Several years ago, I became a sudden widow. I came home to find that my husband had died of a heart attack. I was relatively young – in my early 40s, and we had many dreams of the future.
The next year was a time of realizing, over and over, what I had lost, and I asked myself many questions: Who was I going to have inside jokes with? Who could I turn to now? How was I going to restructure my life? How was I going to do alone the work that we had been doing together? Who was my family now? How was this going to change my relationship with our friends? What physical changes should I make to the house?
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously identified 5 states of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I found that they fit more or less. In any case, the time of acute grief was an emotional roller coaster. There were times when I felt that I had lost all control of my reality.
I imagine the process is much the same with divorce. The future that you thought you had is no longer possible. I can hear it in my clients – it is particularly hard if one partner did not realize something was wrong. They may be blindsided. There is a terrible loss of control over one’s life. A terrible sense of being wronged.
What can we do to heal ourselves? I can only tell you what worked for me – I gave myself lots of time to do nothing, to cry, to listen to music, to write, to laugh with friends, to reflect. I worked as hard as I could and still remain grateful to my coworkers who assisted when I could not hold up my part. I found joy in small things – flowers in a pot, beautiful clouds, the still reflection in a pond. I made it my business to count my many blessings. Eventually, I realized that this was my own life, and happiness was, at least for me, a decision. As sad as I was to lose what was and what could have been, I was – and am – tremendously grateful for the beauty and love that surround me, for the gifts I’ve been given, for the life I have.
Eventually I got remarried, and rebuilt my life. And my new husband has taught me an important lesson:
Even the darkest hour only lasts 60 minutes.