Healing and Getting Closure after Harassment at Work
Closure is ultimately going to come when you realize the harassment wasn’t your fault.
You likely already know this in your head. But do you know it in your heart? Because here’s the trick: when you truly, deeply start to realize it is not your fault you’ll also start to realize it is not your responsibility to have the “perfect response.”
When you start to think about it— it’s pretty freeing. It means you don’t have to pretend to be “tough” anymore. It means you don’t have to know every last thing about HR processes, the definitions of harassment across states, or investigation protocol in order to know you were harassed. It means it’s okay to hurt. To fall apart. To get angry. To quit.
To let go of the hurt, you’re going to need a plan to heal. Ultimately, healing is something you’re going to have to do — and yes, it’s okay to be angry that this is on you to figure out. As with everything hard in life, you will grow from this experience. It’s our hope by creating this guide it helps you minimize the adverse impact of the situation and possibly grow favorably as a person.
Here are some tips:
Recognize this is a process
What do you want to feel at the end of the month? At three months? At six months? A year? What do you think will help you get there? Take some time to journal about this — and to decide — how do you want this experience to shape how you understand the world? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? What does growth look like from here?
Find space in your life to grieve
Chances are, you’re busy. And maybe you’re the type of person who would rather pretend like the harassment didn’t happen than spend time grieving it (let’s be real, this is most people). Oftentimes the most severe anxiety, anger, and long-term effects of harassment comes when we don’t take the time to realize we’re hurt. This doesn’t mean you need to sit around and wallow in it – but it does mean finding 15 minutes a day – or a couple hours a week – to safely feel your feelings can help speed the healing process.
Figure out what a “care team” looks like.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be an official thing, but you do need to figure out who your people are. Who has your back and makes you feel safe at work? Who can you talk to that won’t judge you in your personal life? Do you need a therapist?
Learn how to SELF-SOOTHE
When you’re actively experiencing trauma (which harassment and its aftermath can certainly cause) it can feel completely unsafe to be in the present moment or what some people call “grounded.” At the same time, finding the ground under your feet is essential to healing. Find ways to get grounded, even if it only lasts for a minute at a time. Meditation classes and apps can help.
At work, you’ll need some strategies to do this undetected. Consider box breathing (this practice comes from the Marines: breathe in for a count of four, hold your breathe for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and then repeat). Or if that doesn’t work, try sitting down — feel your feet flat on the floor, your back against the back of the seat, your butt on the bottom of the seat, and slow your breathing down.
Art and music are natural forms of resilience
Consider things like singing, painting, pottery, knitting, crochet, needlework, wordwork… the list goes on. Art helps us to express what is buried deep inside us without having to put words into it. Don’t worry about making something “pretty” – think instead about how to release.
You may also consider putting together a healing music list. These are the songs that make you feel cared for – that tell you it’s all going to be OK. Then, if you’re having a hard time you can always put on your music to come back down to earth. The process of looking for “the right songs” can be healing too.
Write it out
Take the time to write about what you’re going through. This can take the form of writing a hypothetical “chapter of your memoir” or you can also just try something called “morning pages” (link) where each morning you write for three minutes straight without lifting up your pen to get your energy cleared and out on paper.
Many people also find writing a letter to the person who harassed you to be healing. After the harassment is over, you may not have access to or you may not feel safe talking directly to the person who harassed you. This can make it hard to find closure. Try writing them a letter and then burning it – sending it up into time and space to find them when they are ready.
Work it out
Intensive workouts (like running) can help you release anger – while soothing workouts (like yoga) can help you to calm your nervous system.
When things are bad, it can be so easy to only see the bad things. Taking time each day to write down one or more things that you are grateful for can shift your mindset and remind you that there are still – even in the midst of all this pain – wonderful things in your life.
Pay it forward
Having been through such an awful process — you’re coming out the other end wiser than you were before. Don’t bottle up your experience with shame. Let others know what you’ve been through and let them know they can count on you.
You can also choose to share your story with people who are going through the same thing by submitting it to ihollaback.org and you can sign up to be a bystander in incidences of online harassment at iheartmob.org.
This guide is evolving. If you have tips and tricks you’d like to share here that got you through rough times – email us at [email protected]