Healing from trauma or grieving a loss is not a linear process. In our minds, I know we would all love to feel the absolute worst upon experiencing a trauma and then gradually feel better and better, never feeling worse than the day before. Unfortunately, those of us that have trekked down the painful road to healing know that it doesn’t work that way.
I had an interesting experience this month that brought back all of the memories from my experience with infidelity and narcissism.
I have gone to the same spa for services since my 16th birthday (which was a spa day with my best friend at said spa). I didn’t go often, but if I was getting a massage or facial, this is where I wanted to be.
September of 2018 was my 29th birthday month. I was about 13 weeks pregnant (the pregnancy was unplanned) and I was feeling indescribably awful. I can most closely describe it like the feeling of wanting to go home but you’re already home. Or maybe the feeling of the end of a vacation – you really want to go home and you’re really tired. Except, in my case, I wasn’t having very much fun. It was a very unsettling feeling and I remember my birthday spa day that year very vividly. I remember texting my best friend from the relaxation room (their waiting room) and talking about how bad I felt. I didn’t want to talk about the pregnancy, and nothing felt right with my family or my then-husband. I think deep down you know something is very wrong but when you can’t really put your finger on it, you have no choice but to accept what people are telling you.
When my spa day was over, my ex-husband picked me up, took me to dinner at a restaurant at Port Canaveral, and on the way home we passed a mini-golf course that I told him I wanted to go to. I remember things feeling so off while we were there, but he laughed at one point and I remember thinking to myself that I hadn’t heard him laugh in a while. The things that happened that day and evening weren’t bad in and of themselves, but something felt bad. Really, everything felt bad. Two weeks later, he left me. All of the awful feelings started to make sense.
Fast-forward to last Friday…
My ex-husband texted me to “let me know” he would be out of town on a day he normally has our son. No asking me if I had plans or willingness to figure out what he was doing with his son OR taking his son with him on his weekend trip with his girlfriend; he just decided that I would have to figure it out since he already bought the plane ticket and would not be home. He offered his mom to watch our son that day OR he would switch weekends. After letting him know that I was not okay with this plan, I decided to tell him to let me know when to drop off our son with his mother. I was not surprised that he had not yet asked her if she would be willing, and was even less surprised when she told him no (she’s injured from a car accident and cannot safely watch a toddler). That left me with no option but to switch our Friday, so today (Friday) I have my son and last Friday I didn’t. Attempting to make a good day for myself out of something frustrating, I scheduled a facial at the spa to finally use my gift card from that birthday three years ago (from my dad and bonus mom).
Okay, we’re done with the back story. On to my point.
When I got to the spa last Friday, I was really excited. I don’t do things for myself like this anymore and, as I’ve stated, I’ve had many lovely experiences at this spa over the years. I checked in, walked into the locker room, and my stomach immediately dropped. I grabbed a locker, took the robe that was there into the dressing room to change, and tears started falling. I was completely overcome with the same exact feelings and memories I had from three years ago this month. At the time I felt really sad that three years have gone by and I still could feel the intense pain I felt then, but I realized after letting myself cry a bit that this is normal.
Grieving a loss takes 3-5 years, and 5 is closer to the usual. Plus, grief is prolonged when your life experiences continue to take you near the situation. Things like sharing a child with the person. It’s interesting because it’s really unrelated to my ex-husband. I have uncovered lie after lie and do not feel sadness about not having him in my life whatsoever. My house stays cleaner with a toddler now than with him. I am more successful in anything I attempt; I even attempt more new things now. But the grief of the loss of a marriage and what my future was and what my self-identity was when I was married to him is still something that has to be worked through, and that takes time. Unfortunately.
Sometimes I am angry that this isn’t something he has to deal with, it’s only something he caused. I think we can all agree that trauma changes us in major ways, but when you’re the one causing the trauma, you don’t experience the changes. He may have to deal with the fallout of his decision in certain ways, but that is nothing like what those of us victims have experienced at the hand of another.
I hired a sitter recently for 8 hours a week and my ex-husband was furious. He accused me of being a child, that I was over-spending and living beyond my means and now needing to work more in order to make ends meet and trying to do it on his dime. I felt angry reading that, but when I think my way through it I realize he has no idea what he’s talking about. He no longer has any idea who I am, because the girl married to him died two years ago.
I currently manage my finances better than I ever have in my life. I save money where I can. I invest. I have the same car I’ve had since 2014 and it’s paid off. My mortgage is cheap. I got rid of cable. I’ve been cutting my own grass (until I killed my mower last month my bad). I’ve been going to walmart! The version of me married to him would have never gone there even if it was cheaper. I’m even growing a select few veggies now to save money on organic groceries! I realize I don’t need to defend myself, but it feels good to KNOW his accusations are unfounded. I am so drastically different from the person that he knew; it feels good to be so disconnected from the “old me.”
The odd thing is that I continue to go through the grief. I think it’s because the situation continues and as time goes on and I process the past, I continue to uncover more things that were lies. It’s very odd to have been married to a fake person for 11 years, then come out of it realizing the truth. I also think part of it is just how genuine I was for all of that time. I was nowhere near perfect. I wasn’t always the nicest and I had a lot of selfish tendencies, but the person I was to him was REAL. That’s more than he can say.
So here’s what I want you all to take away from this:
THIS IS NOT A STEP BACKWARD IN YOUR HEALING!
Things like this will always happen. It’s important to let yourself feel things; don’t shove it away when it starts to come out. The road to healing will come with many ups and downs. As time goes on, the ups will be far more frequent than the downs.
If you are still early in your journey, or perhaps experiencing this now, please don’t lose hope. This will end. One of the things that made me feel really better was picturing my life one year from the day. I remember feeling so devastated at the time. But I told myself that one year from now, I will feel differently than this. It may not be perfect, but this pain will not be the same next year. Whether you work it out or end the relationship, you will heal. I promise!
As always, I’m here if you need me.