Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Letter to a Grieving Woman Whose Husband Has Gone Astray

I think in life sometimes we find the path we are meant to take, without ever having intentionally set foot upon it.  I have been divorced for almost five years now and I have come to realize that many people have come to me for guidance in their relationships. I have accepted this role naturally and it gives me much joy to be able to help others through the challenges in their relationships.

Most recently, a situation occurred with an acquaintance that brought me immediately back to my own situation and the grieving and loss I endured after my husband and I separated.  Because of this recent event, I have written this letter.  I have never written anything like this before.  It is the stages I "suffered" through before rising again as a new woman.  (And still I rise....)

For all the women who are grieving the loss of a husband because he has abandoned you and your children for another woman.... I have you in my heart.

My Dear friend,

If you are reading this, it is because the unthinkable has happened.  The man you woke up to each morning for days upon days, who cuddled you through countless movies, who made you crazy with his faults and who held your hand when you pushed and pushed until you gave birth to a child who came to melt both of your hearts.... that man has died.  I say that to you figuratively, of course, because the truth is, that man has abandoned you and the flesh of your flesh, your darling babies, for another woman.  I speak to you not only as a friend, but as a woman who grieved the loss of the man she loved.  I needed a friend to counsel me, and I had many.  I would offer you some words to comfort you, too.

You must remember first and foremost that you deserve to grieve the loss of this man, even though he still lives.  This is the most difficult grieving because you see him and he physically looks like the man you adored.  But he is not.  The man you adored is dead.  The man who adored you no longer exists.  I want to be clear in this: The person who looks like that man no longer belongs to you nor you to him.  You must not cling to him any longer.  Allow yourself all the pain and heartache that you deserve.  You may want to be angry, too, and yes, be angry, but don't deny yourself the pain.  All the love you once felt must resolve itself and the way for this transformation is through your grieving. 

There will come a day when you wake from sleep, and groggy, come slowly to the reality of this new life, and the pain will burn you again. You will wish for sleep.  Endless sleep. This will happen often.  You will want to die.  You will feel that your death would be better than waking each day to the hollow emptiness that threatens to explode in your chest.  I assure you it is not.  The ache is you healing.  The amount of love you felt for him will be equal to the ache. 

There will be moments when you have an extraordinary insight, or your little girl does something remarkable, and your heart strings tug at you and you think of him first, of telling your love.  And it'll be like a car slamming into a brick wall because you remember he is not your love and you can not tell him.  Because you can't.  Because he doesn't want to share your joys any more and he doesn't care to share your sorrows. 

Expect that you will slip up at some point and call him babe or honey, or sweetheart.  Maybe you will hang up the phone and say out of habit, "Love you," and then remember with a shock that you aren't allowed to say that anymore.  How could you have forgotten?  You will go shopping at holiday time and you will see something that will remind you of him and you may yearn for him.  For his scent.  For the freckle hidden where only you know, or the way his cheek dimples when he gives you a lopsided grin.  You will feel the tears again and your chest will burn.  It will take all your emotional stamina to smile when your daughter turns to you and says, "What's wrong , Mama?"  But you will.  Because you are beginning to grow strong.

Now, when you see him, you are going to be confused about how you should feel.  You will have the love you felt like a current always swift and strong underneath the confusion, frustration, fear and anger.  You will want him to hurt as much as you hurt.  The real truth is you will want him to just see you again.  The woman who loves him, who said, "I do."  Who cooked him hundreds of meals and who sent his family birthday cards and Christmas gifts.  There will be a deep need for him to look at you the way he once did.  This feeling will pass.  I implore you to allow yourself the grieving before you move on to the next stage, which is when the anger invades.

When the hurt subsides the bitterness and blame will set in.  This stage is poison but essential to healing.  You will be so angry you may be unrecognizable to yourself.  Logic (and your friends) will tell you that you need to be cool, control your temper, that you are just "giving him what he wants."  And it's true, but while you're hearing the words of logic, you can not seem to control yourself.  It's normal.  Before you were hurt and crying, now you want to be violent and punch somebody, preferably him or his girlfriend, right in the face.  But you can't.  You know you must be the "better" person.  Why? Who cares why.  It just is.  Be the better person because it's the right thing to do.  Not because you have some hope that he will "get what's coming to him." 

If you can remember only a few words of wisdom from this letter, then remember this: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  Your anger will not hurt him.  It only hurts you and the people you love. 

When you have finished blaming him, you will blame yourself.  You will spend hours recounting what you could've done differently.  But it doesn't matter.  You can't change what it was, only what it is.

Anger and guilt require a vast amount of energy and eventually you will tire of holding onto it.  When this happens, it will be time for acceptance.  During this stage, you will have the blessed opportunity to fully know yourself again.  

You will go an entire day without love/hating him.  You will go an entire day without thinking of him at all.  It will feel amazing.  Activities and hobbies you once had will again creep their way into your life.  You'll try something you never knew you would dare, skydiving or hiking alone in Arches National Park in Utah.  You'll begin to be able to look him and her in the face without having to fully fake courtesies.  You will begin to look forward to your "me" time and actually feel blessed that your children are spending time with "them".

You will say for the first time how good it is that you have time for yourself when there are loving people caring for your kids.  The independence and strength you feel doing it all on your own, although new perhaps,  will be addicting.  You will begin to listen to the song in your heart and you won't step away from what it says to you, fearing your future.  And when you feel confident enough to date again, as this new woman, you will accept the men for who they are and not for who you want them to be.  And you won't accept anything less than you deserve.  You will be able to walk away from men and situations that don't serve the song in your heart, your life's path.  You will accept that most relationships are finite and that you can't hold onto everyone.  And you won't have bitterness about that or anger, or a sense of sadness.

And then the day will come, and it will, when you will feel like you could be friends with him again.  You will acknowledge that you miss that friendship, that you could never love him again nor are you attracted to him, but that you could be friends again for the children, and for you.  It will start slow, perhaps as less arguing, a thank you where before it would've gone unsaid.  You'll test these new, unchartered waters, unsure where your ship belongs. 

And then, one day, he will tell you something funny your child did, and you'll genuinely smile at that.  And not too much later, you'll tell him how your daughter did something crazy like shaved her eyebrows off (yes, this actually happened to me) and the two of you will laugh hard, like the old days.

And you will realize you have forgiven him.  And most importantly, you will forgive yourself.  You will wake up and see the most beautiful, independent, strong woman in the mirror, and at first, she will seem foreign.  But eventually, you and she will settle into each other.  This new woman will be you.  You will have risen from the ashes, like a phoenix, born again.

Be Blessed,

Monday, September 2, 2013


This week I am writing to you about my slump.  I am not proud of it, but it happens.  I want you to know what I do when I take two steps back.  I hope it helps you learn that a lifestyle change is not always easy and we all endure the unpleasant moment or two (or a week in this case) of making poor choices.  It's ok.  How do you get out of that hole you're digging yourself into?  Read on to see how I deal with this dilemma.
I am in a slump. 

My confession:
It's been a week since  I ate clean all day.  It's been four days since I had a work out.

Yesterday I made mac salad for my dad and Ella and, against my better judgment and breaking my own rules, I snuck at least a cup of it when no one was looking.  Ella wanted chocolate so I bought a box of Ghirardelli double chocolate brownies and it only took one day before they disappeared.  I've spent more time on the couch in the last week than I have all summer.  I usually weigh myself everyday and I have avoided the scales the last two days.  I've noticed that I haven't slept well in at least a week either.

"What is wrong with me," I ask myself. 

It happens to us all, I know.  I hate feeling this way.  No motivation.  A lack of desire to put any effort into my health.  Again I ask myself to find the trigger(s) of my behaviors so that I can deal with my apathy. 

1. Summer is almost over.  It's end is so close we can touch it.  Depressing.
2. The school year is beginning.  As an English teacher, we carry a heavy burden when it comes to educating our children to read and write effectively in respect to the state's expectations.  I am overwhelmed.
3. My own classes started last week.  One of the professors is disorganized and confusing.  It took me an hour just to decipher his expectations for the week.  Again, overwhelmed.
4. I am involved in some research to help write some grants for our community.  Exciting new venture for me, but with exciting comes scary.
5. Ella starts gymnastics, Madeline starts dance.  We have soccer, I have meetings and assignments and the pressure of school.  Our home calendar is so burdened with times and dates I'm sure I need a secretary to remind me of my appointments.
6.  I spent last week at school helping with the WEB program and doing curriculum work.  I ate pizza and ate lunch.  When I got home, I took the kids out for dinner.  I also went out with the ladies from work for a few cocktails as well as a night out with my girlfriends from school.  More cocktails.  Not good for a clean running system.

Once I got to 6 I started feeling nauseous about my choices for the week.I think I have my answer though, to why I am avoiding being healthy:

I have shut down because:
1.  It is going to require a major amount of multi-tasking to keep up my health and my life's responsibilities...  
2. This past week I decided almost to have a last "hurrah" and do whatever I wanted because I'm going to have to buckle down this coming week and the next ten months if I want to stay healthy and in shape.

What I know:
I can do it and so can you!  I've done it before.  It's a new day.  Be prepared. Make a plan and stick with it

How do I do this? you may be wondering.  Here is how:

(Before you do this next part, you should ask yourself, Why am I  sabotaging my health? (like I did above).  Find out your triggers.  If you have difficulty, ask a friend to help you with this.)

1. Set goals.  I like to work out 3-4 days a week for at least an hour.  When will I be able to do that?  Looking at my calendar, I see I have time Monday, Tuesday, Friday after school if I make it a mommy-kids workout, and Saturday if I go after Ella's gymnastics.  So I schedule those times in.

2.  Get rid of tempting food in the house.  If there were brownies left (which there are not!) I would bring these to school and leave them in the faculty room for everyone to enjoy.  Throw away any food that is packaged that I may have bought that I don't need.  (I.e. the Sour cream an onion chips that keep calling my name).  You may feel bad/guilty about throwing away "good" food.  Once you do it a couple times and realize how you are wasting money, you'll stop buying or rarely buy it.  These chips my sister bought and brought to my house and left here!  Damn you, Amanda :)

3.  Prep the healthy food in the house for the week so it's easier to make good choices.  For me, this means boiling 6-8 eggs, making a huge pot of brown rice and refrigerating it for the week, cutting up all the cucumbers, celery, and red peppers so they are ready to eat.  This may mean a trip to the grocery store for some healthier options.  Make a grocery list and stick with it (I have a previous post with a list if you need a  jump start).  Remember the advice I gave in my first blog about foods to avoid :)

4.  Count calories for a few days depending on the damage from the scales.  My goal weight is between 135 and 140 pounds.  When I go over 140, I go back to a 1,200 cal a day diet.  Use myfitnesspal app if I need help.  Use measuring cups/spoons when eating.

4.  FORGIVE myself for my week of unabashed overindulging.  It happens.  Move on!  Get on the scales, check out the damage, and do what I do best.    Forgiveness is difficult and it's an evolving lesson I am always learning.  Loving who you are means knowing forgiveness. 

5. Find some inspiration.  For me, I look for a favorite saying or a favorite quote.  You may talk with a friend or listen to a certain song.

I end with the inspiring quote that reminds me of why I do what I do:

"I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach."
~Maya Angelo
Namaste and best wishes!