Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Receive the Shattering

"I had always thought I would get to a point where I was "over" the trauma. Turns out, I was wrong. Cultivating resilience is unrelated to the clichéd notion of time healing all wounds; overcoming is not the end goal. Instead of moving on, it's about living with what has happened. A resilient person is emotionally and psychologically flexible enough to allow the effects of a traumatic episode into her life, to "receive the shattering,"... and use those effects for healing."
~from "How to Recover from Grief", Oprah magazine, May 2016

"Receive the shattering." I wasn't feeling particularly receptive on December 10, 2006, when my shattering arrived. I didn't so much receive it as get run over by it. And in the weeks that ensued, I fought like hell to give it back. 
It was months, a year if not more before I was anywhere close to receiving the shattering.
But at some point – time feels fuzzy when I look back and I have a hard time remembering exactly how long I was suspended in that state of shock and denial and profound grief – I recognized that the only way I was going to get unstuck, out of this lethal plain of flatness where I'd set up camp, was to accept what had happened to me. To receive the shattering.
In fairness, I didn't so much recognize it as my therapist pointed that out to me and I, finally, decided to agree with her. What she told me was this: You are numb, she said, because you refuse to allow the pain in. But by denying negative feelings, you prevent positive feelings too. It's like putting a seal on a bottle. Sure you keep the poison bottled up but you keep the thirst-quenching water bottled up too. 
She'd said similar things before. She's not a big fan of my approach to emotional pain, which basically amounts to numbing myself and carrying on, and then complaining about it. 
Just barely concealing her exasperation, she told me that happiness would come only when I opened the door to pain. You can't have one without the other. 
Which, frankly, is a glitch in the system, if you ask me. But which was the inconvenient truth for me. 
And, judging from how many of you post here about being stuck, seems to be the truth for you too.
We imagine a day, don't we?, when the pain is over and everything goes back to "normal". When we're "over" this. God knows, our husbands want that. "Aren't you over this yet?" they ask us, making it incredibly difficult to not murder them with our bare hands. 
Thing is, "over" isn't an option. We'll never be "over" this. My D-Day was almost twelve years ago and though I go days, sometimes weeks, without thinking about it (except for this site but, honestly, I think about what you guys are going through not so much what I did), I still wouldn't say I'm "over" it.
But I have learned to live with what happened. It has become a part of my history, something I went through. I have received the shattering and it has become a part of me.
And that, my fellow avoiders of pain, is how you get unstuck
I wish I could give you a shortcut. I wish I could provide some sort of infidelity hack that allowed you to jump right over the pain and the suffering and return you to joy.
But my exasperated therapist is right. Honestly, I tried it the other way. I tried to just open my heart enough to let the good stuff in and then quickly shut it again to the pain.
Didn't work. I felt...flat. Numb. 
No pain, no joy.
And so you must receive the shattering. Parcel it out, if necessary. Take a few minutes each day to journal the pain, or run the pain, or paint the pain, or share the pain here. And then, if necessary, put the barricades back up around your heart. But make sure that you're moving toward totally dismantling them. Make sure that you don't get so comfortable with numb that you forget to feel. 
Receive the shattering, live with the truth of it and then use it to help you heal, to remind yourself that you are strong enough to withstand it.
Because you are. 


  1. Healing in ProgressJune 5, 2018 at 10:09 AM

    Thank you for this post Elle. It's such a great reminder for us all. I didn't realize D-Day was 12 years ago for you, but thank you for sharing that you never really get over it, but have moved past it. As I heal, I want realistic expectations. I remember shortly after D-Day I read somewhere, the 1st year is the hardest. And the first year was absolutely the worst year of my life. However, I told myself, "Just get past the first year and everything will be better." So when our 1 yr D-Day anniversary came, I guess I was expecting something magical to happen and everything go back to normal. Needless to say, I was tremendously disappointed! It was unrealistic for me to have expected that...especially after only a year. Now I'm a year and a half past D-Day, doing better...but part of the reason is because I just started to do what this post advises. I started to accept what happened, allow the pain to be present, and begin to move past it. I understand I will never get over it, and I have accepted that it's ok (I don't like it, but I have no other choice). I refuse to stay stuck. The other thing that helped me a lot is that I stopped hating the OW, and instead I now feel sorry for her. I see things more clearly and understand her role (or lack of) in the affair. I realize she does not deserve my thoughts nor my time. If she's dead to my H, she needs to be dead to me. So, thank you for this post...I need to be reminded of it everyday! I must say though, the one thing that still makes me very sad might be silly...but I really miss the way it felt to hug my H before D-Day. He was my prince charming and I felt like the luckiest woman in the world...I know it's naïve, but it was a beautiful feeling...

    1. HealingInProgress,
      Letting go of the hate for the OW was incredibly good for me too. I, too, was able to feel empathy for her. She'd had a crappy life, a crappy marriage. She wanted what she thought others had and my husband looked like a ticket to it. But it was HIM who let her into our marriage.
      You're further ahead than I was at 1 year. It took me a lot longer to feel truly through the worst of it. But keep doing what you're doing. Prince Charming might be back.

  2. Healing in ProgressJune 5, 2018 at 10:27 AM

    Oh, and I just want to add...thank you all for welcoming to this site with such open arms! It really is great to have people who understand. And Elle, I will be in line to buy your book when it's released. Your words of wisdom are healing. Thank you.

    1. So glad you found us. And yes, this community is incredible. I love these women and the kindness they bring here every single day.

  3. It has taken 4 yrs. to feel joy for me. Hard to believe I survived all the pain looking back now. I also have learned I'm over it because I can talk about al that pain without becoming enraged, sad,and just emotionally drained.

    1. Miserableinmd,
      Yep, it took me closer to five years to really feel like this was in the past for me. My husband and I can even sometimes laugh about parts of it.

  4. I love you Elle. I really do. Thank you. You are a blessing. You write so clearly. Brings some light to My foggy thoughts when I just cant put 2 and 2 together and want to smash things.

    Yeah. Sad. Never be "over" it...doeant it just make your soul flinch in pain tho? Pushing that thought away and replacing it with "but he will never do it again " worked for a while. Truth is tho people don't change that quickly.. as I'm finding out this month, and week.

    When is enough enough. When do you really juat give up. When can you just say I'm done fighting for my kids, my dream, my happy ending. When do you close the book and start a fresh new book that hopefully will have one.

    1. Blindsided,
      No, my soul doesn't flinch. Not anymore. It has expanded to accept what happened and to trust myself in ways that I couldn't have imagined so many years ago.
      As for when you know whether to give up, I think you walk away when you're doing the work and he's not meeting you halfway at least. When you're fully invested and he's not. You shouldn't be doing all the fighting. In fact, HE should be fighting like hell to show you he deserves a second chance. If he's not willing to do that, then he's telling you pretty clearly that you're in this marriage alone.

  5. Elle - timely, yet again. I always feel like you're looking directly at me when you write.

    The shattering. What a name. I have feared the shattering because quite frankly I'm afraid it just might shatter my very being. Keep those emotions stuffed deep, deep inside ... they are better contained that way. There is less hurt (both for myself ... and for my WH) that way.

    This past few weeks have been hell on the home front. And I know that the next few won't be any better as we approach DDay #1. I have been feeling the anger start to rise and it terrifies me. I keep envisioning what Hawaii must have look like - with the steam holes randomly popping up and lava flowing, fires consuming entire neighborhoods. That's what I feel like. There are just so many steam holes popping up and it's becoming incredibly hard to plug them before they explode.

    I stopped IC last November. I've been trying to find someone again that would work both with my EAP (free 6 sessions) and my insurance (hell, I've already met my deductible) ... and someone who helps with trauma.

    I wish I would have made a bigger effort sooner to find someone to help me through this time period.

    1. Kimberly,
      All you can do is start with what you have today. Make a few calls to therapists, see what you can find. And can you speak with your husband about D-Day and how you're feeling? Can he make space for your anger (which is just your hurt and your fear wearing its armour)? Can you put together some sort of plans to help you through that day -- either something together or giving you the day to practice some self-care?
      And yes, like you, I spent a lot of time fearing the shattering. I thought if I really felt the whole of my pain that it would swallow me whole. It doesn't. In fact, it can almost feel like a relief. The pushing it back is more exhausting than the feeling of it.

    2. How I wish he got it. He simply sees it as me being a bitch, raking him over the coals ...

      Clearly he's not into recovery as much as I'd hoped he would be.

  6. I sat and wondered yesterday if Kate Spade's suicide had anything to do with infidelity. The humiliation and pain that you go through. I know what ever it was she was hurting really bad. I have a friend who is going on 11 years and she still hasn't gotten past it. I told myself that it wasn't going to be me. And here I am almost to 3 years and still fighting the demon of pain. It's not as bad as it was the first 2 years but it's still there. Part of the pain that I was dealing with was being consumed with the OW. Having contact with her and listening to all of her lies. Which they were lies. She did everything to cover up her pain and humiliation. I found be all else I had to find forgiveness for everyone involved including myself. It's hard some days but I get through it.

    1. It crossed my mind too. Apparently her marriage was dissolving. But apparently too she had bipolar disorder and the statistics around suicide and bipolar are stunning. Close to half of those with the disorder will attempt suicide and 20% of those will succeed. Particularly upsetting to me because my daughter has bipolar disorder. The depression that accompanies bipolar is debilitating and, as we all know, depression lies. It tells us we don't matter. It tells us things will never get better.
      I want you to notice something you said in your comment. "It's not as bad as it was the first two years." Yes, you are still in pain. But it's not as bad. And that's what we hang on to. Because if it has improved, even slightly, it can improve more. Eliminating the OW from your life (and your thoughts, as much as you can) will also go a long way to helping you. Forgiveness, as you note, is about freeing yourself.
      It took me close to five years to feel well and truly past the pain. But I had to allow myself to feel it. I had to process it.
      You are pretty much on schedule. I know it's not happening as fast as you'd like. It never does. But you are healing and each day takes you a step or more further, even the days when you can barely get out of bed.
      Hang in there, Anonymous. Don't let yourself become like your friend who is still grieving 11 years later. She is holding on to the pain for some reason. Instead, feel the pain, work through it but always seek out joy, no matter how small.

    2. Thinking of you and your daughter, Elle. My daughter had her first betrayal (friends) this week. She is due to have her second when we tell her about the separation. She deals with anxiety and mild depression but not to the scale that makes her suicidal. Still, it is painful to know she is suffering and needs our care around this. I am so greatful that she is not stuck in the despair but has shown great survival and resilience skills. I know what it feels like to be stuck and think you will never know happiness again. That is the last thing I want for my children.

  7. Still Standing 1June 6, 2018 at 2:49 PM

    I was just thinking about the shattering and how you have to lean into it and accept that it happened before you can start recovering. And I'm thinking from ANY shattering trauma. And I want to share my own early experience with a shattering trauma, because it may give you hope.
    I was raped when I was 20 by a boy who had styled himself my best friend for the prior six years. It took me a couple of years to even accept that what I had experienced was real. it was much easier to be in denial, even to myself, than to admit that something so awful had happened to me. It was easier to believe that I had imagined it, or made it up or misunderstood (and therein lies control) than to deal with this enormous betrayal and the pain and the shame of it all.
    So I was 20. That was 28 years ago now. Wow. I can tell you that it has been some long time since I stopped thinking of myself as "the girl who was raped" or "survivor" or anything even remotely connected to that event. It went from being something that was visible in my peripheral vision every day, to something that I forget even happened to me unless someone else is sharing their story or its in the news or someone needs to hear #metoo. And now when I think of it, it is not about my pain, or shame or even about me, really, anymore. It is about righteous anger that such a thing exists and must be experienced by so many of us. While it has shaped me, certainly, it no longer defines my days.
    So I know the same is true about recovering from the pain of infidelity. I already know that there will be a days in the future (and honestly many days now) when I don't think about it at all. And though life is sometimes terrifying now, it always was. Now I'm just awake to it and I like myself so much more now than as a sleep walker.
    Hanging on to the hurt, like the friend who is still grieving after 11 years, is romanticized in our society. Like its this giant kind of love. But really, it is a form of armor, because if we hang on to the hurt of the past, we thing we are protecting ourselves from hurt in the future. And instead of keeping the hurt out, we are shutting ourselves off from the potential of feeling something amazing again. I have a similar friend and her grief and pain are a badge of honor, as if her suffering will somehow make her ex suffer too. Sadly, the only one suffering is her. I knew I didn't want that to be me.
    I think, in some ways, I've been lucky, that my life has been preparing me for this biggest of wake up calls. I'm not saying either one is worse or better than the other. Both are differently awful but also transformative. I hope I'm making sense. I feel like I am rambling now.
    So the short version is that there will be a time in the future where the scope is wider, where this is not even a spec in your rear view mirror. Stay awake and ready for that time. You'll make it.

  8. I’ve been feeling quite numb lately. It’s weird and kind of unsettling-I know I am no where near accepting where I am or feeling the pain. I should. Since my H hasn’t been here much and hasn’t stayed here in the house at all since his secret vacation and I have followed Phoenix and others advise to just go no contact - it has helped me just step back and take a break from the madness of it all I think. I’ve stayed away from social media-all of it, I’m working out a lot, working, reconnecting with a good old friend, I joined a couple Meet Up groups and have gone out. I’m reading “IF HE’s so great, why do I feel so bad?” By Avery Neal which is shedding a lot of light on the abuse I have endured. I am seeing my IC a couple times a month and am planning on going to see my family next month.

    I know it is just a reprieve and I do need to still receive the shattering. To feel the pain I am in that is complete anger and rage now. But for now it is OK. I need to get through this mediation and separation - come out of it on top! and then I can work on all that.

    1. Ann - I think the numbness is what gives us the ability to get out of bed some days.

      Just wanted you to know I've been thinking about you.

    2. Thanks Kimberly!

      I agree! My IC said it’s a step. That I am so used to living in chaos and in constant anxiety and stress - this doesn’t feel normal. It is weird!

      I am thinking of you too! I know it all must be so hard to not know one way or the other and still try to make it work. You are strong and have given me so much good advise so far.....you will figure it all out! Hugs to you!

  9. You make perfect sense ss1 thank you for sharing xxx

  10. Thank you for this post. It is so powerful. Both the quote from Oprah and your writing about it. I think this really describes what I am working towards. I know so much intellectually and that we cannot change the past. Easier said that done. I try to reflect how far I have come and as always lean on my optimistic self to get through each day.

  11. Elle, as many others have said, it feels like you're speaking right to me when you write. Today is the 4-year "anniversary" of the first night my husband spent with the OW. Monday night will be the anniversary of the second. Driving back to work from my lunch break, I considered going to the OW's Facebook page to see what she's doing today, but I decided not to. I made a choice not to "pain shop" as you've so wisely named it. That said, I'm 2.5 years out from DDay, and I worry that I'm broken. I guess I'm sort of in that numb place you described. I don't rage, or scream, or cry as much as before, but I also don't ever really feel happy. My kids bring me joy, but I feel myself, as you said, letting that in just for a second and then slamming the door shut again. I guess I just don't even know where to go next in the healing. Did you experience anything like that...just not even knowing what to work on next? I worry that I've built the wall around me so high that even I can't take it down.

    1. New Mom,
      I'm sorry I just saw this comment. For me, it was about letting myself really feel the pain. As my therapist said to me, when you bottle up pain, you bottle up all the good stuff too. And that's where the numbness comes in.
      I did EMDR to help me access so much old pain that I'd spent a lifetime ignoring. And I let myself be sad without judging myself for it. Without telling myself I was "wrecking things" by not always working on healing. Sometimes healing looks like a dirty bathrobe and a tear-stained face.

  12. Acceptance...I blog about this all the time! I know this is where I’m stuck, I know this and still can’t seem to do it. I work on this everyday. Every day I tell my self I have to accept this and I can move on, just accept what he has done but I just can’t seem to get there. I’m not sure how to explain it, I know this is where I’m stuck and just can’t seem to do it! I don’t know what to do?

    1. BB,
      See my comment above. I think sometimes (especially we strivers and do-ers) get so focussed on wanting to heal that we can't just feel the feelings. Everything is filtered through "will this help me?", "what about this?". Is there another book, another blog, another course I can take that will move me forward?
      A lot of it is time. And feeling the deep-down agony of betrayal. It's a primal wound, isn't it? It speaks to our basic need to belong, to feel cherished, to feel worthy. When that's violated, the hurt is so deep.

  13. What inspiring words from all you amazing women out there. Girl power! I am approaching D day no. 1 and dreading it. The pain I have allowed myself to feel (through incredible weekly counselling sessions) has been tangible. I spent months feeling that I was being stabbed from all sides, continuously. I have been to the darkest of dark places and seriously considered ending it all on 4 occasions. But, as Ellie says, my counsellor has revealed years of multi layered pain that I have kept a wall around for over 40 years. We have worked through this. The dark, dense all consuming black cloud that threatened for so long to engulf me, has now lifted and the sun is shining through. I am starting to feel you again.
    So, I guess my advice would be to allow yourself to feel every negative emotion that tries to shatter you, but deal with it (with professional help) and you will then be able to set yourself free. The sun WILL shine again.

    1. Yes it will. But as you have discovered, you have to walk some pretty dark roads to get there. Kudos to you for the courage you've shown by facing down those demons. It is excruciating but when you finally reveal all those wounds, when you triage them and treat them and help them heal, then your broken-ness is less so. You are no longer hiding who you are. And so, when the sun comes out, you are revealed in your full beauty, including the scars.



Related Posts with Thumbnails