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Brianna's Journey (Part 2 of 3)

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

Last time we heard about Brianna's abusive relationship with Ryan and how she escaped to IHO with her infant son, Jackson. And now her story continues....

Soon after I arrived at IHO, Heather introduced herself as my Women’s Counsellor. She explained she would be there for support while I stayed at the shelter. We meet at least once a week and talk about my relationship with Ryan so I can heal from the abuse. We talk about how I’m handling trauma and I’m learning to care for myself. I didn’t know what self-care could be and Heather is helping me to believe it’s ok to put myself first sometimes. There is even child care available when we meet, so I can focus on healing while Jackson plays with other kids.

Heather is also helping me learn to manage all the steps in setting up my independent life. When I left Ryan, I didn’t have our birth certificates or my ID because he locked them away from me. Heather supported me in making the first phone call to replace my essential documents, and now I know how to replace everything on my own! It’s empowering to know that I don’t need someone else to get the things I need. Heather also helped me to receive Ontario Works; what a relief to know I’ll have a source of income until I’m back on my feet.

Life at the shelter isn’t always perfect, though. Some nights my emotions are too much to handle, but there’s always someone here to listen. And they don’t mind if I cry! Sometimes, life at IHO is even a little fun. Last week we had a birthday party for one of the kids. I helped put up balloons and streamers and her mom baked a cake. All the kids had a great time celebrating together after dinner.

Every week, the two Women’s Counsellors hold a group for the moms where we get to do fun things and talk about healthy relationships. I coloured my first “adult” colouring book, and we learned how to make bath bombs (for my self-care time!). My favourite group was when we played healthy relationship bingo. We talked about how to identify red flags and traits to watch out for, like using anger to control. It reminded me of Ryan. We also talked about green flags. Now I have concrete ideas of what I want to look for in a partner — like honesty, trustworthiness, and someone who negotiates difficult decisions. It made me feel really hopeful about the future.

Two smiling moms holding their babies

Since Ryan was so controlling, he wouldn’t let me take classes before Jackson was born. I never had the chance to learn much about babies. Lisa, the Child & Youth Counsellor, put me in touch with a public health nurse who came to the shelter to teach me about Jackson’s health and development. We talked about what he needs to eat and how much. I learned about the stages of his development and what he is going to need as he grows. Lisa and the nurse also helped me find some activities for Jackson to start socializing with other kids. I’m confident that I can keep supporting Jackson as he grows up because I know so much more about everything he needs! He’s so happy when staff and other moms chat with him. He’s surrounded by people who are happy to see him every day. When I see Jackson thriving at IHO, I know that leaving Ryan was the right decision.

Lisa and I talk a lot about parenting and the behaviours I want to model for Jackson. I want him to know about healthy relationships and respect. I like talking to other moms, too. We learn a lot from each other and it’s nice to have friends who really understand what I’ve been through. Ryan kept me pretty isolated from everyone I knew, but now I’m building a whole new support network.

Recently, I met with Nora. She’s the Transitional & Housing Support Worker. She helped me fill out an application for housing so I can have a place I can afford after IHO. We talked a lot about where I can be safe when I have my own place. It feels like a dream — I’ve never had my own place. It’s still a bit scary to think about it being just me and Jackson. Right now, I’m happy I can stay at IHO a bit longer. The staff are supportive and Jackson and I have so much fun with the other families here. We’re both thriving for the first time in a long time; IHO is just what we need right now.

Brianna's Journey will conclude with Part 3 in the next IHO newsletter!

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