Giving Yourself Time

The disclosure of a child's sexual abuse is traumatizing to mothers and results in a grieving process. As in any grief process, all individuals are different in the amount of time they take to accomplish the grief work. It may take weeks, months, or longer for some to fully resume routines associated with their previous lives or begin a new stage of life. It is important that you not expect too much of yourself at this stage, and instead that you are patient and give yourself time to feel your feelings and recover at your own pace. This is not a period to be hurried. You need time to experience and process the truth.You need time to mourn the losses and feel your grief.    
William Bridges, in his book Transitions, talks about stages involved in change processes. He refers to them as endings and beginnings, with a neutral zone in between. In this "in between" space, the sense of identity is lost. Following disclosure of a child's abuse, mothers lose familiar identities, and the world may seem changed and unreal. If the perpetrator was someone close, such as partner or family member, those family identities will also change. Mothers experience a sense of confusion. This change process can be compared to Alice falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland - the confusion, sense of bewilderment, lack of control, and helplessness.  

The post-disclosure process is a transition period. Mothers are unsure regarding the outcome of the child abuse report, the investigationcourt process, and next steps for herself, the victim, and the rest of the family. It is important for mothers to be in counseling during this time, to have supportive friends, and a safe place to talk about concerns, such as a support group  for mothers of sexually abused children. 

The stress of disclosure and events that follow will affect brain, body, and immune system unless the mother uses healthy coping and makes changes in lifestyle and thinking patterns that will counteract the effects of stress. Implementing positive lifestyle changes (e.g., exercisehealthy diet, meditation, recreation) can lead to improvements in physical and mental health, improve self-esteem, and increase a sense of overall well-being.



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