Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Have You Lost Your Joy?
by Teresia Smith

I think we have all found ourselves feeling lost at times. We could be at the end of something – end of a relationship, the end of a job, or the end of a lifestyle. We could also be at the beginning of something new, whether a relationship, a job, or maybe even a new home in a new town. At the end of something, we can find ourselves searching for who we are apart from what we lost or what we’ve always known. At the beginning of something, we can find ourselves trying to find our place, figure out where we fit in, and how to move forward. Anytime we experience change, we have to find our bearings and a starting point.
For a survivor of domestic violence who is able to get out, there is fear at both an ending and a new beginning. Even in an abusive relationship, there is a comforting familiarity. And once you escape that relationship, you grieve. Most of the time, you are grieving what you had hoped it could have been and not what really was. One of the hardest steps in recovering from this abuse is to recognize that your mind can distort reality and you find yourself longing to return to the person you loved, even though in actuality they were abusive and hurt you. Fear can grip a survivor as they are faced with choices they’ve never been allowed to make. After a lifetime of being controlled in every choice, the thought of making decisions on your own can seem insurmountable. The joy of experiencing something new can be overshadowed by fear of the unknown. However, that’s where having a good support system can help you to find courage and strength to move forward.

Where do you find a good support system? Support can come from various sources. It could be an encouraging family member, close friends, support group members, or even an advocate at your local crisis center. Having a safe place to unpack your feelings and discuss them without judgement can make a difference when you are considering going back. An advocate will work to educate you on domestic violence behaviors, work with you on overcoming negative feelings, as well as link you to resources to help you stand on your own.

As we near the holidays, we will hear and see a lot about joy. Just because it’s the holidays, we don’t always feel joyous, especially if we are experiencing an ending or a beginning. And if we try to force ourselves to feel joy just because someone says we should, that could do more harm than good. Remember the saying “fake it until you make it”? Yeah, that doesn’t really work. Instead, we should focus on where our joy comes from and don’t get confused between joy and happiness. Rachel Fernley sums it up like this, “Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, but are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.”

Promote thankfulness wherever possible and even have gratitude for the things that challenge you, as these help you to grow and build strength. This also helps to define what brings you joy and what doesn’t. The more you practice gratitude, the more it builds your joy. Try to embrace the simple things in life. If we try to force joy, we overlook simple things –air you breathe, food you eat, sounds around us- that can often increase our feelings of joy naturally. The more you experience your true self, the less need you will have to seek external things seeking happiness. Joy instead becomes a state of being as you grow it from the inside out.

I am not sure where I saw this so I cannot give credit; however, I wanted to share it with you. “Today is a new day. An opportunity. And you get to decide how you’re going to see things. You get to decide your response. You have this power, this ability, this bravery. See kindness. Be kindness. See joy. Be joy. See bravery. Be brave. See goodness. Be the good. There are challenges, but there is also good. Fight for that good right now. You’ve got this.”
Crisis Services of North Alabama has an office in Jackson County to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We offer free and confidential services. You may reach our office at 256.574.5826. We also have a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000.

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