Life on the Other Side

leap of faithJournal Entry:

March 11, 2003

 I now look at life differently.  My children are more precious to me than ever.  I love to hear them laugh and to daily tell them I love them and kiss them good-night.  Colors seem more vivid.  The breeze on my skin is fresh and invigorating.  I find myself smiling for no good or apparent reason.  It is as though I have peeled off my old life, and a brand new one is emerging.  At 43, can life really begin again?  If so, I pray that I am living proof of it.

 My emotions are all so intense — whether joy or sadness, peace or turmoil.  Everything I am feeling seems to have been impassioned by some unseen force.  What is going on?  What has happened to me?  Is this a natural phenomenon that all people experience when they have gone through a tragic divorce, or a short-term phase in life which leads only back to mediocrity?  God forbid.  Is it because my depression and fear had held me in bondage for so long that now I am finally experiencing the true range of emotions which were trapped beneath the surface?  That is exactly how it feels.  And, I fear the possibility of going back into that dreadful prison.  Even feeling the pain in its fullness far surpasses the numbness which came from locking it inside, running from it, believing I could somehow override it. 

 So, this is what life is like.  What angels long to peer into.  I’ll take it.

It was a month before my divorce was finalized when I wrote that journal entry, and my abusive husband had been out of our home for over a year.  It was altogether strange and liberating when the haze of confusion to which I was accustomed gave way to reveal that I hadn’t been imagining things.  It wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t crazy.  Nor was I overly sensitive, demanding or selfish or stupid or unforgiving.

I have no idea how long it took for the emotions I had locked away to begin to rise to the surface.  Having the freedom to feel and express emotions at all seemed foreign.  The grief was overwhelming, yet it felt so good to really feel anything, to cast aside the robotic, perfectionist persona I had adopted for my survival.  I was free to reclaim my person-hood, free to be real and imperfect and transparent.  My kids and I dared to imagine and create the life we wanted but could never have.

We finally had room to breathe.  We could sleep in on Saturday mornings and eat pancakes and watch cartoons without someone marching downstairs and barking orders at us.   On Friday nights the five of us could eat pizza and popcorn and watch Disney movies and laugh out loud at our favorite parts and be ourselves without being criticized.  What wonderful, simple pleasures.

It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.  All of the kids struggled with the divorce for their own reasons.  The idea of not having a dad at the house (even an abusive one) was an adjustment, and the fact that he was gone was an admission that our family was broken, when we had all hoped and prayed that it was fix-able.

Weeknights could be exhausting, as I worked full-time capped with an hour commute each way.  So, by the time I got home in the evenings and put dinner on the table, helped with homework, made sure kids were bathed and we had some family time, I was plum-tuckered-out. Fortunately, I had a few dear friends and the kids’ grandparents nearby who graciously helped the kids get to church, basketball practice or swim meets when I was unavailable.  What a blessing those people were in all of our lives.

Although I had no idea what our future held and struggled to make ends meet, all the same, I found myself smiling or singing just because and fell asleep most nights thanking God for the solitude and peace.  We were happier, and that was all that mattered.

There was constant reinforcement that we were on the right track.  For our first “just us” Christmas, I was financially challenged but had enough to get a tree, fill the kids’ stockings, and buy them a few simple presents.  The ceremonies were brief but calm and pleasant.  That afternoon, as I was in the living room picking up what remained of the Christmas wrappings, I heard my 9-year-old son upstairs in the loft telling the others, “Wasn’t this just the best Christmas ever!?”  It touched my heart to know they felt the difference.  No drama, no yelling, no tears.  After so many years of hell, I just wanted them to be content and, in that moment, they were.

I wish I could say that life was peaceful and our abuser respected our boundaries, but he didn’t.  He continued to try to churn up chaos with his lies and manipulations and crazy-making – until I remarried three years after the divorce was final.  I fell in love with a man with his own wounds to mend, and the connection between us was almost immediate.  Although Doug lived and worked 350 miles away, after “dating” me long distance for two months he transferred to be near me – this broken woman with four similarly broken children.  We married eight months to the day after we met, and together all of us have worked through our bad juju and made a new family where we could find healing and acceptance and redemption.  And it was Doug who made it a point to put our abuser in his place once and for all.

It was so worth it – to make the sacrifices that had to be made and pay whatever price that had to be paid to discover that life and freedom and joy (and even love) were waiting for us – on the other side.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

© Cindy Burrell, 2014

All rights reserved.

20 thoughts on “Life on the Other Side”

  1. This post has given me much food for thought, however, I continue to feel “it’s too late for me”. The children are adults now and have made it clear they prefer their father’s lifestyle… Outward appearance of being morally pure. I probably should have left years ago to expose “the lie” that I was living. With my health deteriorating, I don’t feel I have the physical or emotional strength to leave. Counselling at the Women’s Resource center hint quite strongly at leaving. I pray that God will make it very, very clear as to what I should do. I don’t have a large support base.

    1. Hello, Friend. I am so sorry that you are struggling. It breaks my heart a little, as I hate to think of anyone remaining in an unsafe home environment.

      I will be praying for you – for wisdom and strength and conviction. I truly pray that you the Lord gives you the clarity and the way you seek. If you can, tell your secrets, develop your support network and consider what an exit plan might look like. It never hurts.

      You are welcome to write to me anytime. I will do what I can to help or direct you.

      Cindy

      1. Thank you, Cindy. The prayers are very much appreciated. I am gaining more insight as I am introduced to ministries like yours. The Christ-honouring wisdom from different posts helps. The fact that God has made this available to me is assurance that He is preparing me for whatever the future holds.
        You said, “If you can, tell your secrets, develop your support work and consider what an exit plan might look like. It never hurts.” I’ve been working on that … I have discovered a few select individuals who are concerned but many in this small community favour my husband’s disposition because I covered up so well for so many years. Also, this is his hometown and his family portrayed themselves in a very moral dignified way; I have seen, heard, and been a victim of what happens behind closed doors:-(

        1. I thank Julie for chiming in and agree with her sentiments. I truly believe God can make a way for you. Keep your eyes and your heart open, pray for wisdom and look for those open doors. I will continue to lift you up.

          Cindy

    2. Hi, anon. I would encourage you to never think that it is too late. As long as you are alive and have life left to live, there is something more to live for. You have the right to peace and joy. Because of your health and possible financial situation, you may have to plan more carefully and wait a little longer than you would like to (I can relate, I had the same issues). But don’t give up. Keep seeking the Lord and seeking support and information, and I believe He will make a way for you. Keep hanging around here. Order Cindy’s books, if you can. You will find a wealth of information and support.

      1. Julie and Cindy – Thank you so much for your encouragement. The timing is unreal as I had a very emotional session with a counselor earlier. The local Women’s Resource center have been so patient with me as I surprise myself with how emotional I become as I release “my history”.
        I thank the Lord for the contacts I am making, especially via the internet as so many of you “have been there” and are adding confirmation to what I sense I may have to prepare for. Yes, my health and financial situation has caused me to have plan more carefully … thank you for encouraging me to not give up. AND may my “THANK YOU” comment be an encouragement to you – that your words of advice are very much appreciated:-)

        1. Thank you for returning to share. I am glad you are learning, growing and processing all of this.

          You are welcome to visit me on my website, or if there is specific information you are looking for, please let me know, and I’ll try to direct you.

          I wish you well and will continue to pray for you.

          Don’t give up!

          Cindy

  2. Cindy,

    Love the new look of your blog! Very fresh! 🙂

    I can relate so much to the feelings you relate in this post. I felt such freedom following my separation and divorce. I still do. Even though it’s not always roses, like you said, it is nice to be FREE and feel what I feel. I remember reading about you and your kids watching Disney movies and eating pizza and popcorn on Friday nights. Early on, I copied your routine and instituted “Friday night movie night” with my kids. It has given us something to look forward to together for the past 3 years. Thank you so much for that! It’s the little things, the little joys like that, that mean so much now.

    1. Wow, Julie. I think your sweet note just made my day. I am honored that you took our routine to heart and enjoy your family time together.

      I am so glad that you have found happiness and freedom, in spite of the struggles.

      I wish you every happiness. Thank you for stopping by to share.

      All the best,

      Cindy

  3. Wow, do I relate to this Cindy! I remember how I learned during my abusive marriage never to cry no matter what my husband said or did to me. It was difficult to get passed this when he left. I couldn’t suddenly turn on the tears when I was sad, though I appreciated the freedom to be ABLE to.

    One of the best things I experienced was the ability to enjoy time with my kids. A huge dark cloud suddenly lifted the minute he was gone from our home. That first night we sat together to watch TV for the first time in a year. Previous to that, my husband had held the remote in his hand every single minute the TV was on. I had not watched a program I wanted to watch for an entire year. Sitting on the couch with my kids watching a show without his frightening presence was an incredible freedom for me.

    Thank you for being real, and giving voice to what so many experience.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your own story, Caroline. It really can be difficult (and wonderful) to unlearn what we have learned over so many years. I am so glad to know that you have found freedom. You have blessed me today!

      You are welcome to come by and “visit” the website anytime.

      Cindy

  4. To “Anonymous”:
    I left my verbally abusive husband after over 42 years. I hope this encourages you to stay the course–whatever it is–as you believe God is leading you. If He is providing an “out” for you, He will make it possible.

    My “direction” the night I left, 12/12/12, was very clear. In the middle of my ex husband’s completely unexpected rage, fueled by alcohol and prompted by God knows what (I thought we were settling in to watch a favorite video after I had come home from tending my mother who was at that time in the last months of her life), I “heard,” as it were, in my spirit, “You need to leave now.” I scooped up my purse, keys, prayed the ex wouldn’t hear the garage door opening and the car backing out, and headed for my sister’s in another city.

    Support group and counselor believe it would no doubt have turned physical as well. The ex hadn’t been physical in years, but he was a mean drunk and apparently the counseling and other work we’d done through time didn’t, ultimately, help.

    The last fifteen months (12 months post divorce finalization) have not been easy, but I can attest to EVERYTHING “up there” in Cindy’s posts and others’ comments, especially that a “dark cloud” has lifted off of my life. This past 15 months I have had moments of truly “being in the moment” that I hadn’t experienced for decades. I don’t have to step over eggshells, emotionally speaking. I can express myself whatever way I please without worrying about some contradiction, put-down, sarcasm, criticism, or mockery coming from him. And the worst part of all of that stuff was that he was nice and/or neutral a lot of the time, too. It’s just that I just never knew when Dr. Jekyl would turn into Mr. Hyde. Now, I pray for him from a distance. It’s safer. And much, much more peaceful.

    Cindy, I also want to thank you today for posting the fantastic Jeremiah 29:11 scripture. It came at a very good moment.

    Blessings to all.

    1. pnissila – Thank you for adding to the already gracious words of encouragement from others. They are very much appreciated. My husband is not a drunkard or a yeller. After 38 years (36 married) it started off as just controlling where we lived, worked, etc. There was sexual abuse of one form earlier on; it has transpired into a very quiet type of emotional abuse now. (past sins which he formerly denied were also confirmed “after” we were married with three young children; I felt very vulnerable – his mother had encouraged him to lie to me)
      It has as taken me years to even admit that I was even in an abusive relationship. I believed in the permanence view of marriage and just believed that the Lord would rescue me from “the lie” I was living if I faithfully kept my vows. My husband knew this, so he just calmly let family members on both sides and now my adult daughters and their spouses to be very rude to me. He will not ever defend me unless it affects him.
      April 2013, he demanded I leave when he felt I was the cause of him having health issues. Doctors, nurses, secular counselors, etc have all maintained that it is not me. The last neurologist determined that he has had a severe anxiety attack; prescribed medication and highly recommended psychiatric counsel. He is refusing all of it. Praise God, somehow I came upon A CRY FOR JUSCTICE blog and eventually this one (the list of supportive blogs is growing:-)) At first, I resisted what these blogs were saying – that I had grounds for divorce!!?? I’m still coming out of the fog.
      After weeks of me not being able to locate an apartment, a friend said I must seek the advice of the local Women’s Resource center. As a Christian, I was initially opposed to seeking secular help – I was now desperate. They did not have an apartment but immediately opened a file and have been counselling me and have recommended that I make plans to leave. After a month and agreeing to meeting with another counselor, my husband told her that I could stay but he did not know what this would mean for me — as he couldn’t see himself changing. The counselor looked at me and asked, “So, how long are you willing to be the sacrificial lamb?”
      My health has deteriorated. I devoted myself to home education so do not have a job to rely on. I have had several different jobs but had to quit as my marital problems and health made it difficult to maintain my home responsibilities.
      My daughters are not supportive and have chosen their father’s path (he has made three false professions of faith and now adamantly admits he is not a Christian but will not tell others, however, he has encouraged me to share this info) I always seem to be answering for him as he stays away from people.
      I have few friends as we always spent all of our time at his parents lakefront property – everything revolved around his family and I was expected by all to just get along.
      I know the Lord is faithful … I want to move on so I can openly speak of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I live in a semi-remote community and all the churches do not appear very supportive of my plight – they are very much social clubs – It is so very sad that the secular acquaintances are more sympathetic to my plight.
      I apologize for this long comment, however, I thought it would be beneficial to attempt to share some ‘history’ since everyone has been so very kind. May the Lord be glorified in whatever HIS perfect will is. I just pray for the emotional and physical strength to endure the race.

      1. Anonymous,
        My prayers are with you. I understand the abuse of rudeness, too. It withers the spirit; crushes spontaneity, and deflates hope. It’s cruel.

        I am especially sorry to hear that your children have been infected with this spirit, too.

        And then the rude one(s) blame you for “being too sensitive,” or they tell you, when you gather the strength and courage to explain how such behavior affects you (using the “I” statements and all the other advice counselors suggest), “it’s all about you…”

        Cruel. (Or is that just my story? ;))

        It sounds as if you are gathering your support group and resources around you. Don’t stop. One of the excellent things about Christian “divorce” sites, for lack of a better term, is that we help each other out of our own experience. And we know how hard it is when the church at large tends to disdain those seeking a separation or divorce, even in the case of abuse.

        Mostly, however, WE’RE STILL HERE and can attest to a loving God who brings us out of the “fog” you referenced.

        I keep a running log of scriptures and insights God has blessed me with on my journey. The Scripture below I actually enlarged, downloaded, and put in a frame to keep at my writing desk: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go: I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

        And God has been faithful. Things are working out. Whenever some sudden wave of sorrow or guilt or remorse or fear or whatever, comes over me, I can ask Him for clarification/counsel/hope. I make myself go to my resources and there is a word, a hug, a Scripture, an opportunity to examine yet another layer of psychic or emotional shrapnel that has surfaced, and discard it.

        Sometimes it’s simply the knowledge that recovery takes time. My sisters and I discuss how in this way too busy 24/7 world we live in people no longer value or even discuss the need for “convalescence” after illness or trauma. God, however, is still in the business of allowing a “day of rest,” literally and figuratively.

        I could write reams, as I look back on my divorce recovery so far, about how God’s timing, resources, and Scriptural counsel have sustained me and enabled me to look up and out to that “Jeremiah 29:11 truth” that didn’t seem possible in the hard times of my marriage. It gives me hope, now, to think that even at my age of 63 and after so many years of slogging through the fog of the down side of that relationship while doing the “growing up” I had to do that there is still hope for a new chapter.

        Well, forgive me for going on, here. I hope there is something in all this that ministers to you today. I was just listening to a radio broadcast about “dreams” where the preacher suggested that if we have lost a dream or made a wrong choice and suppressed a dream for us, or think we have, God isn’t done with us. As long as we’re here, He still has plans, good ones, for a future and for hope (back to Jeremiah…).

        Today I hope that you take time to rest, immerse yourself in God’s love, and saturate yourself in the comfort and counsel of His Word.

      2. Hello there, anonymous…you’ve given me a bit of hope that it’s not too late for me, either. Thank you! I’m 51, and have been with him since age 19.

        I can relate to some of the things you wrote. I have 4 sons, 3 grown, 1 little guy who came late in life. #2 sympathizes with his dad, blames me, etc…they are pretty much joined at the hip. (Poor #4 is in counseling.)

        I also get blamed for all his health issues…he had high blood pressure, which is somehow my fault, according to him.

        I look forward to reading more posts from you, and updates on how you are doing. (((hugs)))

    2. What a powerful, powerful testimony. Thank you for sharing your depth of experience, wisdom and understanding. It can surely be a hard road, but peace and joy and freedom are truly worth fighting for.

      Cindy

      .

  5. pnissila – Be reassured your comments have ministered very well. Sometimes, I have fooled myself into thinking that I have “rested” but then have to confess that I haven’t really allowed myself to be immersed in God’s love.

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