I’m in a relationship for 13 years. My common law husband migrated to Canada and though he is far, our communication is constant. We have a daughter and allowance and support was never a problem. And we agreed that after he saves up enough money, he’ll come home and marry me so that we’ll be together as family in Canada. For no reason at all, last December 2012, supposed to be our 13th anniversary, he suddenly stopped replying to my calls and texts. Then, two weeks after, I saw a picture in his Skype account with another woman. And my world crashed. I have no idea what happened. I never saw it coming. There’s no indication that he already had found someone new. Now, I’m so depressed and down. I don’t know what to do. He was my world and my future. I love him more than myself up to now. What should I do? How long do you think can I move on? What’s the best thing to do for me to move on cause I’m really having a hard time to let go? I still don’t want to burn my bridges with him and his family. Should I still hope that there’s still hope for us even just for our daughter cause I really want her to have a complete family? Please help me. Thanks.
Hi, Sweetheart. I’m sending love to your tender heart, right now. I’m so sorry that you are in so much pain as you try to make sense of this confusing situation and scramble to pick up the pieces of your shattered dreams. I know this pain very, very well, and there is no other pain like it. Let’s take some deep breaths together, right now. Take a nice deep breath in, and let it out. Though it may seem simple, remembering to pause and take deep breaths is going to be an important part of moving through this transformational journey.
I can’t speak of him or your relationship, what he is or isn’t doing because there are too many gaps in information for me—I hope that if it hasn’t happened yet, that you are able to address what you saw and receive an honest answer from him. Whether he has or has not been in communication with you at this point in time, what I can speak of is how you can nurture your relationship with yourself, and support you in picking up the pieces. What I’m going to say is not going to take away the pain—grief is a fire that has to burn a new path through your life right now, and there will be days that seem unbearable, and then, day by day, as you take gentle care of yourself, the pain will start to diminish, and freedom will be born in its place.
I want you to know that you are loved by every process unfolding in your life. Even this time that has you raw and on your knees is being offered up as an opportunity for you to discover what it means to really love yourself and pursue a life that fills you up and makes you come alive. Your statement that you “loved him more than [yourself] up to now” is telling me that you have not been pursuing yourself and your own life with the passion you deserve. Sweet Rose, despite the false messages we ladies receive through the years, it is not noble or even healthy to love another more than ourselves, to be so consumed in our loving that we neglect ourselves and our own unique expression in the world. Know that your loving is a tremendous and beautiful gift to the world that has not been in vain. It’s just time to focus that tremendous loving on yourself and your daughter now.
There is no magic formula to make your grief go away, and there is no set amount of time for the process, either. Ways to nurture yourself right now:
1) There are 5 stages of loss that are a natural part of your journey right now: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. You will find yourself swinging among these with each day that passes. Allow yourself to feel it all—journal, cry it out, purge, write down everything that you feel you have lost and are losing—revisit this process as often as you need to and make good friends with those intense feelings, as hard as that may be. I’d encourage you to be aware that you may want to lash out on the days that the anger phase comes up and you may also be incredibly angry at yourself, at times. These are days when it’s important that you write, and do not send letters to your former partner because, as you wisely mentioned, burning bridges may not be what you want in the long term. That doesn’t mean that there may not be a moment of clarity when you need to speak your mind with him—by all means, you have a right to be pissed off and hurting! It just means that those intensely emotional days are going to be days when you want something from him that he may not be able to give. Be aware that the bargaining phase is often one of the most difficult—this is the phase that I call “I’ll send you my left arm if you just take me back” phase. In your devastation and the deep sense of rejection that you feel it can be so easy to be willing to sacrifice all to make the pain go away. Those are the days when you need to keep yourself busy—take good care of your body, as hard as it is–pursue things that you normally enjoy, pour your heart into being present for your daughter, and my next point:
2) Surround yourself with friends and loved ones as much as possible, right now. Reach out—go out to lunch/dinner or have them over. Make sure that you don’t have too many days to get trapped in your head and that you get out into the world. Allow yourself to receive support as much as possible, to feel uplifted and surrounded in love. This means being honest with yourself and your loved ones about what you are feeling and experiencing day-to-day and having support systems to uplift you with words, time, deeds when you cannot do it yourself. One of the greatest gifts of grief is its ability to bring us close to the people who truly matter in our lives. There is so much magic there—allow yourself to rest within that as much as possible.
3) I don’t know how old that your daughter is, but it’s going to be really important that you are also being real with her about your tender heart on a level that she can understand, right now. This does not mean bad-mouthing her father or making her responsible for your happiness—you can share your feelings without making him wrong or making her feel like she needs to make it better. This means showing her the strength that lies in vulnerability by sharing your feelings and communicating with her the ways that you are taking care of yourself, right now. This means letting her know why you might be cranky or sad or needing some alone time. No matter how old or young she is, this is a wonderful opportunity for her to learn about how to cope with life’s inevitable loss and what it looks like for a woman to love herself. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it weren’t for my mother sharing her growth journey with me and being so real with her feelings and what she needed following my parents divorce when I was 7 years old. I remember thinking that she was so beautiful and strong when she let herself cry, and it was a great gift to me as she shared her learning.
4) When you have a reprieve from the bring-you-to-your-knees level of pain, when you’ve really purged and come face to face with the weight of what you’ve lost, I want you to start thinking about what you want your life to look like (beyond your partner). What are some things that you couldn’t do before that you now have the opportunity to do? If you could craft any life for yourself from this point forward what would you like it to look like? Do not rush yourself to this point before you are ready—it’s important that you be with the experience of loss as it arises. With that said, many people spend so much time looking at the closed door that they intensify their suffering and ignore the abundance of opportunities that lie before them. When you start to feel ready, I want you to start exploring what kinds of seeds you want to plant in your new garden. This chance to build a whole new beautiful life will ultimately be the extraordinary gift of this great loss.
As far as whether or not you should hope for the relationship: Now is a time to focus on you and your daughter and not on your relationship with him. I would absolutely hope that he will continue to be a father to his daughter, but that does not mean that you should or need to be in relationship with him in order for him to be in her life. Also, as I mentioned above, you now have the opportunity to show her a strong woman who loves herself and a NEW kind of completeness. I understand that you want her to grow up with her parents being together, and that may not be possible or a healthy choice for any of you in the long run. It is not healthy for her to witness her mother pursuing a man who is not acting in integrity. You, my dear, deserve a man who will cherish you for all that you are, and abandoning yourself and chasing after a man who is not cherishing you is not teaching your daughter how to be the strong woman that you want her to be someday. Now is the time to start pursuing yourself, your own dreams, your own beauty with the passion that you were pursuing your relationship with him. Cherish yourself in all of the ways that he could not, and you will feel loved in a way that you may have never before.
You deserve to have and to give yourself everything that you’ve ever wanted in life—I know that you thought he would be part of that picture, but there is a much better life awaiting you on the other side of this grief. One foot in front of the other, right now, and know that you are so very loved every step of the way.
All my love,
Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva
©2013 Melissa Simonson