avoid at all costs. We were told not to be too loud, too happy, too silly, too sad . . . in other words, we could never be ourselves. I learned early on to make myself smaller and smaller around him, to minimize myself so that I would escape his notice. Here’s the weird part: My dad never got mad. Ever. He never disrespected us sisters or my mom. He didn’t yell or hit. I never saw any of the behavior that my mom seemed so afraid of. So over time, the threat of his anger became scarier than the actual anger probably would have been. I developed a life-long fear of those in authority. I developed coping strategies including denial, minimizing, isolating, and always putting others’ needs ahead of my own.
I eventually ended up in a 15-year abusive marriage. He left bruises on me once, early on, and after that, confined the behavior to cruelty and severe verbal/emotional abuse.
Thirteen years into the marriage, my beloved daughter-in-law was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer; she and my son had a one-year-old little boy. She fought back hard, enduring hours of surgery, radiation, and chemo leaving her weak and sick. After a year of remission, the cancer returned at stage 4 in the spring of 2014.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when the cancer returned, God began awakening me to the idea of getting out. Oh, I’d daydreamed about being free of the abuse for years. But fear kept me stuck. God showed me that it was not only desirable but necessary for me to get out. I knew that as my sweet daughter-in-law fought hard to stay in her son’s life for as long as she could that I was going to have to care for him much more. I knew that I would be much more involved in his care. My home was no place to keep a four-year-old. It was volatile, chaotic, and sometimes full of rage and despair. I needed a happy, peaceful place where he could feel safe while he lost his mommy. Six months after the cancer returned, I left. And in January of 2016, she was gone.
Here is how God has shown much grace and mercy after I made the decision to leave. I was surrounded by support and love by our church’s leadership. I began to co-lead a class for women trying to escape the cycle of abuse, and when I had doubts about our curriculum, I rewrote it and now have a book with my name as co-author; it’s self-published, but it says what I want it to say and has been powerful in our ongoing classes.
And recently, I called into a talk show and spoke calmly but passionately on the topic of domestic violence and the cycle of violence. I did that! I’ve spent my whole life trying to make myself small and unnoticeable, but I shared my story on the radio in the hopes that it might help someone just like I once was.
As I work toward healing the hurts of the past, I see God opening up a hopeful future for me, full of promise and healing. Don’t you love it when he does that?
If this sweet woman’s post resonated with your heart, please know that you are not alone. Here are a few resources for you:
If you would like to join my closed Facebook group called Hope & Healing, you can find it here.
If you’d like to receive my free e s-book, You’re Going to Make It Through, you can get it here.
If you need a nudge in your healing, I would love to work with you! Join me for one of my coaching courses.
If in a difficult marriage: Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage is available as a PDF/e-book: www.elisabethklein.com/books
If separated/divorced: Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage is available in paperback/e-book: http://tinyurl.com/phowp95
If a single mom: Moving on as a Christian Single Mom is available in paperback/e-book: www.elisabethklein.com/books