Healing: A Piece at a Time

17 Feb

Several years later, days or weeks pass when my heart doesn’t remind me that it’s broken or the sexual abuse doesn’t lurk in the shadow of my day. The sun is brilliant, the lodge pole pines sway in the breeze and the dogs’ antics reaffirm there is joy in the world. Reconstructing my life is an endless process that happens in increments that offer promise. As the days stroll by, sexual abuse seems nothing more than a veiled memory while the intense grief fades like the colors in a worn out piece of clothing.

The further I travel down the road, the greater the distance between me and the pain as if I’m viewing the tragedy through a rear-view mirror watching the terrain fade in the distance. I pause—wondering if this is normal. Shouldn’t a catastrophic trauma remain a daily vivid image? For years, I spent each day wandering through a burning landscape that left nothing behind but scorched earth.

I felt different—set me apart from the rest of world, especially other mothers. The stigma of sexual abuse permeated me like a skin I couldn’t shed. Now, I rise in the morning, fix breakfast, get dressed, and hike with the dogs and wonder when the immense suffering began to drop away or did it? I can’t pinpoint the exact moments in the process when I emerged from another layer of grief or when I reached another level of personal insight or when I achieved another monumental behavioral change, but I’m painfully aware that any ground gained exacted a tremendous cost.

When Casey phones me to share the latest drama or crisis in her life or tells me she doesn’t want to be in this world anymore, I’m reminded of the destruction of a childhood and a life that remains in the wake of incest. When my daughter and I have these conversations, I numb out. When my heart doesn’t bleed like it once did, I wonder if I have a heart or if it died.

When I speak to groups and mothers about the sexual abuse, I feel removed from the story as if I’m talking about another mother’s life—not mine. An invisible barrier exists between the person telling the story and the person who lived the story. Maybe it’s a self-preservation shield that enables me to tell my story while protecting me from the grief and distancing me from the heart break.

I remember the times I begged for the suffering to stop. I wanted my life back. Now that a level of my prayers has been answered, I’m left with unanswerable questions. Should I still be suffering? Shouldn’t the memories remain stark; cut my heart, resurrect the intensity of the original grief? I believe something is wrong with me; that I should still be immersed in the tragedy; that I’ll never be free of the residual stench. For now, the memories have lost some of their sting. My therapist assures me this is part of the healing process. Her reassurance provides some comfort and peace.