My eyes alight, briefly, on the stylish spiral staircase that ends in the bedroom that I once shared with my husband.
I turn my head to the left and I survey the living room. It was never really lived in. It’s an inappropriate name.
All the action took place in the family room, the kitchen, or the rec room in the basement where the kids hung out with friends.
Those were filled with noise and laughter. Filled with music. Filled with chatter. But today they’re filled with silence and a slightly musty smell.
The house is on the market – so I open up the windows. I let the fresh air in, and shoo the memories away. This used to be my home; but now I feel like an intruder. It used to feel so safe; but now it triggers grief and pain.
How quickly life can change. In one brief instant, there’s no future. The hopes we had are cancelled. All our dreams have vaporized.
Who knew things were so fragile. This was meant to last forever. But nothing’s ever certain, and there are no guarantees.
The losses we experience are raw, and real, and vivid. They hit us out of nowhere. Leave us gasping for more air.
There’s nothing we can do – for it’s the price we pay for loving.
For loving, and for giving, and for opening up our hearts.
“There are losses that rearrange the world. Grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has really changed.” – Megan Devine.
Our society has a poor relationship with grief. It’s a topic we avoid. It is too uncomfortable.
Yet, when we’re faced with betrayal there’s a multitude of losses that we’re forced to confront, and to try to integrate. They include:
– The loss of the relationship/ marriage you believed you had had (was everything a lie and a fantasy?)
– The loss of identity, self-worth and self-esteem
– The loss of the person you thought you were married to/ believed you were in a relationship with (as they clearly deceived you and had a hidden side)
– The loss of the future you imagined you would have
– The loss of emotional safety in your marriage (and possibly physical safety, too, if there have been affairs/ hook ups, and so on)
– The loss of confidence and trust in your spouse (will you ever be able to believe a word he says?)
A Complicated Grief
And the grief of betrayal is a complicated grief. In many ways, it remains hidden for the person hasn’t died. Also, you may still be in a relationship with them. And the emotions you experience are both intense and complex. Some examples are:
– The fear of judgment (since you know people will talk; they will look for any weaknesses and tear you both to shreds)
– A powerful sense of shame (an inappropriate emotion as, clearly, you’re a victim, and should not be blamed at all)
– In addition, betrayed partners and spouses are usually traumatized, and they frequently suffer from PTSD.
Dealing with the Taboos
Also, it’s true that betrayal, and a sexual addiction, are still taboo topics in society today.
– This leaves us feeling very isolated and alone.
– You have to wear a mask, and pretend that you’re OK.
– You can’t talk about the losses and what you’re going through.
– You can’t talk about the pain, and how long it lingers on.
This is disenfranchised grief, a grief that’s difficult to bear. It is formally defined as being:
“the griefconnected to a loss that is unrecognized by society at large.”
What to do About it
Not sharing your experience will impede recovery. Being silenced by the world won’t enable you to heal.
So, if you can, share your story, and talk about your grief. Find someone who will listen, and who really understands.
“It has been said: ‘Time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The scars remain and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
Recently I heard of a woman in her 50s who had two lovely daughters – a school teacher and accountant.
This woman (we’ll call Amy) then added a postscript …
Roughly 20 years ago, she had lost her baby son. An unexpected cot death. No-one knew the reason why.
“I remember how he’d he’d curl up at the bottom of his crib. Or how he’d smile and gurgle when he’d just finished a feed.”
“Yes, I remember everything, as if it happened yesterday. And yet I lost my baby nearly 20 years ago.”
“So shouldn’t I have closure? Do you think that I am crazy? I sometimes start to wonder if there’s something wrong with me.”
What’s Going on?
Amy has been grieving for her son in her own way. And yet she feels uneasy, and is questioning herself. The reason is, she’s heard that grief has certain distinct stages. Hence, Amy feels she really should be over it by now.
Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages Model
This thought of gaining closure (where grief follows a set course, and culminates in finally achieving an acceptance) is based on Kubler-Ross’ famous 5 Stages Model.
But the thing is, this grief model was developed from her work with the terminally ill – and not from working through deep losses.
And, yet, these two experiences are clearly very different (dying, versus processing and integrating loss).
Think About It
For the person who is dying there, indeed, will be an ending.
But there’s not a neat ending with these other types of losses.
Yes – it’s true, the shock wears off, and we may go on with our lives. Perhaps we’ll even feel some joy and happiness again.
But, still, grief ebbs and flows.
I’d say it never truly ends.
The crushed dreams and the memories remain there in our brain.
We can’t erase what happened or rewrite our history.
We had great expectations. This is not what we had planned.
So, perhaps we’re being unfair when we put pressure on ourselves to never fight or wrestle with what could and should have been.
Perhaps the pain will lessen and the scars will fade away – but maybe ‘total closure’ isn’t something we’ll achieve.