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Emerging from the Cleft in the Rock

Trauma rips a person wide open and uncovers past wounds they didn’t even realize they had, while at the same
time layering new wounds onto an already-wearied soul. When the trauma presents itself in the form of repeated relational abuse and marital betrayal, a victim’s entire universe continues to spin madly. Nothing can stop this head-long dive unless the abuse is eliminated, to be replaced with healing love.

I often turn to Sacred Scripture for comfort and inspiration as I continue to traverse my own healing journey.
When I recently opened my Bible at random, I came upon these words:
I said, ‘I wish I had wings like a dove!
Then I could fly away and be at rest.
Yes, I would stay in the desert
I would quickly find a shelter from the raging wind and storm.’
(Ps. 55:6-8)

And that’s just what I’ve done. I’ve found shelter from the storm, beneath God’s protective wings (Ps. 91:4).
I’m in a safe space now, but it took too many years for me to get there.

I’ve hidden, but not always in healthy ways. Isolation is a natural result of betrayal trauma and domestic abuse,
for a variety of reasons such as shame, guilt, avoidance of the truth, depression, an erosion of self-worth, and
sheer exhaustion.

To name just a few.

When a person’s sense of safety is ripped out from under them, it taints their entire lives. Nothing feels secure
any longer.

Not even the self.

Especially not the self.

Reality becomes surreal as a result of prolonged trauma. Our beliefs about the very nature of our lives, futures,
and even the world itself are interrupted and often contradicted. Everything has been turned inside-out, upside
down, and scattered like the inside of a snow globe. The intense betrayal of domestic abuse changes the story
we assumed we were a part of, turning our fairy tale into a nightmare.

Disassociation is common among trauma victims, and it’s the cause of a sense of unreality in one’s daily life. It
interferes with memory as well as cognitive functioning, and is such an important topic that I plan to discuss it
in depth in a future article.

For decades I wandered through my life in what felt like a fog, due to disassociation and the traumatic memory
loss that causes betrayal blindless—partnered with the continued shock of cognitive dissonance.

My relationship was good … my relationship was bad …

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it
was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of
Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing
before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

In the midst of continuous heart-shattering trauma, I hid in the cleft of the rock. I flew to the wilderness of my
inner self, and I didn’t let my loved ones near, including the safe ones who longed to help me.

I couldn’t let them draw close to me—not because they weren’t safe, but because I wasn’t safe.
Or at least I didn’t feel safe, deep inside myself.

Paradoxically, the only one I would let into my innermost chambers was my abuser, during the “love-bombing”
or “grooming’ stage of the abuse cycle.

That’s the nature of the intense and perverse psychological torture of domestic violence. We’re all social
creatures, designed for relationship with one another (Gen. 2:18). Yet when we’re being abused, social
relationships become fragmented and even dissolve.

And then, with a dreadful sense of hopeless horror, we suddenly realize we have only one relationship left.

With our abuser.

I hunkered down inside myself. I was like a dove, finding myself in the wilderness of my inner turmoil, alone
and frightened, with two broken wings. I had to find a safe place to rest and recuperate—but where?

Take these broken wings
And learn to fly again
Learn to live so free
When we hear the voices sing
The book of Love will open up and let us in
(Broken Wings, Mr. Mister)

Yet I continued to cower in the cleft in the rock, alone and isolated, where I could weep and no one would see
me—because I could never allow my loved ones to realize the depths of my pain and anguish. I withdrew to the
cleft in the rock, safe from the incoming tide and the furious ocean storms that I knew would keep coming,
again and again, as predictable as the tides themselves. My little rocky cleft was so small only I could squeeze
into it, with my two broken wings pressed close to my sides.

Alone. Isolated. Where no one could hurt me any longer.

Alone. Lonely.

My loved ones walked along the beach, laughing and having fun and enjoying the sun that would never reach
me, deeply hidden as I was.

They searched for me, they called to me. “Come then, my lovely one, come” (Song of Songs 2:10), yet I didn’t
listen. I couldn’t hear, I was completely deaf amidst my blindness. The rock walls surrounding me were thick,
and it would be too risky to crawl out of the cleft of the rock. I couldn’t bear to expose myself even to reach the
safe people in my life who were longing to draw me close—to hug me, to bind up my wounds with their love
and support.

I was terrified that if I left the cleft in the rock where I’d fled, the tide might sweep me away. Surely I’d drown,
or faint from the sheer pain of my broken wings—a pain I could keep in the background as long as I remained
tucked away, safe in my isolation.

Yet I was tucked away with my wings pressed so close they were losing strength, losing their gift of flight.
Healing seemed more and more remote.

Come then my love,
my lovely one, come.

The only way to recover from trauma is to allow those wings to stretch. Yes, it hurts. A lot. But so, too, does
childbirth—yet the rewards are profound.

Rebirth is just as painful as birth—and just as magnificent. When I was able to stop hunkering within myself,
willing to thaw from disassociation and numbness, I began to hear the call. My Divine Bridegroom had been
gently singing to me all along, through the voices of my safe loved ones.

My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock.
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.
(Song of Songs 2:14)

My face has been darkened and marred from carrying a shame that hasn’t even belonged to me; from complete
heartbreak and a sense of disbelief; from the minimization of my story, which then accumulates in my physical
body in toxic ways; and from such severe cognitive dissonance that I can barely make sense of anything else in
my life.

But then my Divine Bridegroom sings to me again. He sings to me in the voices of those who surround me with
their love, with their encouragement and healing strength. He tells me that although I may be dark, although I
may be exhausted from tending another’s furious outbursts and poisonous tirades while neglecting my own
emotional health, I am still beautiful (Song 1:5-6). Through the caring and empathetic love of my safe people,
He has shown me His own love.

And that’s what I’ve needed most.
My Beloved lifts up his voice,
He says to me,
‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard
in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,
in the coverts of the cliff,
show me your face, let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.’
(Song of Songs 2:10-14)

As a domestic abuser survivor, advocate, and author, Jenny duBay knows what a huge impact intimate partner violence (IPV) has on an individual. She founded Create Soul Space to help cultivate awareness of domestic violence within a Catholic setting. Jenny is associated with Catholics for Family Peace and works with various organizations within the Catholic Church to spiritually support victims and survivors of domestic violence. Author of the Create Soul Space and Prodigal Parishioner blogs, Jenny also writes for Missio Dei along with various other Catholic publications. Her upcoming book, Don't Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns: A Catholic's Guide to Domestic Abuse will be published soon.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Jenny, how I needed your reflection this morning. Thank you for your pure and genuine openness about our shared trauma and lives as wounded loving women. Thank you for providing me safe words to encourage and strengthen me in a confusing, tumultuous relationship. when my heart hurts, my gut hurts and I am ill. God be praised for Hope’s Garden ministry which supports my healing journey. so exhausting. So much, carried so deep, no one can ever know the betrayal of hopes, and dreams. I will not be afraid to come out of the rock cleft where I hide too. God bless you everyday.

    1. Mary Ann, I am so sorry that you are hurting and yet, I too, am assured that our Lord sees our suffering; He knows it intimately. May our Lord bless you with His comfort today.

    2. Mary Ann, thank you for sharing your story and comments. I’m so glad the article was healing for you. I understand just what you mean about the sheer exhaustion of it all, but then I remember how Jesus knows as well, and it brings me comfort. Have you ever watched The Chosen TV show? In season 3, episode 5, Jesus heals the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. After He heals her, as she tells Him about her suffering, He takes her face in His loving hands and says with the utmost compassion on His face, “You must be so exhausted.” She nods in agreement, so grateful that finally someone understands. I visually return to this scene in my mind often, and it always makes me cry with gratitude for His love and understanding. Jesus our Divine Bridegroom is truly walking with us!

      If you’d like to see the clip of that scene, I can send a YouTube link. May our loving Bridegroom bless you, Mary Ann!

  2. What a beautiful reflection of hope, dignity, and love. I am a survivor of sexual abuse, from my childhood, and it’s taken 57 years to get where I am at today. Only yesterday did I meet with my confessor/director, to finally reach a level of allowing our Blessed Mother to take my hand and help me to heal. The image that I was given yesterday reflects a lot of what the words of Song of Songs shares, and this is what has touched me so much. My image was of one tumbling down a steep cliff side, only to land firmly on my two feet. Standing there, I see to one side a pathway leading into a deeper journey and being called out by name to Come! This beautiful reflection has helped me to give in to the “Come” and I am beginning a new journey, a new chapter in my life…a chapter and journey of healing and redemption. I have carried heavily within myself a dark and ugly image of myself, one that was unworthy to be loved, as child, young girl, woman, and mother. This has been the most painful and difficult journey to encounter. But today I can say, after much prayer, guidance, help, and reflection, that I am becoming one that is called “Lovely, beautiful, gentle, tender, worthy, Beloved! These words wash over me and rest gently upon my heart. I pray for you all and Thank you so very much for sharing your words of hope, of understanding, of love.

    1. Mary, thank you for sharing your story. You’re such a strong, resilient survivor, and I appreciate they beautiful visual reflection you gave us. May God bless you and keep you!

    2. Mary, may God bless you and keep you! Thank you so much for sharing your traumatic journey; your testimony has enriched my soul and has helped me in my own healing journey. I’m so glad to hear you’re on the road to healing now, walking alongside Jesus our Bridegroom. Our loving Mother perpetually guides us to her Son, and that’s such a blessing. When we take her hand, when we allow her to lead us to the true source of life and healing, we can then hear her Son calling to us: “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. For see, the winter is past!”

  3. Jenny and Mary, thank you. you remain in my heart and daily prayers for restoration of wholeness, feeling beautiful,cherished and clinging to Jesus, bridegroom of our souls. Jenny, I have been trying to access the episode of the Chosen you referenced.To imagine the Lord acknowledging the exhaustive pain many women experience is a comfort I cling to. I just want to thank you again as I reread your blog and all comments. Truly, the ministries of Hopes Garden have saved my life thus far ….the intimacy is so trustworthy and mutual respect for each other is life sustaining. I am worthy of respect ……I had been stripped of this. Peace in Jesus name.

  4. oh.my word Jenny, I found the scene from The Chosen,where Jesus encounters Veronica and speaks to her and heals her. I have imprinted this in my heart and mind to keep as a precious jewel. It is a balm to my body and soul when I am hurting from post traumatic memories and believe me, those wounds and pain still sting and ache at times. Thank you again. May St. Benedict intercede for you and your ministry on his feast day today. Mary, ever precious faithful mother,thank you for Jesus. Jesus, I adore you …..God, the Father bestow your blessings on the faithful.Amen

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