by Dawn Scott Damon

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers

of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.o

– Washington Irving

“But I don’t know how to grieve. How do I let go?” I asked my counselor. I can’t cry. I have no tears for myself. I only feel disgusted by the gullible, mute child inside me. She just laid there and took the abuse and never muttered a word.”

Amy tried to encourage me, “You survived. You persisted through a demeaning and horrific atrocity. You were degraded and humiliated. Your younger self did what she had to do to make it out alive.”

But I bristled against the idea, “Tears are for weak people who are stupid enough to let themselves get hurt,” I retorted.

“Or perhaps, tears are the doorway to finding your voice. Let your child speak, Dawn. She wants to tell you how she felt. The language of a child is tears. Let her speak; let her tell you how she felt. Don’t stifle her.”

I wasn’t trying to stifle her. But I believed tears made me weak and vulnerable, and I couldn’t allow that. I needed to stay strong and in control. How could I grieve without feeling violated all-over again?

The reality is, the grieving process requires risk—the risk of feeling violated, afraid, vulnerable, or any other emotion that may feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar. We might have to numb out to escape those scary, unwanted feelings and that’s counter-productive to grieving and healing. The beauty of grieving is that it requires us to feel. The only way out of pain is to go through the pain through the process of mourning.

As I talked with Amy that day, I realized the way to grieve was to give myself permission to feel my emotions and trust that I’d find freedom on the other side of the valley of grief.

Once grieving finally began, my next step was to honestly face my pain and losses; to acknowledge each piece of my soul that had been stripped from me.

So, I made a list of losses. I recognized my inner child’s losses too. I acknowledged her pain, told her she deserved to feel sad, and that it was ok to cry. Tears of breakthrough gushed from deep, unknown places in my soul—places “little Dawn” knew well. I grieved with her, with me! I wanted us to be whole.

Is it time for you to grieve? When you can finally grieve, old wounds heal.

I placed the following things on my list:

Loss of Childhood

We were children, unsuspecting and trusting. We wanted to laugh at the clouds and dance in the rain like other kids. But something awful happened that interrupted our carefree lives. We stood covered in shame and peered at others through hollow eyes, wondering if anyone knew, if anyone could tell. Our childhoods were stolen.

 Grieving the death of childhood happens in four stages.

  • Denial: “I’m okay. It wasn’t that bad.”
  • Anger: “I hate them for what they did to me.”  
  • Depression: “I was never loved. My life is hopeless and meaningless.”   
  • Acceptance: “I have to accept the loss. It’s not my fault, my childhood wasn’t under my control.”  

Loss of Love and Nurture

To children, nurture plus protection equals love. It provides the foundation on which children build their sense of safety and security.  But instead of being cherished, we were abused.   

Depriving a child of nurture programs them to protect and nurture themselves. They often build impenetrable fortresses—walls intended to protect but that, in truth, close them off from accepting love and care.

Loss of Memory

For many survivors, critical pieces of childhood experiences are missing, memories are completely forgotten. The pain and trauma of abuse was too much for our tender psyche, and we blocked it out. The downside to repressing our memories, also called psychological amnesia, is that it can wipe out our pleasant memories as well.

Loss of Control

I always wondered why in situations where I was denied choices, I reacted with anger. It has always been important for me to have a voice in the decision-making process. The need for control is common among those who’ve been sexually abused.

As children we were overpowered; others stripped us of our right and ability “to choose.” We silently surrendered to the humiliation of sexual assault while we inwardly screamed. We learned our voice was meaningless.

Loss of Purpose and Self-Esteem

  Abuse robbed me of healthy, positive self-esteem. Remember, children possess “magical” thinking. They unconsciously assess their value based on the love and nurture they receive. If someone more powerful than us—an authority figure—assaulted us, we assumed it was our fault. After all, we’re required to respect adults; they’re always right and know “what’s best for us.” The obvious conclusion for a naive and trusting child is, “I must be bad.”

Loss of Trust

Unfortunately, loss of trust is virtually universal among abuse victims and one of the saddest losses of our ordeal. Living without the ability to trust anyone is painful. It’s also not practical, since our very existence depends on trusting others. To survive, many survivors fantasize about the goodness of a person and recast them as a hero; they can be blind to flaws in people they cast in the hero role. They can also be too quick to mistrust. As a result, survivors blur reality, confuse loyalties, and mistrust others.

Loss of Sexual Enjoyment

Sexual intimacy was distorted for me as a result of sexual abuse. How could I see sex the way God intended, as pure and beautiful when I’d been introduced to it in a perverse, twisted manner? A survivor’s perspective on the true purpose and role of sex becomes distorted.

These were my losses. I grieved for myself over each and every one.

Dawn Scott Damon is a pastor, speaker, freedom coach, and award-winning author who has written four books, including When the Woman You Love Was Abused, and When the Woman Abused Was You. A popular keynote and conference speaker, Dawn is an engaging communicator who inspires her audience to maximize their God-given purpose and potential in Christ. Dreams are ignited as Dawn uses sound biblical teaching, personal stories, and splashes of humor to awaken the gifts and callings in every person. Dawn is also an ordained minister with the Wesleyan Church and Lead Pastor of a multi-cultural Church called Tribes in the North Grand Rapids, MI area. Dawn and her husband Paul Damon, have a full family of 3 married children, 2 sons, and 11 grandchildren.  

Cover photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash