I received a phone call from a friend and when I answered, her panicked voice said, “shit just got real.” Not the words you want to hear when you pick up the phone so I immediately said, “Oh God, what happened ??” She told me that one of our friends had just found out her husband had been cheating on her and had announced he was leaving her for the other woman.
Silence can be deafening. My mind was swirling with questions, but my mouth was exploding with a barrage of expletives and quite-creative names that I was bestowing upon the heathen who had just unleashed a storm of heartbreak into the soul of one of my dearest friends. Had a stranger overheard my end of the conversation, quite certainly they would have thought that I was afflicted with Tourette’s. I was so outraged because I knew my friend was not only suffering, but she was blindsided by someone she adored and trusted.
I am in no way a perfect friend, but I am a loyal friend and if I love you, I will defend you staunchly. I will be by your side through the fire and climb through the ruins of your life with you. What I knew without a doubt was that my friend’s life was suddenly turned upside down. I knew the healing wasn’t going to be easy or quick. It never is when we lose someone we love. Grief is a bitch.
People mistakenly think that we only grieve when someone dies. Just as hurtful, and possibly even more difficult to sometimes heal from, are the funerals we attend for those who are still living—the ones we never bury. Those losses—the broken relationships, the friendships gone wrong, the betrayals of family—those are the punches that leave us staggering in the ring of life. We become the walking wounded, moving numbly throughout our days, shell-shocked and barely existing.
Our thoughts race with so many unanswered questions: What did I do to deserve this? Why wasn’t I enough? What does she have that I don’t have? How could he do this to me? Why doesn’t he love me? Doesn’t he care how much he’s hurting me? If we allow it, those questions will be like a poltergeist in Amityville, they will haunt us forever. But how do we stop that from happening?
The first thing is to understand that what you are actually experiencing is grief. A person doesn’t have to die for you to experience grief. Grief is compelling. Grief is overwhelming and it doesn’t just subside on its own. Grief has infinite patience and it waits. I’ve always described grief as that murky fog that creeps into your soul and hovers over it, refusing to dissipate on its own. Contrary to popular opinion, time doesn’t heal anything. It doesn’t heal broken hearts, broken relationships, or the loss of a loved one. What does heal those things? You do.
A crucial step to begin healing is to learn about grief. There are actually five stages to the grief process.
- Denial— I’ve always referred to denial as the shock absorber for the soul. The pain of loss can be so overwhelming that initially you just can’t allow yourself to believe that the loss has occurred. Denial allows us to slowly merge into the reality of what has happened.
- Anger—This is a simple one to explain. It is what it is. You are mad. You are pissed off. You are angry at the person who hurt you or left you. You are angry at the world. You’re mad at yourself, the situation and pretty much everything and everybody.
- Bargaining—You make bargains in your mind about what would change the situation. “If I lose weight, he’ll be back.” “If I quit drinking, she will come home.” “If I become a better person, he will embrace me again.”
- Depression—You feel miserable. Sadness and sorrow encompass you. You sink into a world of feeling hopeless and like nothing will ever be better or the same again. Despair consumes you.
- Acceptance—You begin to accept the reality of the situation and healing begins.
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily go through these stages in any specific order. You may bounce around from stage to stage and you may revisit one or more stages. The crucial fact to hang onto is you will survive. It may feel as if you won’t, but you will get through this gut-wrenching pain. The sad reality is that loss is a part of life. Be gentle with yourself—expect to be in shock for a while. It has happened. It is real. You’re hurting and it’s okay to admit it.
While time alone doesn’t heal the loss, the healing process itself does take time. The greater the loss, the more time it takes to heal. Know that the healing process has its progressions and regressions—it is not the smooth upward improvement many people assume. It’s more of a lightning bolt, full of ups and downs, dramatic leaps and depressing backslides.
Really take care of yourself during this process. Get lots of rest, but don’t become lethargic. Meditate and try to quiet some of the chaos that is consuming your inner world. When this inner turmoil happens, it’s good to stick to your schedule in the outer world. Expect your judgment to be clouded, so try to keep decision making to a minimum.
You have an emotional wound and those take focused self-work, coupled with time, to heal. Invest your energy into healing and growing. Don’t spend a lot of time on the question of why. It’s human to wonder why, but try to quickly realize that, as harsh as this sounds, why is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter why your loved one cheated on you, why your significant other left you, why your friend abandoned you, or why your family betrayed you. At the end of the day, the relationship is over.
The quicker you can accept that and begin your healing process, the better. You shouldn’t have to rip yourself into pieces to keep other people whole. Rather than asking why people keep hurting you, ask yourself why you keep allowing it? If someone left you, cheated on you, betrayed you, or disappeared on you, there is a lesson to be learned from the incredibly hurtful situation. Their behavior is a reflection on them, not on you. Stay away from people who make you feel that you are hard to love. I know the stabbing pain of betrayal and the sting of abandonment, but I also finally realized that most of the people who left my life, weren’t who I thought they were…I just needed time and healing to figure that out.
None of us deserve to be hurt. We deserve to be loved and for the vulnerability and trust that we gave someone to be honored and respected. When that doesn’t happen, we come close to drowning in the tidal wave of heartbreak that attempts to destroy us. That pain can lead us down a path of self-destruction and if we aren’t careful, we can litter the trail of our lives with mistakes. It’s okay, we all make them, but it’s important to try to be cognizant of our behaviors while we are in pain. Remember that hurt people…hurt people. Don’t cause more pain. If you make some mistakes, if possible, try to rectify them. I’d rather be known as an honest sinner than a lying hypocrite.
Don’t let the hurt from a loss harden you to life. Being both a soft person and a strong person is a duality that very few people have mastered, but it is a beautiful combination. Do not let someone else’s weaknesses affect your own self-worth. Once you’ve survived the painful typhoon, remember how it felt to be lost and terrified. Strong women stand up for themselves, but even stronger women stand up for others as well. Hold someone up. Be that friend who doesn’t waiver. When the storms of life are unleashing havoc into a friend’s world, be the safe haven of hope that they so desperately need.
The people we lose along the way—those who abandon us, betray us, or leave us simply because they didn’t love us—are they really a loss? If someone can walk away from you, let them walk. Be your own heroine and save yourself. Don’t let the manipulative game players in life, make you a bitter person. Always remember that Kings and Queens don’t play games, jokers do. I was abandoned by several so-called friends in the last two years. I was telling my story to a friend I had reconnected with and she looked at me and calmly said, “Oh, so God took your trash out.”
Let that sink in.
Your future is as bright as your faith.