It was a random Monday night. I was married, I was 32 my husband was 31 nad he basically just dropped dead in our bedroom. I called 911, did everything I was supposed to do, unfortunately, it was one of those situations where perfectly healthy people just drop dead.

I don’t think I was functioning at all. I am very lucky in that I have a great family and great friends who took care of me. I was able to go home. The military provides benefits and I was able to take the time I needed to grieve and deal with everything I had gone through in that loss in a way that wasn’t involved with anybody else’s needs. I was very lucky in that way and that took about a year. There was like a year of fog and I have no idea what I did.

I had some issues with some benefits that required a little bit of a fight on my part. That was what I did the second year.

There are tons of organizations out there to help surviving spouses with what they need. That’s where I started learning about inequities facing military widows. While there is a great support system for that initial trauma and death, down the road, there may not be.

Because I didn’t have to care for anyone but myself, that’s the road down which I headed, to care for my fellow military widows.

Now I work for an organization where I get to walk in under the words, “We honor the dead by helping the living.”

What I remember first and foremost is that my husband loved to have a good time. He was all about vacationing and being with family and friends and enjoying life so I kind of took that idea and a lot of that first year was traveling. There was a lot of laying in bed and a lot of traveling.

I don’t want to gloss over the pain. It was serious, it was real…we were together since we were 16 years old so he was all I ever knew and I think that follows me now.

What really hit me one day was the idea, do dead people watch you shower?

I had an aha moment and I thought, if Jeff is going to check in on me, shouldn’t I give him a better movie of my life than lying in bed and crying all day? Because I don’t want to watch that movie and I don’t want to make him watch that movie so I’m going to watch him do amazing things.

I think there was probably an ounce of trying to escape with all that traveling and then what I learned from that was you can go anywhere but your problems stay with you so you have to work through them if you’re going to find any sort of happiness and calmness in your life.

It taught me if I want to feel better I probably have to do a little bit of work myself on this grief. That looked like therapy. I’ve had three therapists since losing my husband and they were all at different stages because my issues were situational.

I miss him benign there. I miss his arms. I miss having a soulmate…somebody that knows me. I have great friends and they know me but they don’t know me the way he knew me. We just had a connection that I honestly don’t know if I will ever find again and I’m okay with that. Still get a little teary, but I think what we had was special and it was also special because of the time in our lives that we met.

We were together for 11 years before we got married. I just miss him being there. I loved seeing him become the man that I always knew he could be and we were a team. I miss being part of a team. Being alone has its great points and I do love my life but, there’s nothing like having a partner to walk through life with.

Even the worst divorces can turn into 20-years later you’re happily at your kids’ weddings together or you’re able to do the college graduation and nobody’s fighting and bickering. There’s a chance with divorce, whether you stay or whether you leave that later on things could change and be better and death just doesn’t have that option.

Jeff was the biggest cheerleader. He believed in my ability to do anything. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where I was going. I had a bachelor’s degree so that box was checked. I was completely lost job and purpose-wise.

My goal was to come to DC and fix one specific issue and that anger at that issue was what got me to go back to school so I did that and that’s how I found the organization I’m in. And now, the issue to come to DC to fix has been fixed. By no means by myself alone. This was a massive group effort.

I feel like when bad things happen to us, one of the best ways to heal is to take it out of us and put it onto how do we help people like us who are going through this.

You’ve got to embrace the suck. You’ve got to acknowledge the situation sucks and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

Death is something none of us have any control over, whatsoever. Being able to release from that is important. Figure out what moves your heart and how you can share that with people. Whenever we give of ourselves we get back so much more.

I’m a big believer in it’s okay to cut out toxic people in your life, no matter who they are, how they’re related to you. That’s one thing I became a lot more firm about after losing him.

I’ve learned we’re here for a certain amount of time and none of us knows how long that is going to be.

I refuse to spend my time on this earth expending energy on people who are nasty, toxic. I’m going to spend my time with people that I love, that I respect, that I care about.

At the end of the day, if everybody that you love knows that you love them you’ve done a good job on this earth because there’s nothing else you can take with you other than love. That’s what goes across being alive and being dead.

Know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You might not see the light. There might just be darkness in front of you. With the right support, there’s a light at every tunnel and we can get there. It might feel like walking across glass and fire to get there, but I know my friends and family love me and that’s the light. The light is getting back to some semblance of happiness and normalcy and you’re not going to see that in the beginning but know that it is there.

It will be better one day and that’s for anybody going through something. You can get to happiness and calm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was married to my husband for 3 years and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was a very aggressive type, unfortunately, he lost his battle and I was Suddenly Single for the first time since I was 20 years old.

He was in the military and was near the burn pits so we suspect but we could never prove that’s where he picked up his cancer.

When he was diagnosed we had already been through this crazy medical journey with our daughter. She was born 2 years prior to that with a very rare disease. When he said he had cancer I went into denial.

At first, I was pretty optimistic but also trying to protect myself because we had already been through so much.

He really had a beautiful death. He was in the hospital but all our friends and family came. We all surrounded him as we took him off the ventilator, we just surrounded him in love and talked about how much we loved him and were making jokes in the room. It was just a very happy place and I know that sounds so weird. It was really full of love and happiness. To me, that was a really beautiful way to die.

The next couple of days were honestly a blur. I was trying to take care of my daughter. I was suddenly a single mom with a medically complicated kid. Just trying to survive at that point.

My daughter passed away 8 months later after my husband, so that’s a whole different story. It was a bad year. My family was extremely supportive. It was very, very difficult.

When my daughter was first diagnosed they told us she was only going to live for a year. She ended up living three and a half. That first year she was alive I went through grief counseling. I felt like going through grief therapy for a year helped me put things into perspective as it was unfolding that my husband wasn’t going to make it. After my husband passed I went back into therapy and I did grief counseling again for a full year. I really can’t stress how important therapy is, not only for a death but for any kind of loss.

I went to a lot of different dark places during that time. I feel like having the support of therapy and a professional guiding me was essential.

I’m a productive griever. Some people really process it by crying and other people stay busy. I was definitely the stay busy griever and went headfirst into exercise. Exercise has always been a coping mechanism for me so I went back to my Crossfit gym. I went 3 times a week and got back into martial arts. I had been into martial arts for almost a decade before life got busy. I feel like those two things really helped me focus that energy in a positive healthy way. I stayed away from alcohol.

I focused my energy on work and keeping healthy.

I think it’s about living in the moment. I don’t really worry about what’s going to happen in the future because I live like nothing is owed to me. I don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow. I try to really live in the moment. I really, really try to appreciate every little thing….try to appreciate the ordinary day-to-day because when things happen that are so terrible you really miss those normal boring day-to-day things the most.

I think you can let grief destroy you or you can let grief build you back better. I went through a really difficult time, but I always think about the time that my husband and my daughter didn’t get and I want to live the best life that they would have wanted.

I really feel like I am so incredibly lucky and grateful and blessed to have a healthy body and to be able to do the things that I can do and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted. That’s what has helped me rebuild because they couldn’t do that so I want to do that for them.

I love my life now. I loved my life before, but I love my life now too. I got remarried so I have an amazing husband named Adam and we have a oneish-year-old son named Noah. Being a mom and being a wife are my two most favorite things in the whole world and I’m just so lucky that I got to do it twice.

I really feel like I got a Mulligan. I know that sounds awful, but I feel like I am a better wife and a better mom because of what happened.

I really try whenever I’m with my husband or my son, I put my phone away. I put all distractions away as best I can. Of course, I’m human but I really try to turn off distractions and focus on them when I’m with them. I really try hard when I’m with anyone to turn off the distractions and focus on them.

Resilience is something I’ve really strived for just because you never know what life is going to throw at you and you want to be able to bounce back as best you can. I think everyone has that within them. It’s a learned thing and I think that comes with therapy and putting the tools in your toolbox and making sure you’re focusing on that muscle. I feel like everyone has that ability to do that. I don’t think it’s special or limited to some people. I think it’s something you learn to do.

As a society, we think of grief as a beginning and an end when really there is no end and I think that kind of catches people off guard when they go through it.

The number one thing is, you are doing a good job. No matter what you are feeling…grief is such a weird situation that happens within you that you’re constantly doubting your ability on the external because grief is pulling you so much internally to think about things. It’s easy to feel like you are lacking in other areas of your life. Whatever you can do in that moment is totally fine. As you move forward, you will realize a lot of those things you were so worried about, they really don’t have a long-term impact. Just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and if all you can manage is a couple of things to do during the day that’s fine. You’re doing a good job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My ex-husband and I met when I was really young, I was 19 when we met and we got married when I was 21.

We were married for 18 years. There was a specific event that occurred where I just knew this was the end of our marriage and everything kind of spiraled out of control for a moment after that.

I think I handled it pretty well, looking back on everything. I actually surprised myself about how strong I can actually be. It was a sudden change in my marriage. Things hadn’t been great, but I just saw it as a little downhill in the marriage which happens when you’ve been together that long. But it really was sudden.

They always say, your life can change in an instant and that’s how I felt.

I’m definitely a planner. For me, I didn’t cope with it very well at first. Surprisingly, I didn’t really break down and cry. I don’t know if I was in shock.

I need to be strong. I can’t lose it right now. It kept me calm but in my head, I was like, what am I going to do? My first reaction was I just want to flee. I don’t even want to go back home. I just want to flee from everything and not have to deal with it. Once I calmed down a little bit I realized I need to go about this in a rational manner and try not to freak out so much.

There were all these questions…where do I want to live? How am I going to support myself financially?

There was a lot of thinking going on. We actually lived together for 6 months after we separated, which people think is insane and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but the good part was I didn’t flee and I was confronted with him every day and it allowed for us to talk a lot, to cry a lot, to yell a lot. Not necessarily in front of our daughter. I felt like I was able to process everything by talking with him and being confronted by him and I think he needed to talk too. I think, in the end, it was actually helpful to me.

During this time I was just trying to figure things out. There were meltdowns for sure. The minute I was in the car for the first time by myself, completely by myself, it just hit me and I had to pull over in the parking lot and just cry.

All in all, I remember waking and thinking, this isn’t it. This is not the end of my life. I just decided to see it as the beginning of my second life. I always say we only have one life. I didn’t want to waste away the rest of my life being upset and bitter and depressed and heartbroken. Just decided this is my chance to start over.

Just being able to focus on myself a little bit more and being able to do things that I want to do without having to answer to anyone. Just not putting the man first. I know that sounds awful but my life did revolve around him. He was the center of my universe. Everything in my life revolved around him. Any decision I made revolved around him.

It was my mom who said to me that I had put him on this pedestal and nobody could touch him. He was definitely the center of my world and it was probably wrong for me to do that. For my second life, I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to answer to anyone. I just wanted to put myself and my daughter first.

I wanted to make sure I was not ignoring my feelings about everything. I wanted to make sure I was processing everything. You are grieving. I was grieving the past and the loss of this marriage and I was also grieving my idea of what I thought our future family life would be like. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t denying myself of feeling those things.

I went on a trip all by myself to figure out how am I feeling about all this. I wanted to check in with myself. I needed to make sure I was able to get away and think.

Sunday morning now is my thing. I don’t have to worry about anybody else expecting anything of me. That’s a new thing. I don’t want to clean up the dishes I don’t have to. It’s so freeing in a way.

There’s no tension around me anymore. It’s just so nice not to have that tension anymore, it’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I’m still working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. I’ve been spending more time with friends. Most of my friends are married and with kids and it has been a new thing for me to find single friends or friends who don’t have kids. I’m meeting all these new women that are single. It’s fun to be able to connect with them and go out with them and just have fun. It’s this whole new group of friends that I’m finding. That’s really new.

I just started getting into meditation. Those who know me probably think I’m insane, but one of the problems I have is switching modes. Meditation has helped me calm my mind a little bit so I can focus on the next thing.

I’ve never been a really religious person but I’ve just recently started becoming more spiritual. I have found that has helped me. That belief that things do happen for a reason and let go of control of your life and trust that things are going to work out has helped me. I’m a doer and I need to control certain aspects of my life so I’ve learned to just take a breath and relax and everything will be fine. You don’t always have to DO all the time.

A few things have happened in my life where I thought, this had to have happened for a reason. This can’t be a coincidence that this happened the way it did.

Everything was just going crazy and I just needed to get some control back and a way of doing that was benign proactive about my future and my daughter’s future and it felt good. It helps in a way but it can just block a lot of things too.

One of the things that has been hard is if I’ve had a rough day and I come home and there’s nobody there sometimes I think it would be nice if somebody was here who could just say, it will be okay. Somebody to talk to about it.

I met my ex-husband when I was 19. I’d never dated. I don’t understand the rules. There were no text messages back then. There were no dating apps back then. I remember we were talking on the landline on a calling card. I don’t understand the rules and I don’t know any other way to be than in a relationship. I’m just being me. It’s not like I’m trying to rush into the next relationship, I’m, just being me.

It’s okay to grieve and to be upset and to process all that, but at the same time, there is so much to look forward to. See it as a new beginning, as a chance to do something with your life that maybe you weren’t able to do while you were married and just see it as an exciting part.

Making all these decisions, it is liberating, it is empowering to do all these things on your own because it can actually be fun. I know it’s scary and I was scared too because I didn’t know what was going to happen (and I still don’t know what is going to happen in my future obviously), but a the same time, being scared isn’t going to change anything so just go ahead and get out from under the blankets and start living again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in a strict Catholic family and went to a Catholic college that was definitely more strict than probably a lot of Catholic institutions of higher ed. It was just the culture there that a lot of the women would pretty much immediately get married. They actually called it getting your Mrs. Degree so there was a lot of cultural pressure to marry.

I married right out of college and it was kind of getting married just to do that. I had this sinking feeling in my gut a little after I had done that.

It was a couple of years later someone said to me Catholics can get an annulment and you don’t have to be in this situation if you don’t want to be so eventually I did that. It a long separation process and there was a lot of drag on me from my husband at the time and my family.

I feel like I’ve had a whole couple of lives since then.

An annulment seemed like a nice way to have full closure. I had already done my separation and my divorce and the annulment just seemed like the last piece. It seemed like it would be nice for my family to do it and nice for myself. I got married in the catholic church and it kind of made sense to end that process in the church. I slowly drifted out of Catholicism.

I drifted out of Catholicism but I knew that I wanted to do some kind of spiritual practice. I did a conversion to conservative Judaism for a year. I had to study fairly extensively for that and that was a pretty cool thing. I don’t practice Judaism anymore either.

What got me into the thing I’m into now was via yoga. I was going to start teaching portions of yoga teacher training I started studying a lot of history philosophy of that and one of my dues diligence things I thought I would do is go to the Hare Krishna temple. It’s a cool thing to go to during non-COVID times.

I just meant to do that to experience it, not to start doing it but I got kind of unwittingly drawn into this tradition of Bhakti yoga.

I find a lot of times it’s when you’re not looking for something, that’s when you accidentally stumble into something and you’re fortuitously into it.

The initial thing that helped me get nudged out of the marriage was martial arts. That’s another thing I’m not doing currently. I didn’t expect to get as into martial arts as I did but I definitely got sucked in.

Maybe the theme there is me not knowing how to dabble in something and getting sucked into my activities of choice.

I’m naturally a little bit of an aggressive person and I think a lot of times people have that streak and it’s not necessarily bad, and I think martial arts are a really healthy way of expressing that aspect of ourselves. There’s almost a kind of love expressed in sparring with someone when they are part of your same team because it’s really like you’re giving them aggression and they’re giving it back but you have an agreement to not actually hurt them. Oddly enough, there’s an interpersonal aspect to it. I enjoy connection and that’s another way of connecting with people.

My philosophy is very much that it doesn’t need to be all love and light all the time, and I don’t necessarily think that’s authentic. As a yoga teacher and as a professor I try to hold that space for people to have all these different feelings.

Naturally in life, you’ll be feeling uncertainty or anger or loneliness or sadness and it’s valid to feel all that.

Aggression is a kind of human expression. I think it’s important to explore those darker aspects of yourself. I think people navigate through it a lot better if they acknowledge that they have those feelings. You don’t need to feel zen all the time.

If people don’t get to channel those aggressive feelings in a positive creative way they might get pulled into one of these systems that offer that peak experience in a negative way. Music has always been used as a vehicle of culture.

I’m a person who is very willing to go outside their comfort zone. I’m very willing to try new things. I’m very willing to talk to different people outside of my same sphere of experience. In fact, that’s something I really value. I don’t want to be around people of my same experience all the time or be in an echo chamber. I want to hear how they have lived their lives and how they came up. Part of that got shaped by the fact that I was homeschooled.

If people get that feeling that it doesn’t fit just acknowledge that. Don’t try to smush their life into some parameter that it’s not meant to be in energetically. Especially don’t try to do it for years. If you get little feelings of discomfort maybe it’s a bad day, but pay attention if it really persists over a long period of time. Just allow themselves to explore. Try different things. Go to that weird random event. Talk to that friend of a friend.

Just try. There doesn’t have to be any clearly plotted trajectory.

I really feel like if people are curious and open to trying a lot of times the options that naturally drift their way through all these interpersonal connections, they’ll start to work out a different more fulfilling path for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was with my partner for 29 years. One Saturday morning I was outside gardening and Ed came home from spin class on a Saturday morning and said I don’t feel so well.

He was in the bathroom showering when I heard this thump and I went into the bathroom and he had fallen and he was lying flat on his stomach.

I called 911 and they walked me through doing CPR. I was doing CPR when about 7-8 minutes later the police came and they took over doing CPR. 5-6 minutes later EMS came. It took almost 30-minutes for the ambulance to get there.

I was in shock. He was 56, a pediatrician going to spin class, and 29 years together I was in shock. I was just standing there.

Some of it is hard to remember because a lot of it is kind of foggy. I think I called my mom and dad while I was in the car.

My life upended at that moment.

Things were just surreal at that moment.

I remember wondering where my life was going to go. We had plans. We had planned on retiring and doing things and that whole plan, in an instant, just changed.

We had a really good life. I loved my job, he loved his job and his patients. I don’t know if it was a fairytale life, but it was good.

I can remember in my early teens and 20’s when I first came out as being gay thinking, what is my life going to be like? It’s not going to be a wife and kids and the house with a white picket fence, but times have changed and we had that life. A life that I never in a million years thought I could ever have.

We had good friends and family was accepting, the community was accepting, we didn’t live in the closet.

He always had this motto, it’s not my motto, you only live once. I know you’ve heard that before but he always said that.

I was really probably in shock for a couple of weeks. I went through the movements, the emotions of life after the dust settled. I love to cook and I love to eat and I probably didn’t cook a meal for two weeks. I was barely eating and eating terribly.

I thought to myself, I’m not an alone kind of person. I haven’t been alone in nearly 30 years. I don’t want to be alone. This is probably now a month after he died. I thought to myself, how long do I go through this mourning process? and I went online.

Right away I clicked on this guy I thought was really cute, a lot younger than me but he didn’t seem to mind. He was a nurse. We met one weekday after work and we met and I was very attracted to him and he was apparently very attracted to me. We had a wonderful sushi dinner.

We really hit it off, we kissed in the car, and off he went. Three years later, we’re engaged to be married next year.

I don’t want to be alone. I want to be happy. We are now so happy.

You have to at least seek out that person. That person is not going to come knocking on your door saying, do you want to be my spouse? It ain’t happenin’ that way!

I found love twice when I never thought it was going to happen.

It’s like I was 21 all over again. The feeling of love and the feeling of lust doesn’t change because you get older. Your heart beats faster when you talk to him my blood pressure probably went up.

He was worried about the rebound effect. He was also falling in love with me. The feelings were mutual.

It wasn’t a rebound because I knew I was looking for a partner. I wasn’t looking for that one night stand. I wanted someone to share my life with, to share my house with, my home, my dogs. I knew this wasn’t that rebound effect just because I’d had a loss.

We became a couple pretty quickly. We moved in 2 years later. We spent a lot of time together in those first two years so I don’t think I rushed it. It just happened.

It took me actively looking. It took two to look.

He was looking for me and I was looking for him.

Was I lucky? Was he lucky that we found each other at that time? I don’t know if it’s luck, but it happened and I feel lucky. I feel honored and grateful. It turned out to be really wonderful.

I want to take care of him. That’s what love is.

He’s a hero and he’s certainly my hero.

I don’t want to sound cliche here but life does not end when your spouse passes away. Your life goes on.

Realistically speaking, I wanted my life to go on and I wanted to be happy because I’d been happy most of my life. I wanted to pursue happiness again and I found it.

I hope I can help one person. If I can help one person through the tragedy I went through it will all be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband I were happily married. He was my Prince Charming, and nine years into our marriage he had these terrible headaches.

He ended up with a brain tumor and had surgery that left him physically and mentally disabled. We were not prepared for that. Suddenly I was taking care of a 37-year old man and a 4-year old and a 6-year old, so I was Suddenly Single.

Nobody was taking care of me. Nobody prepared us for him coming out completely disabled.

Immediately after the surgery, he seemed fine. In the days after it started coming out that he’d completely changed. It was very hard for everyone to deal with. He was very much trapped inside his body and unable to do anything to help me and I was feeling helpless not knowing how to help him.

It was a very long time before he was back home again.

There are very few women out there like me to reach out to to talk through it and the few that I found, their partners had fared much better.

I tried everything in the world to try to fix him. I finally hired caregivers which is very hard to have caregivers in your house, especially because all he wanted to do was watch TV. We got him stable and he finally got to the point where he could feed himself again, but he never got back to being able to do the activities of daily living himself. He lost all motivation, which was part of the injury.

Two and a half years of this…I was just a shell of a person. Again, nobody taking care of me. Just me taking care of him and taking care of the kids.

After a while money got very tight. It was really hard.

Despite swearing I’d never divorce him, I decided to move him out. I got him a handicap-accessible apartment nearby. I got my life back. I just needed that separation to focus on me, focus on the kids. I found myself sort of single in a new way, 2.5 years later.

The cancer came back several times. He went through radiation, chemotherapy. Cancer is so awful.

I felt very guilty. I made a point of making sure the kids got over to see him one night a week and on weekends.

I found a boyfriend. I felt like I needed some care as well. I stayed married to him, he had my health insurance that way.

There were times early on when I don’t think I even allowed myself to imagine where life was going to go.

I just kept moving forward and really didn’t allow myself the chance to reflect. I just kept pushing forward.

I made sure I was taking care of myself. I made time for myself and made time for the kids. It was such a difficult decision.

I made a decision that I had to take care of the children, and I couldn’t take care of them if I wasn’t being taken care of myself.

Our old couple friends didn’t involve us in anything after it happened. Nobody knew what to do. I lost a lot of friends and a lot of socializing but I built that back up.

They say it over and over, put your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself and I had so many people to take care of.

As people get older, it’s going to be common for one-half of a couple to be disabled. Be there for the person who is still the able spouse.

The girls and I are super close, tight, and wonderful. We have a 3-way text chat that’s going on all day long every day.

I’m not a caregiver, that’s not my strength.

Get power of attorney for all the loved ones in your life while they’re well. Get your paperwork in order. You just don’t know.

Find ways to laugh. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find you’re not the caregiver, that’s not a role that you embrace. Decide what your priorities are. You yourself have to be a priority but then decide is it the spouse, is it your children, is it your business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think I can call it sudden. It was a series of challenges and difficulties over the course of several years that I was married to the wrong person, of course. I just was in a place where I felt like holding together my family was the most important thing by far. Even more important than my own wellbeing. And really, more important than my kids.

I sensed there was an overall undercurrent of unhappiness in my household but I felt like holding my family together was more important than handling that situation.

I stayed as a lot of women do. I stayed and stayed and stayed until I was absolutely certain I had done everything I could do to save my marriage.

It wasn’t sudden. It was over the course of chipping away at myself for many years.

I wanted my kids to grow up the way I did and I had kind of an idyllic childhood. I wanted peace in my household and it wasn’t there but I hadn’t attributed it to my marriage. I thought I was doing the best that I could and if I continued to do the best that I could that I would be able to fix it. I just had it in my mind that I was going to be able to make it better and okay and fix it and run the type of household that I wanted my kids to grow up in.

I’m only realizing now how I failed at that now. I’m only now realizing the magnitude with which I failed. Even now I’m still realizing components that I was unaware of.

It’s challenging to look back at the things I should have noticed.

My sister is a huge influence in my life and walking with her has been my savior through this whole thing. I have a really strong support system and a really great family.

My coping mechanism is art and using my support system.

Art has taken on a really interesting place in my brain and in my heart. Creating is really keeps me sane and keeps me grounded and keeps me connected to my roots. I just have really focused on noticing and utilizing that the best I can.

Just the process of creating is really therapeutic for me and way more than I ever thought it would be.

Using creativity to get through difficult times and to clear my head and to move on and all those things have become really valuable and really critical.

The same day my ex told me he would pursue divorce my teenage daughter told me she was pregnant. Just a couple of weeks later I lost the job that I had had for twenty-five years and I was devastated. As things started to settle, rather than being devastating those things became part of the healing process.

Because of my job I’ve really been able to blossom and shine. That was the foundation of me being able to move on effectively and strongly.

My grandson was born and he’s just completely amazing. I was just able to focus on those things and be rid of the negative influence my marriage had over me. All those things that were devastating became the most incredible blessings that I could imagine.

The universe gave me the foundation I needed to proceed. It has been a long process, I don’t want people to think it was an awakening because it wasn’t. It was really slow and I’m still finding things that I had lost to my marriage. I’m still finding parts of my being that I had just lost.

I realized that I can fix this by myself. I realized I needed art more than I really ever imagined. During my marriage, I lost my ability to connect and I think that’s one of the things I do best but I couldn’t do that within my marriage.

I became more suppressed. I was losing pieces of myself.

I’ve discovered that I really do love myself. I hope that it doesn’t sound arrogant, but I have reconnected with myself and love myself, and notice that I have talents and gifts that I had lost and that I can forgotten about and suppressed. Refinding myself was the best opportunity this situation could have afforded me.

I feel like I’m just at peace with who I am and where I’m going and how I’m moving through the world.

It’s important that people find their own level of peace with what they’ve been given and just stopping. I think we hear this message of never give up and if you just try a little bit harder it will be okay but I think that message needs to be balanced out with it’s okay to just stop and take another path. You don’t always have to be forging forward against all the odds. Eventually, you have to find peace with stopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter came into the house and said, “Can you get the rug out of the truck for the new house?” I was like, we’re moving? That brought about a whole bunch of other conversations and it was amazing to find out that way that I was suddenly single.

I came home five days later and the movers had moved everything out of my house except what was in the basement which was where I’d been living because we weren’t on good terms but we didn’t have the money to go separately.

I went upstairs and there wasn’t even a bed left for me. Later that day the movers came back with a bed because it was taken by mistake.

She moved right around the corner for a while and it was nice because the kids could come back and forth during the integration period.

Shortly after that, my son stopped talking to me and that’s been ten or eleven years.

We had been together since we were teenagers. It was a shocking blow to me and it really hit hard.

I processed it with a lot of alcohol. We’d been in the house for eighteen years and now the house was quiet.

I painted the walls to get a lot of the feelings and emotions out.

It was all about finding something to do with the chaotic energy that was going through me. TO have the quiet time to go into my own thoughts, to figure out what my thoughts were and how I was feeling and how I was doing.

I did a lot of riding on my Harley. Did a lot of hanging out with friends and finding those little tranquil things that could help keep me calm.

The one thing that I really realized was I had become very reactionary. The relationship had gotten to a point where things that were happening that were out of our control.

I really lost myself and my path in being responsible and feeling responsible for everything that was happening. With being reactionary I wasn’t in the true essence of myself. I found myself doing things that were so out of character.

It really made me look at my actions and how I was responsible for things.

In the future, I want to do better. I did everything that I knew at that point in time that I knew how to do. Now I’ve learned different things and different tools.

There’s nothing better to bring out the truth in yourself than going through hard times.

I ended up moving home and shortly after my mom passed away.

I had the reiki session and it changed my world. That created a whole new path and a whole new way for me to release all the pent up anxiety and energy that was within me.

I’ve become a lot more harmonious and a lot more laid back again and moved back into the essence of my truth.

It’s really nice coming into being more of myself and understanding myself, but every relationship has its hiccups, it has its hurdles and one of the things I’ve learned in this relationship is how to communicate as a man to a woman.

Let’s think about the words we’re using and how we want to leave our partner after we’ve gone about saying everything so that we’re building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I find myself always looking to better myself and define the standards within myself to make myself that person I still want to be.

It’s okay for me to be emotional too. So much of the time I would be stoic. I wouldn’t share my unbridled emotions. I’ve learned how to understand myself better and say what I want to say and get the emotions out.

Just letting it all come up and not engaging it will let it fall away. Self-perception without any judgment upon it.

My mom used to say, feelings are feelings, emotions are emotions. Don’t judge yourself for having them. Instead of letting them come and go, we shut them down out of judgment.

Now’s the time to really just let yourself be. Have compassion for yourself. Have the feelings that come and go. Try not to go into your own perception of what they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a romantic at heart. I think sometimes that gets me into trouble.

I saw this incredible person across the room and we immediately fell in love. It was incredible and wonderful and beautiful. It was fantastic but then life happens.

I met someone else during a very trying period of my life and he seemed really really nice, very caring, just the kind of person you need when you’re going through a difficult time.

We got married, however, it didn’t turn out very well. To the public eye, it looked like the most incredible relationship but behind closed doors, it was the exact opposite. It came to a point where it was, if I don’t get out I will die.

I set about saving some money. I had a friend help me get my stuff and I left. However, the hard part of leaving a long-term relationship or marriage isn’t just leaving. That in itself is hard, it’s what comes after that.

I ended up with a nervous breakdown and through a lot of depression, and anxiety and PTSD because of what happened in the relationship.

My ex did not accept that I was leaving him so he continued to stalk me for a number of years.

Then I ended up with chronic fatigue which is a lot more than just being tired. I then had a flare-up of endometriosis. All of this related to the trauma of the relationship and the leadup of my life form benign in love to ensign up in a marriage that was anything but happy.

It’s being able to stand in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

It was going, I’m not giving up. I could have given up and I knew very well if I’d stayed in the relationship I wouldn’t be here today and I thought, there is no way I have fought this hard to now lay down and do nothing, I’m still kicking and screaming and I’m on the other side of huge challenges.

I’m not going to be defined by an abusive relationship. I’m not going to be defined by an illness. I’m going to be defined by what’s important to me.

Since then I’ve decided to use the pain I’ve gone through and convert it to something constructive.

In all honesty, there are times when you want to give up. I definitely wanted to give up.

I do have animals that I look after and I just thought, that’s not fair to them. I made a promise to them to be here, to look after them, and give them the best life possible and I hadn’t delivered that.

By shifting it away from myself it gave me a better perspective.

Am I going to really leave this place because of what someone’s done to me? And I thought, no that’s not okay. If I’m going to do something that harsh and dramatic it’s going to be on my terms and I’m sure as hell not ready to go anywhere.

It was just taking baby steps, little steps…one day at a time. What is going to help me today?

You need to journal, you need to express, you need to look at the bigger picture, you need to tap into what’s important.

It started very much with just be honest. How do I really feel? Take the judgment away. Take away all this pressure that had built up over the years and go, what do I actually want? What will make me happy? It was just working it from day-to-day.

There are days when it’s hard and you feel like I’ve taken one step forward and ten back but you still keep going because when you look back over six months of twelve months you see you’ve come a really long way it’s sometimes it doesn’t’ feel that way.

It’s just finding another way and another way to just keep going.

I’m naturally very creative and at the time I had zero creativity. My cognitive function was minimal and I couldn’t’ focus. I was barely able to do one thing at a time.

You have days where you relapse and you can’t get off the couch but focus on the bigger picture and not being hard on myself on those days. They were tough.

We give ourselves a time frame that we have to get this done by this date and I think that just sets us up to fail and I’ve learned just remove the time. Don’t worry how old you are, don’t worry if it’s this year or next year as long as you get to it that’s all that matters.

I felt like I had gone full circle.

Coming through all of this and the role that I was playing and being the wife none of it was me, none of it was authentic, none of it was true. I came full circle and just stripped it back.

I’m weird and quirky but that’s okay because it’s who I am.

I would do very weird things for creative purposes and I’d lost that part of me. That reckless abandon of just exploring life on my terms and I just got so stuck in, but socially I have to do this.

I’d lost me. The only way I could come out was with me…to find my voice and be me and know that it’s not about perfect.

I learned that I’m fine right now and that was a really hard thing for me to come to terms with.

Take that pressure away. The guilt and the overwhelm. Strip that away and always be honest with yourself. Doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or if it’s messy.

A lot of the things I did, the basis of them was about being loved. It sounds so simple and yet it’s so not. I wanted to be loved. I just wanted to be loved.

If you don’t like me that’s okay. Not everyone’s supposed to. But as long as I like me. It’s easy to do that professionally but it’s when it becomes personal that’s when it becomes real.

The takeaway for me is not to be defined by what happens to you. Not to be defined by what people do to you. Be defined by who you are. When I think of who I am I based it on my core values.

Make it about you. Not about the relationship or family or the guilt or the pressure. Be honest about what you want and look in the mirror when you do it because you can’t hide that way.

Don’t settle. Never, ever settle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was married nearly 43-years to a man I met when I was 14-years old. We dated for 7-years, all through high school and college, and then got married and had 3 children and had a typical life. I worked, he worked, and then as my children started going off to college things started to change.

In 2013 when my daughter was graduating from college she discovered that her father was having an affair. It still took me years to actually ask and make a divorce happen because it was just so hard for me to let go of how I thought my life was going to be.

I’d never lived on my own and I was leaving a house that I created.

Once I decided I was doing it, it happened pretty quickly.

He wanted the house and I needed a fresh start.

I knew there was a date at which my whole life would change, but I had no idea what that change was going to be.

The first thing I had to figure out was where was I going to live?

I had a whole list of what I wanted.

It took me a long time. The things were more important than me.

I went back forth and for 2, almost 3 years. At some point, I had the self-realization that part of the reason I was attached to the things were the memories of raising my children. I don’t need to have the things to have the memories.

When I could finally let go of the life I thought I was going to have, then I didn’t really want to take anything except my clothes and this one chair.

How did I want to feel? In some ways, it was counter to how I was feeling in the life I was in.

I got really clear on how I wanted to feel.

I learned that you don’t die from the things you’re pretty sure you’re going to die from.

Being alone was really one of my nightmares. I am a very people person.

I was always very involved through people with people. Some of it was probably driven by a fear of being by myself. Something I’ve learned is, while I’m not always very comfortable being by myself, I won’t die from it.

I wasn’t sure I would survive by myself which was one of the reasons I didn’t ask for a divorce, even from a man who betrayed me. I didn’t know I could do that.

I often think the reason I don’t carry a lot of anger towards my former husband was because I’d worked through a lot of that before we actually got divorced, which for me, was helpful even though at the time I was pretty hard on myself.

Life has phases, and each of us has a unique sequence of those phases, and I think we need to learn to have some self-compassion more than I’ve had for myself for the fact that there are phases that start and phases that end, and even if they’re not what you expected, it’s okay. There’s still another phase. If you’re alive there’s another phase even if you can’t see it or feel it.

I’m not good at endings, never have been. I’m much better at beginnings.

I didn’t expect to be divorced at 63. I didn’t expect to be living on my own at this point in my life. I didn’t expect to be navigating this period, this phase, the way I am.

Be kind to yourself. Have the confidence that there will be another phase.

We need to learn to give ourselves a lot of compassion when we’re in those places and one piece is done and there’s another that will begin, whether we can see it or not.

I encourage you to really spend some time reconnecting with who you are.

The courage for me came from getting clearer and clearer about who I was at that moment as opposed to who I had been or who I thought I was going to be.

Is who I am consistent with the situation I was in?

Whatever has changed, it just is.

Get clear on who you are in that moment. Figure out who you are right now because that’s the only thing that’s real. Everything else is an illusion or a memory.