Megan is Founder and Executive Director of Give Her Wings. She carries a Masters in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in Crisis Response with the AACC. She has also recently finished her CPE Unit 1 training.
“Its so sweet to see your father-in-law holding your baby,” I said to the young mother in church.
“Yes! Its so great having so many wonderful grand-parents in my children’s lives! Its so easy when they are around!” she said, thoughtlessly.
I am way beyond grieving the death of my parents. But, I still wish my four beautiful babies had grandparents who love and adore them. I wish their grandparents (my parents) could have met them and seen them and been there when they were born. And they wish for that, also. When I walk around this earth, in this life, my pain is not obvious. I never really talk, anymore, about how difficult it is to raise the children on my own . . . how hard it is to not have any back up . . . what crazy steps I take to ensure that David and I are safe because we have no family to care for our children should something happen to one or both of us. And I know that can happen because I lived it. It is simply a part of my life. I decided, years ago, that David and I would be the ones to create that beautiful devoted family. We would be the ones to be there for our children. Our grandchildren will have cousins and everyone can come back home for Christmas. But, it hurts. There is a hole. We spend every holiday alone together. We never travel to see anyone because there is no one to see. This is the pain I carry that I don’t talk about. And it is something that has to be grieved pretty regularly.
As an advocate for our mamas, I see their losses. I acknowledge them. I listen, as they share their powerful stories. I hear their voices. And they share with each other, too. For our mamas, what should have been happy occasions were ruined. They are losses that most people would not even notice nor recognize. I want to acknowledge these losses and give our mamas voices.
The thing is, they are not often “allowed” to grieve all of the incredible loss that comes from abuse. Please notice I’m not saying “loss from divorce”. Our mamas suffered for years — sometimes decades — from abuse. Divorce was their sweet, saving grace and a gift from God. The losses these women have sustained come in the form of complicated grief. And if this grief is not experiences, they suffer in other ways. Going forward, I am going to start a series on our social media page (on Mondays! watch for it!) detailing the losses our mamas have experienced. Will you grieve with them? Will you weep with those who weep? Will you recognize their pain with me and call it what it is? Because they do not have that gift very often. And this is a part of our calling and ministry at Give Her Wings — to come alongside our mamas and mourn with them.
If you were an abused wife, you will know exactly what we are discussing below. Read and feel these losses so many of them have talked about:
- Their weddings may not have been happy. These mamas who might have grown up (like I did), looking forward to their wedding day might have had some dark blights on their precious day. For me, it was that I was sick as a dog on our wedding night with a horrible stomach flu virus that was running rampant through our wedding party. That did not matter. He had not had sex with me yet and he was not about to trade that in to care for his new bride.
- Their birth stories are probably not fabulous. They were not peaceful. They were riddled with pain, vulnerability and sorrow. As a mother of four, one of my most painful realizations were how awful my own stories are and how awful our mamas’ are. And many of us would not be able to have any more children. Abusive men use their wives most vulnerable moments to hurt them. Further, many pregnancies for our mamas were conceived during spousal rape.
- Vacations were miserable. What we hoped would bring us rest and peace brought more abuse . . . more time to abuse. More time to hurt. More time for the children to watch the abuse and be scarred by it.
- Most of our mamas did not have love. This is a biggie. When you marry someone who regularly withholds love and compassion from you, you know that you will have a very lonely life. Because you lost your chance to find someone who WILL love you. That’s over. She feels like she has done this to herself and nothing will ever reverse it. There is seemingly no mercy for this. I remember thinking, “I will always be an unloved woman.” Never have I ever felt such hopelessness.
- Family support. This is a huge loss if a family does not support a mama coming out of an abusive marriage. She finds herself alone, wishing there were more people to love her and her children. This is a mind-breaking loss.
- Holidays have to be 100% focused on the abuser or he will ruin them. I have not spoken to one mama who has told me a favorable story about a holiday from their abusive marriage. This needs to be mourned.
- Abandonment from friends. Most people simply do not have the emotional bandwidth to “take on” the deep pain and agony that our mamas face. We all get that. But, it is a loss, nonetheless. Our mamas end up feeling so incredibly alone. People they thought would always be there for them simply were not there.
- Their health and youth. Due to sustained abuse and constant stress, many of our mamas face irreversible health problems, both mental and physical. It is very painful to realize that our vitality has been taken from us, especially as mothers who want to bless and enjoy our children.
I want our readers and constituents to know that these are the ways in which our mamas suffer. And it takes years to work through and past this tangled dark forest of complicated grief. Watch for our series and have compassion. Our mamas get so little of that.