Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.John Milton
Surviving domestic violence can truly change one’s perspective.
For days, months, years, your life might have been relatively normal. You might have had a two-parent family, a job, a place to live, a car. Perhaps life had settled into a routine. You might have felt secure, had a warm sense of achievement, or took pride in what you had built.
Then came the sweet talk, followed by the boundary violations. “Surely it won’t get worse,” you thought. Yet the emotional abuse escalated and then came the objects smashing into the wall as the person you once trusted with your soul hurled them in an expletive-filled rage.
One day, after one too many threats and flailing arms, you grabbed your other family members and left. You didn’t know how you’d all survive, but you had to escape to do so.
While you did what you had to do to stay alive, the reality of what you just sacrificed for that safety can come down on you like an avalanche. As you battle through the weeks and months ahead, you realize what it’s like to start over. The belongings and relationships you might have taken for granted can acquire an intense new meaning.
You might be thankful for just having a toothbrush. A place to sleep. An advocate to work with.
You are grateful for a friend who will listen to you vent at length.
You might find people who can take care of your pets until you set up your own place.
You realize how fortunate you are that others helped with groceries.
Somehow a friend of a friend connected you with a support group.
Access to a washer and dryer suddenly seems miraculous.
Family members check in on you, even from far away.
Someone believes you. After hiding your situation from others for so long, acting like everything was okay and it was no big deal, someone believes you.
A coworker you don’t even know well offers to attend court with you just so you have someone there.
When you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you realize that you look a little stronger than two weeks ago. Rugged, maybe more wrinkles, but that old fire in your eyes is starting to reignite.
You see a lone yellow flower and wonder why you’ve never seen a flower so yellow before. Its radiant beauty catches your breath as you trudge down a saturated sidewalk on a rainy spring day.
Someone you never knew experienced abuse tells you their own story.
You’re able to buy an older car and it feels like a million dollars.
In one of those waves of doubt, when you collapse into the corner chair with your head in your hands, it occurs to you that you have a chair, and a place to put the chair.
Music speaks to you in a way it never has before.
You look into your pet’s eyes and realize that they’re a survivor too.
Your kids draw you a picture and it hits you what you mean to them.
A family at church just gifted you with toys their kids have grown out of.
The blender breaks and your sister just happens to have a spare sitting in the garage, an extra wedding present from five years ago that they didn’t need.
You’re peeling a carrot and it hits you how complex this one carrot is– how long it took to grow, how tiny it was when it started, the labor it took to bring it to the store.
You lie in bed thinking of the millions of other people who aren’t alone and wonder why you are. Then it occurs to you that you have never been alone, not at any stage of this process. The Good Shepherd has been right there next to you the entire time. He even watches over you while you sleep.
Life transforms along your healing journey. You find miracles everywhere you look. Small details are now monumental. The more grateful you are even for the little things, the more you find that it’s like someone turned up the volume on the tastes, sights, smells, and sounds of life.
As we express gratitude this Thanksgiving, let us rejoice in every blessing, from small to great, from the “givens” to the hard-fought. Surviving the betrayal and violation of abuse can mean sacrificing so much, even having to start completely over. But it prompts us to realize that every victory, every acquisition, every caring gesture is a gift from God.
Some survivors truly have nothing, have no one, and have no idea how much their Creator loves them. As we are thankful, let’s also be the friend, the anonymous donor, the pet sitter who gives them something to be thankful for too.
For that is the mission that thankfulness tasks us with: when we reach a place at which we are thankful even for the small things, we are ready to become the reason that someone else is thankful.
©2022 H. Hiatt/Christian Coalition for Safe Families