Written by: Kayla Hudson, LCSW, WCA Clinician
Leaving an abusive relationship may sound like freedom. In many ways, this brave first step does offer relief. Unfortunately, the reality of intimate partner abuse is that most who choose to leave have a long journey ahead towards healing. For many of our clients, the abuse continues past separation, and the emotional scars are always present.
In therapy, these individuals often are learning how to have healthy relationships, establish appropriate boundaries, and be empowered to use their voice. In addition to these often difficult tasks, grief and loss are continual themes in therapy. For adults, this may be the loss of love, a friend, and the marriage and family they hoped to build. For children, it can be the loss of a parent, and the confusion of not having the same family structure as other kids. Many of these children struggle to reconcile their desire to have a relationship with the abusive parent, while attempting to navigate the relationship with their primary caregiver.
For these reasons, even simple holidays like Mother’s or Father’s day can pose a unique set of challenges. Imagine an entire holiday devoted to celebrating a person that you may hate. These types of scenarios can be striking reminders of the family a child wishes they had. When faced with situations like this, parents find that an effective technique for celebrating these holidays is to re-frame them.
For instance, instead of “Father’s Day” families may choose to celebrate “Freedom from Dad Day.” Some families choose to honor other “fathers” in their lives that have made a positive impact including pastors, coaches, other family members, or family friends. This can also be a helpful opportunity for children to learn about healthy relationships and what kind of parent they hope to be someday. Safety and healing is a unique journey for every family and each individual within the system must find their own path to freedom.
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