What to Expect in Recovery From Domestic Abuse

Recovery from domestic abuse takes time. Recovery can take less time if you know a few things common to survivors in domestic abuse recovery. Take a look.Recovery from domestic abuse and violence is always possible. Recovery from domestic abuse becomes probable when you:

  • have an idea of what domestic abuse recovery looks like,
  • know, in general, what feelings to expect during recovery,
  • get a head start on complications that can happen in recovery, and
  • develop coping skills to navigate your recovery from domestic abuse.

No one knows how long you’ll need to completely recover from domestic abuse. But as you’ll find out, even a bit of recovery from domestic abuse makes your heart sing. Nurturing your recovery from domestic abuse, or recovering on purpose, adds structure to your recovery.

Recovery From Domestic Abuse and Thoughts of Returning

If only recovery from domestic abuse and violence were as easy as leaving the abuser. Unfortunately, by the time you leave, you’ve intertwined your core, your heart, with the abuser’s demands (Healing from Domestic Abuse & Violence: Will I Survive This?). This means different things to different people. You may

  • Hear his or her voice in your head. The voice can wake you up at night or be so distracting during the day that you literally can’t think straight.
  • Feel extreme anxiety when you do something the abuser didn’t want you to do, or if you do something different than the abuser wanted you to do it.
  • Think that your feelings of sadness after leaving the abuser means that you are meant to be together (when really, you’re feeling a withdrawal, of sorts).
  • Feel melancholy or fear when you visit a place that held significance for you during the relationship.
  • Want to text, email, call, stalk on social media or visit one of the abuser’s friends or family members.

Remember that no matter how you sense the abuser’s presence, you will continue sensing him or her for some time. It only means that you and the abuser intertwined your psyches. Your abuser benefited from it; you did not.

The feelings of attachment can feel so strong that you believe you belong with the abuser. Thoughts of your abuser and the relationship can make you feel distracted and overwhelmed. You may consider returning to the relationship to end your current pain. Stay strong. Stay away. This attachment will end in time (5 Feelings in Domestic Abuse Recovery That Could Derail Your Healing).

What to Expect in Domestic Abuse Recovery

The Stages of Healing Emotional Trauma

The Manitoba Trauma Information & Education Centre1 states the stages of emotional trauma recovery are:

  • Safety and Stabilization
  • Remembrance and Mourning
  • Reconnection and Integration
  • Safety And Stabilization

Did you notice the cycle in domestic abuse recovery? The cycle of abuse spun you down to the depths of despair, but the cycle of domestic abuse recovery will raise you up. Yet the healing process is a cycle, and no one can tell you how many times an hour, day, week, month or year you will go through it, or how many rotations you will take.

1. Safety and Stabilization

In the first and last stage of the cycle of recovery, you must purposefully nurture feelings of safety and stability. The best way to nurture those feelings is to have completed a domestic violence safety plan which will remind you of your support network and resources. In a perfect world, you could grab that plan now. But as this is the real world, you probably don’t have such a plan at hand (although it’s never too late to make one).

So, maintaining your safety and stability isn’t an easy task, but you can make it happen. What will help you feel safer and mentally stronger? You know yourself best, but here are some suggestions:

  • Learn to self-soothe during an emotional crisis or anxiety attack. Especially in the beginning, your emotions can take you on a wild, lie-filled ride.
  • Pay attention to what triggers mental or emotional instability. When you know your triggers, you can find coping skills that help.
  • You might find it very hard to talk about the abuse, so work it out in different ways like meditation, yoga, drawing, writing, running. . . anything that lets your emotions come and go. In fact, people who write about their trauma recover more quickly than those who talk about it.2
  • That said, get into talk therapy with a professional if possible. There’s a lot of ground you can cover without speaking of the trauma directly (ask about eye movement desensitization and reprocessing [EMDR] therapy).
  • Work to regain worthy connections with friends and family. Don’t bother with relationships that diminish or discourage you in any way.

2. Remembrance and Mourning

When you feel safe and stable, you should work through the memories, both good and bad. You’ll find yourself mourning the relationship, not as it was but as you once thought it would be. Face it, you put a lot of yourself into a relationship that was simply one big lie. Accept that the relationship as you perceived it no longer exists, that your abuser doesn’t know how to love you, that you’ve experienced a deep loss, etc. As you remember and mourn the relationship, work into discussing your feelings with a variety of people, from best friends to strangers at a support group.

In the remembrance and mourning phase, you’ll still cry or feel angry or miss the good times or any other emotion as you talk about the relationship. That’s okay. People worth spending time with will listen as you talk about your trauma. But if remembering the past causes you to feel as if it were happening over again, you could be experiencing a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is very common in abuse victims. Talk to your doctor about the abuse and ask about PTSD.

If you feel your confidence in your safety or mental stability fading, regroup and slow down. Don’t push yourself backward when you’re trying to move forward. These ideas can help you navigate this stage:

  • Maintain your feelings of safety and stability.
  • Talk to whomever will listen to and support you.
  • Involve yourself in any creative activity, or if you’re ready for more social interaction, take a class on anything that piques your interest.
  • Make self-care a habit. Self-care includes eating better, taking care of yourself physically, making and attending that doctor appointment, etc.
  • Remember to pay attention to your thoughts. Correct negative thoughts about yourself and tell your abuser’s voice to get the hell out of your mind.

3. Reconnection and Integration

Reconnecting to reality and releasing the traumatic memories of abuse completes this round of the healing cycle. You’ll feel stronger and be excited about the life you are making for yourself. The abuse no longer defines your life and becomes part of the story of you, not the only story of you. Here are things you can do to aid the process of reconnection and integration after abuse trauma:

  • Everyone says to volunteer and I used to hate it. I was recovering from depression too, so volunteering wasn’t really an answer. So if volunteering somewhere isn’t a good fit for you, find a way to teach what you’ve learned from the abuse.
  • Make yourself more available to meeting new people. Not lovers, but friends. You may find a lover, but if you find yourself feeling emotionally destabilized or wanting to connect with that person very quickly, then it is probably too soon to date.
  • Decide what you want in your new life, make a plan, and go for it.

Maintain your feelings of safety and stability, but remember that it’s normal to feel your foundation rock beneath you. It’s okay to feel afraid, it’s okay to feel emotional. Reach to your support system, work through the cycle of healing, and before you know it life will reward you for your hard work.

Is Recovery from Domestic Abuse Possible Before Leaving?

In the article How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse on HealthyPlace.com, I said,

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, I don’t want to say you’re screwed on recovery. But you kind of are. Just a little. Although there are things you can do to recoup from the day’s abuses, while living with your abuser, you are continually recouping. You can’t get ahead of the emotional and psychological trauma and into recovery when you live with abuse.

I still believe that. Whole-heartedly. Although you can’t completely heal from abuse while living in it, self-care can keep you healthier than doing nothing at all.

The only way to recover from anything is to first fix the problem. For example, recovery begins when you kill cancer cells, put a cast on a broken bone, or take an antibiotic to balance the different bacteria in your body. You can’t recover from anything if you don’t do something to fix the problem first. And honey, you are not the problem that needs fixing in your abusive relationship. The problem is your abuser, and your abuser is pretty happy just the way things are.

So let’s get back to recovering from domestic abuse on purpose with Five Feelings in Domestic Abuse Recovery That Could Derail Your Healing.

VerbalAbuseJournals.com collects stories of leaving abuse. Read a few to learn what life without abuse feels like. Here’s the link –> Stories of Leaving Abuse.


1 Manitoba Trauma Information & Education Centre, Phases of Trauma Recovery

2. 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman

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