Written by: Rachel Grant, Trauma Recovery Coach
I grew up in a fairly small town in Oklahoma, and when I was five years old, my grandfather came to live with my family. I often helped my mom and dad take care of him. I would do simple little things like taking him a bowl of cereal, keeping him company, or reading to him. He was a friend and a quiet companion, up until the day he began abusing me when I was ten years old.
During my early twenties, I decided to stop being the victim and began doing all of the things we usually do when we want to get over something—talking to friends, seeing a therapist, reading books. By my late twenties, I was better but was still going around and around the same mountain of self-doubt, anger, acting out, and nonexistent boundaries.
I remember very distinctly the day in 2005 when the thought occurred to me, “I don’t want to just survive my life, I want to live it!” That thought stirred something deep inside of me, and I set out to discover how I could live a powerful, authentic life free from the pain of abuse.
So, I began reading, talking with others who had been abused, and reflecting on what lessons had really made a difference in my recovery up to that point. I realized that I had come to understand the abuse as an experience, that I had drawn the connections between the abuse and my current behavior—for example, I could explain why I didn’t trust others. However, there was one critical question that was not being answered by any of the books, therapists, or friends: “So, what do I do about it?!”
As a survivor, you have done amazing work to reach a place where you are able to acknowledge the abuse and have gained a sense of empowerment by no longer seeing yourself as or being a victim. However, this recognition and sense of empowerment is not enough. You are now ready to do something about it!
Imagine with me for a moment that our abuse experience has left a scrape on our knee, like one we might get by falling down on a concrete sidewalk. This scrape, for many of us, remains unhealed for years and years. At times, we may bandage and tend to the wound, but we never fully recover. Worse, we come to believe it never can be healed.
Now, in the case of a scrape, the skin does eventually heal and leave a scar. We look at our knee, see the scar, and remember that day when we were wounded. Yet we do not feel all of the pain or other emotions that occurred at the moment we were hurt. Nor do we continue to compensate for the wound by changing our behavior, such as not fully bending our knee for fear of reopening the wound.
I strongly believe that the wounds of abuse can be healed and looked backed upon in this same way. We can see the scar that was created, but do not feel the pain, need to compensate for, or constantly re-bandage the wound. However, this requires another shift, from survivor to beyond surviving. For that reason, I use the term “beyond survivor” to describe myself, and it is my hope that you will come to describe yourself this way as well.
But how will you know when you are ready to take this next step? When you are no longer satisfied with just surviving your life but instead want to break free from the pain of abuse and move on with your life.
I often describe this as the “enough is enough” phase and with this we step further down the road of recovery and the objectives and the goals of recovery shift as well.
Goals of Recovery for the Beyond Survivor:
- Train in techniques for identifying and challenging the lies that abuse taught you about yourself
- Let go of shame, guilt, and believing the abuse was your fault
- Release your anger, loneliness, and fear of abandonment
- Develop strong communication skills
- Learn how to trust again and enjoy intimate relationships
Type of Support to Seek Out:
- Workshops and support groups that focus on skills rather than reflection
- Trauma recovery coaching
- Solution focused or cognitive behavioral therapy (does not apply to everyone)
As a Beyond Survivor, you will reach a place where you no longer feel it is necessary to manage behaviors or cope with thoughts and feelings that have resulted from abuse on a regular basis. Rather, you will have gained insights and skills that make it possible for you to live an abundant, powerful life that is no longer mired in the past. You will see the scar, but you will no longer feel wounded.
Want to learn more about how you let go of the pain of abuse and feel normal? SIGN UP for Rachel’s monthly newsletter and receive an excerpt of her guidebook, Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse.
About Rachel: Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Trauma Recovery Coach. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. With her support, adult survivors of sexual abuse break free from the pain of abuse and return to their genuine self. Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. She is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches. www.rachelgrantcoaching.com