What do you do when you’ve healed, and healed, and HEALED, and worked and tried and pushed and dug and crystallized... and it still hurts. When it’s a seeping pain just underneath your soul that pokes ugly tendrils of hurt through when you least expect it. That poisons the water and takes your breath away when you you’re not looking. That slowly fills the air around you, the tiniest stench of natural gas that you don’t even notice until the room is full of it, and you can’t open a window fast enough to let the air back in. What do you do then, when it’s been years? Ten long years. When you put your trauma in a box and define it and eventually, it holds you back and stops you from growing. All the things I’ve never said before, because I didn’t really understand. All the labels I’ve never felt comfortable wearing before because I’m uncomfortable with wearing labels that have pain attached. What if my own pain is actually incomparable to that of the people that need those labels, that wear these labels as a badge that says “please don’t hurt me, for I’ve had enough already”. So this is a label I have, that I try on and shrug off and leave in a corner, unable to look at it lest it grinds itself into me and becomes part of me. A victim of domestic violence. That’s the label. A long time ago, a lifetime ago, I cast a spell. Words are spells, you see. the labels we wear have power. The first spell ever cast on you was the name you are given. Words have weight and their meaning sits in the universe around us, changing the flow of life like rocks in water. I put the words out there, and now I need to take them back. I need to temper the spell I cast with another, more grounded spell. one I’ve been working on for years now. I spent many words, and tears, and narratives, on moulding the image of my late husband into the person I wanted him to be. None of us are singular. The picture of him I weaved into words is an abstract, but I defended him from his own actions at every turn. A good guy. A man’s man. I fed into the narrative of good men under stressful circumstances, who– oops!– sometimes do horrific, unspeakable things to their families. I was wrong. I was wrong, but I put that out into the world and made it real. I took control of my own narrative and led it in entirely the wrong direction. So here’s the truth. Tony was abusive. He controlled me in every way he could, and when I showed the tiniest sign of breaking free from that control, he doubled down and twisted and turned and eventually cleaved my entire world in two. He abused me emotionally, verbally, psychically and financially. People I know and love witnessed this abuse firsthand and did nothing. I lived it and did nothing. He was a narcissist and, as narcissists do, he couldn’t just leave. He had to leave a calamitous trail of insurmountable grief on his way out. There are so many things I don’t know. Was he a good man, a good guy? Can someone be a good person, in some facets, and still abuse their wives? Of course they can. We are all good in some ways and terrible in others. But that is affording him a forgiveness he does not deserve. It’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I can hate him. It feels bitter and brittle to say, and leaves an acrid taste in my tongue, but... I’m glad he’s dead. With all the wake of pain he left behind, he did me a favour. He was sick, and in pain, and mentally ill. But we are allowed to hate people who are mentally ill, for who they are, the same way we’re allowed to love them. I’ve wrestled with the concept of hating someone who was just acting out their pain for a long time. Can I hold the actions of that day against him, if he was clearly not in his right mind? For so long now, forgiveness and compassion has been the only way I can move forward in the world. But even if I don’t hate him for his pain, for that day, I can hate him for everything else. I can hate him for locking a screaming three year alone in a room for twenty minutes. I can hate him for pouring drinks over my head. I can hate him for throwing me across the room with both my babies watching. I can hate him for pinning me against a wall with his hand around my throat. I can hate him for every time he hit me. I can hate him for every smashed plate, every time he changed the passwords on our bank accounts, every time he called me a fucking cunt of a thing. Every time he abused me and degraded me and pulled me into a smaller and smaller circle where he was in control and I very much was not. Words are powerful. This is how I change my narrative. This is how I let go of all the ways I hate him. By balancing it out into the world, by casting a spell where he’s the bad guy this time. I talked to my psych about how the world saw Tony after he died. A god. A fallen god who plummeted toward the earth with me as his wings of lead. About how I was happy to take that narrative. How I helped. That narrative was already there, woven through the conversations of his friends and family. And I compounded it by putting it out into the world. I perpetuated it and gave the words weight and cast glamours over his ugliness until the illusion I cast was so strong that I believed it myself. My psych tells me I gave every right to be angry at him, but I also need to forgive him. I thought I had. But what I had forgiven was the craven image of him that I helped to make. I forgive the good, mentally ill man who snapped. Who I can’t forgive is the abusive arsehole that ripped me from the world I lived in, a world where things were fair and people were always good, deep down. Words have power. I put a spell out into the world and now I need to undo it. Before I can forgive him, I need to see him as he really was. And this is where that begins.