#divorce, #hope, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, Grief Support, loss, Parenting

Hope Springs Internal

hope

Have you ever hoped for something so hard that it hurt?  Maybe you wanted a toy as a kid, a party invitation as a teen, a job offer as an adult.  Or perhaps, like me, maybe you were hoping to heal an important relationship.

This kind of hard-hoping physically knots your stomach, churns your insides, and pulls on so many of your emotions it feels like you a never ending ride on a rickety old merry-go-round.  This kind of hope is all-consuming.

For people like me living with ambiguous grief, hope gets in the way.  Losing someone you love, but not to death, is tricky.

For a solid 8 months after the discovery of my (now ex) husband’s double life, I stood firm in my commitment to understand why he did what he did, and like a dutiful wife, get him the professional help he needed.  I hoped that therapy/medicine/meditation/treatment would solve the riddle of WHY, and we could then get on track for healing him*.  My hope was that he would  do the hard work required to find answers, to understand his hurtful and damaging actions, and “return” to the man he once was.  So, knowing he was the only one who could do his piece, and armed with the (wrong) belief that ‘If I didn’t help him, who would?’, I waited and I hoped.

I hoped and hoped and hoped.

For those who lose a loved one to death, hope for a reunion on earth is gone.  Grievers by death aren’t waiting for their loved one to call and announce they are seeking treatment, or waiting for grand gestures of apology and working toward amends.

But that’s exactly what makes ambiguous grief so tricky.

Without a physical death, hope remains.

In observing my own behavior during this time, I noticed something: the more I focused hope on him, the faster that rickety, old merry-go-round spun.  Then, I would hop off and take a break.  Then with a running start, I’d hop back on.  Until I had to jump off, again. This is the dysfunctional cycle of hope.

As my cycle breaks grew longer and longer,  I realized that it was during this time that I focused on myself.  I was just too exhausted and drained to focus my hope on him and his healing, something I realized I had no control over.

I used these breaks like a nap, recharging for what comes next.  It was during this time, that I practiced hoping for my future as a single mother.

I took inventory of my life and my interests.

How can I best care for my children?

What are my passions?

What are my gifts?

How can I be of service to others?

How did I want to define my life moving forward?

The time and energy I spent hoping for me changed everything.

Every. Single. Thing.

I was able to detach from the hope of any resolved relationship, to see my marriage for what is was, and even for what it wasn’t (but I thought it was), and to begin to stand on my own again.  I didn’t “give up” on hope for him and his healing, I made a conscious decision to stop hoping in his direction.

But, hope is persnickety and would still make surprise drop-ins.  When that would happen,  I would acknowledge it, and then use mental imagery to move that hope to a box I keep tucked away in the attic of my mind.  Then, immediately, I would envision a hope I have for myself, sit with it a moment, and then move on with my day.

Hope keeps us going.  But it’s dangerous because sometimes, it shouldn’t.  Not when it’s  misdirected, and especially not when it’s been misdirected for so long that the rickety old merry-go-round begins to rust.  That’s a huge sign that it’s time to hop off.  I am so glad I did.

Now, my hope is for my healing, for my post-traumatic growth, and the beautiful and  (God willing) long life I have in front of me.

merry go round

*My friend Catherine wrote a beautiful piece on “The Big Why“. She’s also started a gifting service for those wanting to send comfort to their loved ones in grief.  You can check out both here:

https://www.beyondwordsco.com/blog/2018/6/11/thebigwhy

https://www.beyondwordsco.com

#hope, Ambiguous Grief

Thank you letters.

Dear 2017,

You are the WORST. Yet somehow, you began with hope and oddly, you end the same way. What’s that all about? A sandwich of suffering, you are.

In the middle though, February – November, you were brutal.  Filled with endless days of shock, grief, confusion, anger, sadness, and loss.  Days that are a blur now, blending all into one heap of a week, a month, a year.  The relentless tidal wave that drown me in my own tears during your reign have finally started to receded, though like an astute lifeguard, I am vigilant for their return.best worst year

Friends comment on how hard you have been on me. How brave I am to have endured your relentless punishment.  (as if you gave me a choice) Enduring heartbreak again and again and again. (and again.)

Seriously? I get it.

You can let up now.

Like a broken record that skips and repeats the same lines over and over again. I stutter-stepped through your days, going through motions to care for children and pets, and occasionally, myself.  I am grateful my body had muscle memory to do so.  My children saw me deep in grief, more days than not.

During your tenure, my spark dulled, my mind raced and my body ached.

CONSTANTLY.

Exercise felt like death and relief was nowhere to be found.

You probably thought I was out for the count. But that would mean you underestimated My People. My incredible friends and family. They pulled me out of the rubble and stood me up again.  With their love and support in this year of YOU, 2017, I took

every. single. blow

and got up again

every.single.time. 

During your onslaught of pain, I uncovered and grew the greatest gifts of my lifetime.

God. Family. Friends. Love. Integrity. Loyalty. Compassion. Care. Grace.

I am not what happened to me this year.

I know who I am.

Thanks to you, I am better than I ever have been before.

You, 2017 are the package that holds the death of my marriage. A love I planned to cherish for a lifetime. You are also the steward of my new life.  A life where I can live according to my own values: in honesty, empathy, love, and grace.

Without you, I wouldn’t have known, really known, how high above the trees I see life, and how deeply and genuinely I love.

I wouldn’t know that grieving the loss of a living loved one is the hardest thing I would have to do in my 43 years.

I wouldn’t know that I could come out of this experience with strengthened relationships and beautiful new friendships – more like war buddies- I can’t imagine this time without.

I wouldn’t have known how much I was not honored or respected, how I was so taken advantage of, lied to, betrayed.

I wouldn’t have known the depths of God’s Grace and the strength of my own uncompromising integrity.

You held up a mirror to my life and reminded me to hold true to the courage of my convictions, and reminded me to seek values in others that align with my own.  Doing this both removed and strengthened my relationships. But you probably already knew that would be the case. Perhaps that was your silent agenda all along.

You sprinkled in gifts and strengthened me.  You affirmed for me who I am, who loves me, and who doesn’t.  You beat me down and made me better.  I hope I never see another year like you, but I leave you in gratitude.

Thanks for the lessons,

Stephanie

Dear 2018,

Thanks for showing up.

I’m about to rise.

Watch out.

Stephanie

Fire

 

 

 

 

 

#hope, Ambiguous Grief, Grief, loss

Wise Words & Stuff

Connecting with  others enduring the difficult life of an ambiguous griever, provides a lifeline of understanding.  There is no “one-upping”, no diminishing, no comparing.  We are grievers dealing with the death of marriages, or loss of loved ones to addition, or sickness or disease.  To adjust to our new life means we have to go through grief.  Having others that understand can make such a difference in feeling supported.  Sometimes, that just means looking into the cavernous “online” and reading stories and snippets.  Here are a few favorites, that underscore in fact, that war buddies of AG are out there. It means you aren’t alone in navigating the gnarled nuisances of ambiguous grief.

Have a favorite? Add yours in the comments.

still alive

 

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