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 🌱

#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