Survivors of domestic violence and grief

Usually when society thinks of grief, it is thought of revolving around the death of a loved one, a physical being, a physical loss. As we have come to experience so many other types of loss in our lives, society has begun to understand grief differently through the recognition of losses that are not death related. Survivors of domestic violence are grieving for multiple losses, many of which still go unrecognized and unacknowledged.

Domestic violence is the maltreatment of an intimate partner in order to gain or maintain control. The U.S. Surgeon General recently declared domestic violence as the Number One health concern in the USA today. Domestic violence is not gender specific, however; research shows that aggressive behavior is more often associated with males than with females and therefore more women than men are victims of partner abuse.

Physical abuse is the most discussed form of domestic violence mainly because it is often visible to the naked eye. However, because abuse is not about the “loss of control” as it is about “demanding control”, there are many other forms of abuse used to gain control such as: sexual, verbal, psychological, spiritual, economic and social.

Women going through the process of leaving their abusers, like women leaving non‐violent partners, experience grief during and at the termination of their relationship, even if they feel relief at the cessation of violence. Survivors of domestic violence are grieving for multiple losses, many of which still go unrecognized and unacknowledged.

Losses which are grieved may include any, or all of the following:

The parent you were supposed to be

The life your children were supposed to live

The future you expected to have

The way it was

The way you wish it had been

The person you thought they were

The career or house you had

The person you expected them to be

The relationship you deserved to have

The life you were supposed to lead

The person that you were before the abuse

The person you wish you had been the first time the abuse happened

The loss of Family and Friends

Breaking the isolation of domestic violence by seeking counseling and support from friends and family can help survivors to move forward. Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing.

Some online resources include:

http://www.thehotline.org/2012/08/20/counseling-for-domestic-violence-survivors/

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/rachel-lamb/grieving-the-loss-of-self_b_13637564.html

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/cfs.12051

https://www.nrcdv.org/dvrn/