People far wiser than myself have named three stages to the process of healing from Betrayal Trauma, and as a survivor, I can definitely find pieces of my own story in each of those stages of betrayal recovery. But I’m here to tell you, the journey to healing is not linear.
We won’t move through them in one direction or in a straight line. Instead, we’ll circle in and out and in between the three in no predictable manner, and with no assurance that we won’t go back again later. There have been days when I really believed myself much further down the path to healing than I have found myself on the next.
If you’re healing from Betrayal Trauma, you’ll likely experience the same, and I want you to know, it’s okay! Not only is it okay, it’s expected, normal, and really even healthy!
The Three Stages of Betrayal Recovery
But before we delve too far into the annular nature of the healing journey, let’s name and define the three stages of betrayal recovery. Better yet, let’s actually take a minute to spell out what we actually mean by “healing” as it pertains to this subject. The goal of healing, here, is to learn to move forward in our lives and live in the present without being incapacitated by thoughts and feelings triggered by our memories of our past trauma. The stages are:
Safety and Stabilization
Fairly self-explanatory, the goal of this stage is to regain a sense of safety in the day-to-day life of the victim. Whether it be in an actual physical sense or more on an emotional level, this stage involves identifying and removing sources of danger and creating stability in the daily environment of the victim.
Remembrance and Mourning
Once the victim has been taken out of harm’s way and found relative stability it’s important for her to take the time to process the trauma. She needs to be able to define it, understand it (as much as possible), and grieve her losses. She also needs to be allowed to express how it makes her feel and be given adequate time to explore those emotions.
Reconnection and Integration
In this very important stage, the victim becomes the victor. She learns how to allow the trauma to be a part of her story without it being the whole story or what defines her. She reestablishes her identity in a way that allows her to move forward in her life as a healthy and whole individual.
The Journey through the Stages of Healing is not Linear
Okay, so now that we’ve established and defined the stages of betrayal recovery, let’s talk about our journey through them. What do I mean when I say healing is not linear? Simply that none of us should expect, or be expected to move in a straight line from one stage to the next.
There are so many areas of life affected by betrayal trauma, and they’re not all going to heal in the first round. We’ll need to stabilize, and then mourn, and then integrate the most basic areas of our world first, but there will be countless others which haven’t even begun to heal.
Often times, as we move into the mourning stage in one area, something in that process will trigger our sense of stability, and we’ll feel unsafe again. Before we know what hit us, we’ll have to go back to stage one and re-establish safety and stability in this new area before we can move on once again.
Other times we’ll experience weeks, months, or even years of blissful success as we reconnect with the world and integrate our new reality into our life like a boss, and then, out of nowhere, we’ll come face to face with an area we never properly mourned. In an instant we’ll be forced to reopen the wound and appropriately process the pain and loss before we can resume normal activity.
My “Healing is not Linear” Story
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I’ve shared a lot about my own healing journey. When I started writing here, I was only about a month out from the most horrific discovery of my love’s betrayals, and I’ve laid it all out in the pages of this blog as we moved through each stage.
Let me tell you, it’s not always an easy thing to heal publicly, as God has asked me to do. The temptation is to either sensationalize my own story in order to make it more interesting, or to minimize it in order to make myself seem somehow superior. I am far more tempted by the latter than the former. Pride – you know? My sinful heart wants to be the perfect picture of God’s grace and healing.
But you guys, there is only one perfect picture of God’s grace, and that is Jesus Himself.
To put on a mask and try to paint a picture of healing that isn’t the real deal isn’t actually making Him seem better than He really is (like I somehow think it will) because that isn’t possible. He’s already perfect. What it IS doing, is shining the light on me instead of Him.
So I want to be real here and just tell you, I’ve been struggling lately. While many (probably most) of the areas of my life have successfully navigated through the stages of healing and found their place in our new reality, there are still a few areas of great pain.
It’s hard to remember that healing is not linear though. Once I’ve experienced the joy of success in one area, it’s really hard to not be discouraged when I have to go back to square one in another. But I still do.
And so, here I am. Working for stability in some areas, mourning others, and praising God that most areas have been successfully reconnected and integrated into a healthy reality. Here I am, reminding myself, and by extension you, that healing is not linear. So it’s okay.
The circular journey does not indicate God is not working, or that He is not powerful, or perfect, or good, as I fear it might. Rather, it is evidence of His never-ending faithfulness that refuses to leave any part of me unfinished. It is a much-needed reminder that I need Him desperately. In every moment of every day.
So, I’ll go on spinning in circles, weaving in and out between joy and sorrow, brokenness and restoration; and as I do, I’ll lift my hands in praise to the One who leads me and carries me through the dance. His healing is not linear, but it is beautiful!