Grief comes in all forms. It came to me, without invitation, last fall when I lost my dear husband and the life I loved. Nearly one year later, despite my many invitations, Grief has yet to leave. Instead, he’s unpacked, strewn his things carelessly all over the house, propped his feet up on the couch, and defiantly says, “Yeah, that’s right, and what are you gonna do about it?”
Our society provides a cultural road map for managing this mangy houseguest. When someone we love dies, whether it’s unexpected or not, there are certain things we can depend on. Funerals are planned, eulogies are read, stories are shared, memories preserved, and love and support envelop those left behind.
But I didn’t lose my husband to death.
Like many women today, I lost my husband to the realization of his double life. A life so carefully curated online, with legal pick-your-partner pages available for a small membership fee. Uncovering this broke me in two. Two lives: his and ours. My life “before discovery” (which was pretty much the best life I could ever have hoped for) and the one “after discovery” (which was pretty much a complete living nightmare). I know the sound the Titanic must have made as it broke into two that night it hit the iceberg and sank. It came up from the depths of my belly the night I found my husband’s double life, a life with many, many, many betrayals with many women.
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I didn’t have the luxury of an immediate and structured grieving period.
Since my beloved did not die, I didn’t have the luxury of an immediate and structured grieving period. Our marriage of twenty years died, and I was left to grieve not only my present but my future, and a now unknown past as well. With three confused and heartbroken children to care for, I knew I had to keep my head above water, lest we all gone down with the proverbial ship. Without the societal milestones we use to heal our grief after the death of a loved one, I was left to chart my own course. I read and I read and I read. I watched every single SuperSoul Sunday ever made. I wrote to authors. I devoured TED talks. I prayed and meditated daily—and still do. All of this to help my mind process, and maybe someday understand, how and why this all happened.
In this quest for information, looking for “my people,” or someone, anyone with a road map for ambiguous grieving, I have learned so much. Most importantly, I have learned that I CAN DO THIS.
Loss through betrayal is nothing short of devastating.
There is a way back to joy. It may not be with the same road map we use to navigate grief through death, but some of it overlaps. I couldn’t have a funeral for my (once) dear husband, but I did have a funeral for my marriage. That kind of “tweaking” began to help me heal, as did connecting with others grieving my kind of grief. Loss through betrayal is nothing short of devastating. Having to see, hear, or communicate with the person who has betrayed you, and navigating all that comes with such interactions, risks opening the wound every time. But I’m learning that just knowing that reminds me it doesn’t have to be that way.
By finding others who share this grief, I am not wallowing, I am healing. I feel it. I don’t have the map, and I know it won’t be easy.
By living in the truth of what happened and not lying or covering up; by not shrinking or isolating; by finding others who share this grief, I am not wallowing, I am healing. I feel it. I don’t have the map, and I know it won’t be easy. What I do know is who I am. I know I am strong but flexible, humble and generous. I am deeply rooted with branches of blessings surrounding me. Grief has overstayed his visit. I am done living in the dirt. I feel it coming. I look to the trees as my anchor, a message from Mother Nature about what we endure in life. I look at them and I feel I’m changing, I’m rerooting, rising up stronger than before.