For survivors of domestic abuse, recalling the good times can be just as damaging as the traumatic flash-backs. So, perhaps it’s time for a positive purge.
After I left my abuser, even everyday things could trigger an avalanche of painful memories. A photo of him kissing my pregnant belly was the (false) promise of a happy little family. A faded t-shirt discovered at the back of the wardrobe brought back that great day out. A hand-written note of apology triggered the fear of a rage-filled rant.
It felt like my own feelings were tripping me up, as I was mercilessly assaulted by memories.
Recalling the good times can be destructive
The mementos that remind us of happy times can be hardest to let go. It is human nature to want to remember the good things, and erase the bad from our minds. Our instinct tells us that this is less traumatic, maybe even more healthy. But when we are fresh out of domestic abuse – this is downright dangerous. Allowing ourselves this skewed and untrue version of reality strengthens doubt and regret. It can motivate us to re-kindle a destructive relationship.
The emotional ties to our abuser are arguably the most important to sever if we are to successfully heal. So, is it time to build your own bonfire of the memories?
De-cluttering for the determined
Let’s start by de-cluttering! If you have children, you may want to keep a few items for their sake. If they are old enough – ask them what they want to keep, and give them a shoebox in which they can store the trinkets themselves, so you don’t have to.
If they are too young, pick out a few bits and pieces – such as photos of him and any sentimental jewelry – and store them safely away in a box marked DO NOT OPEN, until the kids are old enough to receive them.
That done, everything else is disposable. Gather together photos, ticket stubs, that pair of old socks, the half-empty bottle of aftershave, the vase in which you placed his first bunch of flowers, and that pair of ‘I’m sorry’ earrings.
Be good to yourself
Items with any value – such as gold jewelry, CDs etc – can be sold. You can use the money to treat yourself and the kids, so buy something beautiful with the cash. Something he’d never let you buy, or which reminds you that life is too precious to be wasted on a soul-sucking loser.
Other things will make a great bonfire of the vanities. If you wish, you could make it something of a ceremony (though you need only dance around the firepit if you want to!) As you consign each item to the flames, draw up the memory that it holds, and burn them both. Watch the smoke rise and dissipate into the air, never to be seen again.
“Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over, until you know every touch and corner, but still you’ll find an edge to cut you.” Mark Lawrence
Dwelling on positive memories can be dehabilitating if they prevent us from healing. If the things around you are becoming obstacles in your recovery from abuse, it’s time to ditch them.
* This post is adapted from my Twelve Days of Christmas Series, posted in December.
Have you escaped domestic abuse? What did you do to prevent yourself falling into the bear-trap of grief and longing?
ALSO SEE: Other ideas for recovery post-abuse, in Staying out of an abusive relationship: An essential To Do List
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14