I’d like to take an aspect of healing and share some thoughts that I hope will help you to feel less self judgement for yourself through your grieving process, but also help you see how you can begin to heal by finding your power to move forward. I want to talk about Loss.
As I pondered over my own feelings of loss from betrayal, abuse and divorce, I made a list of all the ways I felt loss. I began to wonder how long the list would get because the words just kept coming! Loss after loss filled my mind. Here are just a few that I came up with:
- Loss of future expectation
- Loss of trust with others, self, and God
- Loss of worth and value
- Loss of husband and partner
- Loss of love
- Loss of children
- Loss of control
- Loss of good memories
- Loss of being able to be a stay at home mom
- Loss of job
- Loss of money- financial insecurity
- Loss of time
- Loss of dreams, future plans
- Loss of friends/family
- Loss of companionship, even if it was unhealthy
- Loss of home
- Loss of hair haha, but really.
- Loss of faith and hope
- Lose our place in heaven or standing with God
So much loss is involved because of betrayal and divorce and I want you to know that recognizing it is painful but is part of the healing process. As I look over this list from where I am now in my healing journey I can see how many things on that list have in fact, not been lost.
We all experience loss in this life, we knew that, but yet we still never really think or believe that it will actually happen to us. Especially when it comes to divorce. We don’t ever think that we end up divorced let alone betrayed or abused. My son and I were talking about his experiences with the divorce and he said he remembers one day some of his friends talking about how their parents are getting divorced and he came home and asked me “ Will dad you ever get divorced” and I responded unequivocally, “ No son, your dad and I will never get a divorce”. As he reminded me of this conversation, I don’t remember what was happening in my marriage during the time but I can confidently say that even during the hardest darkest times in the marriage I still didn’t want to or anticipate getting a divorce. So when it actually happened this confused my son. I get it, it confused me too.
Your loss, and the grief that comes with it, is yours and yours alone. It’s personal. And cannot be compared to anyone else’s. Granted, there are a lot of similarities with those of us who have experienced loss through betrayal and divorce, but your loss will have its own meeting to you because of your own thoughts that will create your own emotions about it.
As I have observed in myself and in others, there is an incredible amount of loss that accompanies betrayal and divorce. After marriage we had dreams, ideas, plans, hopes, and expectations of how it would be, what we would do. We all had these beliefs about how life should unfold and when things didn’t go according to plan or how we had expected, we perhaps thought things like,” That wasn’t supposed to happen this way”, or “ He shouldn’t have done that”, “ They weren’t supposed to do that”… so not only are we now grieving the loss of the hopes and dreams, but the loss of disbelief that it all shouldn’t of happened. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggests that sometimes we must grieve these “life beliefs” first. That we can’t grieve the loss if we are still stuck in the midst of ” it’s not supposed to happen this way”.
I will absolutely attest to this truth because not only have I been stuck because of those life beliefs, but I have also been able to free myself and move forward as I grieved them and let go.
I’d like to share some thoughts about a few of these different losses that might accompany the outcome of betrayal, abuse and or divorce.
Losing trust in God
One of the losses I experienced was the belief that I couldn’t trust God anymore as well as feeling I had lost His power in my life. When my marriage ended, I worried about my place in His kingdom. I wondered if He was disappointed in me and felt I had failed Him somehow. I questioned how I measured up and felt less than worthy in many ways. I worried about what eternity looked like now, for me and my children, and felt I had lost my eternal family. That it was now somehow all broken, that my life plan was ruined and lost.
I simultaneously wanted God to save me from all this pain yet I was feeling so abandoned by Him and angry about it.
The feelings of anger for what my husband did, and where it left our family spilled over onto God. I felt guilty for it too.
I felt I had lost His help, lost His listening ear, lost His power in my life, that He failed me, and that He didn’t hear or answer my prayers.
Losing trust in God after losing trust in my husband might not be comparable to you, but for some reason it was for me. Men in general I didn’t trust anymore, and I started to walk through life with considerably bigger eyes and a skeptical attitude.
Finding trust in God again came line upon line, answered prayer after answered prayer. Looking for his hand in my life each day, seeing it and giving thanks for it. Gradually the trust in my Heavenly Father was strengthened. I began to see that HE had never stopped keeping his promises to me. I began to feel Him in my life and in the lives of my children.
It’s not uncommon to lose trust in God, church leaders and men in general when you have experienced such intense betrayal. God doesn’t get mad, He doesn’t leave, He won’t judge. He is there waiting for us to begin doing our part when we are ready.
Satan would love to not only destroy our marriages but also our connection and relationship with God. He wants us to lose our power.
Keeping our power as we go through loss keeps us moving through it, rather than getting stuck in it. I remember being so angry at God one day, I marched in my room and wanted to tell Him how mad I was but didn’t want to talk to Him either. So I knelt beside my bed and told Him I was mad, I didn’t want to talk about it, but I was going to just sit here for a little while. I did just that, sat there by the foot of my bed, with God, in silence. I ended my “prayer” and got up.
I did this a handful of times in the early stages of my trauma and grief. What I learned from those experiences was that God was OK that I didn’t want to talk, He was OK that I was feeling anger and frustration. Most importantly I learned that He was so happy that I still went to HIm with all those emotions. For me, that was my way of staying connected but also allowing for the very real emotions. I soon found myself talking to Him again, and feeling him again, and trusting Him again.
God will always be trustworthy, He will always hold up His end of the relationship and will patiently, lovingly await for us to hold up ours.
Loss of a marriage
There is an intense loss that comes with divorce. This divorce brought out a lot of ugly in us both and was a very difficult time for me as I was still trying to regain my power and break free from the abuse and create boundaries. It wasn’t long after the divorce that he remarried. It was unexpected in that the kids and I were informed of his plans the night before their courthouse wedding.
I was not wanting him back, in fact at that time I could hardly stand to look at him. Yet when I found out he was getting remarried I cried all that night, hysterically. I felt the loss of my marriage all over again. I was confused by my emotional reaction and wondered what in the heck I was crying over- I shouldn’t care, I shouldn’t be sad, I shouldn’t be crying!
I came to realize it wasn’t that I was sad over him..it was over the loss of the life belief that my marriage shouldnt have ended. It somehow made it more final- more than the divorce papers. I was also feeling triggered that there was another woman in the picture and because of the trauma from betrayal I was feeling the pain of that all over again. I felt bad, wrong and self-judged. I was ashamed and embarrassed.
Then as the kids would go over to his house with his new wife, I felt as if I was the one losing everything and he had everything he wanted now. I felt as if I didn’t have anything to offer, not to my kids, not to the world and so why go on? They were all one big happy family now and I am stressed out working, barely getting by as a single mom who sporadically gets child support- a sleep deprived walking zombie that no one will ever love again so why don’t I just curl up in a ball and cry forever!
Intense right? The feeling of loss will do that. That’s OK. I allowed for it, I processed it, and as I worked hard to stay in the present moment with my own life I came to see things as they really are. I began to work on owning my choice to divorce and the reasons for it. That might sound simple enough but the more I owned my decision, the more power I felt and desire to create the life I wanted. Yes, my marriage ended but that didn’t mean that I lost my future, or that I lost the ability to marry again if I wanted. My relationship came to an end, it completed its course and even though it was not how I thought things would end up- I was still worthy, I was still enough, and I was going to be OK. So will you.
Losing kids in divorce
For me personally, the most intense loss I was thinking I was going to lose my children after divorce. Despite how hard I was fighting for my marriage and how much I had loved my husband at the time, the fear of losing my children overpowered all of it. Not only was I fearful for how it was all going to affect them by believing thoughts like,” this is going to ruin their lives”, I knew that it could possibly mean I don’t get to see their little faces every morning. Or thinking that they might not love me anymore. I had to start working outside the home now so what if I can’t pick them up from school anymore? What if they need me and I can’t be there, what if they become distant, what if they blame me, what if they hate me. I worried about all of it!
When my ex remarried, It ignited new emotions I had not known existed up until that point.
I knew I had a mama bear inside of me but I didn’t realize it was a grizzly. It was very apparent that I was not good at sharing my kids with another woman. How dare my ex husband not only ruin our marriage, change my life by taking away my dreams and expectations of what motherhood and homemaking was supposed to look like. But to top it all off he has the audacity to remarry a woman my kids never met, whom I’ve never met, and now I’m just supposed to share my kids?! I was thinking completely irrationally and some may even call immature at how I was feeling and handing this and I was comp[letely ok with it, for a little while at least.
Ultimately I concluded that the more people there were to love my kids the better, and as their REAL mother, I will sacrifice for their well being. It was beneficial for them to be loved by whomever was willing to love them through this challenging situation, so I chose to believe that it was OK for me to sacrifice and calm the grizzly within so that my children can be exposed to more love. I knew that I would always be their mother. Nothing will ever change that. I can never lose my kids as I will always be their mom. Sharing our children with another woman can create intense feelings of loss in our role as a mother. Being aware of our thoughts and identifying the ones that are not serving us will help to let go and let be. You don’t have to like it, but you don’t have to fight it.
So many things are out of our control and when we feel like we are losing so much we tend to control more. Here is what I realized I CAN control in this situation.
I took as many opportunities to teach my children how to recognize their own emotions and to identify when they felt unsafe, uncomfortable or when they just had a gut feeling about something, I empowered them to have a voice, to trust their gut, to speak up or come to me for help. Helping them create their own boundaries was one of the most empowering things I could do for them. I couldn’t be with them all the time anymore, so I taught them. This is how I accessed my power and that is what helped all of us to not only move forward but to thrive.
The greatest way I knew how to really keep from losing my kids was to not lose myself. I could not get caught up in the drama of my ex husband’s lifestyle. My power, and my greatest chance of keeping my children close, was to keep myself close to my Heavenly Parents.
Loss of past memories
The next loss I would like to touch on is the belief that we have lost all of our good moments and memories due to betrayal and divorce. I had gone years without knowing what was really happening because of my husband’s choices and once things came to light little by little, I had a difficult time reminiscing on the past. Looking at old photographs, videos and memories that would come to my mind now were all tainted with doubt, anger, confusion and feeling as if it was all fake.
I felt stupid and naive, wondering why I had not seen the truth. I felt such loss for all the times I thought we were happy, when I thought we were enjoying that trip, or that moment with the kids.
If you are experiencing this I want you to know that it’s ok to mourn this loss as well. Yet lets be very clear about what exactly we are mourning in this instance.
You were present during all those trips, outings, and moments- you felt the love, joy and emotions of happiness and connection. Those are all STILL YOURS!
How do I know this? Because It’s our own thoughts that create our emotions, so all the feelings associated with our past memories were always ours to begin with. You are not responsible for his thoughts and feelings.
How many times have we looked at past pictures with other people and one will say things like, “oh my gosh that was such a fun trip” and the other will say, “I just remember being sick the whole time and wanting to go home!” We are all individually responsible for our own memories and experiences in this life-therefore you and you alone get to keep yours! Nothing anyone can do changes that. You were worthy of those memories and those are yours to keep.
It took me time to mourn the loss of the expectation that, “He should have been present in that moment”, or “He should have been faithful during that trip”….that’s the life belief I had, and that’s what was lost. Hold onto your pictures and videos and memories with honor and compassion. You earned them, you keep them.
Loss of worth
The next loss we often experience that I’d like to address the loss of worth that accompanies betrayal, abuse and or divorce. Sometimes I don’t think there are words to describe exactly how it feels to discover a partner’s unfaithful actions. Nothing seems to satisfy the intense emotions surrounding it. So forgive me for my lack of vocabulary to depict this intense emotion.
I think for many women, the breakdown of our worth began the moment we came to this earth and were born as females. Satan has devised a world that demeans, belittles, ignores, objectifies, silences and devalues the magnificent role of a woman. We are to stay quiet and just take care of other people.
We have been fighting against Satan and this ever growing cultural norm since the beginning of time! The first thing we can do as individuals to combat this, to change this, is to recognize it for what it is. Recognize when it’s happening, when we do it to ourselves and when we do it to other women!
You were created by a loving God who knows your worth and set that worth at 100%. Nothing you do or don’t do changes that. Nothing anyone else does or doesn’t do to you changes that. Your worth and value are fixed.
Whether you were able to develop a sense of worth in your early years or not, living in an abusive relationship, being betrayed and then the experiences divorce often brings with it a massive attack on self worth.
I could talk for hours about this but my point I’d like to focus on here is that nothing about YOU or your worth has been lost! It can’t be lost because God created it! No one can destroy it without our permission. We often have been giving our power away for far too long and it’s time to reclaim it. You and you alone control your own thoughts about yourself. We have just been led to believe that the value of what others think, feel or say about us matters more than what God thinks, matters more than what we think and it’s therefore our responsibility to correct that. If we believe our worth has dropped to 70% then we try harder to get back to 100%. We try to be more, do more to be enough. We often believe that if we are not OK by someone else’s standards then we need to change. If we are not worthy of someone’s love than we are less than- that we are not enough. This belief is nothing more than a lie and exactly what Satan would have us believe to destroy the intended role and meaning of womanhood.
My favorite book is You Are Special by Max Lucado. We have the power to not let those grey dots stick to us, that power comes as we continue to draw on the power of Christ. This is life changing when we really begin to do the work to heal this faulty belief.
You have not lost your worth. It’s impossible.
Christ is the way through
The feeling of loss will continually be a part of our life no matter what our circumstances. As agents who choose, we will always have the choice to move through or to stay stuck. It’s my passion to help women see that they have the power to move through it. I know it’s possible because I did, and I never could have imagined I would be where I am at today after all I had been through.
The one scripture that I had written on a sticky note the day after I left my husband was, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” – He is the HOW. It’s with Him that we can access more power to move forward from the loss and the grief and the pain so that we can come to the otherside of the tunnel and bask in the light. No one understands more than him what loss and grief feels like, He will succor us in ours. Believing in Christ, believing He lives, He hears you, He will help you, He will save you, Love you, Provide a way for you and abide with you is paramount. Keep believing. As Elder Holland has said, “Don’t you quit!”
David Kessler says this about loss, “Your loss is the worst loss”. Let’s not compare our loss to others or even dismiss our own loss because we think that is’t not as bad as someone else’s.
Comparing loss serves no purpose in healing. It’s your job, and yours alone, to honor your own grief. No one else can ever understand it. We may all have similar emotions and even similar experiences but we are all individuals who think individually. It’s easy to feel resentment when we see others in different places on the healing journey than where we are. We can feel our own grief without any expectations about where we think we should be or where others think we should be in this journey.
Gaining Power With The 3 P’s
Renowned psychologist Martin Seligman gives 3 mental attributes that shape our views of the world and determine how well we will be able to deal with setbacks.
- Personalization- Whether you attribute an event to internal or external causes, that is, whether you blame yourself for it, or feel like the only one who has ever suffered such a tragic loss.
- Pervasiveness- the belief that a negative event will destroy everything in your life.
- Permanence- the belief that the effects of a loss or a disaster will last forever
Applying this to betrayal or divorce, it’s important to acknowledge, in terms of personalization, that although the Betrayal happened to me and although the abuse happened to me which led to divorce, it was not because I wasn’t worthy enough, good enough, pretty enough, or christlike enough. I knew God was not punishing me and making my life miserable while everyone else’s life was perfect. I did not need to make this mean anything about who I am as a woman, or as a daughter of God. It took me a while, but once I became aware of just how many other women in this world have experienced similar betrayal, abuse and divorce like I have I did not need to personalize my loss. I could help other women to see how they are of worth and are enough just as they are.
The second P, pervasiveness, is where we need to do a lot of thought work to help us notice and become aware of those thoughts that keep us spinning in despair. Our brain will offer us a million thoughts that create the belief our lives are over, we are nothing now and that we have nothing to live for anymore. That we are not worthy of being loved ever again, or that we won’t have a chance at love ever again. Or thoughts that keep us from ever wanting to love again! Our lives are not destroyed because we experienced betrayal, abuse or divorce. In fact, I have never experienced more joy in my life than I have along this healing journey. My heart is stronger, healthier and more open to love than ever before. Because I love myself more than ever before. That came as I began to practice new thoughts that I knew would give me the life experience I want and knew God wanted for me too.
Ok, the last P, permanence; there are life expectations that have permanently halted. I was no longer a stay at home mom, I no longer was married, I had lost friends and permanently even lost some hair through all of this! BUT, I also know that the pain is not permanent. I changed, I grew, I learned, I became different in ways I never knew possible. When we think thoughts that keep us stuck, it can seem like the pain is permanent. We can remain in victim mode and for those who remain there, your life is halted. The pain can feel permanent. It doesn’t have to be.
You have access to power that can move mountains! So as you choose to stay in the present moment with all your feelings of loss, and allow for it, process it, don’t judge yourself for it….you will have the power to get out of bed. You will have the power to love. You will have the power to let go of controlling things you can’t. You will have the power to recall your past with compassion rather than bitterness. You will have the power to trust God and trust yourself.
I invite you to invest in yourself like you have never before invested. You are worth it. I will forever be grateful to myself for investing in my own healing and hiring a life coach to help me see my own power and get the life that I wanted! I would love to walk alongside you in your healing journey and help you access yours!
Schedule your FREE consult with me HERE: https://lifecoachingwithamie.youcanbook.me/
Article written by: Amie Woolsey, Life Coach. Amie is a Life Coach specializing in betrayal trauma, divorce, and dating. She leads support groups for women with betrayal trauma, teaches a YSA class for those who are dating, as well as a post-divorce dating course. Amie is currently taking new individual coaching clients with CHOOSE and can be contacted at Amie@LifeCoachingWithAmie.com. To learn more about Amie click HERE.