A Healing Manifesto: How to Help a Survivor Move On Without Damaging Her

How to Help a Survivor Get Over the Trauma & Grief

By: Susan Deborah Schiler

Surviving sociopathic or narcissistic abuse is a challenge the majority of us do not understand. The survivor is usually a female and she feels all alone. The months leading up to and following her escape are perilous. The sociopath moves on, usually with the sympathy and support of most of her friends and family, while she is left shattered in a thousand fragile pieces.

She may once have been strong and successful, but living with a sociopath shreds her soul to such an extent that it's hard enough just to throw one leg over the bed and get up to start a new day. She may once have had no problem earning income, but a relationship with a sociopath has shredded so much of her self-confidence that she must start over from scratch and she is chronically fatigued.

It's NOT her fault! She's NOT being a drama queen.

She needs to be understood. It begins with education.

If she's lived with a sociopath for a number of years, it's likely that her body is suffering ill health and it's a fight to survive, especially if enough medical resources are not available. Fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases, joint pain, inflammation, and cancer are commonly associated with living with a sociopath, long-term.

She's scared and she's feeling that she's damaged goods, with nearly no hope for a happy life. She can't imagine living a happy life. She needs to know that her emotional distress is temporary, even transformational, and that it's going to be okay… that her BEST LIFE is up ahead.


While the number of survivors emerging from abuse are swelling dramatically in numbers (sociopaths are 4% of the population, or 1 out of 25 people), there aren't enough pastors, counselors, and therapists who are specifically trained in helping a survivor of sociopathic or narcissist abuse.

Jesus, himself, was just a common working man. It's the common, ordinary people who have helped me the most in recovering and healing from sociopathic abuse. So don't be afraid if someone comes to you with an unusual story of brokenness, abuse, and you don't know what do say or do!

She may be too afraid to come to you. She may just quietly leave church or quit attending services.

Here are some practical tips that you can do to help a survivor of sociopathic abuse, no matter what your training or background have been:

  • Listen to her. She's been silent for a long time. She may need to unravel right before your eyes.
  • Believe her. Even if it seems incredible. Sociopaths are the most charming and clever liars you can imagine… in fact, you can't imagine how good they are at lying. Survivors of narcissistic abuse need to tell the truth, even if though no one wants to believe them.
  • Don't offer to correct her.  The most common tendency is to blame the victims…. don't fall for the temptation. Unless you have survived living with a sociopath, you don't know how complicated her journey has been.
  • Don't pity her or assume that she's weak and flawed, because to survive living with a sociopath she must be a very strong, intelligent person. It takes every bit of creativity, resilience, and patience to endure the unseen abuse that takes place behind closed doors.
  • Respect her. It took a lot of guts for her to survive what she endured and to attempt to rebuild her life from the ashes.
  • Honor her. Appreciate her strengths and the value she offers the world. Remind her that she is valuable to your community and that she has tremendous gifts. Tell her often that her life is only beginning a new chapter, a BETTER chapter… her BEST yet!
  • Encourage her. Tell her over and over again, "You're going to make it. I'm here for you, until you get your life back."
  • Pray for her. Her faith may be shredded to pieces, along with the loss of everything and everyone in her life. I've got some powerful two-minute prayers on this page that will make an incredible difference!
  • Restore her inner spirit. Her innermost being is crippled with scars, brokenness, and bruises invisible to the physical eye. She needs gentle inner healing.
  • Do NOT attempt to cast out demons or to begin with addressing her "issues". I repeat, do NOT make her restoration contingent on personal responsibility. That will come later – much later!  YOU are the first responder, if she has come to you. If you are unavailable to help, take her to someone who you know will help. Example: In the physical realm, if you are the first reponsder to a drowning victim, you administer CPR and dial 911 instead of coaching the victim to swim closer to the beach.
  • BLESS HER spirit. Speak words of life!
  • Don't give her marriage advice and don't give her examples of "normal" marriage success stories. They do NOT apply to living with a sociopath or a narcissist. Those stories, books, and tips have only made her life more miserable – do NOT share your own stories unless you, too, have survived a narcissist or a sociopath in your life!
  • Laugh a lot. Tell jokes to make her laugh. Watch funny movies with her. Send her little gifts and cards that will bring a smile to her face. I'm compiling more G-Rated Fun ideas on this page, and please feel free to contribute your own! The most important thing, is don't let her hunker down in her pain cave!
  • Learn from her. Be willing to be wrong. If you're not a survivor of sociopathic or narcissistic abuse, chances are you will be wrong a good many times, if you attempt to counsel her. Even if you're a therapist. Don't compound the abuse with bad advice. She's survived this far, this long, without your advice and deep down inside she has all the answers, because Papa God lives within her and she has ALL of heaven's resources at her disposal… she just needs to be guided to the treasure within.
  • Accept her boundaries (and you're own). She's going to be extra sensitive for a long time. She might seem unable to trust or flighty or withdrawn. Be gentle with her. EARN her TRUST.
  • Be very careful not to play a "superior-than-thou" role. If you don't understand what she is saying, consider that she's learning and growing and transforming at a rapid pace. She's the expert of what she needs, at that particular moment in time.
  • Touch her gently. Soft words and kind touches knit together the frazzled nerves and somehow make her feel that it's going to be all right. A hand on her shoulder or upper back, a hug (if she's open), and a long cuddle (if she knows you well and is ready) can make a huge difference.
  • Help her financially. If you can raise funds to help her get off to a fresh start, she will be grateful. She is one of the "widows" that James speaks of in chapter one, verse twenty-six… true religion is looking after the widows and orphans.
  • Don't tell her she's backsliding if she doesn't go to church. Church may have been a major cause contributing to the abuse, and there may be reasons you are unaware of that cause her to need space from church.
  • Help care for her children, if appropriate. They are survivors of the abuse, too, even if they are too young to understand abuse dynamics. The healing power of love and loving touches and words go a long way. Never feel that you have too little to offer a survivor. You would be amazed how much value one loving touch can bring!

Thank you for reading this healing manifesto. You are a very special person indeed, to want to help survivors and I cannot thank you enough!

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  

Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2010 to 2016 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber T July 26, 2016 at 10:48 am

Thank You so much Susan.. God definitely sent me to your website today! I have been feeling like a crazy person for years now and I recently started having panic attacks because I knew something was wrong and sure enough everything hit the fan about 2 months ago and my life has been in shambles ever since but today I choose to Grin!!!


Susan Schiller July 26, 2016 at 8:19 pm

You sound like a woman I’d love to know better, Amber!

Thank you for sharing!


Joyce September 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Well, my friend, here I am…hunkered down in my pain-cave, making the first tentative steps out on my own. The grieving was unexpected as was the fear that he might come back, or I might have to face him. What you have described was my life.   From confidence to ineptitude, low self-esteem and dropping of all the things I loved to do because it was never good enough. Pray for me. I'm free – for now –. Pray I can sustain and stay that way. Hugs



Susan Schiller December 24, 2015 at 8:51 am

As we've walked through this journey together, Joyce, I am totally rejoicing at the favor of God in your life and how merciful he has been to you. You have a heart of obedience and love for Him that is matchless! How big your soul is becoming, filled with so much beauty, joy, and peace. You are illumined by so much Truth that you radiate His presence everywhere you are. You are a masterpiece! The King's Bride!


Carol June 30, 2015 at 12:33 am

I'm away from a toxic relationship for 2 weeks now. I pretend to others because I'm tired of the preaching about how  better off now. After a week he went back an old girlfriend and I can't beg him to come back now and I can't stop thinking about h. I just want to die I'm tired of trying to be tough


Susan Schiller June 30, 2015 at 3:18 am

The first few weeks of freedom don’t feel like freedom, usually. There are multiple levels of grief, but also chemical trails in the brain that may keep you tied to the pathological person. I suggest you listen to Dr. Rhonda Freeman at http://loveyourstory.org/neuroscience-pathological-love-relationships/. She may help you to understand how normal it is to feel as you do, and it may give you hope that you will heal, in time!

You’re not alone, Carol, and it will get better. You will be whole and happy again, and you don’t have to be tough. Most people will not understand what you have been through, and it’s probably best not to try and help them understand until you have more time and space to heal. When people don’t understand, they often bring more harm to your soul than they realize.

There are several Facebook groups that help. One I recommend is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/After-Narcissistic-Abuse-There-is-Light-Life-Love/114835348601442?fref=ts

It helps to keep educating yourself about this type of abuse, because knowledge replaces fear.

You deserve to be loved and to love someone who isn’t just in it to drain you and suck you dry.

Of course you are not better off without him! He presented you a dream, even a fairy tale, and you thought you had what you always wanted. You are grieving more than the loss of a man, you are grieving the loss of what you thought you had but never did. And there is a profound betrayal in that double abandonment. 

Take all the time you need to grieve, Carol, and don’t listen to anyone who increases your pain level. Sometimes you have to find new friends, and those friends may appear out of nowhere and may be the least likely people you ever imagined! Be open, but always beware that your pain makes you vulnerable to predators. They feed on your pain! They will attempt to finish you off. But there are many truly good people, so keep your heart open for new friends!

The BEST time of your life is on the way, and I’m so glad that you are educating yourself about what happened to you. It never has to happen again!

I send you love and light, hugs!


Amber T July 26, 2016 at 10:51 am

I can relate and I hope you are doing much better now Carol, it has been 2 months for me and I have had a roller coaster of emotions



Missy Bell October 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

This is fantastic!  You are an amazing woman.  I have liked it for reference, although I hope I am never in a situation where I need it. I am slightly familiar with narcicism but thankfully, that person is gone from the life of someone I care about deeply and she has moved past feelings of abuse.

I admire all that you do.

Missy Bell


Susan Schiller October 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

Missy, thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad your friend has moved on with her life!


Catherine James October 14, 2013 at 7:16 am

Thank you for the insite,  as an employer,  I find that this is definately some good background information to have.


Susan Schiller October 14, 2013 at 7:24 am

You’re welcome, Catherine… I hope it comes in handy as a reference. Thanks for stopping by today 🙂


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