When a family member isn’t safe. [a story of Hope in the Hard]

Welcome to this space for sacred storytelling.

Each week, we’ll be exploring what it looks like to walk in the darkness from someone who is in the thick of it.

Today our story of Hope in the Hard comes from an interview with Elisabeth.

What Hard has this season held for you?
A little more than a year ago I confronted a family member who has been abusive towards me since my early childhood. It took me years to build up the courage to have this conversation, but little did I know that it was the aftermath that I would need the courage to walk through.
The conversation did not go well. I was blamed for their behavior towards me; my pain was diminished as just be “overly emotional;” and this family member tried to make me feel horrible for confronting her with how her behaviors have impacted me. I left shaking and crying, knowing her words were like whip lashes, bound to leave scars.
In the days following this conversation, I was horribly depressed. I knew what she said about me wasn’t true, but I’d find myself staring off into the distance, replaying her words over and over again. My heart was in utter turmoil, feeling the pull to fall into the abusive cycle of listening to her words as truth once again. It took so much strength to do what needed to be done, by giving her a chance to change, and then cutting her out of our life almost 9 months later. It didn’t take strength because it was hard. It took strength because I genuinely love her. In this season loving her means not letting  her abuse me or have access to my son, and it is heartbreaking.
I wish cutting her out would’ve been an anonymous end to all these hard decisions but it hasn’t been. The rest of my family has not cut this person out, and since February every holiday and get together I’ve had to weigh keeping my boundaries with this person, or missing out on being with my family. God has not released me from my boundaries, so I’ve spent many nights home with my heart aching to be included, but knowing it isn’t safe. I can’t blame them, and I don’t. My convictions about this person belong to me, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
What has it been like for you to seek the Lord in the dark?
I’ve had to cling to the Lord so tightly through this season. I’m a natural people pleaser, so rocking the boat like this has been nothing short of terrifying.
It’s mostly looked like a lot of prayer; talking to him about how I’m struggling and asking for his strength.
I know it’s been the Lord’s hand that has led me to end this relationship for now, and he didn’t leave me at the door of the decision, but has walked with me through it all.
I’ve prayed a lot. I’ve wept a lot. I’ve begged for comfort or a conclusion, and he has given me just the strength I’ve needed for every step.
What would you tell someone going through a similar hard season? 
I would tell them that they are seen, and they must be so strong because what they’re going through is so very hard. Nobody cuts out family members for fun; it’s a constant battle within your own heart to not feel guilty. But as Dr. Laura Schlesinger said on her podcast recently, “Do you really think you’re being a bad person (friend, daughter, grandchild, ext) or are you just afraid you’re going to be called one?”
My one tip would be to surround themselves with people who are healthy and who combat the lies with truth. God has planted so many people in my life for this sole purpose, and they’ve been crucial to this journey.
What does it look like to be kind to yourself in this season? 
Being kind to myself through this has been really hard, if I’m honest. The words that this person said were not kind, and they get constantly replayed in my head. But God’s voice is kind, and I try to focus and listen to who God says I am, rather than my abuser. I know that sounds obvious, but it is one of the hardest things to do.
I find listening to music has been a helpful distraction when the pressure, sadness, and condemnation I feel get to their height. I have a sad playlist and a happy one and I shuffle back on any given day to whichever feels the most helpful.
If you don’t have a melancholy playlist (which is the one I find most helpful) you’re free to look at mine on Spotify.
What do you wish others knew about you as you walk through this? 
I wish others knew that I struggle everyday, not to go back into the cycle of abuse. I have days I think I’m going to give in to my family member, and apologize for being truthful and brave just to make everyone happy.
I wish they knew how much I’ve thought about this, and that I have not come to this point out of emotion alone.
Is there a truth you’re holding tightly to? If so, what is it?
I’m holding tightly to the truth that I love this person, and that’s why I’m doing this. Ignoring her sin, or letting her hurt me is not loving. Holding her accountable as a Christian, and calling out her sin is loving, even if it may not feel that way to her.
I’m being obedient to what the Lord has lead me to do during this season, and that’s more important than making this family member like me.
Elisabeth is a deep feeler, a good listener and someone who loves to learn. She is one of the most creative people I know, and I love seeing the projects she’s undertaking. Her baby boutique Etsy shop is just one of her creative outlets. My brother married Elisabeth a few years ago, and I’m just the luckiest girl to have her as my sister. She’s the mama to my darling nephew, who will turn 1 in April. You can find more of her voice on her blog or over on her Enneagram account on Instagram, that she creates with her husband. 
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