It might seem impossible right now, survivors, given where you are, but one day it’s entirely probable that you’ll be able to look back on the abuse you endured as just another chapter of your story, and not the entire book.
This is called closure. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten what happened—that’s not realistic—and it doesn’t mean you’ve forgiven your abuser (cue hilarious laughter from survivors). It also doesn’t mean you’ve healed completely and have no residual effects from the abuse.
What closure means to many survivors of intimate partner abuse is that they’re moving on. They’re starting anew. They’re walking themselves, scars and all, into a safer and healthier future.
This future may or may not include a new relationship. Many survivors like to take time after leaving an abusive partner to make sure they can make safe, healthy decisions about the next partner that comes their way.
To Find Closure
After surviving rape and abuse from a dating partner at 18 years old, Beth Baumann shared with us in her survivor story that she found closure through witnessing the strength of other survivors.
“My closure came from talking with other women who had been through similar things and seeing the kind of strength that can come out of it … and learning how abusers use all their different tactics. It made me go from victim to survivor.”
And Diane M. told us that she has yet to find closure, but hopes to someday by helping other survivor moms at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference.
“I hate thinking ‘woe is me’ so much. I’m not getting closure and I just want to help other people.”
Be it altruism, time, space or just some tough love self-talk, closure is a personal journey that can look different for every survivor. That’s why we asked our survivor readers to share with us what worked for them after abuse.
“I escaped after 25-plus years of emotional abuse. … I am attending college and it’s the best thing I have ever done for myself. I graduate in June with a BA in psychology and a minor in criminal justice. … I want to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.” – Jennifer
“I hid. For 4 years. I built myself up. Paid for a killer shark attorney. I got closure the day I sat in that court room while the judge raked him over the coals.” – Leah
“Deleting all contact information and pulling away contact from ‘his’ friends that became your friends. Unfortunately, all ties to the abuser need to be cut or moving on is very difficult.” – Alissa
“My journal [became] a book … and as I went on a book tour for a year I heard so many stories [so] I wrote a second book!” – Patty
“I allowed myself the painful process of healing and learning the importance of boundaries in every part of my life, which is hard because I’m naturally a helper to others. Allowing myself to see I was just as important as anyone I would be happy to help was key to me stepping away from that part of life and moving forward.” – Renee
“Counseling, good friends and family reminding me I deserved better, and time has helped me.” – Heather
“Cutting the ties and connections to all those who I have learned to realize were toxic relationships and cutting off all communication with them.” – Holly
Five Tips for Moving Forward
Looking for closure for yourself? Start with these five tips from The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
- Cut off all contact with your abusive ex-partner. If you need to get something off your chest, write it in a letter, but don’t send it.
- Surround yourself with support. Consider joining a support group, talking to a counselor or reaching out to a domestic violence advocate who will listen.
- Take care of yourself. Here are 52 ways to make yourself a priority.
- Remember that you will get better with time. You don’t need to rush the healing process.
We’ll add one more: look forward, not back. Read, “Why Survivors Should Set Goals for the Future” for more on that.