"Happiness has become the new mecca, and anything short of that often leaves us feeling that we have done something wrong or failed to live up to the acknowledged standard. This forces sorrow, pain, fear, weakness, and vulnerability into the underworld, where they fester and mutate into contorted expressions of themselves, often coated in a mantle of shame."
~Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
Did you imagine the profound grief that came with betrayal? I, for one, did not. I'm not sure it's a failure of my imagination or an overestimation of my emotional fortitude but I always imagined betrayal, if it happened to me at all and I was pretty sure it would not, would be met with my anger. I would throw him out and that would be that.
Anyone who's read much on this blog knows that, instead, I responded like so many others. Anger, yes. I screamed and said horrible, cruel things. But more often, I felt pinned beneath the weight of my pain. I found it hard to breathe. I had trouble forming coherent thoughts. Somehow my young children survived. I got them to and from school. I fed them and put them to bed.
I participated in hysterical bonding, struck by a lust that would have made 20-year-old me blush.
But, mostly, I ached. My pain was so bad that I even wondered about taking my own life in order to be rid of it. I couldn't imagine coming to point of not feeling such pain. Which is what depression does, right? Convinces us that what we're feeling right now is what we will always feel. It lies to us.
And I won't lie to you now and tell you that I felt hopeful. I didn't. I was sure I would never, ever feel happy again. But because I couldn't leave my children without a mother, I decided to live, resigning myself to sacrificing my own life for theirs. Melodramatic, I know. But, again, depression thrives in absolutes. Always/never.
How I wish I'd stumbled on a community like Betrayed Wives Club when I was in such a dark place.
Not because this site would have protected me from experiencing the darkness but because it reminds us that darkness is necessary but not permanent.
Which is what Francis Weller, above, is telling us.
We fear sorrow and grief because we have such little experience with it. Our culture hides it away. Sorrow, we think, implies weakness, a lack of determination to be happy, a refusal to buck up. We celebrate victors and vanquishers. Those who go inward to tend to their hearts? We avert our eyes. Pain is private and we like it that way, the better to give ourselves permission to ignore another's sorrow. We tell ourselves we don't want to make the other person uncomfortable, that it's none of our business. But the truth is it makes us uncomfortable. Better to pretend we don't notice.
And then it happens to us. And we discover that sorrow and grief aren't weakness at all. We discover the courage it takes to stay with it, to walk through it, to hold it and not numb ourselves with distractions or delusion.
I wish I'd know this then. I wish I'd trusted that the pain I was in was temporary and that I had the strength I needed to get through it. I'm convinced it isn't the pain itself that cripples us, it's the misguided belief that it will never lift. And most of us discover something else too that's paradoxical: The more we face our pain and tend to it, the more quickly we move through it. And the more others are able to be with us in our woundedness, the more quickly we heal.
This community exists so that you will know these things to be true, sooner rather than later. It exists to provide a community of people who aren't afraid of this pain and who can help you shoulder your grief. We can't make the darkness lift but we can remind you – we can promise you – that the light will return.
We can remind you of your courage. We can salute your strength. And we can put our arms around you and sit with you in your sorrow.