Rebuilding After an Abusive Relationship

[CW: Covert Narcissism, Emotional Abuse, Covert Manipulation, Relational Abuse]

Leaving an abusive relationship may leave you grappling with an intense mix of emotions. Some of these emotions may be incredibly confusing and difficult to share with others.

I want you to know that it is completely normal to feel this mix of emotions! It is normal to feel both shame and pride, loneliness and freedom, regret and excitement, numbness and vitality, confusion and clarity…they are all a part of what you have been through.

You may also experience an even more confusing set of symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One moment you may feel fine and the next you may find yourself feeling anxious or completely numb. You may find that you frighten easily and that you avoid the outside world.  Perhaps you have trouble sleeping and get caught up in a frenzy of anxious thoughts.


Just know this one thing: healing is possible. You deserve better and you deserve to rebuild.

Rebuilding after an abusive relationship is a journey and not a destination. Regardless of the path you take towards rebuilding, healing means doing the internal work and showing up for yourself over and over again.

Finding Safety

One of the first ways that you can show up for yourself, is by re-establishing a sense of safety. When we are in an abusive relationship our fight, flight, freeze system (the part of our bodies designed to respond to danger) is constantly being activated. That means your body is constantly saying “danger, danger, danger!”. Now that the threat is no longer there, your body needs time to remember what it feels like to be safe. Take this time to find stability and safety. Physically be in a place where you know your ex cannot harm you anymore. Mentally find space to feel safe. This may mean learning how to ground yourself in the present moment, holding yourself tightly to calm your nervous system, or meditating to find stillness…whatever helps you feel that sense of stability and safety.

Allowing for Grief

Once you have established safety, give yourself time to grieve. The grief you feel after leaving the relationship will feel confusing, conflicting and sometimes downright infuriating. Find a way to process this grief rather than hide from it. Feel the emotions as they arise, sit with them. Picture each big emotion like a wave crashing over you, knowing that it will eventually pass...and come back. Showing up for yourself in this moment may mean journaling, mediating, praying, making art, being in nature, dancing, singing, drumming, or moving your body in a joyful way- all the while allowing yourself to feel what you feel.

Processing & Healing Trauma

Finally, the last way that you can show up for yourself is by giving yourself the time and space to process, and heal from, the trauma that you have been through. Processing and healing trauma can be incredibly scary and yet incredibly freeing. You will learn that you are not your trauma. You will learn that what you went through makes you a warrior. You will learn that your story has the power to heal. Know that this is a process and it doesn’t only take time, it takes vulnerability, patience and tenacity. You will feel up, down and sideways along the way, but eventually you will feel things smooth out. You will feel a greater sense of peace and empowerment. You will feel like ‘you’ again.


Author: Kassandra Heap, MC, Registered Psychologist

@kassandra.heap.yyc on Instagram

Kassandra is an associate clinician at Cobb & Associates in SW Calgary. For more information about her and how to book an appointment visit

*Disclaimer: the article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. The author is not liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information obtained through the article. It is your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information, opinion, advice or other content in the article. Please seek the advice of professionals, as appropriate, regarding the evaluation of any specific information, opinion, advice or other content. Never disregard professional advice, including medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read in this article.

Karina Zapata
How to effortlessly make a meaningful and impactful difference

Join the Super Steeper family here!


I have always been an activist — even before I knew what activism really was. When I was a child, all I knew was that I LOVED fighting for things I cared about (my poor parents) and I loved knowing that my actions were making a difference. Whenever I fought for something I cared about and I saw change, whether it was within the conversations I had on a day-to-day basis or on a grander scale, I felt like I was one step closer to fulfilling my life’s purpose.

However, as adults, I think we all know that it isn’t that easy. With such busy lives, it is often difficult to put aside the time or resources to make a meaningful, impactful difference. It’s even difficult to figure out how you want to make a difference and how much it’ll take to get there. There’s such a distinct feeling when it comes to being an activist and choosing where to put your money, where to put your time, where to put your energy, and most importantly, where to put your trust.

I’ve loved Sarjesa since I read this article on the work that Alexandra was doing. It absolutely BLEW MY MIND that she created a business in which people can make a difference simply by continuing to do something they do everyday. With Sarjesa, you don’t need to make a major life change to change lives — you simply just need to continue drinking/buying tea, which is something that so many people already do! When you intentionally choose to switch over from buying your daily tea from Starbucks to buying one box of Sarjesa tea each month, not only are you saving money but you’re committing to changing the lives of women in crisis, which I think is pretty dang cool.


This is why I’m so excited about our new tea subscription! With the Super Steeper Subscription, each month you’ll get a box of tea with a gift from Alexandra delivered right to your doorstep! I’m already a subscription fanatic because I love how easy, convenient, and affordable they are (Spotify rules my life), but the Super Steeper Subscription brings this to another level. My favourite part about this subscription is that, with part of our proceeds going to local women’s shelters, you are committing to a monthly donation to Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society

By spending $20 a month (including shipping) and becoming a subscriber, you will:

  1. Have a month’s supply of your favourite tea (30 servings of loose leaf tea OR 30 biodegradable tea bags - your choice)

  2. Be supporting a small local business that works closely alongside farmers from small, ethical farms, thus supporting small farmers and stepping away from forced labour

  3. Automatically donate $2 a month to the only Indigenous-led women’s shelter in Calgary, Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society

I had the privilege of meeting the amazing women at Awo Taan months ago to speak to them about Sarjesa, and it was so heart-warming to see how much support and love goes into the relationship. The women at Awo Taan are so incredibly grateful for Sarjesa’s undesignated donations because it allows them to cover costs that they otherwise would struggle with. By subscribing to the Super Steeper Subscription, you are ensuring that the women at the shelter are met with proper resources so they can focus on leaving crisis and living fulfilling, happy lives.

Join the Super Steeper family here!

Karina Zapata
National Indigenous Peoples Day: Supporting Indigenous artisans with Indig Inc

It is National Indigenous Peoples Day! At Sarjesa, we aren’t only celebrating the diverse history and culture that Indigenous people bring to our lives and country, but we are acknowledging reconciliation in real, tangible ways. A lot of what we do at Sarjesa is to be better and do better for Indigenous women who have been mistreated; we are working towards a better, safer future for those who need it.

How are you celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day? What are your Calls to Action?

To me, a large part about being an activist is making sure that I’m making necessary lifestyle changes to support communities that have been brought down by oppressive systems and to step away from the things that aren’t serving me or those communities.

Lately, this lifestyle change has emerged in one main form: shopping. There has been a TON of dialogue surrounding shopping and sustainability lately, and rightfully so. But I’ve found that throughout this dialogue, one major detail is missing — a focus on supporting small Indigenous and POC businesses. One of my (many) other projects outside of Sarjesa is creating a racially conscious shopping guide for the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, a non-profit in Calgary with the goal of ending racism through education. Through this work with CanadianCMF, I learned a lot about the importance of being mindful when shopping, having truthful and meaningful conversations surrounding race and consumerism, and supporting Indigenous/POC businesses and artisans.

This is why I am so thrilled to introduce Indig Inc to our audience at Sarjesa! Indig Inc is an online marketplace for Indigenous artisans to sell their work without being exploited or discriminated against. Indig Inc was created by Heather Abbey and Samuel Tipewan, two artisans who saw the potential of Indigenous artisans’ creativity and business goals, but recognized the absence of a platform to support them.

“Our inspiration was to create an online meeting place for artisans and buyers looking for that authentic experience and storyline connection. Indig Inc is a space where the stories of the artisans is weaved into the very fabric of platform, offering an authentic experience in a new way, and connecting people across the globe.”

Indig Inc has a wide variety of products, including art, apparel, home decor, skincare and dry meat — all sold by Indigenous artisans! A few of my favourites are this “We Are Still Here” bracelet by indigenousintentions, this Matriarch Panel Dress by Tammy Beauvis Designs, and this Desert Everyday Blanket by MiNi TiPi.

If you are an Indigenous artisan looking for somewhere safe to sell your work or if you are simply looking to support small businesses and artisans, Indig Inc is exactly where you should be looking.

At Sarjesa, we are strong believers that you can make an impact through small, everyday actions, and this is one of them.

With solidarity,

Karina Zapata
Welcome Karina!

Hi all! I am so excited to be writing this post. My name is Karina Zapata and I’m the newest team member of Sarjesa. I’m joining the team as Marketing Coordinator, meaning you’ll be seeing a lot of me (or, at the very least, a lot of my work) on social media and at community events.


I initially connected with Alexandra through one of my projects, Femme — a platform that empowers and celebrates women through the creative expression of our contributors across Canada. Alexandra attended our launch party and has been such a huge supporter, even before she could truly understand what Femme really was — she just wanted to support women. Immediately, I knew we shared the same vision and had the same mission — to break down oppressive systems, create, and support women in whatever way we can in our work.

As an upper-year journalism student, my passion lies completely in collaborating with and writing about minority communities. Above all, my personal and professional goal is to support marginalized individuals through providing them platforms to share their strong voices that have been stifled by systems

Months after meeting Alexandra, my Femme co-founder and I produced a video and wrote an article about Sarjesa’s work, which can be found on the Calgary Journal. We had an incredibly honest conversation surrounding domestic violence, particularly against racialized communities. In the process of working on the Sarjesa article, I learned that Sarjesa’s funds that go to Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society help women in crisis in smaller yet extremely impactful ways that are oftentimes overlooked, like milk for the babies at the shelter. This is exactly why I love this company.

I can say it again and again, but I am so excited to be joining the Sarjesa team. It’s easy to forget that the purchases you make and the companies you support affect the lives and safety of others, and Sarjesa transforms lives of women in crisis. There truly is nothing better than having a delicious cup of tea, knowing that you’re helping women not return to domestic violence, and engaging in meaningful conversations that can change systems for the better.

Alexandra Daignault
Looking Back
Picking up our first box of inventory in 2017

Picking up our first box of inventory in 2017

It’s been two years since we launched our very first Solidariteas pilot – wow, time has flown. In our pilot, we ran for four months and sold over 1000 units of our product. After taking the summer to rebrand and plan, we launched Sarjesa in December of 2017. A little over a year has gone by, and my oh my have we had some adventures.

We’ve had many good moments like: launching two new flavours of tea; providing our customers with a new biodegradable teabag option; and expanding into many new retail stores. We’ve also had many tough and teachable moments, where we have learned to stand firm in our truth and follow our heart even in moments where it would be so much easier to give into circumstance. It is these moments, ultimately, that have made all the difference. 

We are continually blessed by the love and support of so many people in the community – primarily the women running and accessing the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. Yesterday, I dropped off a donation from our holiday sales of $1300. Our donations are used to support women coming out of domestic crisis, and I am always blown away with how the team at Awo Taan can make single dollar stretch and have an impact.

So this is me reaching out to say thank you. Thanks to all the mentors, coaches, allies, and accomplices who have helped steer us as we grow. Thank you to the farmers and communities who help us make amazing tasting, high quality product. Thank you to the designers, artists and supply companies who have worked hard to help us create our beautiful packaging. Thank you to the amazing community of women standing behind this work, and creating space for us wherever they go; thank you to our retail partners for continuing to advocate for us!  Most of all thank you to our customers for continuing to support us on this journey.

Our “minimum viable product” which was sold in our pilot project at community events, markets, and on our etsy store

Our “minimum viable product” which was sold in our pilot project at community events, markets, and on our etsy store

Our dream at Sarjesa is to create a world where each woman is respected, supported and empowered – living a life free from fear and violence.  Thank you to all those who continue to show us that this is their dream too.

Love & Solidarity,


Alexandra Daignault
Racha El-Dib

My name is Racha El-Dib, and I have started a page called Nadia’s Hope in honour of my sister Nadia who was murdered in a very violent case of domestic abuse in Calgary on March 25th 2018. I have worked with the Calgary Emergency Women’s Shelter to raise funds in honour of her memory, as well as Gems for Gems who has created a scholarship in her name that will be awarded to women who are fleeing domestic abuse situations to help them break the financial ties with their abusers. I have also started a podcast that details my journey since her death, and creating awareness of abusive relationships as well as taboo topics including grief, sexual assault, and body image. My goal is to work with all cultural communities to team together to fight to end the cycle of domestic abuse and bring awareness that this is a fight for every community, and that it doesn’t discriminate regardless of cultural or racial backgrounds, financial status, sexual orientation, age, ableism, and that it is something that can happen to anyone. To create a safe environment for discussions as well as breaking the taboo, is something I will fight for in order for women to have that confidence and ability to leave, knowing they will be supported and helped as they are strong women that need our love and understanding. I am so excited and looking forward to working side by side with Sarjesa and embarking on this journey.

Listen to her podcast here

Alexandra Daignault
Photo Credit: Alex Mitchell

Photo Credit: Alex Mitchell

I was sitting with a very successful colleague a few weeks back we were sharing stories about the industry and she said something that summarized exactly the feeling I couldn’t describe, “most people who are in the industry think it’s me, not we!”. As two indigenous women who are trying to navigate this tree filled path together, she so succinctly put into words how I feel about the work I create with communities, and how hard it can be to sit in a room, or have a meeting, or be at a film festival and listen to someone who makes art with only themselves in mind.

Being able to be an artist, being able to work with my friends and being able to do what I love makes me who I am and brings me so much joy and happiness but as the late Stan Lee says, with great power comes great responsibility. I think it is more then this, when you grow up in am indigenous community whether it is on a reservation or in a city there is something that is instilled in us from a very young age- something that I just assumed everyone else did also. This comes from my mother, my aunties, my older cousins, my Kookem and Moosem: when you have something you share, you offer to others, you welcome people at your table. I have taken this message to heart in all things within my work and how I act.  


As someone who is incredibly privileged to do what I do – we all rise together. We have to because there is enough room for all of us, this means kindness, this means extending opportunity to others, this means hiring indigenous or POC filmmakers, this means trying to expand our circle. I have said and will say it again that we have more then enough talent out there, we have more then enough directors but what we need are people in positions of power. We need indigenous female executive sitting at the table making choices about who gets the green light, about who gets funded, about how gets picked to premiere at Sundance. Until we are allowed access into these spaces, and are given at rightful seat at the table no matter how much talent we all collectively have we will still be held back.

You can watch Alex’s latest film FAST HORSE below

ALEXANDRA LAZAROWICH is a Cree Producer, Director and Screenwriter whose work has premiered at film festivals around the world. She is passionate about telling indigenous stories. Her most recent film FAST HORSE best Short Form Documentary at imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival and can be watched in full at CBC Docs  . Alexandra’s body of work as a director and producer include Indian Rights for Indian Women, Out of Nothing, Cree Code Talker, Empty Metal, INAATE/SE/ and Alvaro. She was also the Creative Director for the new Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta (open October 2018). She directed thirty-one unique audio and video elements for the museum’s new Human History wing illuminating the cultures and histories of the Blackfoot, Cree, Denesųłįné, Dene Tha’, Métis, Nakota and Stoney Nakoda.

You can watch Alex’s latest film FAST HORSE below

Alexandra Daignault
What can we do, as men, to support our sisters?
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My name is Joseph Plant. My black foot name is Aisah pi poom mawa (A Saw Be Boom Mawa), which translates into One Who Plants Seeds and was gifted to me by Roy Bear Chief. I’m an Indigenous man: Cree from the White Bear First Nations and Salish-Kootenay from the Flathead Reservation in Montana. I was raised on Treaty 7 land in and around Lethbridge, AB. In my mid-teens, I moved up to Calgary and for all intents and purposes, have become a proud Calgarian and resident on Treaty 7 territory.

At eighteen, after graduation, I had the opportunity to move to Norway, where I lived in the capital, Oslo for a year. After I arrived back in Calgary, I started a few projects. A pseudo famous band called Anything Goes; helming events for different bars down Seventeenth Avenue; became a bartender turned Internet (Insta-famous) craft cocktail bartender. And finally I landed at Mount Royal University. Here, I was studying Anthropology with a double minor in English and Business, but have since switched Anthropology into the minor slot and my new focus is marketing.

I was able to start a few projects here as well: two clubs called Classic Novels Club and Anthropology Club respectively. I also started Generation Indigenous after receiving a few grants. My work on campus through a program run through the Iniskim Centre and through GENi got me noticed by the Trico Changemakers Studio, where I’ve been working for most of the year (2018). Being at Mount Royal has given me so much opportunity.

This includes meeting the wonderful Alexandra Daignault as well as Sarjesa.

I remember my first meeting with Alexandra! A mutual friend, Hanna, connected us. And the two of us sat down to meet and get acquainted. It was through these meetings that I learned about Sarjesa and the wonderful things they are doing.   

I’ve known Sarjesa’s tea for a long while now. I remember when it used to be called Solidariteas. I’m very proud of what Solidariteas was and what Sarjesa is today. I’m a huge supporter. I drink the brand “Prairie Wilds” nearly daily - the Trico Changemakers Studio has three large jars! I also have my own personal stash of PW at home, but I try not to use it, only on special occasions.

I’m still going through the process of decolonizing myself and learning what it means to be an Indigenous man as well as what it means to be a male in a male-dominated society. Once I arrived at university, I found out that I had very sexist language. And I didn’t know that prior to someone pointing it out to me. So, I’ve learned about my language and realized, there are most likely other parts of me that may be affecting others around me.

Am I a part of those that are creating spaces that are more equitable for racialized women? Or am I a part of the problem?

Yes and yes. Our identities are complicated. And my identity is no exception.

When I think of this mandate, I see support groups coming together, especially support groups for women and girls, and drinking Sarjesa. This tea is for them and it’s also for me.

When I think of Sarjesa, their mandate and Alexandra, I’m reminded of my Kokum (grandmother) and my mother. They’ve done so much for me and treated me so kindly. These lovely Indigenous women protected me from the horrors of poverty and shielded a young boy from the chaos that generally ensues within the lower class context. Though they did their best, they did not escape harm themselves. These women have the strongest shade of resiliency and have braved many storms. They saw some good in the world and have protected it with everything they have.

I want to correct my past behavior; I want to change my language within the areas I enter; I want to treat my fellow human beings with love and respect. I want to do what I can, so that people like my mother can walk in this world freely, without fear. I want her to feel the love I know the world is capable of.

What men can do is firstly, acknowledge that racialized women are at a disadvantage and that there are many spaces in our society where these women are being taken advantage of. The next step would then be to look inwards at ourselves. How are we affecting these spaces and those within it? How are we socializing? Are we trying to gain leverage over people? Are we taking advantage of vulnerability?

If yes to any of these, some work on ourselves is definitely necessary.

Finally, how are we supporting these racialized women? How are we supporting those trying to make a positive change?

More specifically, how are we supporting the amazing women around us?

Everybody has their own way to answer this question, so I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.

For myself, any support I can give to Alexandra and the communities she works with, I’ll be there if it makes sense. I’ll continue to stand in solidarity with these individuals while working on myself to be a better man, as well as a better ally to my fellow people.

Thank you, Alexandra and thank you for Sarjesa. The world will be forever grateful and may my stock of Prairie Wilds be always full.

Joe Plant

Alexandra Daignault
Introducing Two New Teas To Our Collection

It feels like fate, writing this post today – as Facebook tells me it has been exactly one year since the rebranded packaging for our first three flavors arrived! Wow, how time has flown and how much I’ve learned in the process.

Well, they are here – two new beautiful Sarjesa flavors. It took a long time to get these blends out to consumers. When I first started making tea, I had no idea that you need to go through so much design and regulatory work to get your packaging retail ready and picture perfect.

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Right away you will notice that the artwork is different than our previous blends. We’ve had a couple of questions about why so here is my best attempt at answering. One of the things that are really important to this brand is the concept of cross-cultural solidarity – specifically between communities of women.

Can you imagine what it would look like if we brought different marginalized communities of women together into a conversation about how we can overcome existing and intersecting legacies of domestic violence? I feel like there is so much that could be accomplished over a cup of tea!

We want our tea packaging to reflect the range of women in Canada who also carry intersecting legacies and experiences of marginalization – as gendered violence is a large and complex issue. Sometimes I think that, as a marginalized woman myself, it can be easy to build silos in our communities where we don’t talk to other communities about their experience with this issue. This becomes a problem because, to my mind, we will need a full range of perspectives and experiences to overcome this multifaceted issue.

The community donation generated from these boxes will continue to support the Awo Taan Healing Lodge – an organization grounded in Indigenous teachings that has been an advocate and support for women across different cultures, borders, and spaces. The work they do is truly shifting paradigms.

Now, let's talk a little bit about these two teas.

1) Dappled Sunlight is a blend of black tea and aromatic spices. It’s quickly giving my morning London Fog competition, as it makes a BEAUTIFUL Chai Tea Latte. I love waking up to the notes of cinnamon and cardamom. The artwork is representative of women within my own community – painted by Natalie Darwent-Lynem.

2) Forest Floor is a tea for all of our green tea lovers (you’ve been asking me for so long, I just had to.) A fragrant blend of jasmine, green tea, and a hint of Alberta wild mint – this is definitely an all-day tea. I like it cold, with a little bit of lemon. The beautiful artwork was the result of a 2017 community art competition we co-hosted with Talia Murchie of Ad Artis, the winning piece was by Hugo Dubon.

As always, I’m completely humbled by the love and support you have given to this initiative. It fills my kettle and keeps me going to hear your kind words, and to connect with you all. I am grateful that you are sharing this journey with me and the tea!

Don’t forget to enter our social media draw to win a new tea of your choice!

Love always,


Alexandra Daignault
Decolonial Mean Girl

Even as I write this I am scared of what you will think. This topic can be very uncomfortable.

Right now, there is a real push to fight patriarchy by empowering women – standing in friendship and straightening each other’s crowns. This is AWESOME, and I’m in total support. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that sometimes we must say difficult things to each other – critiquing and questioning. 

What I’ve noticed is that often, Indigenous, Brown, Black, Women of Color, and other marginalized women face pushback when we have difficult things to say – especially when we are speaking about racial violence and exoticism we face FROM OTHER WOMEN. 

Often, we are told that we are overly loud, aggressive , etc... This happens to me – and it happens to many of the women I admire, love, and respect. 

The flip side of this is: I have also been the girl who, in my own ignorance, felt excluded or hurt when I was called to task on taking up space in ways that were inappropriate – when my tears became manifestation of my own fragility. I felt decentered in a conversation where I had become accustomed to being centered – although I often didn’t realize it at the time. 

I get it. No one likes to hear that they are reinforcing a problematic attitude or system – but its necessary to hear these things if we are going to move forward. 


We cannot escape the system under which we live. Part of overcoming violence towards women is understanding and changing the violent behaviors we have learned and internalized as a means of protecting ourselves. If we want to live decolonially we have a responsibility to work through these pieces of ourselves. The irony is that sometimes we have normalized these behaviors to the point where we might not even see them as hurtful, and it takes another person telling us for us to see.

I had this shirt made because I am tired of being told that I am too much, too assertive, too sassy, too angry, too radical – a mean girl - when I have difficult things to say. At first, these sorts of comments would bring me to my knees as I tried to frantically stuff back my unpopular opinions. But, the more I read about other women facing the same issue – the less I want to do that. I don’t want to hold my tongue, and to my fellow decolonial mean girls: I don’t want you to either.

Instead, I think we need to get better at hearing difficult things, actively listening and asking better questions regarding how we might do better. 
This work is messy – and all of us are still learning.

Alexandra Daignault