I remember talking with a dear friend of mine, a gentleman who has been campaigning against sexual violence for many years. As a new and young activist, I was beginning to feel the weight of our work. I asked him what he did when he felt overwhelmed or hopeless in face of all the pain he hears about daily, and he replied that he bows his head and grieves for all that has been done to these people he deeply cares for.
It was such a simple answer, and yet it wasn’t one I had thought of. He encouraged me to allow myself time, ritual, whatever I needed, to grieve and mourn for the pain that I have experienced and the pain that I have witnessed.
So this self-care Sunday, I don’t have a cute or fun activity for you. I have the sobering reminder that far too many people are harmed by sexual violence every day, and that we must take time to grieve, as survivors and as their advocates. If you were harmed by sexual violence, I want you to know that I bow my head and mourn for what you lost. I want you to know that it is okay to recognize what you have lost and to mourn those parts of yourself. You don’t need to be a powerful survivor every minute of every day — some days you may want to stay in your room and cry and eat take-out and watch Netflix. That’s okay. Please do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself — you have suffered, in many ways, a loss.
You may find some more structured forms of grieving to be helpful to you. Some suggestions I have are:
- Write a letter to the part of yourself that was lost in your assault or abuse.
- Dedicate a candle to yourself and light it.
- Draw a picture of what you have lost.
- Listen to sad music and let yourself cry.
- Sing lullabies to yourself or listen to lullabies on YouTube or Pandora.
- Read poetry about sexual violence at www.endthesilencecampaign.org/poetry (warning: some of these may be triggering; proceed with caution)
Remember that while grieving your loss, or the pain that you have witnessed, is important, it is also important to not get stuck in this place. Please seek counseling to help you if you feel you need it. Visit CAPS or SACS for more information about finding services. If you are not a member of the IU community but are seeking help dealing with sexual assault, either as a survivor or a supporter, please visit RAINN.org and consider using the Online Hotline.