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Navigating Recovery After a Day in Family Court: A Guide to Self-Compassion and Healing

Explore practical tips and exercises for recovering after a challenging day in family court.

Receiving a date to appear in family / divorce court, alongside an abusive ex, can evoke a wave of emotions—fear, anxiety, and perhaps even a sense of dread.

For survivors of domestic abuse, the courtroom can feel like both a battleground and a sanctuary, a place where justice is sought and wounds are reopened. For some, it is a place where abuse is continued... or at least, the attempt is there.

If you've recently endured a day in family court or you are facing one soon, it's crucial to prioritise your well-being and engage in self-compassion as you navigate the experience.

Here's a comprehensive guide to help you recover and heal after facing the challenges of the courtroom:

Pre-Court Tips:

  • Expect a Bruising Day: Anticipating a day in family court can be mentally and emotionally draining. Prepare yourself for potential triggers and remember that it's okay to feel overwhelmed. Allow yourself to acknowledge and validate your emotions without judgment.

  • Self-Compassion Exercise: Before stepping into the courtroom, take a moment to engage in a self-compassion exercise. Write a letter from your future self, offering words of encouragement, love, and understanding. Remind yourself of your strength and resilience, and reassure yourself that you are worthy of compassion and care, no matter the outcome. Connect with the future in this exercise, why the court process is relevant to your recovery and freedom.

  • Air Pride and Appreciation: Despite the challenges you may face in court, acknowledge the courage it takes to confront your abuser and seek justice. Take pride in your bravery and resilience, and appreciate the strength it requires to navigate such a difficult experience. Say this out loud - you are a strong, brave and independent person fighting for your future!

During Court:

  • Frame as Resistance: Reframe your presence in court as an act of resistance against further abuse. Recognise that by standing up for yourself and seeking legal protection, you are reclaiming your power and asserting your right to safety and autonomy. The outcome is irrelevant, the act of resistance should be noticed with pride!

  • Focus on Your Future: In moments of distress or uncertainty during court proceedings, remind yourself that every action you take is an investment in your future. Visualise the life you aspire to build free from abuse, and let that vision guide you through challenging moments.

  • Take The Breaks: During breaks in proceedings, prioritise self-care by taking time away from others to focus on soothing breathing exercises or grounding techniques. Allow yourself moments of calm and reflection amidst the chaos of the courtroom. Recognise that this work requires effort, but it is investment into you and you have the power to do it... which you may not have done in the abusive relationship. So use it!

After Court:

  • Expect Triggers: It's normal to experience heightened emotions and triggers in the aftermath of a day in family court. Be gentle with yourself and practice grounding exercises to help center and stabilise your emotions.

  • Plan a Simple Evening: After court, prioritise rest and relaxation by planning a simple evening without too many demands. If you have children, consider sticking on a movie, ordering take-out, or preparing an easy meal like beans on toast - no guilt! Allow yourself the space to decompress and unwind without added stress or pressure.

  • Reflect with Pride: Take time to reflect on your experience in court with self-compassion and pride. Write a journal entry observing the strength and courage you demonstrated in turning up and bearing witness to your truth. Celebrate the power you have revealed to yourself through your resilience and determination.

Recovering after a day in family court is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and support.

The goal is to actively not turn up for abuse.

Remember that you are not alone, and it's okay to reach out for help when needed. By prioritising your well-being and engaging in healing practices, you can empower yourself to navigate the challenges of the legal system and reclaim control over your life.

The goal is to actively not turn up for abuse. You are there, it is awful - yes, but it is your choice and you are your own person. You are choosing what to feel, how to self-care and to notice the pride you have in yourself. Lies may be told, attacks will be expected... but you are resisting letting them penetrate your skin - you are no longer turning up for abuse. You are turning up to fight and to witness your own freedom in action! Good Luck!


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