Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc
Sunday, February 26, 2017
For Adult Daughters of Controlling or Abusive Birth-Families
Getting Over A Lost Relationship
GETTING OVER A LOST RELATIONSHIP
by Rev. Renee
AND IF THE HOUSE BE WORTHY, LET YOUR PEACE COME UPON IT: BUT IF IT BE NOT WORTHY, LET YOUR PEACE RETURN TO YOU. AND WHOEVER SHALL NOT RECEIVE YOU, NOR HEAR YOUR WORDS, WHEN YE DEPART OUT OF THAT HOUSE OR CITY, SHAKE OFF THE DUST OF YOUR FEET…Matthew 10: 13-14 KJV.
AND WHOSOEVER WILL NOT RECEIVE YOU, WHEN YE GO OUT OF THAT CITY, SHAKE OFF THE VERY DUST FROM YOUR FEET FOR A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM…Luke 9:5 KJV.
Sadly, at one point, no matter how hard you try to work things out, your relative may force you to make the painful decision to stop seeing her. Or, as happened to me, when you begin to set limits, your relative may choose to disown you rather than to stop abusing you. If you had been a loving and devoted child who always sacrificed to please her, and she had never shown any gratitude, appreciation, or concern for your best interests, then this should not come as a surprise. But it will anyway!
At first, you will feel numb with shock. Despite all history to the contrary, you always thought she really did care for you, and now this illusion has been destroyed. It will be even more devastating if your abusive parent or relative turns other family members against you; their betrayal and disloyalty will compound your sense of loss. NOW A SLAVE HAS NO PERMANENT PLACE IN THE FAMILY, BUT A SON BELONGS TO IT FOREVER….John 8:35. If you are tossed aside and discarded when you are no longer useful or become too much of a problem for your abusive family, then there can be no doubt as to your true status.
It takes awhile to process your pain, anger, and grief, possibly six months to a year, or more. The first few weeks are the worst, but trust me, it will get better in time. One day, you will have no regrets, only relief, joy, and peace! You will even feel thankful to be free of your toxic relatives now that they have shown their true colors.
Here are some strategies that helped me get through those first few weeks. I pray that you, too, will find them helpful:
11 STEPS FOR GETTING STARTED ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
1. GET CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS
At first, your mind will be spinning over the injustice of your abandonment and betrayal. You will obsess about it, lay awake at night, and be unable to concentrate on important things, like your children or your job.
To control this, spend two days just wallowing! Stew about it all day long! Vent to your friends! Write down your thoughts, so you won't worry about forgetting something that was said, or should have been said. Rehash every gory detail over and over again. Brood about it all you want, until you get sick and tired of thinking about it!
On the third day, assign a specific half-hour during which you will think about nothing BUT your birth-relatives each day. This should be the same time every day (to make it as inconvenient as possible). If a thought of your birth-family should intrude during another part of the day, save it for later by writing it down and telling yourself that you will think about it only at the appointed time, even if that is not until the next day. After writing such renegade thoughts down, I would force them out of my head by saying to myself “I cancel this thought- be gone in the Name of Jesus.” Then I would go back to what I was doing until it was “time” to think about my ex-family, at which point I would look at my piece of paper and remember what thoughts I was supposed to be upset about and what was on the “agenda” to aggravate myself over now.
I actually had trouble deciding on which half-hour a day to assign to my relatives. I didn't want to start my day out by thinking about them first thing in the morning, or to get aggravated before bed by thinking about them at night. I wanted to spend my lunch hour at work relaxing instead of being annoyed, and I didn't want to ruin the time I had to spend with my husband or children. I didn't want to think about them while in the peaceful little neighborhood where I took my walks and prayed, because I didn't want my little paradise to be contaminated with negative associations. So I had a real problem fitting them in to my schedule, which, appropriately, is what they deserved. They weren't worth disrupting my life for anymore!
Remember to think about NOTHING BUT YOUR RELATIVES during this time. I found it very helpful to set a timer. When the bell would go off, at first I felt relieved. My time with them was over for the day, and I was free to go back to my life. It felt as if a burden had been lifted. That little bell seemed to be training me to stop thinking about my ex-relatives as soon as it rang. It clicked off a little switch in my head, and enabled me to stop obsessing.
Later, I started feeling just a little bit powerful, because this bell was a small reminder that I had finally gained some control over just how much I would allow them to continue affecting my life. They could no longer force themselves on me any time they wanted to. I could set that timer, and when that bell rang- that was it! Their time was up! By the grace of God, I had the power to stop their toxic influence on me. Being able to control their intrusions into my thoughts became a metaphor for being able to control their intrusions into my entire life. It was like starting to wake up from a coma and being able to see clearly for the first time in a long time. As if I was finally recovering after being sick for many years, this little ritual helped me regain my strength and my equilibrium.
Eventually, you will find that devoting a whole half-hour a day to your ex-family is too much time and too inconvenient, and that you are even becoming bored with the whole thing. After all, how many times can you re-hash the same things over and over? After about a week and a half of “obsessing by appointment”, I could hardly stand thinking about my estranged relatives anymore. When this happens, start reducing their allotted time to twenty minutes, then fifteen, then ten, then less, until you no longer feel the need to think about them at all. This is called DESENSITIZATION.
In fact, I was surprised to find that my brain eventually took it one step further. It got to the point that when I TRIED to think about my abusers, I couldn’t. My mind would immediately go off in another direction. I became unable to recall their faces, their voices, and a lot of what they said. It required a tremendous amount of concentration on my part to be able to keep them in mind or to remember them and the things they had done. I didn’t realize what had happened, until a therapist friend of mine told me this was called FLOODING, or EXPOSURE AND RESPONSE PREVENTION. I did not know at the time that what I was doing was actually a real therapeutic technique, but the Lord gave me this word of knowledge in my spirit which I would have had no way of knowing in the natural. I had literally overwhelmed my mind with negative associations about my birth-family, until it became an unconscious, conditioned reflex to shut it off and avoid any thoughts of them completely. I had created an AVERSION to thinking about them within my own brain.
2. SANITIZE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Remove any reminders, such as photos, gifts, or cards. While you may decide to throw away gifts or other mementoes, I don't recommend throwing out family photos. Twenty years down the road, you may regret getting rid of photographs, or your children or grandchildren may want them. You might even want to use them to teach future generations why there was a rift in the family and who was who in the family soap-opera. Also, if your abusers should start stalking you, it would be good to have some photos of them to give to the police. You might even want to decorate your dartboard with them, or use them for target practice! I believe you should put photos out of sight, in an inconvenient place, where you won't be tempted to look at them until you are ready to view them without an emotional reaction.
3. LET YOUR HUSBAND AND CHILDREN KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING
They are your family and a vital part of your support system. Children should be told what is age-appropriate. You will be surprised at how much they already know, and how uncomfortable they've been all along with their grandparents or other relatives mistreating their mother. As they grow and become teenagers and young adults, they will ask more questions, and I believe they have a right to honest answers. We should not protect the guilty, and under no circumstances should we let our children believe that we think abusive behavior is acceptable, no matter WHO is doing the abusing. WHOEVER SAYS TO THE GUILTY, “YOU ARE INNOCENT”- PEOPLES WILL CURSE HIM AND NATIONS DENOUNCE HIM. BUT IT WILL GO WELL WITH THOSE WHO CONVICT THE GUILTY, AND RICH BLESSING WILL COME UPON THEM….Proverbs 24: 24-25 NIV.
4. PAMPER YOURSELF
Have lunch with friends, enjoy a long bubble-bath, change your hairstyle, rent a funny movie, call an old pal, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, go window shopping, pet a puppy. Keep your spirits up. Think about what might make you smile, something you would enjoy doing- and then do it! In fact, decide to do something nice for yourself every single day. Plan ahead, and write the things you’re going to do for yourself this week on your calendar. No matter how down I felt, I made it a point to read the newspaper comics every day, and every day I was rewarded with a chuckle!
5. KEEP BUSY
Sign up for a class, entertain friends, volunteer your services. Was there ever something you wanted to learn or do, but didn’t have the time or energy, because your ex-relatives and their drama took up so much of your life, your energy, and your attention? Well, now you have that extra time and energy, so spend it well. Make a commitment to do something you always wanted to do. Do something nice, something useful, something helpful. Do something to serve the Lord. Go out and bless someone else with the talents and gifts God has given you, and in return, you too will be blessed.
Organize a reunion of your old friends, or a pot luck dinner or block party with all your neighbors. Check with your local high school and colleges for adult education classes available in many areas of interest and at low fees. I cannot say enough about the special bonds that develop between people who fight together for justice, or for any common cause. Volunteering at your church, a soup kitchen, your local hospital or nursing home, or for children’s, veterans’, or animal charities, is a great way to meet kind, compassionate, and passionate new friends. Maybe you’ll even join the Peace Corps! It’s time to make some changes, commit to something dear to your heart, get busy, and get energized! If you have an exciting, fulfilling life, you will have little time to dwell on not having the relatives you wished you could have had.
6. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR GAINS AND LOSSES
Feeling “motherless” might be a loss, but no more torturous holidays is certainly a gain. I decided to take a look at my situation from a “strictly business” point-of-view. I did a little cost-benefit analysis, assigning the loss of each relationship a number value from plus ten to minus ten.
For instance, not having to deal with my abusive birth-father was a plus ten. Losing a birth sister who never bothered with me anyway, and never helped with our parents, but still thought she had the right to judge me, was a neutral (0), or maybe a plus two. My life was basically the same whether she was speaking to me or not- I never heard from her either way!
Unfortunately, when you begin to set limits and others decide to meddle or take sides, some relationships will just be “casualties of war”. But in hindsight, not one of those relationships was worth keeping if it meant I would have had to continue being controlled and abused by my birth-parents. My few disloyal relatives showed their true colors, and I was able to see that I was better off without them in my life, since they didn't care about me or what was best for me and my family, anyway.
Assigning each of them a number was quite an eye-opener. I had never quite looked at it this way before, actually assessing the value of each relationship and its benefit, or cost, to me and my family. As is probably typical in a family full of narcissists, only one or two ex-relatives had contributed enough to my life that their loss could be considered a negative. The majority were neutrals- people I saw once in a blue moon, who didn’t make much of an effort to keep in touch or maintain our relationship, and to whom I wasn’t particularly close. It didn’t make much of a difference either way whether they stopped speaking to me or not. As for the rest, it was a downright relief to be rid of them. The abusers, the manipulators, the control-freaks, the drama-queens, the name-callers, the demanders, the users, the guilt-mongers, the critics, the sociopaths. Losing them was a huge plus ten for each one who left. So when I totaled my “score”, I was comforted to be firmly on the plus side! It was definitely a winning scenario for me.
When you think you’ve lost everything, this technique removes some of the emotional impact from your losses. It also helps you to gain some perspective, and to look at things more objectively. For the first time, you will begin to realize that your life just might be better off now. Knowing what I know now, if I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would do differently would be to stand up for myself ten years earlier! Sometimes the price of staying IN the family is just not worth it!
7. MAKE IT A POINT TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE REST OF THE FAMILY
You cannot help the one or two relatives who will “go to the dark side”, but do not allow your abusers to easily separate you from your whole family. Call, visit, entertain, go out with, and e-mail all your relatives. Re-establish contact with those you haven't spoken to in a while. Attend weddings and all other family functions with your head held high and enjoy yourself. You have done nothing wrong!
8. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Write a list of everyone who loves you, supports you, cares for you, likes you, or is nice to you, and everyone about whom you feel the same way. This list will include your husband and children. Your children, if you have them, and the grandchildren they will give you, with God's grace, are the family of your future. List relatives, in-laws, friends, neighbors, co-workers, friendly storekeepers, your child's teacher, the staff at your favorite restaurant, and even your pets. Carry this list in your wallet and read it every day, to remind yourself of everyone who thinks you're great, and to assure yourself that you are loveable and likeable in the eyes of many people.
9. BE AWARE OF THE FAMILY THAT GOD HAS PUT IN YOUR LIFE
Family does not have to be blood relatives. If I mention my birth-sister, I always distinguish her from my REAL sister by referring to her as my “birth-sister” or “biological sister”. On the other hand, when I mention my “sister”, I am talking about my REAL sister. My real sister is a daughter of the King also, and my spiritual sister. She is a wonderful, loving, godly person, who has been a very important part of my life for over fifteen years as of this writing. Between the two of us, we have two sets of abusive, neglectful, and exploitative birth-parents and siblings. Although we didn’t spend our childhoods together, we still had the same childhood. We think alike to the point that we often know what the other is thinking. We count on one another for the support, advice, and encouragement that sisters should give to each other, and which we certainly never got from our families-of-origin. We love each other unconditionally. We are sisters in every sense, and she is never a burden to me. She enriches my life, and I am blessed by her presence in it. She is a gift from God. Sisters, seek out this type of relationship- mutually loving, caring, HEALTHY relationships. I pray for God to bring each and every one of you such a person to be in your life.
Don't overlook your church family. The church is filled with godly sisters and brothers in Christ who will be a family for you. Of course, not everyone in church will be healthy for you, either, so pray for the Lord to give you discernment, and to lead the right people into your life to fill this need and bless you with the love of Christ. It is very important to be rooted in and actively participate in your church. Develop personal relationships with your church family. Get to know them better, and allow God to work in this so that the right relationships can develop. Attend pot-luck dinners, prayer groups, or other small-group activities, and socialize outside the church as well. God wants you to be in a church family so you can experience his love through them.
10. BEGIN TO PLAN YOUR OWN NEW TRADITIONS
You must replace whatever you have lost with something better. It is important to reassure yourself, and especially your children, that you will still be celebrating Christmas and family birthdays, for instance, but in new and different ways. Beginning to plan now will give you something to look forward to at the next holiday. One of my favorite old sayings is, “The dogs may bark, but the caravan marches on.” People may come and people may go, but life does go on. Embark on this new phase of your life with a hopeful spirit. Celebrate your celebrations. Grab hold of every opportunity to live well and with joy in your heart. You are finally free of the oppressive obligation to conform to family expectations. No more mandatory attendance at tired, boring, upsetting, or toxic get-togethers. Time for new traditions! Time to do what YOU want to do, instead of what THEY want you to do. You are standing on the threshold of a great new adventure. Live life to the fullest, child of the King!
11. DRAW CLOSER TO GOD
He is your real Father. You don’t need earthly parents, for your Father in heaven is the best parent you could ever have. You are his beloved and cherished child, and he desires a relationship with you. Immerse yourself in his Word. Read the Bible every day. You will find comfort and encouragement in the Word of God. You will find scriptures that fit every situation you have ever dealt with, and the Lord will tell you what to do. In those pages, you will truly come to understand his vast love for you.
Pray every day. Claim your personal relationship with your Father, with Jesus, and with his Holy Spirit. Spend time alone with him. Ask for comfort and peace and listen to his voice. Thank him for all your blessings (remember the list you wrote!). Through his grace and love, you will one day soon rejoice!
LET YOUR CONVERSATION BE WITHOUT COVETOUSNESS; AND BE CONTENT WITH SUCH THINGS AS YE HAVE: FOR HE HATH SAID, I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE, NOR FORSAKE THEE. SO THAT WE MAY BOLDLY SAY, THE LORD IS MY HELPER, AND I WILL NOT FEAR WHAT MAN SHALL DO UNTO ME….Hebrews 13: 5-6 KJV.
“I WILL GATHER YOU WHO MOURN FOR THE APPOINTED FESTIVALS; YOU WILL BE DISGRACED NO MORE. AND I WILL DEAL SEVERELY WITH ALL WHO HAVE OPPRESSED YOU. I WILL SAVE THE WEAK AND HELPLESS ONES; I WILL BRING TOGETHER THOSE WHO WERE CHASED AWAY. I WILL GIVE GLORY AND RENOWN TO MY FORMER EXILES, WHO HAVE BEEN MOCKED AND SHAMED. ON THAT DAY I WILL GATHER YOU TOGETHER AND BRING YOU HOME AGAIN. I WILL GIVE YOU A GOOD NAME, A NAME OF DISTINCTION AMONG ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH. THEY WILL PRAISE YOU AS I RESTORE YOUR FORTUNES BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES. I, THE LORD, HAVE SPOKEN!”….Zephaniah 3: 18-20 NLT.
“FOR I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU,” DECLARES THE LORD, “PLANS TO PROSPER YOU AND NOT TO HARM YOU, PLANS TO GIVE YOU HOPE AND A FUTURE”…Jeremiah 29: 11 NIV.
***For more on this subject, see the articles CUTTING TIES- KNOWING WHEN IT'S TIME TO WALK AWAY and MY NAME IS RENEE...BUT IT USED TO BE LINDA . Also please visit the Sections OUR REAL FATHER, JOY IN JESUS, THE FREEDOM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHY THEY ABUSE, BETRAY, OR ABANDON YOU, THE SILENT PARTNER, THE EFFECTS OF ABUSE, REPENTING & APOLOGIES, REPROBATES & CUTTING TIES, THE ABUSER'S REACTIONS TO REBUKE, HAPPIER HOLIDAYS, GOD'S WORD, THE WISDOM OF PROVERBS, and FINDING PEACE
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The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships. We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.