A handy resource of validation,
encouragement, and hope for all who
have survived the trauma of abuse.
It’s my hope and sincere desire that
this short, easy to read book will
become a source of validation,
encouragement, and deep knowing
that you can Survive, Thrive, and
Conquer your Grief.
A resource from SurvivingMyPast.net
C O N T E N T S
experience grief in it’s own time
credits & acknowledgements
E X P E R I E N C E G R I E F
I N I T ‘ S O W N T I M E
Grief is something that we all face at some point in our lives.
Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, trusted family pet, loss
of a job, past trauma and abuse, and host of other scenarios
that unfold during our lifetime.
Generally speaking, I know that I have problems trying to
connect with what I know I should be feeling or what I think
I’m feeling. Be careful with that word “should”, it can be very
self-shaming and invalidating.
It’s one thing to say to myself, “I have peace about this…” or
“I know that things will work out somehow” (even if I don’t
know how just yet), but to truly sit with and embrace that
mindset can be quite difficult. I have a habit of trying to rush HT
through one feeling to get through the next.
It can be a challenge to try to convince myself that it’s
natural and normal to feel the way that I do. In trying to feel
those feels and be OK with it, I am also trying to force those
feelings to surface and then move on according to my
timetable rather than when they are ready too.
Each traumatic event that happens in our life causes us to
experience the 5 stages of grief.
We have to accept the fact that each stage is important and
comes with its own set of feelings, and that it’s necessary
to feel each one in its own time and its own way.
When we are able to sit with each of those steps, and be
content with how they make us feel, without trying to force
some type of internal response, our healing will go much
It’s worth noting that once we do get to step 5, Acceptance,
it doesn’t mean that everything is peachy keen and all is
right with our world. It just means that we accept what has
happened and are ready to start moving forward.
We are leaving behind those circumstances that brought us
to the grieving process and forging ahead with the
knowledge we acquired, and the confidence gained that we
can indeed handle what life gives us.
By embracing the feelings of the traumatic events that
unfolded in our life, we can learn from it, and be better
equipped to handle a similar circumstance in the future.
It’s important to keep in mind that just because we get to
step 5, doesn’t mean that we won’t have to relive those
feelings ever again. It’s not uncommon to go back and
experience those emotions again.
For that matter, also bear in mind that not everyone
experiences the Stages of Grief in the same way or in the
same order. We are all different, and that is why it’s so
paramount to sit with and explore our feelings in our own way
Being triggered can cause those memories to come back and
make us feel angry or sad again, and that’s OK. The good part
is, we won’t have to sit with it as long. Since we already went
through the stages of grieving in their own time, without
rushing, it doesn’t have to overtake our existence as much
as it did the first time.
As odd as that may sound, I can speak from experience and
tell you that it’s happened to me. When those emotions
come back, I will sit with them for a while but I can look back
on what I went through and use that as a new tool in my
Healing is a slow process, so remember, don’t try and rush
through steps 1-4, just to get to step 5.
IVVRU SRO FFIER GF OSEGAT S 5EHT
D E N I A L – T H E R E ‘ S
N O W A Y T H I S
H A P P E N E D T O M E !
If you Google the word, Denial, you will get the following: the
action of declaring something to be untrue.
Further research shows us, as explained on ChangingMinds*:
Denial is simply refusing to acknowledge that an event
occurred. Denial is a form of repression, where stressful
thoughts are banned from memory. If I do not think about it,
then I do not suffer the associated stress of dealing with it.
So, what does this mean to me personally? How do I
experience Denial? How do you experience Denial?
When I first started to deep dive into the abuse of my past;
exploring the suppressed memories that had been kept
hidden away in the box at the bottom of the closet in my
mind, the very first thing I said was…
“There’s no way!”
o There is no way in hell that I allowed a teenager to get me
alone in his house, time after time, and use me for his own
pleasure. Touching me, molesting me, and making me cry.
o What human being would experience that type of sadistic
trauma, and then find a way to not deal with it for so many
years…decades! Nope, didn’t happen!
o I could not have gone on with my life, had 3 kids, held down
a job, and just basically survived if things went down the way
these memories are telling me they did.
o It couldn’t have been as bad as all this, I must be over
dramatizing it, making it out to be way worse than it really
o This must all just be a result of a scary movie I saw as a kid, or stories I heard about from other kids, and now I’m thinking
it happened to me too when it really didn’t?
I’ve said those things out loud in sessions and unknowingly I
was already starting the healing process before I even knew I
had to heal in the first place.
When we question all of this, and say things like “this abuse
didn’t really happen, and that I must be over dramatizing it”,
we are starting to dig through that box in the bottom of the
closet and explore what’s inside.
AT S 5
I’m using my own terminology there because it’s how I relate
and literally what I said aloud.
It’s not an overnight process, and as always, I encourage you
to always seek the help of a professional when you are ready
to explore your past. You need to be in a safe place, with a
safe person, who understands trauma and your situation so
you can be best supported during this time of questioning.
I kept that box of memories buried under a pile of junk,
hidden away for so long that I couldn’t believe what was in
there. I was in total denial and disbelief at what my mind was
cluing me into. Our minds know when we are ready to start
healing, we just have to be open to what feelings will surface
and be willing to put in the time and effort required.
Allow yourself to sit with Denial, not shame yourself for your
feeling, and not rush through why you think what you
experienced simply didn’t happen.
You are amazing, you are awesome, and always know
that YOU matter, friend!
A N G E R – W H Y D I D
T H I S H A P P E N T O
M E ?
After we’ve sat with Denial for as long as we needed too, the
next phase typically is Anger.
We go from, “there’s no way this happened to me” to “why in
the hell did this happen to me?!”
Why was I dealt this hand, what did I do to deserve this?! I
didn’t ask to be born into a life of sexual abuse, domestic
violence, narcissistic abuse, or any other type of trauma.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this to myself, both
in the past and as my healing journey continues. Before I
started seeking help and confronting all of these memories, I
would ask myself those questions simply because I didn’t
understand that I was a survivor.
I just felt like I was life’s personal whipping boy, or being
bullied by Karma for something I must have done in the past.
Once I realized I was a survivor of abuse, I still asked myself
these questions. To be honest I don’t have all of the
answers. I do know the answer to one though, it’s not Karma
deciding to make an example out of me.
It can be so hard to accept that we didn’t deserve to be
abused, trafficked, mistreated, starved, or anything else.
Part of that acceptance of realizing what we went through
means that we have to sit with the anger for a time.
Once we come to the realization that something bad did
happen to us, or that we lost someone special to us *insert
any experience you can relate too here*, we can use Anger as
a bridge to healing.
We can’t be mad at something if we don’t accept that it
happened to us, right? Now that we accept it, it’s time to get
pissed off about it for a while.
Who in the hell does that kid up the street think he is;
preying on a young elementary school aged kid?! How
sadistic and disgusting do you have to be to want to touch
and force yourself on a little child!
I’m sorry, but no matter what happened to him in his life or
what he was subjected too that got him to this point; that’s
no excuse. He’ll get no such relief from me!
He screwed up my life before it ever had a chance to get
started and help set the tone for a lifetime of invalidation
and emotional struggle.
Because he took away my innocence and my ability to speak
up, I wasn’t able to stand up to the bullies in school who
constantly beat me to an emotional pulp. It was all I could do
to keep from crying in school most days.
I saved that crying for when I got home, hoping to find relief
from my parents. The one place that we should all be able to
feel safe and cared for and validated.
Unfortunately if you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse too,
you know that having a safe place to come home too wasn’t
your true reality.
So, am I mad at my mother for how I was treated and
raised? Am I mad at my abuser for what he did? You bet I am!
Whatever trauma you experienced in your younger years or
faced later in life…you got hurt, and there’s nothing wrong
with being angry.
I’m not advocating that we become violent and hurtful
towards ourselves or others. That’s not expressing this
emotion in a healthy way and likely will only lead to more
turmoil for ourselves and those around us.
Set those healthy boundaries, keep clear of those you who
hurt you. There’s nothing wrong with telling the person
who wronged you that you are angry; that you need time and
distance to deal with your feelings.
You don’t have to get sucked into an argument or some
invalidating conversation where blame gets turned back on
Write in a journal about how angry you are. Write a song
about it. Do some artwork or crafts. Whatever coping skills
you have in your toolbox, get them out and use them
Let it out, feel your feels. Talk it out, write it out, sing it out, O F
“art” it out!
Don’t be afraid to cry those tears of hurt and anger either.
How cleansing is it when we have a good cry, or multiple good
AT S 5
I wish I could say I have a lot of experience in the crying part
of healing, but alas I am still a work in progress. The few
times I’ve been able to connect with it or speak with others
who have, it’s been a tremendous relief.
I definitely encourage you to speak to a professional if you
have access to one, and allow them to help you through this
and every stage of grieving your past. If you can’t do that,
then at least speak with a trusted friend, one that
understands you, won’t judge you, and won’t encourage
unhealthy actions during this time in your life.
You friend, you fellow survivor, you are validated in being
angry. Feel it as you need to and let yourself “get it all out” in whatever healthy way you can.
In time, you’ll be crossing that bridge onto the next phase of
healing. On your own timetable.
B A R G A I N I N G – T H E
G U I L T O F “ W H A T
I F “ A N D “ I F O N L Y “
This one can be particularly difficult to endure. Not that the
other stages are not difficult, but Bargaining in particular can
bring with it a lot of guilt. Not only are we working through all OIV
of the other emotions, but now guilt makes us feel even
It’s important to look at Bargaining in two ways: the “What if”
and the “If only”.
“What if”. Here is where we try and make a deal with
ourselves, or perhaps our higher power; both of which I have
tried to bargain with many times.
T S 5E
We can bargain with God. We think that if we offer to do
something or change ourselves, that the pain will go away.
That we’ll be able to deal with emotions and not feel so
o God, what if I promise to go to church every Sunday.
o God, what if I do more good deeds in the community, or go
on that weekend retreat.
o God, what if I promise to read the Bible more.
We can bargain with ourselves. We try to convince ourselves
that if we turn our life around that good things will happen to
o If I treat my siblings better, my friends better, maybe
they’ll like me more and that will help me forget about what
o Maybe if I just keep myself busy and not think about it, it
will just go away.
o I’ll just start doing stuff for everyone else, then I won’t
have time to be so miserable.
These lists are endless and I’m sure you have your own
options that you’ve presented to yourself. You can see
where guilt can creep up and get a hold of you in these
scenarios. When we don’t follow through with our promises,
or we don’t think we’ve done enough, we feel guilty.
Guilt makes us feel even more broken, more stuck, more
miserable, and more helpless. On top of what we can’t
change (but are trying too), now we can’t fulfill the
agreement we made with God or ourselves.
It’s no win situation and it makes us feel helpless.
The other part of Bargaining is the “If Only…”. Here is where
the guilt can really take over. Just think of all the “if only”
statements that come to mind in any situation, let alone
trauma recovery! Again, the list is endless, but here are
some that I have used.
o If only I had not gone back to that teenager’s house so
many times, I wouldn’t have been hurt and I wouldn’t be in
therapy right now.
o On that note, if only I had never wandered down the street
that fateful day in the first place. None of this would have
o If only I had the guts to stand up to the bullies in middle
school, I wouldn’t have been pushed around and been so
much of an outcast.
Talk about guilt!
We are trying to tell ourselves that we should have done
something that we weren’t capable of doing at the time. We
are trying to hold ourselves accountable for something we
couldn’t understand then. We are thinking with an adult mind,
about the events that may have happened to us when we
were a child.
Early on in our recovery journey especially, we often find it
hard to give ourselves a break. We think we should have done
this or could have done that. Those “shoulds” are not
relegated to only early recovery either. It takes a long time
to learn to be kind to ourselves and not place so much blame
and responsibility on our younger selves.
Trust me, I totally get it. It’s hard for me too.
That’s the thing about abuse recovery. It’s about realizing
that we couldn’t control what happened to us. We had no
idea what was even going on and why; why it was so bad and
why it wasn’t just normal behavior. On top of that if we were
children at the time, trying to say that we had the power to
fend off an adult who was hurting us…well, there was just no
“What if” and “If only” serves to make us feel like could have AT
done more, or anything at all to keep from getting hurt. The
reality is, these feelings are indeed a normal part of working
through our past. We need to sit with it and not feel guilty
about doing so.
Once we realize that we were groomed to not speak up and
tell someone; to not try and seek help…we can know that it
wasn’t our fault and we couldn’t have stopped it.
As always; continue to realize that you may very well go back
through the other stages for a time; none of this grieving
process is linear unfortunately.
There is hope ahead, Friend! That light at the end of the
tunnel doesn’t have to be the oncoming train we think it is.
D E P R E S S I O N -
W H A T ‘ S T H E P O I N T
O F E V E N T R Y I N G
A N Y M O R E ?
We sit at home on a weekend, not wanting to go out because
we just don’t feel like it. We don’t want to be around other
people to begin with, much less happy people.
Even going to the grocery store and needing to interact with
a happy cashier seems like “just too much work”.
We don’t want people to come over and try to cheer us up,
because it’s either going to feel like they are placating us or
we don’t want to bring them down to our level because then
we’d feel even worse.
Besides, they couldn’t possibly understand what we are
going through anyway, right?!
I admit I’ve thought like that; totally not ashamed to admit it.
It’s just reality here, friends.
It’s so much easier to sit alone in the dark, to stay at home
and just sleep or watch TV, than try and fight through the
sadness. The thought of picking ourselves up by our
bootstraps and going on seems pointless.
We feel like we are damaged goods. We were sexually
abused, raped, trafficked, abandoned, starved…insert your
own experience here.
A feeling of brokeness sums it up well don’t ya think?
Why would anyone want to hang around us if they knew the
truth of what we went through? We feel dirty, used up,
cheap, and like we just don’t deserve to be out and about,
living our life the way others are. Much less living a life we
hoped to have for ourselves.
We can’t trust anyone to keep their word, and on top of that
we can’t trust ourselves to make good decisions. The fewer
times we have to put ourselves in a position of opening up to
others and risk getting hurt, or hurting someone we love, the
more justified we feel. We can rationalize that so easily…I
know because I’ve done it.
This stage can last a very long time, because depression has
a way of getting ahold of us and not so easily letting go.
For survivors, this is a very frustrating time too.
Not only are we depressed because we are aware of the
emotional and physical trauma we endured, but we may have
suffered from depression before we ever knew why in the
R GF O
Talk about a double whammy!
A study by King’s Col ege in London showed that after
reviewing 26,000 people, those who experienced at least 1
of the fol owing situations as a child were more than twice as
likely to experience depression as an adult.
o Rejecting interaction from their mother.
o Harsh discipline reported by a parent.
o Unstable caregiver throughout childhood.
o Self-reports of harsh physical or sexual abuse.
So, once we come to grips that we were twice as likely to
experience depression, we get even more depressed. Then
we find out why we are feeling depressed, and it gets even
The whole situation is a chain reaction, and it’s like, can we
catch a break?!
Exploring our past is deep, powerful, work and the truth is
painful to accept.
We need to be aware of how intense these feelings are, and
not try to go it alone. I know it sounds cliché, trust me I get
it, but it really is important to seek out help.
By now what do we have to lose? The status quo has gotten
us nowhere fast so far right?!
We stay home, secluded in our safe room, away from a cruel
world who doesn’t know why we feel the way that we do.
While it’s true that not everyone understands, we can’t use
that as a reason to stay closed off from the world forever.
We never go out, we never feel better, we just keep recycling
in our minds, how miserable and broken we are.
You deserve more than that, whether you believe it or not
right now. Once you do start to embrace that you can sit with
the depression and slowly crawl your way out, it can be very
powerful. You start to believe what others have told you, and
what you wanted to believe for yourself all along.
When you break down your feelings and analyze them with
someone who understands, you can start to piece together
why you feel the way you do. You can begin to see that there
is a healing light in the distance. It may not have been
present before, but it begins to shine just a little bit brighter.
I challenge myself as I write this and I challenge you, to
accept that it’s normal to go through depression during your
survivor journey. Sit with it, feel it, embrace it, but most
importantly seek out help to work through it so it doesn’t
continue to rule your life.
There is hope and there is healing, and the fact that we’ve
come this far means that freeing feeling of Acceptance is
ahead just waiting for us with open arms.
A C C E P T A N C E – N O W
I T ‘ S T I M E T O M O V E
F O R W A R D W I T H
H O P E !
It’s worth mentioning in this context, Acceptance goes hand
in hand with Radical Acceptance. In fact, as far I’m
concerned, they are one in the same.
Radical Acceptance doesn’t suggest that we are OK with
what happened, or that we approve of it, any more than it
should tell us to try and minimize that trauma we suffered.
Rather though, it’s all about realizing that something terrible
and horrific did happen to us, but that we are not doomed to
dwell on it forever.
T S 5E
It doesn’t have to dictate our future. We have control of our
future…we do not have control of the past.
There is Hope! Man, that’s a powerful statement isn’t it?! I
mean sit back and really think about that word. Say it to
yourself a few times right now. Embrace that it’s true for
Isn’t that what acceptance is all about? Having hope for a
future we dream of even in light of a traumatic past?
Being able to focus on Hope and look forward to what life has
in store for us because of the mindset we create for
ourselves through the healing process; well that’s just some
amazing stuff right there! If you really embrace that, you can
feel yourself being empowered even as you say those
Hope can be a serious driving force in healing from grief. We
can’t see it right away when we are denying that somebody
sexual y abused us. Or when we are mad as hel because our
parents abandoned us.
We may be able to see some hope when we are bargaining
with ourselves, or God, that if we do this or that, we’l feel
better. But it’s short lived, because coming to the realization
that we can’t bargain our way out of the past can lead back
For that matter, it’s definitely difficult to embrace hope
when we are neck deep in sorrow, feeling like there is no
reason to go on. No reason to think our life can ever turn out
like we once dreamed it would when we were younger.
With Acceptance, it’s a very powerful feeling when you can
rational y look at what happened to you and say to yourself,
“I’m not going to let these event(s) define who I am any
Yes, what happened me to was quite possibly the worst thing
anyone could imagine, but I have to find a way to overcome it,
and I wil ! At this point it’s important to be able to say to
yourself that you are no longer going to “try to heal, try to
accept your past and move on” …it’s about actual y doing it.
You wake up each day going about your life, and any time you
start of feel yourself sliding backwards and doubting your
worth and abilities; you now know you have the power to
combat those feelings.
To quote one of my favorite movies, “The world meets
nobody half way.”
If you want to heal then you have to go after it, and not give
up! You’ve been dealt a hand that nobody should have been
dealt in life, but you are stil here and you are an example of
what it means to be a survivor!
Accept that your past wasn’t the perfect childhood that you
read about in story books; but know you are still worthy of
every good thing in life just as much as anyone else. And go
Of course, there will be rough days, times when you want to
tell your therapist to go jump in a lake. Times when you want
to give up and just stay locked away in your room again, to
feel depressed. Times when you will doubt your abilities.
Look at those feelings with a wise mind, because you know
that you have already survived so much and there’s nothing
in life that you can’t overcome if you put your mind to it.
I hope this series has helped you in some way, and if there’s
one last thing I would like to convey to you friend…Never
Remember, You Rock!
- Matthew Pappas
FIER GF OSEGAT S 5EHT
I N C L O S I N G
As survivors of abuse, any type of abuse, our world was
turned upside down before we ever had a chance to do
anything about it. We live each day with a past that haunts
us, yet we continue striving to find normalcy, enjoyment, and
contentment in our existence.
We would not choose this hand we’ve been dealt, or wish it
on anyone else, but it’s ours and we must own it.
Being a survivor means we overcome, it’s just what we do.
And when we move from Surviving, to Thriving, we can
Friend and Survivor, always know that you are worth fighting
for, no matter that voice in your head or anyone else tries to
You Got This!
C R E D I T S &
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S
This resource would not have been possible if not for the
support and encouragement of some very important people in
Jennifer Hanson, LCSW – The amazing therapist who took me
under her wing of protection and validation, and showed me
that I was a survivor. Thank you for your insight,
encouragement, kind heart, and patience with me. You jump
started this healing journey and I am eternally grateful to you.
Athena Moberg, CPC – Coach, Trusted Friend, and Survivor.
You have shown me more about what it means to be a survivor
than I could have ever imagined. Your message of hope
resonates with me always and your heart for reaching
survivors is beyond compare. I appreciate the support, insight,
long talks, brainstorming, the laughs, tears, and frustration
that we’ve shared as friends. www.AthenaMoberg.com
Don Shetterly Blogger & Author – Dude, you were one of the
first people to show me what sharing is all about. Your blog
helped inspire me to start my own, and I am thankful beyond
words for your friendship and encouragement. You are an
inspiration, beacon of hope, and light for survivors across the
Kami Lingren, Blogger & Author – Thank you so much for your
friendship and support on this blogging journey we are both
on. Your encouragement, kind heart, and will to survive and
thrive each day with chronic pain is inspiring. Rise Above!
Wes & Mike, Bloggers & Podcasters – My Partners in crime
in the Mental Health Podcasting community. Thank you both
for your friendship and encouragement as we share our
stories using our voice to help reach as many as possible
with the message of validation and hope! Wes –
www.AudioRising.com and Mike www.MikesOpenJournal.com
The Survivor Community – I could write another book just
talking about the amazing community of support that I have
grown to know, appreciate, love, and depend on. There are so
many of you that interact with me through email, social
media, or comments on the blog, and I could not be more
humbled to call you all friends and fellow survivors. Each and
every day you are there for me, as I strive to be there for you,
as we navigate our healing journey’s. #NoMoreShame
IVVRU SRO F
FIER GF OSEGAT S 5EHT
I hope you’ll consider joining me on this healing journey by
checking out my blog & podcasts, and following me on social
Let’s Rock Our Survivor Journey Together
Surviving Grief, was written to encourage and validate all who have survived the trauma of abuse. Grieving our past is an essential part of healing, and working through that grieving process can be difficult, confusing, and scary. It is my desire that this book will help you to work through your past, understanding that each step in the grieving process is important in it's own way and should be experienced in it's own time. There is no "right way" to heal from abuse. We are all different and unique and therefore our healing will be unique to us and different from any one else. The way we experience each emotion, allowing ourselves to sit with each one for as long as necessary, will equip us in the future to better understand our emotions. Grief is not a one time process, and it's very common to go back through the various stages over and over, but each time we can take heart that we have survived and learned more about ourselves. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and narcissistic abuse, working through the grief process was incredibly frustrating but in the end, coming to Acceptance is a very freeing, validating, feeling. This book explains what each emotion feels like, and the importance of allowing yourself to embrace the process, and validate you 100% along the way. I hope that you fill find this resource helpful and encouraging as we explore Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I believe in you and I know that you can make it through this process! You deserve to heal!.