It's that day of the year again, the day I should be celebrating my sisters life instead of grieving it. To honor her, I share her story, praying that it impacts one endangered life in a positive way.
My intention is not to state that every bad relationship is abusive, it isn't. I'm not saying that every negative comment is abuse - we need people in our lives willing to correct us when we are wrong. I'm not saying all sarcasm and "joking" is abuse, sometimes it's just a horrible sense of humor or a bad day.
Abuse is a pattern of behaviours designed to control and manipulate. It isn't isolated incidents by flawed humans - we all are. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, we all hurt those we love on occasion.
Having said that.....
Domestic violence kills. Sometimes it will sneak up on a family in the form of verbal and emotional abuse, then taking it by surprise when it becomes horribly, terribly physical, leaving the family shattered and broken in pieces. Irreparable. That's what happened to my sister. Literally overnight our family was affected by the worst form of domestic violence there is - death. She didn't live in constant fear of physical harm, she never had to hide bruises and yet she is no longer with us because the one time, the first time he hit her was the last time.
Our society is so ingrained with TV and movies showing how "funny" it is to insult and degrade those we love and care for but the reality is ... THAT is emotional and verbal abuse. Treat those you love LIKE YOU LOVE THEM! Don't make them wonder if your sarcasm or "jokes" contain the truth of how you feel about them. Don't speak harm to them and then laugh if off. Words are powerful. Words created the world and words can destroy a heart and a family. When we speak ill of someone long enough we come to believe it for ourselves, and when we stop appreciating the value of the people in our lives, we stop valuing their life, period.
My sister lived with verbal and emotional abuse. She didn't even recognize that she was being abused (let's be honest - hindsight is 20/20). Set your boundaries and insist on being treated with respect and kindness, especially from those who claim to love you. Recognize your own self-worth, see your own value, believe that you deserve to be treated well. Loving someone does not require that you allow them to hurt your heart. If the person in your life does not respect you, speak lovingly to you (even - or especially - when angry!) IT IS OKAY TO WALK AWAY! Do it safely, do it wisely but do not allow yourself to be trapped in harmful relationship.
There is no abuse that is "safe". It is always, always, always life threatening. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not ever for you, but it ALWAYS carries that potential.
I've heard it... "that's the extreme, it could never happen to me"... but my sister said that too.
Please, let her story help you - and help you help others. Don't stand by and let yourself or your friends/family be treated poorly. Say something! Abuse thrives in darkness & silence. What happens behind closed doors should be the same as what happens in the public eye -- what if it was your daughter or son? When we turn a blind eye to the hurt of those in our lives, we contribute to their pain.
It isn't "just words". It's dangerous, it's scary, it's harmful and sometimes, yes, it's life threatening. Beware your words, beware the messages being spoken to you. Stand up for those who are having words used against them. Stand up for yourself. Be there for someone who doesn't see their own value and worth enough to protect themselves from abuse. Put aside judgment to be supportive. Be in prayer for those around you! Educate yourself on the warning signs of an abusive relationship - for yourself and for those in your life. Don't be afraid to be a voice, to be a presence for someone else. Ask the question. Don't be offended if someone asks you the question - accept their concern as love and be honest.... consider the source and take a good look at your relationship - maybe they are seeing something you don't. Maybe it's just an area of your relationship that needs some work.
I miss Angela every single day. My heart aches for her. So many people were touched by her life. She was my best friend, my big sister, a wonderful mother and a loving aunt... my boys don't remember her, my youngest never even had a chance to meet her. Her boys miss their parents immensely, my parents wonder how it is they have outlived their daughter, her friends still miss her too. There is a HUGE hole in our lives that she used to fill. We have the memories, but we miss her presence.
Don't let this become your story or your message.
If this touches your heart for yourself or a friend, if you ever need to talk, please leave me a comment. Find the resources for your community and call a distress line - they are there to listen and help when you are ready. You don't have to be alone, help is available and YOU DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE YOU ARE LOVED AND CARED FOR.