Survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their spouses are familiar with loss. Survivors of sexual abuse can experience the loss of:
- Safety and security
- Sense of innocence
- Physical health
- Emotional health
- And more . . .
Spouses of sexual abuse survivors can experience loss of intimacy, a sense of normalcy in life, emotional connection, and more. These losses can provoke anger, resentment, and depression.
We often deal with loss through a replacement plan. Whereas we can replace a lost iPhone or pair of glasses, a lost relationship or a loss within a relationship cannot be replaced.
What is a healthy process for dealing with the loss you’ve experienced in your relationship?
Here is a counter-cultural, healthy process for dealing with loss.
Acknowledge your loss and express it to God.
Mark Vroegop, author of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, observed that when loss invades our lives, some people live in denial while others languish in despair.
People in denial tell their friends, “Everything is fine.” These words, however, are often accompanied by the unspoken plea, “Please don’t ask me any questions,” or “Don’t ask me to look any deeper because I don’t want to acknowledge how hopeless I feel.”
Others languish in despair. Their mantra is, “Where is God and what is he doing?” The same Psalmist who knew God as Shepherd also cried out in despair, “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:2 NIV).
When loss invades our lives, some people live in denial while others languish in despair.
The Psalmist David acknowledged his loss and expressed it to God.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning. . . .
Resist the luring expectation for a perfect world.
God created this world and declared it as good. Unfortunately, His design was forfeited by Adam and Eve when they were lured towards what they expected would be a more perfect world. However, their decision led to the decay, abuse, strife, and loss that we now experience in this world.
We too can be lured by an expectation for a perfect world. In Greek mythology, a group of women known as Siren inhabited an island. They lured wayward sailors to sail towards their island. Having been lured, the sailors’ ships crashed into the rocks. The luring expectation for a perfect world will crash us into rocks of disappointment and eventual destruction.
So then, are we to live in pessimism, cynicism, and gloom? Absolutely not. Read on . . .
Though a perfect world cannot be our experience in the present, there is a God-planted anticipation for a perfect world to come in each of our minds. “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV).
Therefore, “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens (Romans 8:19-21, The Message).
Though a perfect world cannot be our experience in the present, there is in each of our minds a God-planted anticipation for a perfect world to come.
Trust in God and His design as He places us in His larger redemptive story.
There are no shortcuts through grief and loss. There are no successful replacement tactics. Yet, there is hope as we become aware of God’s larger story.
People who embrace their loss and express it freely to God, begin the journey that leads them to freedom and hopefulness. Only as we grieve and let go of what was can we open space in our lives to be reoriented to what is to come.
Only as we grieve and let go of what was can we open space in our lives to be reoriented to what is to come.
The redemption story recorded in Scripture presents God doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) as opposed to bringing back an old thing. God’s new thing comes in various forms. I have found that it is most often a new thing within me in the form of a new attitude, perspective, or realization. Going through these three steps opens our hearts to the new work He can do in us.
Following these three steps will not exempt survivors and spouses from the need for professional counsel as they work through the effects of sexual abuse. But they can bring us to the experience of joining David as He continued his prayer in Psalm 31:14-15, 19, 24.
But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands; . . .
How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.