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Archive for July 7th, 2008

Plant (c) Lynda BernhardtMany adult survivors of child abuse ask the question of whether the healing process from child abuse has an end. The answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon your definition of the “end” of the healing process.

A friend gave me an analogy that describes the child abuse healing process well. She compares it to raising a child. Are you ever finished with parenting a child? The answer is both yes and no, depending upon how you define the “end” of parenting. There is an end to changing diapers. There is an end to needing a babysitter. There is an end to being legally responsible for the choices your child makes. There is an end to your child living in your house.

However, is there an end to parenthood? No. For the rest of your life, you are your child’s parent, and your child will continue to need you, just in different ways. Your adult child will not need a diaper change, but she will need your advice about her career or her marriage. He will need you to babysit your grandchildren so he can show his wife some undivided attention. Once you are a parent, you are always a parent. That job has no end: It simply changes.

This is the way that I have come to view the healing process from child abuse. I am past the “diaper phase,” which is what I consider the flashbacks that “pooped” all over my life for three years. I would say that I have reached the teen years now. For the most part, I am independent. I no longer need my therapist. I do not feel the need to talk about my child abuse history on a regular basis. However, as a teenager’s hormones will make him moody at times, I find this about myself. Out of nowhere, I will feel blindsided by residue from the past.

However, even when the residue hits, it is never like it used to be. I no longer have visual flashbacks. When I have emotional flashbacks, I recognize them for what they are and know how to comfort myself through them. I no longer hate myself or feel shame for the actions that others inflicted upon me. So, that chapter of the child abuse healing process is over for me. However, I will spend the rest of my life comforting myself when the residue hits.

As a person who likes a beginning, middle, and end, it was hard for me to accept that healing would never be “over.” However, I have come to appreciate that, as I continue to heal, I continue to grow. That is what life is supposed to be about, anyhow.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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