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I honestly didn’t see it coming. I knew we were both unhappy, but I seriously thought that we would either work things out or one of us would suffocate the other in our sleep. But then the inevitable happened. On a cold, dreary Friday night (exactly January 15) when we had planned a date.
My husband walked out.
I came home, ready to head out to eat, thinking we could maybe start the talk about piecing our shattered marriage back together when I found him in the living room staring into space. The dreaded words “We need to talk.” resounded, meaning he was going to talk and I was not going to like what he had to say. There was no ‘talking’ about it. His mind was made up and his bags were packed. He was done.
As he turned and headed out the door, I was prostrate on the floor, wailing, sobbing with all that I had We had three children together. Two were in college. We were kind of sorta happy at times. We had been married 22 years. Jesus, over two DECADES. Surely we could overcome anything by this time- or at least that's what I thought.
My oldest son came over along with my best friend once I verbally could get out what happened over the phone. I was almost catatonic by the time they showed up. I loved this man with all that I was. We had both made mistakes, but every marriage has those ups and downs. I kept telling them both that he would come back. I sat in front of the door and waited for him most of the night. He never showed.
I had to go back to school come Monday. I was a wreck. The kids knew something was up, parents knew something was up. I ended up crying twice in class and several other times had to excuse myself to the bathroom to curl up on the floor and sob. This happened for a good week. I finally felt like I needed to let my parents at my school know what was going on in our “happy” home.. I could foresee having to be gone from class more than what was normal for me, they needed to be aware what was going on since at the time I operated my own private K-5 elementary school. .
For a full month, I did nothing other than retain an attorney. I just knew he would change his mind. After noticing our bank accounts had been wiped out and finally being served papers I realized that this man meant business. So I started a much dreaded process to end my marriage with the man I had loved more than anything.
But as my life is crumbling, I still had to work I still had to teach the children. He left me with $86 dollars and the house bills. I couldn’t afford, literally, to curl up and hide in a hole like I wanted to do. I also knew that I needed to let those around me know what was going on, not only for the sake of knowing they would have to pick up my slack, but for encouragement.
When you are in ‘fight or flight’ mode with trauma it is difficult to see everything in the proper perspective. I’ve made it through my situation and am happier than ever but looking back on it there are definitely some things I would have done differently. Please remember that I am not a counselor and that these suggestions worked for me, but may not work for everyone. And please do not sue me, because, well, teacher pay. So, if my experience can help anyone, here are some ideas that I have.
When trauma hits, immediately take care of YOU. Make sure you are safe. Call friends, family, clergy, doctors, whoever will keep you safe. I had just gotten out of the hospital before Christmas from a breakdown. I was in no way emotionally stable enough to prepare for a situation like this. My oldest son showed up immediately and stayed with me, even sleeping in the same bed so he would know that I was safe. You have to make sure YOU ARE IN A SAFE PLACE. This goes for any traumatic event; house fire, car wreck, the death of a family member, etc.
Once you are safe and you are able to start seeing a tiny bit through the dust, TALK TO PEOPLE. Advice, encouragement, just a listening ear. These are invaluable. It took my son to convince me that my husband was not coming back and we needed to take action. Being the dreamy, optimistic, romantic I am I probably never would have accepted this, even as I was signing papers. Thankfully my son is a methodical, logical, analytical being and with him being rational and realistic, I was able to find an attorney and took the blows from my husband a bit better than I would of- and there were MANY unforeseen blows going through a divorce.
Finally I let those closest to me and who would be affected most at my school know what was going on. I knew I would need to be gone for attorney appointments, court and who knew what else. I filled in everyone who NEEDED to know, including my parents. I didn’t tell my kids of course. I just let them know that I had some grown-up stuff to be gone for. If the parents felt the need to tell them specifics, then so be it. I also told my kids that this grown-up stuff would sometimes make me sad, so if they saw me upset it would not be as huge of a shock to them. I’m only human. And really this admittance to others sparked positive conversations about feelings, so that was one good thing that came from this.
Throughout this entire process, I continued to try to take care of myself. I ate well, got plenty of sleep, went out with friends, worked. I didn’t always want to do these things, but I made myself do them. I knew if I didn’t I would end up in bed, under the covers, withering away in my pathetic state. And unfortunately, I did more of that than I should have. It was HARD to be kind to myself. I was already established with a counselor, so thankful I had that support in place. If I didn’t already have her, I would have sought one out.
Remember, everything passes in time. It doesn’t always end up the way we want it, but it does end. It has taken me three years to work through this situation to the point that the resentment and anger and sadness are gone. I can face holidays without breaking into tears over the traditions that have been lost. I can look at pictures without sobbing. I can make it through birthdays and anniversaries without much thought. I didn’t want this divorce. I was willing to figure out what was wrong, he wasn’t. I had to accept that. I also had to accept the fact that he had been preparing for this for awhile. The bank accounts showed that. That realization hurt. And the fact that he figured I wouldn’t be able to make it financially and didn’t care about that either. But I still played with the hand I was given and though I didn’t win, I finished. And I moved on.
When you can get through a crisis AND move forward, well, that’s just the best of both worlds. Take care, my friend! There is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim it may seem right now!