Addiction, Alzheimer's, Ambiguous Grief, compassion, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, hope, loss, Resilience, Uncategorized, wellness

AmbiguousGrief.Com

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 8.15.40 AMReally excited for the launch of ambiguousgrief.com. In collaboration with my research partner, Dr. Sophia Caudle, this site features everything Ambiguous Grief (AG):

🌱the AG Process Model   🌱the AG survey and  (interesting) survey findings 🌱an Assessment Tool- to help determine if you are experiencing AG 🌱links to helpful articles and meaningful personal stories.

It’s my hope that this website will serve both patients and clinicians alike, and help them to recognize and name this grief. Doing so is the start of a positive pathway to healing, and I know it’s important. 

Also, whaaaaatttttt?! 🙋🏻‍♀️this girl learned to build a website! 🙌🏻 Yes! hashtag#ambiguousgrief hashtag#grief hashtag#resilience hashtag#posttraumaticgrowth hashtag#recovery hashtag#mentalhealth hashtag#mentalhealthawareness hashtag#addiction hashtag#divorce hashtag#discovery hashtag#deathofarelationship hashtag#healing 🌱

Addiction, Alzheimer's, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, compassion, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, hope, Resilience, wellness

So It Turns Out I’m Resilient. Who Knew?

The capacity to recover quickly from difficulty is known as resilience, and we hear a lot about it today.  Or at least, those of seeking to understand grief and healing do!  It’s a cornerstone block in the building of life, and has proven to me, to be a valuable tool that I’ll strive to keep sharpened.   Undoubtedly, we will all face adversity in life.  But, I’ve recently learned,  it’s our ability to find and hone our resilience that determines how we get through that adversity and come out the other side. Or not.

As I came out of the shock phase of my discovery, (which was many months after D-Day), I began looking for tools to feel better.  Showering and meditation helped, but only momentarily.  I needed more sustained reprieves from my grief.  It was about that time, two friends sent me the then new book, OptionB by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.  It’s a beautiful, candid story about love and loss, hope and healing.  In it, the authors speak of the importance of resilience.  Working on it daily, building it like a muscle, they said, was key.

“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity—and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”

– Sheryl Sandberg

I devoured the book, reading it like a text book, complete with notes and margins and plenty of highlighting.  Ok, I get it. I need to get resilient, and fast.

But how?

Thankfully, the authors offer suggestions that I immediately instated into my daily practice.  It was one in particular, that made a huge difference for me:

At bedtime, write down 3 things you did well that day.

For me, this started out teeny tiny, I struggled to identify 3, and my list looked like this:

“Got out of bed”, “Brushed my teeth”, “Packed school lunches”.

But I stuck with it, and night after night, I noticed the list was growing. I had 5 things, then 7, then 10 things that I could list that I didn’t just DO, but DID WELL.  A year after beginning this practice, I saw just how far I had come.

“Ran 3 miles”, “Folded and PUT AWAY 3 loads of laundry”, “Booked flight for family trip”.

I wasn’t just taking baby steps back into reality, I was now living in the moment and able to dream (albeit just a little) about my future.

This exercise provided me with a way to build my resilience muscle.  All in a 1-minute mental exercise, laying in my pajamas.  (If only my abs could be built that way!)

Over time, it’s precisely that resilience that teaches us so much about who we are. It shows us our capacity to love, our determination to heal, and the inspiring human ability to find joy after heartbreak.

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I call this “Resilience Selfie”. It took me 16 months to get here, but I made it. Took myself (and kiddos) on a trip to Hawaii, where I found joy every hour!

If you would have asked me about my own resilience 3 years ago, I would have shrugged not knowing.

Today, I own it, embrace it, and celebrate it. I have worked so hard to learn about my particular kind of grief and take control of my healing.  Along the way, I’ve met my own resilience, an unexpected part of me that I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 10.21.49 AM

Check out my own 7 ReRooting Tools,

including Resilience.

OB_book_new.pngTake a look at OptionB.Org to learn more about adversity, resilience, and finding joy after heartbreak.  I highly recommend buying the book, too!

 

 

 

 

Addiction, Alzheimer's, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, compassion, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, loss, Parenting, wellness

Not My Shame

 

There are moments that strike where my body shifts, and my mind trips into a space I dread.  In these moments, which materialize from any number of unrelated happenings, I find myself facing a most burdensome emotion: Shame.

It consumes my body. It feels hot and sweaty.  It prickles my skin and stabs into my gut. It sits on my shoulders, a heavy, uncomfortable load.  It is nearly unbearable, and I scan my space for relief. But nothing helps, and let me tell you, I’ve tried a lot!

Not chocolate (drats!), not wine.  

Not loud music, or a fast run.  

Not punching pillows, or screaming under the covers.  

Those things help relieve stress, but for me, they do nothing for shame.  I see Shame as that unwanted part of myself that I can’t escape. It’s a remembrance of what I’ve done, or not done, or who I am, or who I’ve become.  It’s an ugly mirror I’d rather never see. Thankfully, I understand that I’m not alone in this and that shame is universal.

after the fall
Rodin’s “Eve After The Fall”

Brene Brown, the beloved storyteller and researcher who studies shame says, I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

We’ve learned from Dr. Brown’s research, that shame cannot survive empathy.  If we’re vulnerable with our shame, and share it, speak of it, and not hide from it, then we open ourselves to the opportunity to connect with others.  In doing so, we then invite a space for those understanding our shame, to offer us empathy.  In that beautiful gift the shame begins to evaporate. It becomes less burdensome.  I suspect this is because we have just authentically connected with another, and not subsequently rejected for doing so.

 

In my journey through ambiguous grief, it’s been an important learning for me to identify shame.  As an empath, being able to understand and feel another person’s pain or insecurity, it’s especially important that I learned early to identify my shame versus the shame of others.  

When I accidentally discovered that my marriage wasn’t what I thought it was, and that my then-husband wasn’t the person I knew him to be,  Shame settled in and became an unwanted house guest. (Not unlike Shame’s first cousin Grief, whom I write about often).

 

What took me time to unravel though,  was that the shame I was experiencing wasn’t mine.  That heavy feeling didn’t come from who I was or wasn’t.  What I had done, or hadn’t. It was coming from me feeling pain for the person I had loved so deeply.  Pain for the shame he must be carrying. And not only because of WHAT had happened, but because I understand that there is a deeper, underlying shame that drove those choices.  

 

In looking to connect with others in my position, I was disappointed to find that many (most?) women weren’t talking about betrayal trauma.  I asked professionals about why this was and was met, time and again with the same answer: “They feel ashamed.”

 

This struck me.  

I was naive, to the experience of trauma and to the power of shame, so I wondered: 

 Why would a VICTIM of someone else’s abuse be quiet about their experience when THEY weren’t responsible for it?

I was told by one betrayal professional, “your beef is well-taken…but women aren’t speaking out because they feel ashamed…even though they didn’t cause the trauma, they are associated with the other person’s actions, which is often embarrassing ”.  

So if victims aren’t talking about it, what happens?

Shame, when not exposed to empathy will grow.  Even if the person knows it wasn’t their fault, and they didn’t cause the events to happen.  Deeply embedded shame digs in and roots itself.  Unattended, it festers and moves untamed until, I believe, one’s own soul becomes covered in the tangled mess that has grown.  Without connection to our soul, how are we connecting to the divine within us? How do we connect with our higher power? How do we tune in to our own GPS?  With shame so thick, it makes sense that researchers believe it drives our egos, and hijacks our being.

 

So, what to do with this feisty beast?

For me, when that prickle arises and I know Shame is coming, I pause.  Like an early warning alarm notifying a town of imminent dangerous weather, I heed the warning and begin to prepare.  I’ve created my own little warning system protocol, too. Here it is:

I stop what I’m doing. I sit and I breathe.  I scan my body for the space the shame is developing.  Then I ask the most important question I can in that moment:

 

“Is this my shame?”

I sit some more.

I wait.  

Within moments, I have my answer.  

Most often, the answer is no.

No,  this is not my shame.  

I push out a long exhale, shake out my limbs and let it pass through until it’s gone.  

(Which doesn’t take long).

I remember it as an ACRONYM:

STOP  – get quiet and pause

HONE – tune in to find the trigger

ASSESS – scan your body and focus on the feeling

MEET IT – look directly at it and repeat the question “is this my shame?”

EXHALE – armed with your understanding, breathe that shame-energy right out of your body.  

 

Identifying and being able to separate my own shame of things from the shame I feel over the actions of others, has saved me uncounted hours of grief.  

 

When I identify that the shame I’m feeling is my own, I give gratitude for Dr. Brown’s work, and know the remedy lies in vulnerability and empathy.  So, I take her prescription and share my shame with a trusted loved one, mentor, or my therapist. It’s amazing what the simple acknowledgement of shame can do for it’s healing.

 

Time and again, the simple act of identifying and understanding the source of shame and to whom it belongs, has helped me.  I believe it has kept that gnarly entangled overgrowth from finding a home within me.

 

Shame from being abused is a heavy load to haul.  Abuse, be it physical, emotional, or sexual, takes a toll on the human condition.  We know that as survivors deal with trauma of the experience, they often find themselves questioning their role:

 

“Did I cause this?”

“What is my part in this?”

“It’s my fault.”

 

But if we can help victims, and those healing trauma look at the situation and understand Shame, it might help.  I know it has helped me. My ambiguous grief is healing for many reasons, but not being a victim to Shame is tippy top among them.

While I do not wish Shame on anyone, I do wish everyone the ability to distinguish their shame.  In doing so, perhaps we can work to extinguish it, and in the process begin to heal our hearts.

 

Addiction, Alzheimer's, Ambiguous Grief, Grief, Grief Support, Uncategorized, writing

Use Your Words

View story at Medium.com

When my kids were toddlers and learning to talk, I used to tell them to “use your words” when they wanted to express something. Though those years are now long behind us, I recently found myself encouraging one to “use your words”, when a frustrating situation was spinning in the wrong direction.  Then, I heard myself give the same advice today, this time to strangers asking my advice on how to cope with ambiguous grief.

As it turns out, ambiguous grief impacts a lot of people.

(Who knew?!)

Two years ago, I surely didn’t.

In fact, I didn’t even know it existed.

But not anymore.

Now, I know it well, and I am honored to hear from others who are finding themselves seeking to understand their “different” grief, too.  Just today alone I was contacted by three people who heard of my story and writings on “AG”, and wanted to connect.  They too, were looking for is an understanding of what they were experiencing, and finding that few (if anyone) in their circles seemed to understand, much less feel comfortable wanting to listen and discuss.

Their stories were varied, but all held the commonality of heart-aching loss and deep grief over losing a loved one, but not to death.  One to the diagnosis of addiction, one to an unwanted divorce, and another to the discovery of deep intimate betrayal.  Though each “entered” into ambiguous grief from a different starting point, all were working to reframe (if possible) their relationships with their living loved one.

When asked what tools help me the most, I always talk about writing.  Which can take many forms: journaling, blogging, scratches on paper, or typing notes on your phone.

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

So, today I suggested they each try writing out their stories so as to seek to find words to express their pain.  But none of them thought they could.

“No, It’s too late, I should have started when this first happened.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start, it’s so painful and I’m not a writer.”

“I don’t know if I even have the words to describe this.”

While I understand that not everyone enjoys writing, or believes they are capable (they are!), I invited them to consider doing so for a few reasons:

1) It helps one articulate and process difficult emotions and experiences

2) If shared, it can be a powerful tool for helping – oneself and others. (and you all know how much it’s helped me!) Check out this article that speaks to writing as a healing tool for both mind and body!

3) I reminded them that this isn’t a submission for a Pulitzer Prize – it’s writing FOR THEM! It’s available for public consumption only if they so choose.

I assured them that their story could be theirs and theirs alone.  Or when ready, maybe shared with a friend or two, so that they can better understand the experience.  Or perhaps they may feel brave enough to share it with their networks on social media, or submit it for publishing in hopes that it may resonate and be of service to someone in need.  But for now, just.start.writing.

Recently, a friend wrote about, and bravely publicly shared a candid account of a difficult day.  As her mother transitions into residential care for Alzheimer’s Disease, their roles are shifting and the relationship taking a new form. Her story is a beautiful testament to the power of love and the willingness to face, and not run from, ambiguous grief.  I invite you to read it and share it, too.  We never know who our stories will inspire.

Beth's STORY

Read Beth’s Story

Then, I hope you’ll consider writing your own story.  My hope is that the more we share our truths – the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the hideous piles of pain – the more we will be able to heal, see our shared humanity in one another, and help feel well-able to move through the difficult days when they arise.

So pick up a pen, or plunk on your laptop – whatever modality helps you “write”.

Start by writing just for you, without the pressure of sharing it.  Don’t worry about structure or punctuation, just do what my kiddos would do, and

use your words.  

I know you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#divorce, #hope, Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, compassion, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, hope, loss, Uncategorized, wellness

The Sacred Act of Holding Space

Last summer, deep in grief,  I was exchanging texts with my dear and wise friend, Robin. We were supporting one another through difficult life transitions, and connected often. During one particular exchange, she signed off with a sentiment unfamiliar to me.

It was a simple salutation, but I didn’t understand it.

I’m holding space for you…”, she wrote.

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Not entirely sure what that meant, and not yet inquisitive enough to ask, I shelved the comment.

Until a few days later, when she wrote it again.

 

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As I understood it, she was telling me in her own way, that she was thinking of me.  

Awww.  So nice, right?

Wrong. Way wrong.

I finally did ask her what she meant by it, and as it often happens, I started to hear and read about other people using the same term as well.  

Now, months later, having space held for me, and holding space in return, I get it.

I truly get it.

I understand that holding space is one of the most important gifts we can give those we love and care about.

It’s far more than just “thinking about you”.  It’s seeing a friend in distress and making a commitment to stand grounded in empathy and compassion.  

Holding space is quiet and strong, and it doesn’t rush in to try to “fix” anything.  

Holding space doesn’t offer advice or make suggestions.  It certainly doesn’t compare their pain to yours.

Rather, it acknowledges that a person is experiencing deep, even complicated, feelings.  It recognizes that such emotion must be felt and endured, not numbed and buried.

Holding space invites conversation, it listens and affirms.  It honors the human experience through the most difficult and trying times.   In doing so, it acknowledges our shared humanity.  Which feels so “right”, yet is so counterintuitive in today’s fast-paced, multitasking, solution-oriented society.  

Here, we want to ease the suffering of our brethren, so we are often quick to offer advice, make suggestions, and even relay stories of others in similar situations, hoping the connection will provide comfort.  

It’s hard to see those we care about in pain, so for some, it’s natural to want to help.  

For others, seeing loved ones ache is a scary mirror to our own struggle, so we offer nothing and simply go away.  

But holding space gives the gift of understanding to our grief and struggle without any pressure to “get over it”, or “move on”.  Holding space doesn’t abide by a timeline.

In having this done for me, I have been able to do so for others.  In this practice, I have come to learn that holding space is indeed, a sacred act.  I am so honored to hold space for others.  

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Still not sure what this looks like?

Here’s a handy dandy reference guide to get you started:
Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 12.15.25 PM
So, who could you hold space for today?  Or perhaps you are someone who would benefit from the love of space being held for you?  Reach out and share space, and watch it come back to you.

Lastly, I wonder what our world would be like if we showered one another with this seemingly benign salutation, and really meant it.

I have to believe we would feel as seen as supported as I have.  (Thanks, Robin)

Holding space,

Stephanie

#divorce, #hope, Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, Grief, loss

5 Signs You Might Be In Ambiguous Grief (and what you can do about it)

ambiguous grief face

Grief is a universal emotional experience.  It is felt by humans, and even some animals, when a loved one dies.  The Stages of Grief Model by psychiatrist and researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is widely accepted as universal as well.  Grief, we have learned, is predictable: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

But what if the common denominator isn’t death? What if instead it was something far-more nefarious that first takes our loved one away?  Monsters like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury or Addiction. These life-altering diagnoses changes our loved one, and often resigned, we watch helpless as they slip further away from the person they once were to us.  As the relationship dynamic changes, the grieving process begins. But often, the bereft are unaware. Since their beloved did not die a physical death, their grief doesn’t neatly fit the 5 stages, though they may get lumped in anyway.  Instead, their grief goes unnamed and untreated.  

So, are you or someone you know currently living with ambiguous grief?

Here are five key indicators that point to “YES”.

1) You have experienced a significant relationship loss, and the person lost is still living.  

A Divorce is a common entry-point when the ending of the marriage is unwanted by one partner, or the marriage as it was believed to have been is proven to be false.  For those who have lost loved one to intimate betrayal, the perspective changes as the person appears different than previously believed. When reality is fissured by revelations, ambiguous grief can begin.  The loved one is still living, but they are no longer who they “used” to be.

(Other examples:  A parent’s Alzheimer’s Disease has altered your previous relationship dynamic, Your child is an addict and living on the streets without contact, A family member has rejected you based on the disclosure that you are gay.)

2) You have hope that your lost loved one will return to you as they once were.  

Without a physical death, the possibility of a restored relationship can become consuming for those in ambiguous grief.  With a warm body there is often hope that life can resume with the relationship as it was once.

(Examples of external hope include: A hope for a medical breakthrough, a loved one entering a recovery/treatment program, a change of heart.)

3) You have a sense of shame or embarrassment over your loss.   

Since ambiguous grief is most commonly born from an activating event, such as divorce or diagnosis (Caudle & Sarazin, 2018), the loss can often feel like a personal failure, or could carry a perceived stigma, preventing the grieving party from feeling comfortable disclosing to others.  

(Examples include: a parent feeling embarrassed that their child is a drug addict, a wife feeling shame for her husband’s double life, a husband’s embarrassment over his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and his inability to care for her.)

4) You haven’t acknowledged the pain of your loss publicly.

When a loved one is lost to death, there is a cultural understanding that a physical death has occurred, and we know what to do.   (Cue the lasagnas in freezers!) Ambiguous grievers are most often unable to articulate their grief, much less hold a ceremony eulogizing their beloved, and therefore receive little to no support.  Without sharing your loss with others and mourning in community, your pain can fester and grow.  

Some family dynamics believe that “family matters are private”, so we may grow up being told not to share what happens inside the family home.  This can show up as shame and embarassmA loved one still aliveent when we suffer heartbreak or loss later in life.  Attempting to manage your grief privately prevents others from helping, supporting, and encouraging your healing.

5) You thought you were just really, really sad.

Watching loved ones change, or losing a meaningful relationship will often evoke sadness.  The difference is that ambiguous grievers aren’t only experiencing a loss, but a death. While not a physical death, a death nonetheless.  The trouble is that many of us associate GRIEF with death and dying in physical form.  This excludes other important deaths we endure in life: the death of a dream, a relationship, a job.  All of which can cause grief, but is most often not recognized as such. 

Naturally, sadness is a part of loss, but it’s important to understand when we are sad, and when we are grieving.  Grief is a dull aching pain that often shows up uninvited and hijacks your emotional being.  It is said that it’s the last act of love we have to give to those we loved and that tears say what cannot be said 

What You Can Do About It

support

If you are grieving a loss of a loved one still alive, and these five indicators are familiar, you may be experiencing ambiguous grief.  

Being able to identify and name this grief is the first step in healing.  

Hopefully, as more and more people acknowledge this grief, we will be able to offer important resources of support to those struggling and often suffering their loss alone.  

Find support for yourself.  A therapist, friends, and/or faith-based groups are often first stops.  Additionally, there are many online forums dedicated to supporting grievers through all forms of loss. Find them with a simple google search.

For proactive practices to healing, check out the ReRooting Tool Kit at www.riseuprooted.net/rerooting-tools/

 

Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, Grief

Healing

Not all ambiguous grief is born out of intention.  In some cases like adultery and addiction, one person makes an initial choice in behavior, and that choice can  and often does, impact and hurt their loved ones.  In other situations, ambiguous grief is born without choice.

No one chooses to be rejected, have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or mental illness.  The onset of the aforementioned forces a space where loved ones must cope, adapt and adjust.  Whether ambiguous grief is born through the painful decisions made by a loved one, or a life-changing medical circumstance, healing is necessary.  The new normal can be incredibly difficult and those in this space are left to cope, often alone.

Whatever non destructive activity that soothes your soul, helps you heal, and steadies yourself: do that.

Get quiet, remember what soothed you as a child.  Give thought to what brings you peace as an adult.  You are your heart’s own alchemist and the remedy for healing is yours to create.

God, prayer, meditation, art, nature, exercise, friendship, community, baking, cooking, dance, creating, writing, laughing, crying.

Do what works for you.

And if you were hurt by the chosen actions of others, remember that a person who hurts you doesn’t get to tell you how to heal.

You do.

 

 

 

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#divorce, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, Grief, loss

RIP My Marriage: 1999-2018

After being happily married for 18 years, it’s with great sadness that I sit today to write the Eulogy of this union.  For those who knew this marriage, you would have suspected nothing was wrong.  Neither did I.  For those who knew my marriage, I know you grieve with me.  Thank you for your kind words, they have lifted my heart and provided great comfort. I did not know how others viewed my marriage until we separated.  Friends, family, and even acquaintances shared their condolences with me, along with kind reflections.  A lifeline out of confusion, words  providing comfort, but also validation.  That what I had lived was in fact, real and not the hologram it feels like today.

 

“Your marriage was #couplesgoals”.

“We aspired to a marriage like yours”.

“You two showed us what teamwork and true partnership looked like.”

“I tried to be the kind of wife you were.”

“When we talked about our marriage in couple’s counseling, we used yours an example of what we were striving for.”

“You guys were the most special couple I’ve ever known.”

I thought so too.  At least it felt that way to me.  Unfortunately, the truth is that it WAS one-sided and I just didn’t know it.  My husband, I accidentally discovered, was deeply-embedded in a double life. A life that specifically attacked our marriage, and was quite the opposite of the vows we made to one another.  Actions that left no speck of doubt that I was not loved, honored, or cherished.

So as I reflect back on my 18 years as a proud wife, I do so with great pain, sadness, and even anger.  Yet that is not what I want to think of when I remember my beloved marriage.  For  me, my marriage was a gift.  It was God giving me a best friend and a committed life partner.  Someone to navigate the uncertainty of life with.   When I remember my marriage, I can’t help but smile as I think of our early years. Engaged at just 24 with some asking “Isn’t that too young?“, we were confident that we were ready to join our lives.   We married on a beautiful day in early May, in the little stone chapel by the river.  We had fun planning all of the details.

st anne

We selected our readings, from the Bible “The Song of Solomon” 8:6

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;[a]
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement[b] flame.

  and “The Prophet On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran:

“and stand together, yet not too near together, for the pillars of the temple stand apart and the Oak and the Cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

I wept at those at those words on our wedding day and again today.  The perfect image of the importance of teamwork and respect for independence. To grow into our best selves with the support of our Other.   My life/your life/our life. We chose the perfect song for our first dance, “When I’m Sixty-Four” by The Beatles.  A song that spoke to the beauty of a long life lived together, into old age.  But that life together was not to be, though I never once doubted it’s strength, I never knew it was even at risk.  Until it was too late.

Between the Wedding Day (1999) and the Divorce Day (2018), there was much to celebrate. There IS much to remember fondly in those 18 years.  Years that brought first jobs with cockroach infested apartments.  Long hours with lean paychecks, anticipation of building a new home, and the unbridled joy of three beautiful babies, the best of us both is another living soul.  The grief of a miscarriage, the anxiety over relocating.  Over 18 years married, and 21 together, the undercurrent to it all, was LOVE. So. much. love.

A million examples of Trust and Respect strengthened our love. A love that grew far past physical and intellectual attraction, with a depth and breadth matched only by my love for my children.  I look back and wonder when that changed, when my love, respect and trust was used as a weapon against me.  When and why he chose to begin another life, without the courtesy of telling me. Taking away our love without even the opportunity to discuss it.  To tell me that he no longer wanted me, our marriage, or the life we had built together.  Why I had to learn that accidentally, the day his laptop told the truth.

I am haunted by the depth of deception. Why didn’t I know my marriage had already died?

Maybe because he did want those things, but also wanted more. A dangerous, secret life that required nothing of him except his cunning, and his money.  I cannot honor the best of my marriage without acknowledging the painful truth that destroyed it.  My husband had affairs with many, women over many years.  All while I stayed home with our children, oblivious.  His only self-defense being: “I wasn’t happy with the nature and dynamic between us. I wanted more attention”.  

The brutal reality of my marriage looks nothing like the marriage I was living.

The self that I brought to the marriage I lived is my only comfort in this profound tidal wave of grief.

Certainly, I am not perfect.  I did however, try my absolute best and brought my whole self to our union. I committed my life to him and vowed to love, honor, and cherish him.

Which I am proud to say, I did.

Every day.

Hurting him in any way was not an option for me. Hurting him would be hurting myself, our children, our family and friends.  The marriage I lived in was loving and safe. It was forever.  I will miss my marriage, but not my husband. Because he was not real. Premeditated double-living was a choice, not an accident.  He chose that life over me, his children, and our life together.

So as I say goodbye to my marriage, I choose to remember those years before the double life.  The years where we dreamed of our future together, making plans, setting goals, celebrating our wins big and small.  I smell our first tiny apartment, I feel my lungs burn in the cold Chicago air as we run together to collect a desperately needed paycheck.  I feel his large, strong hand over mine, squeezing through each contraction.  I hear his key in the door, and the sense of relief that washed over me, knowing he is home safely from another business trip.  I remember with fondness, the years I was so proud to have him as my husband and to be his wife.

As  I say goodbye, I remember THIS marriage, and am somehow grateful.

For all the wonderful joy filled-moments, for the excruciatingly painful lessons, the mundane days wrapped in the comfort of one another, and the understanding that you cannot have joy without pain.

Grief is indeed, the price we pay for love.

Yet I remain steadfast in my belief that marriage can be a wonderful gift, of love, trust, and devotion, as it was once for me.  For knowing, feeling, living that marriage once-upon-a-time,  I am grateful.

on marriage