Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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How Do You Grieve When Abuse Masquerades As Love?

When love ends, we grieve. We grieve the passing of what could have been, should have been, might have been, if only.

We search for ways to give meaning to our pain, to explain the sometimes inexplicable causes leading to loves demise. Sometimes, we talk it out. We make arrangements on how to separate, how to divide love’s spoils, how to survive love’s loss. We draw up agreements, outline custody and visitation arrangements. We divvy up assets and liabilities, arrange for payment. We divorce and move on with our lives, sometimes poorer but always richer in experience.

When we have loved an abuser, love cannot die. Love never existed.

With an abuser, there was no mutual agreement to love honestly, truthfully, respectfully. There was only the abuser’s mask hiding his or her intent to deceive. There was only the lie posing as truth. Blinded by love, we could not see the difference.

In the lie we thought was love vanishing out the door, we hang our hopes on one more chance to say, ‘good-bye’. On one more time to see their face, hear their voice, be in the presence of the love we believed to be true.

In our grief we plead for one last time. We pray, he will return. We pray, he or she, the one we loved, will come back if only to give us a chance to secure the elusive closure our empty arms yearn for. We want to say good-bye on our terms. We want to have the last word, to make them hear us, see us, feel our pain, witness our anguish. We want to know they understand the harm their passing through our lives has caused. We want them to ‘see’ how much we love in the hopes that the one we loved, the one we believed to be true, will return. We want one more chance. One more good-bye.

And so we plead with time to give us this one last chance so that we can come to terms with their good-bye. So that we can steal the time to learn to grieve on our terms.

And that is the lie we tell time. Give us a chance and we will make them hear us, just this once, so we can grieve freely.

It never happens. It can’t.

Loving a lie is not possible.

With our empty arms and broken dreams, we must give into grief and mourn for the one who was lost. The woman who was abused. The one who was lost. The one who fell. The one who was betrayed. We must mourn for the one we must love the most. Ourselves.

Once upon a time I loved a man who was untrue. He never really existed, though I searched for him between the lines he spoke, seeking truth in all his lies. Between the pages of my journal where I wrote of love ever lasting and promises of happily-ever after. I searched in every nook and cranny of my mind, desperately trying to make real the unreal. To make sense of the nonsense that was his passing through my life. I searched and held onto the hope that the pain, the turmoil, the sorrow was all a lie and he would turn up and be true.

It never happened. It couldn’t.

He was the lie.

Instead of grieving ‘love gone wrong’ I had to learn to grieve the dream that could never be, the love that never was. I had to learn to grieve for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser. To grieve for the pain she endured, the pain she caused. I grieved and cried and wished and hoped and prayed upon every star that the pain would cease, the tears would dry up and my heart would be healed. I prayed for the past to be erased. The lies to be vanished. The horror to be undone.

Nothing can undo the past. There is nothing that can be changed in yesterday.

Grieving a love that never was is part of the illusion of loving an abuser. We look for meaning in our memories and come up empty.

On the other side of grieving a lie is love.

Grieving for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser, set me free to fall into the arms of love.

In grieving for all that was lost, all that was forgotten on the stormy waters of his lies, I embraced all that was possible when I set myself free to sail upon the sea of love that surrounds me, sustains me, lifts me up.

Love has no limits. Love knows no bounds. Love is my answer.

Stand in love. Grow in love. Be love.

In mourning for the one who lost herself in the arms of a man who was untrue, I found myself. I found myself and fell in love with all that I can be when I set myself free to live this one wild and precious life free to be all I am when I let go of grief and fall… in love.

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Awhile ago, I met a woman who pulled a piece of paper out of her wallet and showed me what it was.  It was the above piece which I wrote in 2008 and posted on my original blog, Recover Your Joy, 5 years after the abuser who was in my life was arrested. “Thank you for this,” she said. “You really helped me understand.”

As we near the end of Family Violence Prevention Month, I am sharing it in honour of those who struggle to escape, to those trying to make sense of abuse masquerading as love, to those who never found release, and those taking their first steps in freedom from abuse.

Abuse hurts. Stop it.


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CDVC: November is Family Violence Prevention Month

cdvcI am speaking out against abuse on Friday at the launch of Family Violence Prevention Month 2013.

I am nervous.

I am grateful.

I am excited.

And I remember. All these emotions are present in my being present. They do not make me who I am. They are a measure of what I am feeling, in the moment. They are not me.

It was something I learned in my healing journey away from abuse. Anger is present. I am not anger. Sadness is present. I am not sadness. Regret is present. I am not regret.

Just as happiness, joy, gratitude are present. And in their presence I choose what I want more of in my life by choosing to breathe into those things that feed me, nurture, love and heal me. I choose where I shine my light.

Once upon a time I called myself an abused woman. It was not me. I did not own the abuse. I was not the abuse. I was a woman who was abused. It is not mine to hold onto, to claim, to own.

What is mine to hold onto, to claim, to own, is freedom. Freedom from abuse. Freedom from allowing another human being to determine my worth, to dictate my being free, to control my expression of me.

And in that expression I choose how my emotions control me. I choose how I control my emotions. I choose to set myself free.

in freedom, I accept and acknowledge and celebrate the fact that I create, permit or allow 100% of what is going on in my life. I am not a piece of flotsam tossed about by the waves of life, out of control, rudderless, directionless, powerless.

I am powerful beyond my wildest imaginings.

I am talented beyond my greatest dreams.

I have the capacity to make my own dreams come true and the ability to create the life I envision.

Isn’t that amazing? If I have that much power, if I am the one directing this ship, then I am capable of steering away from rough waters, and, weathering any storm. I am able to chart my course, change my path, adapt and shift my direction — as and when I choose.

No one has me locked down or dialled into the coordinates of my life. I do. it’s my choice to not change direction and to change direction. It’s my decision to take A to B or Y to Z.

It’s my life.

When I was in that relationship that was killing me, it didn’t feel like that. Like I had the power, because I didn’t. I had given it up. Allowed myself to fall so far into the distress and dis-ease of his abuse that I could no longer see or feel or even hear my voice of reason, my voice of knowing, my voice of power calling me to rise up and throw off the yoke of his abuse. I had become so blinded by the power of my fear of breaking free, I could not stand up and step free.

And so I fell.

It didn’t feel like a willing fall. It wasn’t that I wanted it to hurt so bad I couldn’t make it stop. It was that I had lost all sense of who I was, where I was, what I was doing and going and being. I was lost.

That’s the thing about abuse.  In its grip, you lose all sense of direction, all sense of self, all sense.

Abuse is insidious.

It kills.

Hopes. Dreams. Spirit. Lives.

It robs us of our will to live. It steals away our heart’s-desire to create, to conceive, to be free. It destroys self-worth, tears apart families, rips apart homes.

Abuse is wrong.

Stop it.

And if you can’t stop it, then get help. Reach out for support. Call someone. Talk to someone. Find someone, something to hold onto that will shine a light on the darkness of where you’re at so that you can find yourself swimming free of the dark and dangerous waters pulling you under.

Abused or abuser, abuse hurts.

Abused or abuser, there is help. Out there, beyond the dark, dank depths of the shame and fear and horror of what is happening in your life.

When I was in that relationship, I believed there was nowhere else for me to be, nowhere I could run to get away. I believed I was all alone.

I wasn’t alone. And there was lots that could be done to stop it. But I was too lost, too scared, too ashamed to see, it had to start with me. I had to choose to change directions, stop my drift and reset my course away from what was killing me.

I couldn’t do it alone. I didn’t have to.

I needed help and support to stop the abuse in my life. And in stopping it in my life, in you stopping it in yours, we create a ripple that begins to move out into the world inspiring change all over the place.

And that’s the thing about abuse — for it to be present, anywhere in the world, we must all in some way collude in its presence. For it to end, anywhere in the world, It takes all of us co-creating a world free of abuse to make it stop.


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A blog for Family Violence Prevention Month

November is Family Violence Prevention month and I’ve decided for this month to dedicate Fridays to a post on the subject.

I was in an abusive relationship for 4 years 9 months and know the terrors of what can happen in your mind and life when you fall in love with an abuser. I know how it hurts the one’s you love, your family and friends. And, I also know that we can stop it. We can break free and when we do, life opens up in limitless possibilities.

We can stop abuse. It takes all of us to commit to not do the things we do or contribute to its presence in our lives. I cannot change an abuser. I can stop their abuse in my life.

A Journey of Love

For four years nine months I endured a relationship of escalating terror. Looking back, I can’t remember what it is that kept me so stuck in his abuse. Looking back I wonder sometimes, what was I smoking? It must have been powerful stuff. And then, I remember the fear. Fear soaked into my pores. It damned the blood pounding into my heart. It permeated every crevice of my mind, consuming my thinking with terrifying reminders of why I could not leave him.

When it was really bad, and the abuser raged or sat in silent condemnation of yet another of my transgressions, I would slink into a closet, close the door and sit in the dark, my eyes shut to any crack of light trying to enter the dismal confines of my mind. Repetitively I would pet the pooch’s silky fur, clinging for dear life to this one being who laid her head upon my scrunched up knees and loved me unconditionally. Sometimes, when he held onto the pooch and would not let her come to me, I would crawl into the closet and dig my nails into my wrists, scraping the skin back, trying desperately to feel something, anything, other than the pain of being me. I wanted so desperately to peel my skin away, layer by layer to reveal the veins and vessels that carried the blood of life within this person who felt so dead to me. I wanted to see who lived within me. I wanted to expose the bones that were supposed to hold me up yet seemed to be crashing down from within me. I wanted to die.

It is hard to describe how he implanted such terror into my life. It was a moment by moment seeping away of my essence. When I met him, I was a partner in a communications firm. I had my home, my daughters, my life. He kept telling me that everything I had was nothing compared to what he would give me. I would say, “But I’m happy with my life today.” And he would laugh and ask me how that could be and he would remind me of what a mess my life was. I couldn’t figure that one out. My life wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t a mess either. Yet, he persisted and rather than laugh back at him, I retreated into silence. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps all that I had accomplished meant nothing compared to all that he had done and wanted to give me.

And then the stalking and the phone taps and the threats of bomb’s under my car and the stories of evil men threatening to kidnap my daughters and drug them and put them into the sex trade began. And I fell into despair. The unreal began to feel too real and I could not risk challenging the truth.

By the end of that ride, I did not exist. I had completely submerged my identity and scrunched it up into a tiny pocket tucked high up into the corner of my mind as I became the vessel of his deceit. We were in hiding as he tried to evade the police. He was searching for a way out of the country. I was searching for a way out. Of life. Of being there with him, And so I existed, telling myself that at least I had gotten him away from the one’s I love. They didn’t deserve him and his abuse. But I did.

For four months my daughters, family and friends didn’t  know where I was. And I was too afraid to call and tell them I was okay. Because that too would have been a lie.

I was not okay. I wanted to die. Every moment of every day. Waking or sleeping. I wanted to die. I watched buses and semi-trailers looking for an opportunity to fall into their path or crash into the solid substance of their massive sides as they sped through my life. I counted pills. I fondled razor blades. I imagined death in every form and prayed for it to come and end the darkness that was my world.

And through it all, I stayed silent. I acted the role he needed me to play to convince those who needed convincing that we were who he said we were. Even though I knew it was all a lie. I had become his lie. I was his shill. His creation. The only truth I held onto was my love for my daughters. To take my own life would be to make a lie of my love for them. And I couldn’t do it.

And then, at 9:14 am, May 21, 2003, the police walked in and arrested him and I received the miracle of my life and thus began my journey into myself, into beauty, hope and the joy of living free of his abuse.

It has been an amazing journey since that beautiful day in May. A journey filled with sorrow, tears, laughter, joy. A journey like no other. A journey of Love.

I am blessed. Once upon a time I was an abused woman. Today, I am a victor. Today, I know my power comes from within me. Today, I know my own strength. I cannot stop an abuser being who they are, but I can stop abuse in my life. And I have.