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,