You didn’t see it coming. You thought you were a happy couple. By all accounts, you had a great life. You loved each other for over 20 years, you were best friends and shared everything. You believed you’d grow old together. You made plans, you talked about the future — near and far. It seemed like a bright one. You laughed a lot. There was no one else you could ever imagine sharing this life with. Until you were blindsided. In a blink, the lights went out on your marriage and he was gone. All of a sudden, it was very dark. That day is forever etched in your mind.

The days that followed were even darker as the reality set in that he really wasn’t coming back. Ever. How was this happening? Where did he go? And more importantly, WHY? It was difficult to make sense of anything. Shock is paralyzing. Your mind is racing yet you can’t think. Your tears flow from one day into the next. You feel numb, yet you’re screaming inside. Your heart actually aches. Maybe you get angry but without an outlet for your anger, it manifests in depression. Deep, overwhelming feelings of helplessness cloud your days. Your trust has been broken, you feel powerless and you question your entire life together as husband and wife.

There are SO many unanswered questions. Can this be fixed? Is it too late? What did I do wrong? When did he stop loving me? Is there someone else? Maybe some of these questions are eventually answered. For others, there are no answers or at least none that will ever be acceptable. When someone abandons you, the hurt is so deep it can feel as if you can’t take a breath. For me, suffering the loss someone who left you by choice is a much greater pain than death. This is not to diminish the mourning of a loved one who has passed but it is somehow easier to accept when the person did not choose to leave. I once saw a quote that read, “Death is not the greatest loss, it’s what dies inside us while we’re still alive.”

The sun continues to rise and set so you are aware that days are passing by, but for you, time is standing still. The days are endless and the nights are worse. You go to bed alone. You don’t actually sleep. You ruminate, you cry, you pray that this is all just a nightmare and you will eventually wake up from it. It can’t really be happening to you. As time passes, the reality of your situation becomes clear. This is your new normal. You can’t change what has happened and you exist in a state of limbo for awhile. It feels like a slow torture with a dreaded anticipation of what will happen next.

You repeat your story over and over to anyone who will listen, hoping someone will tell you what you want to hear. You worry that you’re becoming a burden….the one who is always miserable and eventually people are going to stop answering the phone when you call. They won’t. True friends and family will be there to help you through this. They may not always say the “right” words but sometimes, you don’t need any words. You just need a body with ears (and arms to hug you). Trust me, support systems are so important and without them, you will find this unfamiliar road very difficult to navigate.

It may seem dim, but there is a light. It will shine eventually if you let it. Trust me, the process does not happen as quickly as you’d like it to. When you do see that glimmer of hope, hold onto it. Let the light in and you will start to feel the warmth. Shutdown the voices that bring you to that dark place. Don’t let them consume you in such negative ways that you lose sight of where you are going. Accepting that your life has gone off course is the beginning of the healing process. Learning to accept where you are without constantly thinking of what “could have been” is a difficult state to achieve. Be present. Believe in yourself and your power to heal to your heart. Try to embrace the idea that “bad” things happen to bring you to a better place. You may hold onto residual feelings of anxiety and fear while the light is trying to come in. Sit with those feelings and let them pass without overanalyzing them. Embracing change is painful especially when you are thrust into a situation that was unplanned. Use this as an opportunity to explore things you never you thought you would or could do. For me, it was yoga retreats and surfing in Costa Rica. My (ex) husband would scoff at such things. Perfect.

Instead of viewing your future as unknown and scary, see it as a blank slate. A chance to re-write your story. Re-connect with distant friends, foster an animal, volunteer your time, journal, travel, love yourself. Your self confidence may have been damaged but you will build it back up independent of the events in your life. You have experienced a trauma outside the realm of your imagination to inside your everyday existence. Of course you will have self doubt, but do not let this experience define you. You will come out of this on the other side a changed person. That person can be anyone you want her to be. Shine your light.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

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