Megan got to Meet “Always”, Our February Mama . . . . I wish I could take a picture of the beautiful mama I had the privilege of vetting today. We do all we can to protect their identities so, sadly, we just have a picture of me, as I was getting ready to drive to a different part of the state to meet “Always”.
Our final step in vetting is a face-to-face meeting. So, we had lunch and talked . . . and talked and talked. Always has been divorced for 1.5 years and has 50/50 custody of her children. Half of the time, they are with their abuser. They are pre-school age and the oldest has some extreme special needs, requiring constant care. Somehow, though, Always has managed to get a part-time job on the weekend. She has two job interviews tomorrow. She is a perfect candidate for Give Her Wings, as we work to be a buffer or stepping stone for women who have left abuse and need to stay OUT of abuse. The number one reason women return is for financial reasons. With the $1500 toward Always’ bills, she can press on, which she has already so perseveringly done.
Three children. . . . no support. I was so honored to meet this brave woman today. I almost wept when I saw what a good mother she is and how hard she works. But, I honestly did cry when she told me the story about how she had a breakdown, due to the wicked mental, spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse she suffered. She had to go to the hospital for a few days to heal and get away. But, during that time, her ex husband packed all of her things up, took their three itty bitties and moved halfway across the country to his parent’s house. When she was discharged, their home was empty. She was completely alone. Her guilt over feeling like a bad mother and having “abandoned” her children, due to the abuse-driven breakdown was overwhelming. I really believe, whole-heartedly, that he wanted to completely destroy her.
Miraculously, Always was able to come to her children and fight for custody. Something in her compelled her to keep fighting. And, even though she is God’s warrior-princess, she exudes gentleness. She shone with the fruits of the Spirit as she explained to me how her faith is ten times greater than it ever was before . . . how she is dependent upon God for her daily bread, trusting Him every single day. I saw Him in her. It was beautiful.
She said that every night, now, she goes to each of her babies and hugs and kisses them and says, “What’s the truth?” and they say, “Mommy is always coming back for me.” She said she has always “felt like trash” and no one has wanted to help her before. OH, my heart. If she only knew what I see. If she only knew that I see a glorious creature, created in God’s image and beloved by Him. If she only knew how honored we all feel to be able to help one of God’s girls. I learned so much from her today. I will never be the same.
She is always coming back for her children. Just like Jesus is always coming back for us.
If you feel so inclined to give, click here. What this money will do for “Always” will change her life. What we do is life-changing. And because we continue to give this ministry to God over and over and each day, He shows favor on us.
Thank you, for those of you who already support us. Be blessed knowing how you are helping God’s daughters. And, of course, by helping mamas, we are helping their babies.
HUGE THANK YOU TO Mary DeMuth!!We would like to thank Mary DeMuth (author extraordinnaire), of Restory, and one of my personal heroes for donating over 100 copies of her book, Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse. Wow!!! We had the joy of being able to send one to each of our team members and ALL of our mamas! Mary, thank you for who you are and all you do. What a gift to ALL of us! Please check out Mary’s resources. She is incredibly generous and has written many, many books about surviving the tough stuff.
Megan is the Founder of Give Her Wings, has an MAR in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in Crisis Response with the AACC. She has also written the book Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse.
After witnessing yet another Christian leader who is “too famous” to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the “little people”, who are women who were abused in the most conservative of churches, I realized, today, that I would never ever be able to get them to see our point of view. Its frustrating. But, when you feel you have done all you can, and still they don’t listen, acceptance brings peace. They are not going to listen. And I might just need to stop trying.
I found out, this week, that a man who knows nothing about abuse is going to write a book, commissioned by a publisher (Lifeway?), about abuse. This man has ignored my pleas for years. Its painful to see that. Once I stopped crying, I prayed. I prayed for this man. I prayed his book will not do more harm than good. I prayed God could use it. Like Paul, I want to believe that God can use anyone — no matter how unqualified — to speak truth. I hope this is the case. God also spoke to me. He said to forgive him and others (this is a big deal for me) and I decided to write myself a letter. Forgiveness has been a painful, yet beautiful, process for me over the years. And something I have had to do over and over. What I have written below is what I wish I could have heard all these past seven years. I’m going to stop wishing for that, although it would bring tremendous healing to my heart and countless others. Its just not going to happen.
I’m going to write a letter to myself and then give all of this to Jesus, knowing that He knows; He cares; He sees; He is just. Tears are running down my face, right now, as I write this. It is so hard. Its so hard, friends.
So, here goes . . . .
*Disclaimer: There have been two Christian, leading men, in my life, who apologized to me, personally. Gary Thomas apologized to me when I told him how my ex husband and others had used his premise of “marriage is to make you holy, not happy” against me. Danny Akin apologized to me for how my ex used his book “God and Sex” to sexually abuse me. This brought healing to my soul. I admire them for their humility.
We know what we did to you. You came to our seminary, looking for Jesus and trying to be a good wife so that your husband could pursue his “calling” of being a missionary. You gave up a successful career (you were a concert pianist!) because you loved Jesus and believed that your husband was “specially called”. We affirmed that. You never felt that anointing, you only felt love for God and wanted to know Him more. You were kind of just a “regular Christian”. We understand, now, that God lives in everyone. Everyone who wants Him to! You had lost your parents in a car accident a few years earlier and you were searching for meaning and truth. You embraced theology and doctrine and graduated with three babies, one on the way, and straight ‘A’s (a B in Church History — we’ve all been there). It took you six years. It took you six years because we were indoctrinating you on how you would not be a fulfilled or purposeful woman unless you abandoned birth control and homeschooled. And yet you pressed on. When you were graduated, we didn’t acknowledge you at your church, where you had served for several years. We gloried in the graduation of the men. But we were silent about you. In fact, most of us didn’t know you were studying. You felt we would judge you for doing something outside of motherhood. We see that now.
We also recently discovered that the man you sat by in church for 11+ years was abusing you in every way possible. He was also a porn addict. When you spoke about it, and took that risk only a few times, we judged you harshly. We told you you were not giving him enough sex and were not submissive enough. We told you that it is “every man’s problem” and you should show compassion. We are sorry. We are sorry that we made you the bearer of his sin. We are sorry that we held you responsible for an addiction he has had since he was eleven years old. That was wrong.You were quiet and alone. Your husband was telling you you deserved it and it kind of looked like we thought that, too. We unknowingly aided in the total destruction of your esteem.
He told you that if you told anyone, you would ruin his ministry, as appointed to him by God. We affirmed that many times. Your livelihood and that of your children was completely dependent upon your silence and masked cheerfulness, while he worked as a pastor. We put you in a lonely prison.
When you finally left, we started harassing you. It wasn’t even a matter of withdrawing. We were aggressive. We made fun of you on social media, when we were not calling you out. We didn’t listen and we didn’t believe you. Because you were on your own with four children, your main concern was supporting them. We didn’t help you; we told you to obey God and go back. We made you believe, for a little while, that God wants you to be abused . . . that you were in the wrong . . . that you were deserving. If we acknowledged the abuse, we coupled that with how we all pay the price for our “poor decisions” so you still had to go back. We wouldn’t recognize his charm during dating. We didn’t recognize your vulnerability. We didn’t see that a person could actually fool people and pretend to be godly — until the wedding night. We cannot imagine the horror you have suffered. We caused you tremendous psychological pain as we would not help you (only condemn you) and you had to look for other resources outside of our church in places you had been taught, by us, were not of God.
We can see that picture of you now when you left. You had no transportation and you pushed a stroller to our church on a busy street with a toddler on your back and two small children holding on to each side of the stroller. You were so afraid for their safety but wanted to get to church. When you got there, all four children clung to your skirt. All of you sweating from the journey. Everyone was afraid. All five of you cried during the hymns. Our pastor went to you and lovingly convinced you you could trust him. You walked home, having some hope. When he came to visit, he said that he wanted to get your husband on Skype and tell him to “come and get his wife.” You became terrified and asked him to leave. After that, you couldn’t trust. And we don’t blame you. We did that.
You and your children could not go to church for two years. You huddled on your tiny kitchen floor every Sunday, drinking hot cocoa and teaching your children bible stories. That was our fault. We take responsibility for it.
You couldn’t get a job because you had gone to a seminary from a denomination where women are not hired as pastors (except as “children’s ministers” or something along those lines). We teach that. Your degree was in counseling but you were not licensed, as we didn’t do that. You had no recourse. And other churches did not want someone who went to an SBC seminary. You had been a homeschooling mom or stay-at-home mom for 12 years. Your resume wasn’t stellar, by any means. We took away your options. We made you dependent on your abusive husband who only sent money when he felt you might come back to him. We didn’t get it because, as men, we were always able to be pastors. We didn’t think about how much we were hurting you by putting you a box and stamping it with the words “God’s will”.
After that, he stopped sending you any money (it was only about $6000 total over the course of a year), once he realized you would not leave the country, again, and put yourself in forever-isolation. For three years, he justified not paying child support. And we supported him. We kind of saw him as a victim for a long time. We don’t, anymore. But, that probably doesn’t assuage your pain. We are starting to understand. But it is just the tip of the iceberg.
You had to leave the church you had loved because you were constantly judged for leaving an abusive marriage. Somehow, others knew better than you what happened in your own home than you did. That was pretty crazy of us.
The fact that you clung to Jesus, still, despite all that His people did to you — passively and aggressively — is miraculous. We think we know still . . . we still think that we have a corner on truth. But, we’re starting to look bad for it, so we’re jumping on the band-wagon and writing books and holding conferences about abuse. But, you’re still not invited. We’re not sure why . . . maybe you remind us of what we did. And we can’t handle it or admit it, yet. You’ve always been uninvited because you don’t fit our cookie-cutter, Christian woman thingie we have going on. We don’t listen to you, which is unkind. We admit it. When we look at you, we see what we did and we can’t take it. Our consciences would be overwhelmed. Because it isn’t just you . . . its thousands of women that we silenced. And we are deeply grieved.
We are so glad that a godly man came into your life, adopted your children into his heart and proudly gave them his name (of whom you won sole custody of — yes, we see you fought that battle alone, as well, in the midst of our persecuting you) and now adores and provides for you all. He is a hero to us. David helps you run your non profit and, as a result, hundreds of women have seen that there are good men out there — men who care. And that’s been going on for seven years now.
Sometimes, it is best to start over. Instead of covering up or doing some mild form of damage control. Sometimes, its best to say something like, “Wow. We really really screwed up big-time bad. Before God, we silenced 50% of His children when we shouldn’t have. We let His daughters and His children (little ones) be abused and kept sending them back into abuse. We fed them to the lions in God’s name. God, have mercy on us. What can we do now? What is wrong with this? What have we done?!” And you do it in a big way. That’s what God’s people do sometimes, through space-time history. They do a big, giant repentance. Instead of just seeing “a little bit of sin”, God’s people have, in the past, seen giant lifestyles of sin and torn their clothes. What little bit of “woman stuff” we are doing now must feel to you and to others like a greater wound. We’re still leaving all of you out — you who have faithfully and painfully ministered to the abused for years and years now; you who lived in poverty for years yet still ran a non profit for women ignored or, worse, attacked by US (without pay) and helped hundreds of women be helped by the Church, when we refused to help them or listen to them.
Megan, we humbly repent of this. We see it now. We see what countless others have done because we failed, as a people. We acknowledge you. We see that we were just too famous to acknowledge you before. But, now, we acknowledge you and your pain, and that of your children. We also acknowledge ______ and ______ and ______ and so on . . . . We were tone-deaf. We had Marie-Antionette syndrome while we cozily and comfortably preached from our pulpits.
We are sorry. Please forgive us.
All the churches that persecuted me,
All the christian family members who persecuted me,
All the friends who persecuted me,
The seminary that knew my husband was abusing me and shut me down,
The church that said I was anti-God because I wanted to help women who were destitute
All the church leaders who ignored my emails,
The people who showed up on my doorstep to tell me to return to my abuser,
The pastors who called me to try to get me to go back,
And those who ignored facebook posts and tweets about what was happening on their watch.
I remember being so hurt and angry when so many of my friends and family “ghosted” me after I came back to the states with my four beautiful babies. It seemed as though I had four categories of people, in my life:
Those who felt they were doing God’s will by trying to get me to go back to my abusive husband. (danger! danger!)
Those who completely abandoned me or withdrew
Those who persecuted me through emails, phone calls and gossip, anywhere and everywhere on the spectrum from mild concern to harsh, public criticism.
Those (and there were exactly two people in category number 4 for me) who were telling me that I was doing the right thing and that I would eventually get through this nightmare.
Category number two was, perhaps, the most painful. There were people who knew me — I mean really knew me — who simply stopped talking to me . . . people who did not want to even see my face . . . people who moved forward with life and wanted nothing to do with my amazing children and myself. It was terrible-lonely. And I would not wish it upon my greatest enemies. In fact, I have finally reached a point where I am happy for all of the people for whom that did not happen — my own family, my own church, my ex husband and his family. I felt like they bonded over their avoidance of me. But, they had each other and I am glad. Because even for all they put me through, I would never want them to be as alone as I felt during those first few years.
I don’t know how many times one of our mamas has shared a similar experience. Losing the trust of your family, your core family, and having them choose not to believe you and your own experience and what happened in your own home makes the mind want to break. There is no other way for me to describe it. And then taking away the friends of the victim removes that last layer of healthy security that each person needs. None of it makes sense. There is a definite cognitive dissonance surrounding the fact that you had friends and support and . . . then you did not. There was no way for me to wrap my mind around this phenomenon. And it happens all the time. Emotional abandonment. So many of our mamas face this. It hurts me to even think about it.
Since being free for seven years now, I have spent a lot of time in prayer, in every book I could get my hands on, in therapy and ministering to our mamas. I have heard from those friends who withdrew from me now. Many, many of them. It is as though they look at my life and think, “Oh. She’s moved on and she is a normal person with a normal family and a normal life. She doesn’t seem to be like the monster-sinner-narcissist-unbeliever (fill in your own ugliness) she was described to be! Huh.” It has been so strange. But, in talking with some of these people, I have discovered that my “rotten first draft” of what I believed they were thinking (term adapted from Anne Lamont . . . only she doesn’t say “rotten”) was that everyone was abusive because that was what I was used to. Everything was my fault; I caused all the pain; I was someone to stay away from. But, that was not what everyone was thinking. The truth revealed itself, once I had revised my draft several times and spoken to many people who had originally kept their distance. And I have some clarity. So, here it is:
Yes, there are people out there who really and truly believe that it is their job to get you to go back to your abusive spouse. They believe this — and stand on it as God’s solid truth. They believe they are doing a good thing. And they will even try to “love you” right back into abuse, unwittingly. They don’t get it. That’s OK.
Yes, there are people who really and truly want to hurt you. They never liked you, in the first place, or you hurt them in some way (in the past) and they see this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of hating you. Its awful. Its sinful. It is anti-Jesus. And crazy-unhealthy. These people are not your friends. They are unhealthy and they need therapy. Avoidance is key here.
However, there are people who withdrew from you for other reasons:
They don’t know how to handle your heavy stuff. And they just don’t have the bandwidth! They have families, they have jobs . . . and we all get really messy sometimes. I know I do! It hurts because when a victim of abuse leaves her abuser, she lacks the emotional, physical and spiritual tools she needs to land on her feet. She is looking around and people she thought she could trust just step away. They don’t know what to do, either. We can’t blame them for that. They simply don’t have it in them. It still hurts.
They may have been told so much drama and gossip by others that they just don’t want to be a part of it. They step away from you AND they also step away from those who are stirring up the drama. For them, their mantra is “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
They are afraid. They don’t want to be ostracized like you have been. David and I have people, in our lives right now this very minute, who found that it was emotionally easier to take the side of the abuser than to find themselves in the mud and the minority with us. They don’t want the same thing to happen to THEM that happened to YOU. They cannot carry on a friendship with you AND the abuser at the same time . . . and they are much more afraid of the abuser than they are you. Because you won’t smear them; you won’t hurt them; you won’t try to destroy them. But they have seen what happens when you cross the abuser . . . and they don’t want to go through that. So, it is a loss.
In fact, it is all a loss. While I can understand the reasoning and have all the compassion in the world for those who withdrew from us when we needed it most, it was still a loss for us. And it had to be grieved. But, here’s the good news: There are golden people, in your midst, who do not think that your story is too awful, too heavy or too burdensome. They are out there! I know that I don’t think that your story is too much. I know that Give Her Wings doesn’t. I know there are more than a few folks who can take it and help to a certain extent. But, I know that Jesus never, ever ever ever thinks that your story is too heavy a burden to hear. And He will never abandon you. The rest of us . . . we’re human. But He . . . He is the Master Counselor, the God who Sees, the Provider of everything. He is there, sister. He is there. And it is our joy, as a ministry, to be used by Him where and when we can. And we do! And nothing makes me happier.
So, we can find some healing in knowing that not all is for spite. But, some of it is . . . and I am sad for those people. Because they are missing out on YOU. They don’t get to take this journey with you and your family and grow with you and learn from you and be blessed when you rise up again. It is your loss, I know. But, really . . . it is their loss.
Find the golden people.
Megan Cox is the Founder of Give Her Wings, Inc., and has written “Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse.” She has an MAR in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in crisis response with the AACC.
Hearing about (and seeing photos of) our mamas and their families receiving their Christmas packages to which so many of you contributed. The smiles on their faces have brought bubbling-over, fizzy joy to our team! It is so FUN to give! And all 50+ mamas we are currently serving have been so grateful! One mama told us that she always dreads the mail (bills, bills, bills, people!). So, receiving gifts in the mail is an incredible treat!
Its Advent . . . and a lot of us are celebrating the expectancy of Christ coming to walk this earth, put on human-ness and show us how to love, all-the-while reconciling us to Him. For us to be able to give to our mamas, this month, we are telling them that they are part of this celebration . . . that they are worthy . . . that they are loved. Christmas is coming! Jesus is coming! God with us and God with them!
In the meantime, we are also celebrating the donations that are being matched by Leslie Vernick. Wow! Looking to the future can be stressful for a small non-profit but when financial resources are met, like we hope for this month, we can concentrate on ministering to and helping our mamas. For the entire month, Leslie is matching each monetary, tax-deductible gift given to Give Her Wings. So far, we have been given close to $2000. We are overjoyed!
In the meantime, and if you can believe it, we are still helping mamas. We are busy doing some real ministry, friends. Women and families are being vetted . . . board meetings continue and bills are being paid to help single women who have left abusive marriages survive this incredible, life-altering and crushing escape. I look back, sometimes, over the past seven years and I honestly can say I don’t know how I did it. That is why I started Give Her Wings. I wanted to do for others what I did not have. But, even the emotional turmoil was enough to break any one of us. When feelings of abandonment and judgment from my church, my family, his family and my seminary piled on . . . when my children had great physical and emotional needs . . . my mind felt like it was cracking (and I can describe it no other way). I distinctly remember asking God to fill in those cracks with His healing oil of anointing. My needs were so great, I would not have known where to begin. I was crumbling under financial strain and insecurity, I was physically working hard and caring for my children, I was terrified of the future and I was still being abused. I could not find my footing.
Now and then, when someone did something kind for me, my entire world would change that day. One day without worrying gave me a minute to talk to God about the confusion I felt was threatening to destroy my faith. When my physical needs were met, I had time and wherewithal to read Scripture and listen to Jesus . . . to think about returning to church (or not) and to let others speak into my life.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40 NLT
When Give Her Wings meets the physical needs of these amazing women, we help to save their faith. When we are hungry, stressed, emotionally burdened, dealing with PTSD and our minds and hearts are shattered . . . . how does one climb out of that? One way is through our organization. I talk to so many mamas, almost every day, who need a dose of encouragement . . . who need to know that Jesus loves them . . . who need to know that their next bill could be paid . . . who need to know that we care about them and about their children. What a long way this goes. When you give to Give Her Wings, you free us up from fund-raising so we can get to the good stuff. And, this month, with Leslie’s generosity, your $10 gift will be $20. Your $250 will be $500. Your $1000 will be $2000. Every bit helps and every bit counts.
So, I do not really believe that you attract abusers. You are not the problem. Abusers are. It is on them. But, I wanted to catch our readers with this title because it is a question we hear often. We hear it from our mamas, from friends who are dating and from others in caregiving occupations.
“All we want to do is live and love like Jesus loves and yet we attract people who just want to use us and hurt us.”
Please let me reframe:
“Broken people who have given into sinful lifestyles are hoping they can use you to fix themselves because you live and love like Jesus.”
Your kindness, your caring, your compassion and your sense of empathy is attractive to anyone and everyone. But, an abusive person is so incredibly broken and completely unable to look outside of him/herself that he/she uses surrounding people to give themselves a daily boost, to fill their never-ending emotional bucket and to try to make themselves feel better about themselves. Sometimes, this is quite intentional. And very abusive. Some people believe they are entitled to use people . . . . especially women . . . and especially if these men view pornography and have chosen and conditioned themselves to believe women are to be used.
If a person can no longer be used for this task because she is completely exhausted or she refuses to be abused, anymore, the abuser simply moves onto another person with a lovely spirit (discarding) to try to use him or her. I cannot imagine how miserable this is — but it is not our job to take care of people in this way. Trying to fix people is not actually serving or loving.
After all of my years in this ministry, I have come to understand that abusers think this way:
I ‘love’ her. I want what she has. I want the joy, peace (fill in other fruits of the Spirit here) and I don’t think she should enjoy herself because I cannot. I don’t think she should celebrate who she is because I cannot. I want to enjoy that. I want to take that goodness from her. I want to ruin things for her. I want to live in such a way as to ‘take on’ her beautiful qualities and draw them all in for myself. I want her to fix me. I want to use her. I actually hate her. And if I cannot have who she is for myself, I want to destroy her.
Strong words; true words. Take a moment to let that sink in.
The challenge, beautiful child of God, is not to allow others to perform their soul-sucking, abusive projections onto you. Because of your place in God’s kingdom (part of His Bride), it is wrong and sinful for others to use you for such gain. Your gifts are to be used to glorify God — not to be dominated by another. What you have will never be enough to transform him, dear one. Only Jesus can do such a miracle.
So, we will walk through our lives, shining brightly for Jesus and people will want to dim our light — for the rest of our lives. But God told us this would happen. How will we handle this? How will we battle this?
I have some thoughts:
First, know that this will happen, again and again. As counterintuitive as it is, our desire to rush in and help another person may not always be the best for said person. We cannot be rescuers in that way. If I encounter someone, at my job (as a chaplain), who wants me to affirm him over and over and over, I simply will not do this — even though I know it would make him happy in the moment. Because it will take all of my energy and I will not be able to serve others adequately. He will have to go without that “encouragement” from me. It would be an easy fix for a few hours, but what he needs is Jesus to meet all of His needs — not me.
Boundaries, boundaries and more boundaries. There is absolutely a way to be kind without allowing ourselves to get pulled into an unhealthy situation that will play with our empathetic minds. If we sense a truly unhealthy person, we can give in, we can get over-involved or we can differentiate. Differentiating often means pointing a person to what can actually help him or her — Jesus, therapy . . . well . . . both.
Do not allow the put-downs. The dulling of our light. The trying-to-make-you-into-a-little-girl-so-he-can-be-your-authority-syndrome. Not acceptable. You have the Holy Spirit living in you. You have been given a sound mind. You do not need an abusive person to cause you to doubt yourself, the truth and who you are in Christ. A lot of spiritual abusers love to cut women down in order to build themselves up. As hard as it is, say something. Assert your authority, as a child of God. Here are some examples: “I do not need you to be an authority, in my life.” “I need you to stop putting me down. If you cannot, we will not be friends.” “If you would like to be a part of my life, you will need to see me as your equal.” “I believe you owe me an apology for thus-and-such.”
I could go on and on. Friends, let this be an indelible mark on your soul: You are created in the image of God, dignified as His Child and invaluable to Him. Broken people will want that peace and joy in incredibly unhealthy and abusive ways. Don’t let them have it. You have a job to do, on this earth. A call to love God and others with all your heart. You cannot spend what little breath of life we have . . . what a tiny bit of time we have trying to serve people who will use you and distract you from the goodness God has . . . from the true ministry He has for you. Be wise with your time. Be a good steward of the incredible gifts He has given you. You are growing; you are godly, and you are too precious to be snuffed out!
Friends, we have put together a Christmas package for our mamas that will bless the entire family! It is our desire to help our mamas and their babies learn to believe again after everything that is screaming at them that there is no hope left!
You can choose to donate an entire package ($104.95) or select the YOUR CHOICE button below to make a donation in ANY amount towards purchasing these packages for our mamas and their children.
Packages will include a VISA Gift Card, a Board Game, an LED Christmas Decoration, a Yankee Candle Christmas Candle, AND our dear friend Natalie Hoffman’s new book (Donated by her!) . We don’t want to give away every detail just yet so our mamas will be surprised, but we’ll post pictures after the campaign is over!
When our parents died, twenty years ago, we had more flowers and casseroles than we knew what to do with. Our living room looked like a combination of a 1980’s greeting card and a church pot-luck. Since there were only two of us left in the home, we carefully packed all of the casseroles into the freezer and had dinners for months, although everything tasted like cardboard laced with the sadness that only deep pain can bring. The flowers were sent to a nearby assisted living home to bless the inhabitants. There were people in and out of our home. Friends treated us gingerly, holding our hearts as fragile objects. They prayed with us. We were allowed time to be angry, to cry, to mourn and bereave for years to come. It was acceptable, after all. We had lost two family members. Our two parents. Our two anchors. We were not condemned — we were victims of a terrible, terrible accident. We were loved.
Victims of abuse or those who have lost their marriage (either still married or divorced) are not typically “allowed” these important times of mourning. For so many, their sufferings are not believed nor acknowledged. Or, they may be marked as sinful. Within our Christian culture, the deep grief of the loss of a marriage, a child or entire families, due to abusive relationships is not recognized as authentic grief. As a result, survivors carry undealt-with-grief within — often leaking out in the form of depression, anxiety or both. I have witnessed countless women and men who have not been “allowed” to grieve the death of the dream of their marriage . . . the loss of family (especially in-laws whom they came to know and love as their own) . . . the loss of estranged children (young or adult) . . . the loss of possessions, identity, homes, church families and so much more. No one brings casseroles; sympathy cards aren’t sent; no flowers come. In fact, there is more avoidance than anything else. And, if it gets REALLY rough, there is condemnation, harassment and control.
As a result of this toxic recipe of avoidance and aloneness, many women come to our ministry with deep psychological and emotional struggles because, as we all know, when one does not have the time, resources or freedom to grieve, one begins to break down in just about every way. Instead of grief and mourning and support, these brave women experience: loneliness, pain, estrangement, betrayal and so much more. In trying to deal with their normal response (involving anger and pain) over the devastation of their family, they are called bitter, resentful and unforgiving. Oh, my heart . . .
We MUST recognize the grief former targets of abuse are suffering and allow bereavement to take place.
Ideas for grieving are . . .
A ceremony. Have a ceremony that recognizes the loss that you have suffered, dear one. Whatever that is. Name it and weep over it. Light a candle and pray over it. Bring forth the dreams you once had and the hopes you have lost. Name the people who are no longer in your life whom you once loved, trusted and counted as family.
Go to grief counseling. We believe Divorce Care is great but it is not the same. It is shrouded in a little corner of the church where the “divorced people go”. If you are able, invest in books on healing and see a therapist who specializes in domestic violence.
Accept the grief and do not hide it. It is OK to tell people you are grieving right now. In fact, it is preferred. It will protect your experience. They don’t need details. Just an, “I’m grieving right now” will suffice. Say it for as long as you need to.
Embrace the ups and downs. Just like every other form of grief, it will be a rollercoaster. As new hurts come up, each one has to be acknowledged and properly grieved. You may be fine one day and then the next day fall to pieces for no apparent reason. Or, someone else betrays you and you have to deal with that now. Things come up. It is OK. Have another ceremony; have as many as you need.
Take as much time as you need. It could be years, my friend. YEARS. What you are dealing with is like a living nightmare. It is death, in a way, and then not death, in a way. It is a weird, painful limbo. The good news is that I believe Jesus knows all about this. He hung, one time, between life and death, betrayed, battered and bleeding for the entire world to see . . .
And who was there to care? His mother and John. That’s it. Witnesses to His horrific crucifixion. Where was His Father? Jesus felt He was not there. He felt forsaken; He was forsaken. Jesus now sits as a Great High Priest, saying to you and to me, “I understand. I sympathize. I hear you, daughter. I know your pain. I have lived it. You are not alone.” That is our greatest comfort. When we feel alone, betrayed, inconsolable, abandoned . . . we are not, if we know the One-who-calls-us-friend.
Let the tears flow . . . let the grief come. Write about it, paint about it, sing about it, express it in safe places with safe people. But, by all means . . . grieve it. You deserve that.
Megan Cox is the founder of Give Her Wings. She carries an MAR in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in Crisis Response with the AACC.
Abuse is oft referred to as being rooted in entitlement. I could not agree more. And we frequently speak of character disturbances, coined by George Simon, who believes that entitlement is the epidemic of our age. I agree with that, as well. We have statistics on what abuse does to the mind . . . the trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD, triggers, anxiety, depression . . . it is all there and it is all very real. All kinds of abuse are especially harmful to the physical body, as well, as it causes tremendous stress, which can cause irreparable damage to the immune system (see this very scholarly article here). But, recently, a friend (who is also an advocate for those suffering from parental alienation) asked me about the damage abuse does to the soul.
I don’t know how to measure that. There are no statistics on what the heart suffers, as a result of abuse. The scars on the soul? They cannot be seen. But we all know that they are there. I have been thinking quite a lot about this lately. Here are some ponderings:
I would like to expand our definition of abuse as rooted in entitlement AND add that abuse is an assault to the dignity of a person as a human being created in the image of God. It is an attempt to remove that dignity and damage the soul. And the overwhelming anguish of such treatment threatens to break the soul into minute pieces — the very core of our being threatens to come undone.
Dr. Donna Hicks, credited with her insightful work in the field of human dignity, describes ten essential elements of dignity in her book simply entitled Dignity:
Acceptance of Identity
Benefit of the Doubt
I can say, without a doubt, that victims of abuse are neglected in every single one of these basic human-soul-needs. Further, violations of victims’ dignity are perpetual and, over time, reduce what is left of the healthy and thriving soul to something very, very diminutive. What I am trying to convey is that abuse attempts to take a person and make her a non-person. Abusers treat victims as though they are not actually people. We know this. But, that right there is the tremendous damage done to the soul. At the heart of abuse, it is a stripping of a person’s dignity as a human.
Someone recently asked me this: What is the worst thing you could say to a person? Without blinking, I said, “The worst thing you can say to someone would be to express apathy and/or invalidation for their existence. Something like, ‘Your words mean nothing; you do not have your own thoughts; you are nothing.'” This idea is deep hatred . . . the opposite of love. It is purposeful unresponsiveness when a person has a clear need. It is abuse.
We all need love, acceptance and safety. To deny a person any of those things, with malevolence, is just . . . its own kind of evil. And breaks a person down in their core — in their souls.
So, what do we do about this?
All of us, at Give Her Wings, strive to help a woman realize her dignity. Because here’s the good news: Dignity can be wounded, but it cannot be removed. We all have inherent dignity that was placed in the core of our being when God breathed the very first breath of life (soul) into our persons. No one . . . nothing can EVER take that away.
Further, we come from a long line of humans created by God and loved by Him. We are part of a legacy. We are connected. We are worthy. No one can take that away, either.
But, sometimes, dignity has been so masked that it takes a lot of effort to find it again. When people sustain an injury to their self-worth (for long periods), the cure is time with people who know how to treat them in a dignified way. Time, sensitivity, kindness, attention and listening may be the best tools to help victims of abuse. We honor their stories and hold them dear. We remind them, as often as possible, how precious they are to God and to us. We listen to their (very good) ideas. We include them. We try to foster independence. I could go on and on . . .
I do not know how to measure the stress, strain and damage done to the soul due to abuse . . . but I know it is massive. I remember all too well. But, here is our hope:
The body can be broken . . . the damage is done. And many of our mamas face debilitating physical pain and losses due to the abuse they have suffered.
The heart can be broken . . . how does one ever trust again? Be intimate with others? The mind can be broken . . . many are on medications for anxiety and depression, due to trauma, and may not ever be relieved of it completely.
But the soul . . . the soul that belongs to Jesus will never, ever be crushed. Pressed down, yes. Shaken, yes. Hit hard, yes. But the dignity that God has given us, as sealed children of His, as marked by our Maker and created in His image will NEVER be taken away. And that’s a fact. It is inherent, indestructible and undeniable.
A person is a person through another person. My humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. We can only be human together. ~ Archbishop Tutu
In the end, we belong to Jesus. That is that and no one and nothing can separate us from His love (see Romans chapter 8). As hurtful as it is that others wound our dignity, our dignity is wrapped up in our soul, which is wrapped up in God’s love and held safely and firmly in His hand. For this . . . above all else, we can be thankful.
You have harmed my body; you have broken my heart; you have done all you can to break my spirit — but you will not destroy my dignity. You cannot. You will not. You never will.