Broken heart woman. Couple break up. Sad bride on unhappy wedding. Woman and groom quarrel. Girl with vengeful look burns in fire candle family pictures. Portrait crying female.

I was furious.

I stood in what had been his walk-in closet, I shredded my wedding gown with my bare hands. Seed pearls flew in all directions, lace and satin in jagged strips around the floor.

I shrieked with anger.

Eventually, I fell to the floor sobbing when all the fury had fled my body.

We hadn’t even been divorced a year yet and he had been living his “new life” in New York while his children remained in Georgia. He decided to wait until after the deadline to arrange summer visitation, then took only 9 of his allotted 28 days. When I reminded him that he had agreed to that parenting time and by refusing to take it he would not be in compliance with the court order, he then threatened me with all manner of things.

I was livid. 

At myself.

How Had I Got Here?

How that evolution occurred so quickly and intensely I’m not sure. I just remember thinking, “You MORON! What the hell kind of piece of crap father did you stick your children with?!” I paced around my bathroom and bedroom, fuming at yet another glimpse of what still proves true today, 6 years later: it has zero to do with the children. It has everything to do with playing the victim and punishing me over and over for the grievous “sin” of divorcing him.

Still…I was raging at myself.

Four Actions to Learn to Forgive Yourself

It wasn’t until about a year later, when he lied and filed contempt charges against me, that I started to get clarity on the situation. I began to stand in my own truth. Then I started to write about it openly and explore the self-care techniques that would lead to freeing myself.

I discovered 4 specific actions that helped me to learn to forgive myself and, repeated over time, took me to a new place in my healing.

#1. – Take Yourself Out of the Equation

I had to learn to call out the abuse for exactly what it was and place responsibility squarely on the source of that abuse. By constantly asking myself how I’d react if one of my friends was being treated this way, I was able to clarify my own thoughts that I was not the reason for my ex-husband’s continued abuses.

#2. – Learn to Ask Why and Look for the Non-Emotional Answer

Why is this person acting this way toward me? Why do I hold myself responsible for the behavior? Why do I choose to let it go unchallenged? Why have I accepted this as normal? Be warned: there are no right answers but all the answers are difficult. For me, it led to a long road of self-discovery that ended up purging a lot of garbage.

#3. – Write, Write, and Write Some More

People who have never kept a journal where they allow their true feelings to fall out are really missing one of the most powerful tools for healing. You can write anything, no matter how ugly or emotional or vulnerable or “secret.” Get it out. Then you have the luxury of going back later to read and digest what you wrote, as well as seeing the progress you’ve made.

#4. – Create Reminders to Yourself to Stay on Track with Your Thoughts

Mine was a bit extreme, but it served its purpose. I had to find a tangible way to call my own attention to my negative thought patterns. I looked on it as a huge weight keeping me from growth. So, I put firewood in a backpack and each time I would think of my ex-husband or begin to have an emotional reaction to his continued abuses, I’d put that backpack on and carry it around. When I was not at home, I kept a rubber band on my wrist and snapped it whenever these thoughts began. My therapist thought it was brilliant. Yours can be anything that helps redirect your thinking.

Let Yourself Off the Hook

Truly the biggest hurdle to recovery from abuse is letting yourself off the hook. We are deeply programmed to believe that we are at fault for the abuse and that programming takes time to undo.

Consistent mental effort and practice will disentangle you from those chains and eventually lead to a much healthier and happier life.
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Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.
Aubrey Cole

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I discovered 4 specific actions that helped me to learn to forgive myself and, repeated over time, took me to a new place in my healing.

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