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Supporters Need Care Too

I know my parents and best friends went through a lot when I was in an abusive relationship.

I was secretive, but my parents saw the bruises. I didn’t know how to manage my emotions or talk about what was going on, so I took it out on my best friend by being moody or playing tennis aggressively with her.

I know they were concerned about me, but I was too ashamed to share any information. As I’ve healed and shared details, they hurt for what I went through and have remorse for not knowing how to help.

Just like it wasn’t my fault for getting involved in an abusive relationship, it wasn’t their fault for not knowing more or being able to do something. I know they loved me, cared about me, and did the best they could.

I can only imagine the stress it puts on them. The sleepless nights they had while they waited for me to hopefully come home safely.

Similar to the shame the victim feels, the parents or friends may carry false guilt, shame, or embarrassment that holds them back from talking to others about what their family or friendship is going through. They may feel isolated during this time.

If someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, it’s important to take care of yourself. As they say during the pre-flight announcements on an airplane, “You have to put on your oxygen mask first, to be able to help others”.

First, know that you’re not alone. Studies show that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 4 males will experience an abusive relationship. That means approximately 1 in 3 families and 1 in 3 friendships will endure the side effects. Chances are, if you share what is happening, someone else you know will also have supported or gone through an abusive relationship.

Below are some ways you can care for yourself as you support your loved one.

Breathe Deeply - Pause during the day to take a few deep breaths. This lowers your heart rate and also relieves stress.

Journal - Writing how you feel, what you’re thinking, and what is happening can help you express and work through your feelings.

Give Yourself Grace - As the supporter you want your loved one to be away from the person that is hurting them. You may ruminate on what you could say or do or have done differently to help them. Knowing you care for them is important, but it’s also important to recognize you can’t make them leave. That’s a choice only the person in the relationship can make.

Self-care - Self-care is important and can help us feel better. It can be as simple as brushing your teeth, washing your face, making your bed, or keeping the kitchen clean. The other things below are also good ways to practice self-care.

Exercise – Exercise increases the production of endorphins which lifts our mood and helps us feel better. Any kind of exercise can be a great stress reliever.

Laugh – Spend time with someone you laugh with. Or watch a TV show or movie that you find funny. Laughter is a great stress reliever and lifts our spirits.

Eat Healthy – Eating foods that are good for you can boost your mood, and energy level, and just help you feel better. Likewise, junk or heavy food can lead to having less energy, feeling sluggish, and not as positive.

Rest - Rest is different than sleep. It’s something that helps us relax during the day and gives our thoughts time to process. Without rest during the day, the things we need to do or things we’re worried about often come to mind as we’re trying to go to bed. Or lead to a less restful night’s sleep.  Restful activities include going for a walk, sitting outside, painting, reading, light cleaning, etc.

Sleep - When we’re sleep-deprived it’s harder to manage our emotions or think clearly. It’s important to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Ask for help - As I mentioned above, another family or friend you know may be experiencing a similar situation. Even if they haven't, talking with a friend or family member that you trust and feel comfortable with, can help. YOU need to be supported during this time too.

Consider a counselor - It can be helpful to talk with a counselor as you navigate supporting your loved one while balancing taking care of yourself.

On the Shift podcast, guest Ben Alldis shares, “Focus on the energy givers”. It's important to find the habits and activities that help you stay positive.

In the Tips for Healing post, we mentioned several things that can help the survivor as they heal. They can also be beneficial for the family or friends that are supporting them.

Please know you’re not alone. It’s a difficult time, but there are people who care and want to support you too.


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