When it came to dealing with an abusive relationship, there are a couple of things I wished people around me knew. Like for one, I wish people knew that just because you exit the relationship, doesn't mean you've healed from the damage.
Secondly, I wish people knew that telling someone to move past it is almost as crippling as being in the relationship itself.
When someone is in an abusive relationship, they never come out of it unscathed. Grateful, yes, that they are able to start fresh, but starting over comes with the difficult decision to face what had happened. Doing so is not an easy process.
People may face triggers. They can hear a certain song, a laugh, even see an object that you take for granted, and this will cause them to relive their trauma all over again. They will feel hurt, scared and in danger because they are recalling memories or experiencing flashbacks of something that happened to them they don't want to remember.
Abuse is one of those traumatic experiences that you never truly get over, but there's something you can do to help those who have survived it.
What survivors of abuse need is for someone to be there for them. Oftentimes in their relationship, they felt alone and abandoned when it came to them expressing their thoughts and feelings. Your lack of comfort leaves them with that same feeling deep inside their belly. They become accustomed to believing that their emotions are futile, and the cycle of abuse just continues.
By being there, lending a hand or even an ear to let them vent when they're heartbroken over their relationship, dealing with trust issues, sadness or even an emotional trigger, you're validating that what they went through was real. It doesn't diminish them, but rather helps them to take further steps in regards to carrying on their treatment and healing.
One of the sincerest things you should do for someone who is dealing with the traumas of a past relationship is to not force them to move at a speed they're not able to. Breakups in general are very painful, however, add abuse, vile words, scars (both emotional and physical), fear and embarrassment, and it's a whole other story.
Individuals feel an overwhelming sense of shame for what happened to them, and even more so, guilt for thinking they were the reason it happened to them. Guilt is one of the most painful things to overcome. The process of healing requires time, anger, hopelessness and therapy until they are able to understand what happened, transition blame off of them and realize that they want to be happy in life instead of consumed with memories of a vile past.
Oftentimes when a person is dealing with an abusive ex, there is a part of them that still loves them. And whether you understand that or not, it's not up to you to tell them they're better off without them. Because they will see that one day. It's not up to you to rush them and tell them to party it up now that they're single. Because right now, what they want to do — and need — to do is cry, feel and let the pain overtake them.
Being on the sidelines when someone you care for is hard, and all you want to do is help them. But at the end of the day, what a survivor of abuse needs more than anything is time to process, accept and heal what they went through and have someone by their side who gives them enough time and understanding to be able to.