The Strongest and Bravest Woman I Know
This blog post is dedicated to the strongest and bravest woman I know. Do you know her? She could be your neighbor, your roommate, your co-worker, your classmate, or even your sister; but at some point she became something more, someone whose presence in your life was irreplaceable. She may look just like you, but behind a distant stare may be the strongest woman you know. Perhaps she is contemplating the most important decision in her life and weighing the challenges, dangers, and the value of life—her life and those of her loved ones. You may have misjudged her at first, or perhaps you thought you knew her after watching the same tragic and devastating patterns, the wreckage she calls her life. You wonder if she will ever change or if the wreckage will pile up so high that it topples over and crushes her. You’ve tried talking to her, tried not talking to her, tried comforting her, and tried distancing. Nothing seemed to bring her out of the denial in which she had shrouded herself. Heartbroken, you hope against your better judgement, because unless you allow yourself to fantasize things could get better for her, you will be crushed under her pile of wreckage too. Perhaps you ask yourself why you took the time to embrace and love her. Perhaps it would be easier to just step away and pretend you don’t know her. And just when all hope finally seems lost and you fear that any moment you may get the phone call you are dreading…
That woman that you thought you knew surprises you. The distant stare becomes focused, and she takes the courageous action you thought she never could. She packs her bags and grabs her babies, takes wobbly, tentative steps to the courthouse, and then to the police station. She demands a restraining order against the man she has called husband and the father of her children. She braves the fall-out and knows that if she does not leave today, tomorrow could be too late.
There are moments of tearful gratitude as you realize the peril she and the children so narrowly escaped. You breathe a sigh of relief and glory in the new day as freedom beckons. You can call her whenever you choose, text her without fear that the abuser would intercept the messages and retaliate against her or the children. You can love those children and soothe away their fears. You excitedly anticipate that this could be a new day, a new life.
But then, you also realize it’s a long, hard, road ahead of her, fraught with dangers and exhaustion, tears and at times even judicial injustice. You wonder how you can help her, how you can encourage her to keep putting one bruised foot in front of the other on the rocky and thorny path. Here’s a place to start…
Remember that she needs your love and support. Remember that she needs to hear you say she is the strongest and bravest woman you know. Remember that when she doubts herself and her decisions, when the terror of being alone seems to choke any good sense out of her, this is when she needs you the most. Remind her that this is part of the cycle of abuse, that the abuser has lied to her for so long, telling her he would change. He told her she was fat and worthless, that she could never do better than him. Along the way, for survival, she started believing this was the best she could get and things would never change. Perhaps she was as worthless as he said. Encourage her daily. Remind her things will get better, that a new life beckons beyond the horizon, if she has the courage to do this hard work now. Give her grace. She is frustrated and exhausted, displaced, and uncertain where she will lay her head tonight. She is stressed with crying, unsettled children. She is buried under legal paperwork and wondering how she will ever get it all done. Tell her she can do this.
This is just the beginning; but stand beside her, in the muck and mire, in the good times, and bad. Tell her every day she is the strongest woman you know.