With this being Thanksgiving week, the topic of gratitude has been on my mind a lot lately. For many people, 2020 is a year that brought so many challenges, so it’s a bit complicated to think about being grateful during such a difficult year. How can we feel thankful when life has been so hard?
This internal conflict is familiar to many survivors of past abuse. Along the journey to recovering from past abuse, at times we may feel pressure to think, “I should be thankful for my experiences, because they made me who I am today.” And sometimes, there’s profound truth to this statement, as we reflect on how those experiences led to some positive outcomes in our lives.
Each survivor’s journey is their own, so it’s always important to feel empowered to make choices that honor our preferences, experiences, and emotions. Being thankful for past hurtful experiences doesn’t need to be a decision that lasts forever. At times, I do have moments of gratitude for my own past hurtful experiences -- and other times, I am most certainly not thankful for them!
This Thanksgiving, give yourself permission to choose for yourself whether, when, and how you look back with gratitude on past hurtful experiences. And, try to identify other opportunities for gratitude that can provide you with comfort and reassurance along your healing journey.
For example, while I’m definitely not always thankful for the abuse I experienced, there are many other aspects of that experience that I feel so grateful for, including:
The lessons I learned from my experiences. Sometimes in life, we have to learn lessons the hard way (or at least I’ve had to!). There are some important life lessons I probably wouldn’t understand as deeply as I do now because of my experiences with abuse, such as the importance of having healthy boundaries in relationships and the value of taking time to build new relationships slowly.
The strength it showed me I have. I don’t always think of myself as the strongest person, and I’m usually much quicker at identifying my weaknesses and areas where I’d like to grow. But when I look back on some of the things I’ve gone through, I can see strength in places I didn’t realize I had it.
The way it equipped me to help others going through similar circumstances. When I was leaving my abusive relationship, I felt very alone and isolated. But then, I started to realize how many other people have gone through similar experiences and started to see opportunities to connect with others around those experiences. I know how much support I received from friends and family along my journey, and I try to offer the same anytime someone I know (or a friend or loved one of someone I know) is going through similar challenges.
If you or someone you know has faced abuse, what parts of your journey and experience are you thankful for? I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to share comments on this blog post or reach out through my Contact Form with ideas that could be shared in a future blog post!