To me on November 19, 2012, (the night before my children and I escaped my abusive husband)
I see you. I know how terrified you are right now.
You are doing your best to act normally even though you have escape plans in place for tomorrow. Only your parents, who will help you escape, know.
You haven’t even told your children yet, for fear that your husband would somehow find out.
I know that you feel conflicted and so guilty, planning to leave when today was one of your abuser’s “nice” days. Twenty-seven years of past experience is proof that his “nice” won’t last.
You have reached a desperate tipping point and have concluded that if you don’t leave, you, and possibly some of your children might die.
I want you to know this:
You are so much braver than you feel right now.
You are on the verge of stepping off of a cliff in the dark to save your children. A free-fall into the unknown, with no idea when or how your parachute will open. (It will open though)
You are about to leave behind your beloved farm home, favorite kitchen, gardens, pets and farm animals to save your children.
Leaving what you love for the unknown is so scary.
You are so much more amazing than you know right now.
Now, 5 1/2 years in the future, I can look back and thank you for being brave, for trusting your intuition that yes, it really was “that bad” even when you felt so confused and scared from all of the years of abuse and gaslighting.
You are so much braver than you feel right now.
Recovery starts here
I also want to tell you that the leaving, which is terrifying in its own way, is only the start of recovery for both you and your children.
The next 5 1/2 years are going to be horrifically hard.
Your children will disclose so much abuse to you soon after leaving (feeling safe has a way of drawing those stories out) that the list you document will be 10 single-spaced pages long.
As horrible as it will be to hear the abuse your children have experienced at the hand of their father, it will confirm that you made the right decision in leaving.
Recovery starts here and while it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you won’t regret it.
Don’t listen to the naysayers
Don’t listen to those who tell you that you are “taking the easy way out” when you leave.
They have no idea what they are talking about. Stepping out into the unknown with a dozen children and no way to provide for them after being out of the workforce while you homeschooled for 27 years is not the “easy way out.”
Single-parenting a dozen children who are struggling from the fallout of abuse isn’t “taking the easy way out.”
On the contrary, it’s doing the hard, scary, brave, selfless thing.
Don’t listen to those who tell you that you are “grieving the Lord” in your decision to protect your children by leaving.
The Lord loves you and your children and wants you to be safe.
It will be even harder than you can imagine today, but it will be worth it.
Don’t listen to the naysayers.
Be compassionate with yourself
You will feel so guilty for not recognizing and identifying the abuse earlier… for not rescuing your children sooner.
I want you to know that you were doing the best you could do.
For 27 years, your time and energy were totally consumed with caring for your young children and always being vigilant to step in to intervene or rescue your children from your husband’s unpredictable tirades.
You did everything you possibly could (and then some) to make your marriage work.
5 1/2 years out, I can look back at you with tenderness and thankfulness for how very, very hard you tried.
Be compassionate with yourself. You were doing the very best you could with the information you had at the time.
God will continue to “show up” and meet you in your neediest moments
It would seem that once you are out, the worst is behind you, but I’ll warn you that you are in for years of emotional, drawn-out, expensive legal battles to protect your children.
Your husband will repeatedly betray and hurt you and your children. As painful as this will be, it will serve to further confirm your decision to leave and rescue your children.
The litigation process will feel like it is going to destroy you, but it won’t. (spoiler: God will intervene for you in astounding ways. Your children will be safe!)
God will continue to “show up” and meet you in your neediest moments. He will.
Friends will abandon you
Also, more “cheery” news: don’t take it personally when your friends abandon you at the most desperate time in your life.
Some of them see you living their worst nightmare and turn away, unable to look.
Others can’t stand to think that even when you follow The Formula and do all of the “godly Christian things”, that you won’t have a picture-perfect marriage and family.
Some simply want to believe what they see in public, rather than what you have disclosed of your family’s private hell.
Some don’t know what to say, so they say nothing.
Some mistakenly declare “I don’t choose sides,” not realizing that by not choosing sides, they are siding with the abuser and abandoning you.
Some place the institution of marriage on a higher pedestal than individual women and children. They believe that the marriage must be saved and protected, no matter the cost. They forget how much Jesus hated abuse and how much he loves individual women and children.
You will be lonely, heartbroken and betrayed, but God will provide two amazingly faithful, patient friends (one new and one you’ve known many years) who will walk alongside you.
Two friends who will be willing go down into your dark valley and hold your hand.
Two friends who understand that grief cannot be fixed, that it must be carried.
You won’t be alone.
You should also know that 6 of your older children will be diagnosed with serious anxiety disorders, common fallout from growing up with an unpredictable, abusive, narcissistic father.
One of the hardest things you’ll have to navigate in the next 5 1/2 years will be supporting and trying to find help for your children as they battle depression, PTSD and even serious OCD.
You yourself will be blindsided by the symptoms of Complex PTSD. As scary, overwhelming and unpredictable as it will be, I will tell you this: You will find ways to navigate this.
It will feel like it’s going to sink you.
But it won’t.
God will continue to “show up” in your very darkest, neediest times and give you the strength to keep going for your children.
There will be joy
As dire as all of this sounds, I want you to know that there will be joy.
Right there in the midst of so much heartache, confusion and pain, there will be heart-bursting joy.
Where there was once fear and hiding until your husband left for work each day, now here will be spontaneous laughter.
There will be freedom.
There will be the delightful, new-to-you feeling of safety in your own home.
If you only hear this, please know that you are braver than you think and you are making the right decision.
You will have faithful friends walk alongside you and most importantly, God will not fail you. He will “show up” in your most desperate moments, supernaturally going before you, giving you the grace and strength to keep going even when you are certain that you can’t.
You can’t see it now, but I’m telling you, from 5 1/2 years out, “You are making the right decision. You’ve got this!”
* Dedicated to all of the brave souls who are contemplating escaping their abusive relationship and to those brave ones who will faithfully come alongside them. You are my heroes.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am 3 years out and so appreciate what you share. Life does get better and our Father is so faithful to keep us through the darkest times.
Bunny, thank you for sharing. Yes, God is so good. I’m glad you are out.
Wow that was so beautiful and strong…God bless you in baring your soul and for pushing through to protect yourself and your family
Wow!! This is so reassuring as I have also survived an abusive relationship..
Your amazing and truly inspiration to us who are just starting this journey to become free from our abusive spouses.
Lisa, it’s a daunting journey, to be sure. But God is good. As hard as it is, I am confident that with His help, and support from others, you can get free.
Beautifully written. This describes so many of our hearts and experiences, especially the “Friends will abandon you” part.
Cathryn, thank you. I appreciate the encouragement, but am sorry that you can relate to being abandoned by friends. That’s so hard.
Thank you for this, from the bottom of my heart.
Wow! I am so in awe of you and your bravery and your faithfulness to our Lord Jesus. He does go before us and he is always faithful and true. I too was in an abusive relationship for 27 years. I have 5 Children I call my Amazing Angels and one adorable Grandson. My Ex poisoned me so.bad I should have died. But God saved me. My 3-year anniversary just passed. Freedom feels so good and to see my Childtens smiles again. Good luck dear one!
Anastasia, wow. I’m so thankful that the Lord protected you when you were poisoned! And yes, I agree, the smiles of my kids are a huge confirmation that leaving was the right thing to do. Thanks for sharing your story.
This is so true. I was in an abusive marriage for over 30 years. I got out of it 25 years ago. Seven of those years I virtually went into hiding for 7-seven of those years. My children knew where I was but very few others did. One of the strange things none of his family blamed me. He had been an abuser since he was a child. He started with psychological abuse and then it got into physical abuse. I tried suicide three times but all those times God rescued me. Now I am a woman’s and court advocate. I am very out spoken about domestic and child abuse. Thank you for this web site. I read it everytime you post anything. Let me know if I can help you in any way.
Melinda, wow! I am so thankful that the Lord rescued you. How wonderful that you are able to be such a strong advocate for women and children now! I appreciate you sharing your story here. Thanks for the encouragement as well.
Susan, I am so sorry you experienced all of this. Prayers for you seem inadequate, yet I know God hears them and is walking alongside you. I applaud your bravery and realizing you CAN do this!! Much love, Jessica
I am 1 year out and still in the litigation process. Thank you for your words, they encourage me so much.
Audrey, I still vividly remember how incredibly hard it was to be in the thick of that legal mess. I’m sorry that’s where you are now. I do appreciate you taking the time to share here.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, gave me chills reading it because so much of it is ” my story”. I left 8 years ago after 14 exhausting years of every kind of abuse, and was in total denial till I was gone as to how much abuse the kids had suffered also. But God has over and over proven that he is faithful and he provides. God bless you
Tanya, thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad that you have experienced God’s faithfulness too, in the midst of your pain.
Thank you. Today would have been my 43rd wedding anniversary. Would have been, that is, has I not divorced my husband 6 months ago. I still feel disoriented, as if I am on some kind of bizarre merry-go-round of grief, relief, regret, loneliness, and all the woulda/coulda/shouldas. Participating in DivorceCare is helping (https://www.divorcecare.org/ ), as is accepting that self-preservation was – and is – more important than remaining in an emotionally destructive marriage. Thank you for the encouragement you are to so many of us.
Lesley, I’m so sorry. That’s just plain hard.