“I want to end the relationship”, she clearly spoke those words I dreaded to hear. It had been three days since I had seen her. I had picked her up from the hotel she stayed in for three days trying to decide if she wanted to leave or continue to work on our relationship. Covid hadn’t helped.
Ever since I could remember, people who knew me always told me how strong I was. Some had even told me that I was the strongest person they had ever met. I survived abuse, struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder, and was kicked out of my parents’ house at 19. But, this… this crushed me in a way that nothing ever had. I felt I was a fragile piece of glass that had been smashed to a million pieces. I was doubled over in pain so bad that I couldn’t even stand up straight. My best friend saw me crumple to the floor of his office at work. How was I going to be able to pick myself up after the most devastating blow of my life?
The first step was simply surviving – making it through every painful breath (felt like shards of glass ripping through my insides), every fallen tear, every crushing thought. I was plagued with memories and realizations of how my wife leaving would change my life in a profound way.
I spent a week in the hospital allowing time for the shock to wear off and reality to set in. I focused on each moment hoping that they would somehow add up to a full day. I took medications to help numb the pain and tried to distract myself as much as possible from painful feelings. These days were the hardest.
After the first few days of simply trying to be numb, I began talking with others in the hospital and learning their stories of what brought them there. A poem started kicking around in my head and I asked for a pencil to write it down.
As soon as I got home, I removed all pictures of my ex and anything that might remind me of her; I got rid of anything that might send me in a tailspin into the pit I had so tenuously just climbed out of. This led to packing up her things and helping her move out of the house.
I put inspirational sayings on post-it notes on my bathroom mirror:
- Every painful breath brings you that much closer to healing.
- Just because you aren’t feeling ok doesn’t mean you are not doing ok.
Placed a Band-Aid Over My Heart
Whenever a relationship ended in my 20s, I used to put a band-aid over my heart. I explained this to others as being a symbol of my healing. I somehow knew that I would be ok because I had that band-aid to protect my heart. When I was ready, I would take it off.
I told this to one of the nurses while I was in the hospital. “I’m not sure if you have a 16-year relationship-sized band-aid somewhere”, I told her laughing uncomfortably. Knowing that I was more serious about this than I was letting on, she took the time to find the biggest band-aid they had and gave it to me. I placed it over my heart where it stayed for the remainder of my stay at the hospital. I replaced it when I got home. I found that after a short period of time, it didn’t help the way it used to. So I removed it. I knew it was going to take a lot more than a band-aid to heal this time around.
Joined Dating Apps
I decided to join OKCupid and HER, two dating apps. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, as this would be the first time I was ever to create a profile or chat with potential mates. I didn’t even really know what I was aiming for. I think I did this more out of curiosity than anything else. Plagued with thoughts of not being attractive and not being able to keep a relationship, I wondered if anyone would be interested in me.
I was delightfully surprised to see how much action my profile was generating. I even got some kind messages saying I was beautiful and seemed nice. Once, when I traveled to Baltimore to say goodbye to my friend Jeanne, who was on life support, my phone kept dinging. Apparently, the HER app had tracked me and women from the Maryland and Virginia area saw my profile. I was touched that so many people were interested in me. I acquired a couple friendships from that experience. One friend, Chelsea, even came to visit me in Florida.
In addition to making friends, I enjoyed flirting again and feeling attractive. I put more into my appearance and began taking care of myself better. I loved the potential of each conversation I entered. I felt special.
I began dating a woman named Julie in Orlando. She helped me a lot through the first few months after the break-up. I spent many weekends two hours away from my house, which I think in itself was helpful in pulling me out of my painful surroundings. It helped me focus on spontaneity and fun, which often distracted me from the pain I was feeling. Julie held me, listened to me and made me feel attractive and special. She also helped me through important practical steps, like packing up Mindy’s (my ex’s) things and getting a new look.
Got a New Look
I decided it was time to try something radically different with my hair. I dyed it blonde and joked with people that “I wanted to see if blondes really do have more fun”. I also bought new sexy underwear and began wearing more sundresses and skirts.
Tried New Things
I decided to try all kinds of new things – anything and everything I might enjoy. Skydiving had been on my list for a long time. Fear had kept me from actually doing it though. I decided it was time; what did I have to lose after all? I symbolically took the plunge into the next chapter of my life.
I also ordered a ukulele and starting learning and practicing chords. I even took lessons over Zoom and began learning a few songs. Later, I began tinkering around on the piano again too. I joined a women’s softball team – anything that might give me new experiences and make new memories.
I suppose it’s normal for any couple to sort of meld together after being a couple for a decade and a half. I realized that there were many things that I used to like that I hadn’t done in awhile. I think, especially during the last couple of years of my marriage, that I had lost parts of myself. So, I began exploring things I used to love to do, like playing all kinds of music in my house and dancing around. I dusted off my singing bowl from Nepal and actually started using it every morning as a short meditation and in order to create a new morning routine. I began cooking again in a way that I liked. I could make my food as spicy as I wanted and I didn’t have to worry that Mindy wouldn’t like it. I began sewing again using my grandmother’s old Singer.
Reclaimed My Space
I spent much of my time redecorating my house, making it mine. I finally ordered those curtains that Mindy said “no” to. I bought a new couch and matching chair in my favorite color – purple. I bought a huge, again purple, bean bag chair.
I changed my sheets to a cool aqua color and bought a Monet print comforter. I replaced pictures of Mindy with pictures of me traveling all over the world. In the end, I purposefully and carefully smudged my entire house, ridding it of any negative energy.
Made a Happy Playlist
Knowing that my emotions can be very much affected by music, I decided to make a playlist on Spotify. These songs were chosen because they made me feel happy, motivated or empowered. These are the songs I included:
- Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves
- Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
- Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
- Invincible by Kelly Clarkson
- Miss Me More by Kelsea Ballerini
- Happy by Pharrell Williams
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
- Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar
- Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
Wrote Vows to Myself
A day that I was not looking forward to was the day that would have been our 15th wedding anniversary. It came up only a few months after the marriage ended. This was the day that every year we would discuss our vows with each other and renew them. We would review each one and talk about how well we did over the past year. We gave each other kudos for ones that were well-done and offered ways to help with ones we had difficulty with. With all that in mind, we then renewed our vows to each other.
I allowed myself to grieve a little (the night before), but then decided to take back the power of this day. I decided to make it a day all about me. I began with going to the gym and I bought myself a little treat that I like (frozen strawberries). I also sat down and wrote vows to myself. I thought long and hard about what I needed to do in order to be happy and healthy. These are what I came up with:
- I vow not to be a victim.
- I promise to keep learning, growing and striving to be my best self.
- I promise to embrace forgiveness.
- I promise to maintain allegiance to my core values.
- I vow to maintain a strong and healthy support system.
- I promise not to hide parts of myself from family and friends.
- I promise to listen to myself and not be afraid to put myself first.
- I promise to learn to love myself more and more each day.
- I vow to create a life worth living.
Spent Time with Animals
I have always found that spending time with animals can be very healing. I spent some time at Noah’s Arc Potbelly Pig Sanctuary in Port Richey, where I used to volunteer. I brought bags of carrots and apples to give to the many loved pigs there. And I was excited to see one pig in particular – Jade! I first met Jade when she was just a few months old. I was present during her spay surgery and I gave her belly rubs and lots of attention. Like all pigs, she grew…and grew…and grew!
For my birthday I spent a few days at Peacefield in Newberry, Florida. I loved spending time with the newly arrived cows saved from the dairy and meat industries. It’s hard to feel pain when hanging out with a friendly cow.
Took a Self-Esteem Class
Having low self-esteem is something I have always struggled with. Hearing that my wife of almost 15 years was no longer attracted to me and her subsequent walking out the door didn’t help matters much. Realizing I needed some help in this area, I enrolled in a 10-week self-esteem course through Directions for Living.
This series of classes talked about how to challenge our inner critics, how to reframe past mistakes and how to set goals for the future. There was homework every week and I carefully and thoughtfully worked through every exercise and I’m happy to say that it helped.
Forced Myself to Deal With Painful Feelings
One night, I had a dream telling me to face my feelings from the divorce. After six months of pushing aside painful and challenging emotions, I realized it was time to face them. Healing and moving on would only happen if I allowed myself to grieve.
And so, I forced myself to welcome painful feelings knowing that it was the healthy path I needed to take. I elicited these feelings by looking at photos – photos of our wedding day, of all the trips we had subsequently taken together, birthdays and anniversaries, parties, outdoor adventures, meals we had shared and the list goes on.
The result of this painful exercise was a published post on our shared travel blog. This final post, entitled Thank You and Goodbye, highlighted our many travel adventures around the world over the span of our relationship.
I am one of those people who saves mementoes. During our marriage, I saved every birthday and anniversary card, every note we ever gave each other, and tickets to every event we went to. I also had a separate box for our wedding that included what I had written when I proposed, invitations, our program and wedding cards. Yup, I’m that person. I hadn’t gone back through these boxes since creating them. Little did I know that each time I added something to the memento box, that I would eventually use it to heal.
And so I took some time to read through notes and cards and remember the events I had tickets to. I cried with each one and then let them go.
Made a List of Positives
A friend suggested that I “look at the silver lining” and make a list of positives about my wife leaving. I tried it. The very short list mostly included not having to watch ice-hockey or HGTV and being able to eat spicy food. At the beginning, it was a challenge to come up with anything substantial; I had difficulty in seeing past the major loss.
As time passed, however, I revisited this idea. A year later, the list turned out to be much lengthier than I could have ever expected. At some point, I decided to make a negative list and it was surprisingly much shorter than expected. Eventually, as I began focusing forward instead of backward, the list was blank and, frankly, didn’t matter anymore.
Fell in Love
When I was hospitalized a fellow patient gave me a picture she had drawn of me in a convertible. She told me “You never know what’s just around the corner” as she handed it to me and explained that this represented my newly found freedom. I thanked her for the picture and decided to keep it when I got out of the hospital. I placed it on a shelf and I looked at it every now and then and thought of what she told me. This little gesture gave me hope for the future.
A few months later, I befriended a neighbor. She had lost her wife of 20 years due to health complications only a few months prior. We first met online through the Lesbian Tampa Bay group and discovered that we lived in the same neighborhood. When I stood on my porch and plugged her address into my GPS, it told me that she was only 292 steps away. I couldn’t believe it! Her house turned out to be just behind the house across the street from me. And you will never guess what kind of car she drove? Yep! A convertible.
In some ways we were going through similar issues – grieving, rediscovering ourselves and our spaces, learning to be independent. A friendship was born. We checked in on each other to see how the other was doing, we worked out at the same gym together and we got to know each other. She turned out to be the most interesting and unique person I had ever met.
We fell in love. We began making memories together, going for motorcycle rides, walking on the beach, celebrated Christmas together, traveled together and so much more. I started a new momento box.
Pawned My Wedding and Engagement Rings
One day I walked into a pawn shop just to see how much I could get for my rings. I thought that perhaps selling the symbol of our marriage might help bring some closure or at least propel me into the next step of my healing. I couldn’t believe that fifteen years of marriage was only worth $170. I went to another pawn shop and a jewelry store and the answer was the same. It was sobering to say the least.
After pondering this decision, I finally decided to let them go. When I got home, I posted this on Facebook:
“I pawned my wedding and engagement rings today. While the employee filled out the order, I asked to hold them one last time. I remembered how I would constantly flip the engagement ring around with my thumb. I also remember the excitement of going into the jewelry store so many years ago to purchase it. I lived in Berlin at the time. I thought of the new German vocabulary I had to acquire just to be able to talk about what I wanted in a ring. I said goodbye. After a thumb print and a signature I walked out the door with a measly $170. I had a healing cry in the car before heading home. I began running through scenarios in my head of how those rings might make someone else feel as happy as I did when I first got them.”
Smash Room and Grieving Through Art Class
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised after allowing my feelings to surface that some strong emotions would arise. And, instead of pushing them down, shelving them or distracting myself from them, I decided to feel them and allow whatever reaction to come up. I began crying more when I felt sad, clutching my heart when I felt wounded and letting curse words leave my mouth at a variety of volume levels when I felt angry.
I had heard about places called Rage Rooms or Smash Rooms. These are rooms in which you can release anger, stress, emotional pain or, as in my case, a combination of all of the above. A smash room is exactly what it sounds like – a room where you smash the hell out of dishes, vases, electronics et cetera for an allotment of time.
Although I never made it to the smash room (I had found one in Largo, Florida), thoughts of swinging a sledgehammer or a baseball bat around a room filled with smash-able items helped me navigate my anger.
Update: I did eventually go to a smash room to deal with residual feelings of anger and betrayal that just weren’t going away on their own. You can read about my experience here: Ever try a smash room? I tried it for the first time in Clearwater, Florida. Read all about my experience here.
In order to channel the deep sadness and grief I was feeling, I signed up for an art class that was designed to help students heal through visual art and journaling through the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. This sounded perfect for me. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because I was the only one who signed up.
Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love traveling. Covid certainly slowed me down, but I still managed to go to a few places I hadn’t been to before. In the summer, I enjoyed an impromptu weekend in Melbourne Beach, the east coast of Florida. For my birthday in January, I took a road trip, spending a couple nights with the awesome rescued animals at Peacefield in Newberry, Florida and a couple nights enjoying the manatees in Crystal River, Florida.
In January and February, I went to Cancun, Mexico twice to help my best friend Erick move there. I even spent Valentine’s Day there. I hadn’t celebrated Valentine’s Day in over a decade and a half. The most amazing trip I took, however, was a two week jaunt to Egypt in the spring. Visiting ancient tombs, riding in a hot-air balloon over the Nile and Valley of the Kings, trying new foods, and camping in the White Desert was a great way to make new memories!
Officiated a Lesbian Wedding
Officiating a friend’s wedding allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself. It afforded me the opportunity to play a role in someone else’s happiness. And in the end, it reminded me that marriage is indeed a beautiful thing and something I want to do when I am ready.
Filed For Divorce
After the anniversary of Mindy leaving, I decided to research online how to actually get divorced in Florida. I discovered that it was relatively easy, especially when compared to other states. There were some forms to fill out, sign and file with the county court. I read that we would both have to go before a judge and say that our marriage was “irretrievably broken”. I had some questions that didn’t seem to be online, so I headed down to the court and asked. They said it was $421 and the entire process would be complete in 4-6 months. I had a little cry in the parking lot before heading back home, but learning of the steps helped me mentally (and practically) prepare for the process.
The day we filed for divorce was awkward and melancholy. As I handed over the divorce papers under the piece of glass to the clerk at the courthouse, I couldn’t help but think about the joy I felt when we got our marriage license over a decade and a half before. I thought of the excitement surrounding our wedding day. I got flashes of various key points in our marriage – memories of traveling and laughing together. I found myself reflecting on the entirety of my relationship. I was sad. I bought myself a plant with purple flowers as a way of giving myself some compassion and love.
And yet, filing for divorce was an important step for the next chapter of my life. So, part of me also felt glad it was done. I received the date for the divorce hearing only days later in the mail. And the official date of our divorce was a short few weeks away…and on Zoom. It was happening so quickly, much faster than I had anticipated.
I thought I was fine with the divorce and was just waiting for the court hearing. Only a few days to the hearing there was a last minute change to the post-nuptial agreement and that threw me into what I can only describe as chaos. I was a complete emotional mess. I couldn’t stop crying and just wanted to climb into bed and make the world go away. Seeing the actual end in sight brought up all the original pain. I felt rejected and abandoned all over again. Feelings of unworthiness set in as did questions of the path my life was heading. I felt lost.
On the date of the hearing I logged into Zoom, took a deep breath, and opened my little camera window unsure of what to expect. The judge was there and three other couples all with the same sad and pensive look. This was nothing to celebrate. Of course, Mindy was there too. I was able to watch another couple go before the judge so I knew what to expect. A point of humor in the process was when the judge asked me if I was pregnant. “No your honor. That ship has sailed”, I told him, which received some much needed comic relief from everyone in the “room”. Mindy and I each declared that our marriage was “irretrievably broken” and the judge granted our divorce. My emotions were mixed for the next couple of days as I mentally processed everything. On the one hand, it was sad that our marriage officially ended, but on the other, I was able to focus on my future instead of being dragged back to the past.
Let Go of My House
Deciding to sell my house was a huge step in my recovery. I realized that I had bought this house with Mindy with the intent on growing old there together. To that end, we painted with the colors we had chosen together, planted fruit trees together, set up a place for the hammock and so much more. While at first, I needed my house as a safe space to heal, I later realized that selling it might bring me the closure I was looking for. Holding on to the house could be equated with holding on to my marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went with it. I knew that I would have to say goodbye to the house full of memories of a future that no longer exists.
I anticipated (and hoped) that selling my house would be the last very painful hurdle I had to go through before I was able to truly say goodbye to my relationship with Mindy. I began downsizing – donating, selling and throwing things away. I had to fight the urge to go too quickly, wanting to be on the other side of this hurdle/mountain. But, I also knew that I needed this in order to move on and rushing it might interfere with the healing process.
Putting my house on the market involved setting up a big yard sale. Organizing various items, some of which were tied to my marriage, proved cathartic. I watched the Ikea bed frame, which Mindy and I had bought 16 years prior, walk out the door. Perhaps the most poignant item was the “jar of love”. Mindy and I had always felt that putting love in food is what made it taste good. At some point, I decided to actually make a jar of love to keep in the kitchen. I taped a piece of paper bearing the red letters LOVE on a short but fat jar with a suction lid. Over the years in our marriage this jar lived in several kitchens. We would say things like “This meal looks great! Did you put love in it?” The answer was either “yes” or an “oh my god, I forgot” followed by a run to the kitchen. Once, when Mindy was heading across the street to the NoFrills (in Toronto), she asked me if we needed anything in particular. I asked if she could pick up some more love. I said smiling, “Frozen is ok. But I prefer fresh. Definitely not canned”. She came back with a plastic produce bag tied at the top so it was all puffy, accompanied by “I got the love”. The jar of love ended up on the miscellaneous table for a measly $1. After all, it was just a jar.
The first thing I packed when moving out was the magnets from my fridge. I had collected them from all over the world. Throughout the entire process of emptying my house, I wondered what would be the last to go. As I scanned the empty house, hearing my voice echoing against the walls Mindy and I had painted only a few years prior, I knew what I would miss most of all: the backyard. I would miss seeing my fruit trees all grown up and bearing fruit. I would miss fire pit nights on the patio under the canopy of trees. I would miss enjoying the abundance of wildlife buzzing, flying, scurrying, fluttering and leaping around me as I lay in my favorite place in the world: my purple and white hammock placed perfectly between two trees in the corner of my yard. I had planted lots of flowers around it to create what came to be my “pretty garden”. This was my favorite place in the world. It was my little slice of Heaven, my safe space, my little piece of the earth. Even after the house went on the market, I spent lots of time in the hammock, watching squirrels chase each other in the trees above me, listening to blue jays argue with each other and being greeted by vibrant butterflies.
The morning of the house-signing came. I spent some time in the hammock and said goodbye to my fruit trees.
I smudged the entire house starting with the guest bedroom. As I moved throughout each room, a plethora of memories flooded my mind. I made sure to accept them all and when I needed to cry, I did. I smudged the front deck and as I left the property, I smudged the mail box. I walked with sage in hand to my new home just around the corner. As I reached the end of my block, I turned back one last time and said goodbye, quite literally closing the door to the previous chapter of my life.
I had left the new owner a homemade card with the keys, a tree map of the back yard and a note. I ended the letter with, “I hope you love the house the way I did. She is wonderful and has a beautiful soul. Take good care of her and may you have a good life here.” I placed the card on top of my beloved hammock and left them on the kitchen counter.
Forgiving Mindy was something I struggled with while healing. I revisited this often (and still do). I researched ways to forgive someone and I tried to empathize with her perspective and feelings. Little by little I forgave her for various misgivings or things she couldn’t control, like her change in feelings towards me.
What I had the hardest time forgiving, however, is the fact that in the end, she did not honor her commitment to us. Did we have issues? Yes. But, I wanted to work on them because we had promised we would on our wedding day and every subsequent year. But, she walked away and I struggled with forgiving her for this ultimate betrayal. My struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder played a role in the forgiving process. I am extremely sensitive to abandonment and rejection, which made her leaving more painful. My instinct to see the world in black and white did not help in forgiving either. It was a challenge not to see things as either good or bad. Seeing “the gray” with ease could have been helpful. I also grappled with feelings of deep-seeded hatred for myself, feelings of being unworthy of love and it was easy to blame Mindy for these. But, the truth is that I dealt with this pain long before I met Mindy.
Therapy helped me work through these painful emotions. It also became apparent that pain of this magnitude would only heal with time. My wound was still open. Therapy revealed that I seemed to be stuck on the idea that my vows were cemented. I quickly thought of something that my Ojibwe professor said in graduate school: A single blade of grass can push up a sidewalk. Thinking about this helped me realize how fragile cement actually is and that change is inevitable…in relationships and beyond.
I had a dream one night where Mindy and I were somewhere in Asia. We were trying to get to a place where we were to wait for a special celebration with fireworks. She was lifting me up and carrying me in front of her with her arms wrapped around my waist. I told her that she didn’t need her to carry me anymore. She insisted. I told her that I thought I could make it on my own and that perhaps I could at least try to walk to the next pedestrian crossing. (It was clear in my dream that I had a hurt ankle.) I kept insisting that I could make it on my own, but she kept carrying me and refused to put me down. Eventually, we came to a point where to continue, she would have to carry me up a very steep hill. I told her it was ok to put me down. She continued up the hill alone and I decided to get to the event a different way, a flatter route. I was fine to walk on my own and enjoyed walking through the streets of a foreign country. I arrived to the celebration point and sat with some local folks waiting for the “show” to begin. There were tree branches above and I wondered if this were the best place to watch the fireworks. Mindy didn’t show. She had gone her own way. I had kept to the plan. I expressed my concern to the locals that perhaps this wasn’t the best place to be and they suggested that we all go to another place. I went with them…without Mindy and unsure of where she ended up.
At some point, I came to the realization that she did what she thought was right. I also recognized that although she knew that leaving me would result in emotional pain and feelings of betrayal, her intent was not to hurt me. In fact, I think she stayed longer than she wanted, to avoid hurting me. Shortly before the divorce, I learned that Mindy was still healing from the breakup too and that the past year hadn’t been easy for her either. I think part of my forgiveness came out of my empathy for her pain. After all, I could relate to this kind of grief.
Realizing that time is now my biggest friend in forgiveness, I have resigned to letting nature take its course. I don’t mean to discount the progress I made, through deliberate hard work, in sewing up what felt like an open wound. But, I know that once enough time passes, the extreme and intense emotions around the subject will dissipate. At least this is my hope. In short, I think once I stop hurting, forgiving will come naturally. Only time will tell.
A year after Mindy left, Chrissy proposed to me beside a river in a very scenic setting in rural Vermont. I was taken completely by surprise! She was behind me on the river bank and after taking a selfie, I turned around to find her on one knee with a beautiful ring in hand. When scrolling through my pictures later, I discovered that my selfie had actually captured her on her knee waiting for me to turn around.
I was truly taken aback! I said “yes” even though in my heart I knew I wasn’t ready. After a panic attack woke me up in the middle of the night, I had to tell her that I wasn’t ready for this major step. “It’s not a no; it’s a not yet“, I told her as I returned the ring.
In the subsequent months, I worked on the practical side of separating from Mindy. I kicked into gear in tying up loose ends. I learned how to get divorced, researched health insurance options, separated from Mindy’s phone plan and got my own car insurance policy. As each tie to Mindy dissipated, I began to feel more and more ready for the next step in my relationship with Chrissy.
On our first year anniversary I proposed to Chrissy on Sunset Beach, the very beach we ended up at on the evening she took me for a our first motorcycle ride together. I had prepared a picnic for us and read her a prepared statement I had composed telling her how much she means to me. (And yes, I absolutely got down on one knee.)
Wrote This Post
Compiling this post was twofold:
1) I felt it would be a great way for me to reflect on my progress. I wanted to document where I started, where I got to and all the steps in between. The act of recording my feelings and analyzing my journey of healing helped me not get lost in each minutia of the process. Reflecting on steps along the way often reminded me of the bigger picture and as such forced my focus to become wider. As I contemplated each step, I was also able to see the progress I had made. Eventually, this post itself became a vital part of my healing process.
2) It is my hope that the recounted steps through my grieving, healing and moving on, might help someone else who has just received the same painful words from their spouse or partner that I had.
For any readers who might be suffering from a painful separation, please know that the pain will not last forever and there are things you can do to healthily move you through the process of healing. You will get through this!
After my experience, my advice is this:
- Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Forgive yourself.
- Get out and do anything. It does’t matter what it is, but do something…and often. If you get invited out, always say “yes”, even if it’s not something you would ordinarily do. Change your routine. The sooner you make new memories without your partner the better.
- Take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Do a variety of activities that are sure to touch on each of these aspects of yourself. On a daily basis, try something new (doesn’t matter how big or small), help something grow (care for a plant), cultivate a friendship (be sure to call someone or get together with someone every day), and do something creative (write down a poem, paint something).
- Spend time grieving/healing. At first, the goal was to simply get through each day and if avoiding painful emotions helped me do that, then so be it. But, eventually, once you have passed the danger zone, you will need to actively work on grieving. When you are ready, let yourself feel. Let yourself cry. Let yourself scream obscenities. Allow those painful emotions to surface and welcome them with open arms remembering that each painful breath brings you that much closer to healing.
- Set goals for the future. I found this harder to do at the beginning, because I could only focus on the loss. But, when you are ready, start thinking about the next chapter of your life. There will be a day when you realize that this is your chance to rewrite your future and to create any kind of life for yourself that you want. It’s a clean slate to start again.
- Keep trying. Keep getting up each day and remind yourself that you are worth the struggle! Keep searching for activities and techniques that might help you. After all, it might just be the very act of searching and trying that propels you in the end.
- There is no right way to do it! Listen to advice, including mine, but listen to yourself along the way and don’t be afraid to do what is right for you.
In the end, I realized that I am indeed stronger than I had thought. At the lowest time in my life I had the strength to lift my gaze from the hospital floor. I had the strength to face my fear and jump out of a plane. I proved resilient on my first wedding anniversary without Mindy. I had the courage to willfully face painful emotions. I saw my strength in saying goodbye to my wedding and engagement rings and to my house. I was strong in working on forgiveness. And, I had the courage to open my heart again.