As I have been sharing about my journey of my sudden separation and divorce, women have come out of the wood work in similar places unsure of what to do. Many of them have written to me in the first days and weeks of their husbands sitting them down and telling them they are leaving. I remember that day all too well, and I remember the days and weeks following were the hardest of my life thus far. I was dealing with shock and trauma, and I had no clue what to do. So, this post is for those women, future women who will find themselves in this spot and for the friends that are walking with them through it. I hope it helps...
It was July 3rd. Our kids happened to sleep over at their grandparents the night before, and we were having a lazy morning just the two of us. I sat down at the kitchen table to make some day plans for our day off, and Ryan sat down across from me. I asked where he wanted to go, and he said he didn't want to go anywhere that day. He then proceeded to tell me had been doing a lot of thinking, and then the words came that he was really unhappy in our marriage. He told me he didn't have fun with me anymore, that he didn't enjoy spending time with me, and that he felt we were incompatible. He felt that we would both be happier and our kids would be happier if we were apart. He told me reconciliation is not an option, and his mind was made up. Of course, I had so many words and I was shocked and confused, especially after recently celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Granted, we had been in marriage counseling for almost three years prior to this moment, but I had been doing very well in my personal counseling.I asked him to help me understand more, and he agreed to go to counseling to help me understand, but again, not to reconcile.
Those initial couple of days were incredibly difficult. I had to entertain family for 4th of July and pretend everything was okay with a gun shot wound to my heart. I cried so much those days, but I had to be strong for my kids when they were around and not show there was any concern or reason to worry.
When we got to the counseling office he proceeded to explain again his feelings and decision. The counselor recommended that we meet with a family therapist to help learn what we best for our kids for separation and how to talk to them. We did that a week later. Our counselor also recommended separation at that time since Ryan had already chosen, so he moved in with his parents and I stayed in our home. The kids stayed with me during the week to keep routine, and on the weekends went over to his house so that I could have time to grieve and recoup. There's more to the story, but those are the logistics of what happened in the first couple of weeks.
If you have found your self in this devastating turn of events this is what you need to know. This is traumatic. This is similar to experiencing the sudden death of a family member. The situation is out of your control because the decision is controlled by another, and yet their heart is beating. It is extreme rejection. It is life altering. it is shocking. It is traumatic. Therefore, your body and mind are going to go into survival mode and experience a trauma response. This is how it felt:
- I was numb. I was like a ghost and then I would full on break down when I knew it was safe to let go (no kids around, no people around).
- I started having panic attacks. I started hyperventilating to where I couldn't control my breathing for 5 minutes or so. Scariest shit of my life. I thought I was having a heart-attack and dying. They would come on when I would see Ryan and be in close proximity.
- My hair started falling out in clumps. (I also have autoimmune disorders and stress aggravates them)
- I couldn't eat. I was physically ill. I started throwing up, and I couldn't eat. I went from 128 to 118 and I'm 5'7". That's waaaaay too thin.
- I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted from so many sleepless nights. I would fall asleep fine, but I couldn't stay asleep. As soon as 2:30am or 3:30am rolled around I would wake up suddenly. Truthfully, it still happens every night. More about that below...
If you are experiencing these symptoms. You are normal, but here is what I did to combat them.
1. I got a counselor. Part of your panic is that you don't know what to do. They will help you figure out what you need.
2. Told my best friends and my family. They needed to know to encourage me with phone calls, text messages, to come and sit with me, etc. Don't keep it a secret from close, trustworthy peple that can help you and are for your marriage. Don't share with people that are going to be divisive.
3. Made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I shared with my doctor what had happened, and she prescribed Zophran for nausea. It helped me have more of an appetite. I also got anti-anxiety meds to use as needed. I actually haven't taken them at all, but it was a comfort to have. I honestly should have taken them when I knew I was going to see Ryan because I would have avoided some serious panic attacks that scared my children. I would also recommend getting an STD test if that's applicable to your situation.
4. Ate liquid foods. Peanut butter, banana and chocolate smoothies were the only thing I could eat. I think I survived on a week of those.
5. Got childcare. Babysitters and family chipped in to help give me some self-care time and kept the kids having fun.
6. Went to church - My faith is what sustained and continues to sustain me. It puts my fears at ease and gives me wisdom.
7. Wrote out my feelings in a journal a LOT. You'll want to text and talk to your spouse, but I would advise only doing that when you are stable to avoid more damage and hurt.
8. Avoid oversharing to kids. Sought out advice from therapists specializing in childhood development. Don't wing talking to your kids. Seek wisdom from professionals that will help your kids adjust the best through this process. Make sure both parents go together.
9. No need to make lawyer calls right away. Don't panic! Divorce proceedings can't happen without you. Ask for a month of time to catch your breath, sort your emotions and feelings and needs.
10. Avoid triggers. I only watched happy sitcoms for a long time. The airport was a hard place to be for me because it was a lot of happy couples and families. Avoid places and things that are going to send you into panic.
11. Exercise. Let your stress out through exercise. It's good for your mind and body.
More resources to come. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org.