Alzheimer's, Ambiguous Grief, Discovery, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, hope, loss, Parenting, Resilience, wellness

Peace Out (and in)

One of the many, many things I have learned during my ambiguous grief experience, is that we truly captain our own emotions.  If we want to feel better during times of loss, whether by death or by discovery, divorce or diagnosis, it’s up to us to make that happen.  When I first started to examine the kind of twisted, nuanced grief I was feeling, peace wasn’t anywhere on my radar.  Sure, peace was something I wanted, but quickly came to understand it isn’t simply “given”.  It is created.  It isn’t something we achieve by happenstance, or simply fall into and find.  We curate peace daily, and we do so moment by moment in the choices that we make.

While I have yet to meet anyone in this experience who CHOSE ambiguous grief, I have met many who are choosing to work toward peace.  I’m not talking about making peace with the living loved one that has been lost, or even coming to a state of peace about the activating event that brought on ambiguous grief.  I’m talking about inner peace.  That feeling deep within that isn’t derailed by external happenings.  The deep contentment that lives at a cellular level and grows like the sunrise, with golden light, throughout our bodies.

I’ve also met those who aren’t there yet, but who are willing to be willing to one day start working toward their peace. And I get it, sometimes just acknowledging that you are willing to someday remove your resistance is the very first step.

So, how do we practice inner peace?

I believe by protecting our mind, body and soul we practice peace.  The good news is that we can do this daily, moment by moment, by simply bringing awareness to our desire.

We are choosing to practice peace when we are discerning about :

  1. Who we spend time with.
  2. What we spend our time on.
  3. Where we focus our attention.
  4. When we make time for self-care.
  5. How we observe our thoughts.

World peace begins with inner peace. (1) In contrast, I’ve learned that we resist peace when we allow ourselves to get stuck in grief and (for me) get apathetic about our choices, and focus far too much on my own troubles instead of acting in service of others.

So when I find myself there, as I inevitably do, I examine my choices.

I’m not talking about the big and oftentimes daunting, life choices we have to make. (Where should I live? How much should I be saving? etc.)

No way! I’m talking about the teeny tiny ones (Do I want to have coffee with that person? Should I pray and meditate today? Should I share gossip?)

Because, as it turns out, it’s the itty bitty choices that build up to the big ones.

Hundreds (thousands?) of “little” choices each day. Choices to stop negative self-talk, or practice self-care.  Choices to say no to spending time with people who don’t fill your cup.  The choice to pray and meditate and follow your inner guidance, vs doing what you “think” you should do out of habit or societal pressure.

It’s the decisions to these choices that help us make clear our values and our priorities.

Then, the more we make choices that serve us, the more time we spend in that sweet spot of peace.  AND THEN…. the magic happens.

Peace duplicates. It impacts those around you, and grows.

The more I’m at peace with who I am, the decisions I have made, and am crystal clear about my personal values, the less I am affected by the behaviors or others.

Grieving the loss of a loved one still living isn’t an experience I would ever categorize as “FUN”.  It is, however an opportunity to go deeply within yourself, to examine oneself, and to seek to understand. To learn more than you ever wanted to know about your inner being, and define what (and who) helps you toward peace, and what (and who) doesn’t.

Curating your own inner peace isn’t easy work, but with so many wonderful resources available, it’s absolutely possible.  Talk therapy, books, podcasts, workshops, spiritual teachers, and retreats are great ways to get support as you embark on your quest for inner peace.  It’s yours for the making, so get at it!

Peace be with you.

(and if you don’t feel it today, keep trying until you do!)

 

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, 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.

 

#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.

IMG_6622

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.

 

IMG_6619

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.  

IMG_6620

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/

 

#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

#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

 

 

Ambiguous Grief, Grief, loss

Dates

Today stings.  It’s a head-shaking, hard-to-reconcile-things kind of day. This day, this DATE, was once the crown jewel of Dates in my life.  Warm, glowing, magical. It was (is?) my Meeting Date.

It’s interesting how we humans organize our lives by milestones and special dates. Our birthdays, of course, but also those days that stand out from the average others. The dates that change our lives.  Meeting Dates, First Date dates, Engagement Dates, Wedding Dates, children’s birthdates, Discovery Dates, Separation Dates, Divorce Dates.

These are the dates that construct our life’s direction.

They adjust our course.

They alter our paths.

They grow us. They change us. By extension, these dates become a part of us. An important part.  So what happens when those dates no longer feel like reason for celebration and instead, become bittersweet and heavy at the thought?

For those like me, who have lost their loved one to betrayal/infidelity/a double life, these dates are now obstacles, not celebrations.   There are no nice dinners out together, reminiscing about our Meeting Date.  About our first conversation, about our young dreams, about the happy life we have built together. No dreaming about our Golden Years still ahead. Gray and old, hand in hand.   Instead, these once-beautiful and revered dates now feel dull and frail, like tattered road signs, sheepishly sheepherding you to your next direction.

Almost apologetically.

Almost like they know what lies ahead.

Today is my Meeting Date.  For 21 years it represented more than even my wedding date did.  After all, it was THIS date that forever changed my life. It was THIS date that was acted as the domino, allowing all the other dates to follow.  I called it my “Divine Appointment Date”.   Meeting my match, my Beloved, my soul mate was all that was needed to set my life’s course in motion.  My adulthood was born on my Meeting Date.  We were but 21 years old, still living with support from our parents while finishing college.  From our Meeting Date forward we grew into adults together. First jobs, graduate school, a mortgage, three children, retirement accounts, college funds for our children, a dog. We were winning at life. Together. Or so I thought.

The Discovery Date and subsequent revelations have since taken the sparkle off my Meeting Date. It is no longer the PIN code to my accounts, the password to my voice mail. 0113, was so special to me, for so long. Used daily, ever-reminding me of the important moment my life’s course was set.  Now, as I see that date in written form, it looks and feels more like an identification number – as in “Prisoner #0113”,  or “Divorcee #0113”.

I reflect on my Meeting Date now and see the ending of this relationship side-by-side to it’s beginning.  As if it were a scene in a sad movie.

<21 year olds earnestly shaking hands>

“Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Stephanie…

(I will fall in love with you, marry you, have your children, and give you my full and authentic self.  In 21 years, you will give me a Discovery Date, showing me YOUR authentic self, as a man who willingly and intentionally lied and deceived me with many, many, many women over many, many years). 

..I’ll have a Bud Light, please. Thanks. So where are you from?”

<42 year old sobbing on the bathroom floor> 

<end scene>

 

I am not working to reclaim today and make it into something it is not. I am working today, to process this date and it’s meaning in my life. I am attempting to rework my view and appreciate it for the amazing good it brought forth, 3 incredible gifts that would not be present if not for 0113. The most important gifts, and people in my life.

1030, 0522, and 1219.  My three amazing children. A forever reminder of the best of my lost beloved and me.  The best parts of us together in another. In 3 others.

How grateful I am for that 0113 meeting date.

It isn’t what it used to be for me, but if I had to,  I’d walk into that bar again and smile and shake his hand, even knowing exactly what would happen 21years later, on 11117.

All for 1030, 0522, and 1219.

The beautiful dominos that followed.

The Best Dates of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

#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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