Tag Archive | loss

August 20th: The God Box

One day, while we were still together, my husband came home with a present for me: it was a cedar God box.
He told me that whenever I had worries, whenever I needed to let something go, I could write down whatever was bothering me, write a letter to God, and put it in the box.
I could give my problems over to God.
I liked the idea so I put all sorts of things inside of the box:
A picture of my two children.
One of my husband’s cigarettes in hopes that he would quit.
Letters to God asking for guidance and help on certain issues.
Once they were tucked away in my God box, I would forget about them.
One day, I sat on the bed and opened the box and looked back over the things I had put inside.
I found that many of the problems I had turned over to God, had been removed from my life.
I liked my God box.
I liked having a special place to put my notes to God.
I realized it didn’t matter what type of box it was.
It could have been a shoe box, a paper bag; any type of container would do.
The point was to have a special place to give my worries over to God.

“Dear God, help me to give my worries to you. Once I turn them over, guide me to let them go. Taking back a worry will not help me. It will only cause me to fret over something that can only be handled by you.”

August 21st: Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

I had spent 17 years of my life with my husband.

In that time, we had acquired many habits both good and bad.

Our relationship had many hardships and because we had started off together so young, and with so few relationship “tools…” both being raised in dysfunctional alcoholic families, we didn’t do a very good job of navigating through them.

We fell into patterns of talking to each other in harsh tones, blaming, running away, and pushing each other’s buttons.

Even in the calm periods, the patterns we had learned prevailed.

We would try to be different but, we just weren’t.

When we both began working 12-step programs, I had high hopes that things would change. Some things did… but unfortunately… our root issues and our bad habits were still there.

During our divorce, the patterns continued.

It didn’t matter that we were separated. We couldn’t speak to each other without falling into our old ways.

It was horrible.

We had children together.

We would have to find a way to communicate in a true adult, loving, and kind manner.

We kept trying, but it always ended in a fight: nothing was different.

I was doing the same thing outside of my marriage that I had done inside of my marriage.

I could not change what my husband was doing.

I could not change what he was saying.

I could not change his behavior.

The only thing I could change was my attitude and my behavior.

If I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results, I was bound to fail.

I had not had a different result in one of our heated conversations in 17 years. Why would it be any different today?

I knew then that I could not get into these conversations with my husband any more. That for now, I had to learn not to engage. It was very difficult. I wanted to be in that old familiar pattern even if it was bad. I wanted to have contact with him and I wanted to believe that this time, the outcome would be different.

It couldn’t.

It wouldn’t until one of us changed our behavior.

I could only start with me.

Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. I decided then and there, that for now, I would only contact him if there was an emergency, or a pressing child or financial issue. I had to take time away from him and work on changing my behavior.

So, what could I do differently in these conversations?

Well, I could start by not engaging, working on my communication skills, and for the time being, limiting my contact with him.

I knew that if I wanted it to be different, I would have to work to make it different.

Our communication skills would not change over night but if I was willing to work, to try handling this in a different way, over time, the results would be different and possibly better.

“Dear God, help me to stop doing the same things and expecting different results. Help me to change my part in the old behavior. Guide me to a new way which can then bring a positive result to my life.”

August 19th: Signs

I had a hard time believing in a loving Higher Power.

I had grown up believing that God was a punishing God and therefore, I couldn’t fully put my trust into the idea.

I came to a place in my divorce where I was full of despair.

I felt so totally lost that I looked up and said, “Please, please God… just give me a sign.”

My desperation lead me to look for answers and my answers, were to come from my Higher Power.

During this time period, I had been wearing a necklace with three things on it: my wedding band, a 12-step program ring, and the serenity prayer.

I had been having a hard time with all three.

My marriage was in turmoil and I wasn’t willing to “let go.”

I felt the 12-step program had failed us and drove us further apart.

And, I didn’t have serenity for the life of me.

Every morning, I woke up, put that necklace on and held it close to my heart, where I could feel it weigh heavy against my chest all day long.
Until one day, I got up, reached for my necklace and as I lifted it from the table, watched all three items fall off of the chain.

I had never unclasped this chain since I had bought it.

I had slipped it over my head each time I wore it.

I stood there in silent shock.

It was as if my Higher Power had gently reached out a hand, slipped the items off the chain and said, “Let it go.”

That day, I stopped wearing my necklace.

I took the three items and put them inside of my God box.

I knew that I needed to hand them over to my Higher Power.

I needed to believe in the sign I had been given: a loving God was there to guide me through my pain.

“Dear God, help me to recognize your signs. If I ask for your guidance, make me aware of your answers.”

August 18th: Signs of Stress

Over the years, my husband and I had been through brief periods of separation which had lead me to believe that he would always come back.

So, when we first separated, my body didn’t really react to the situation. But as the separation turned into steps towards divorce… it did. My skin looked ruddy and would break-out. My heart would pound and my head would ache. Some mornings, I woke up so wound up that I would immediately need to throw up.

It was horrible feeling so physically distressed.

My sleeping and eating patterns became erratic. I was on a “fight or flight” alert 24 hours a day.

I knew that there wasn’t much I could do to stop these physical symptoms of stress. I would have to walk through the pain and walk through my feelings before the stress and the physical symptoms would stop.

I decided that if I had to live with it for now, I would find a way to work with it and keep my health at an optimum during this situation.

I began taking multi-vitamins.

I remembered to drink more water and cut down on caffeinated drinks.

I walked daily and lifted weights.

I worked on eating healthy foods and even if it seemed too difficult to eat a whole meal, I would take the time to eat a healthy snack.

I soothed my distressed mind by journaling, praying, keeping gratitude lists, and spending time with family and friends.

I still suffered from the physical symptoms of stress but, my efforts to care for myself kept the intensity level of the symptoms to a minimum.

Learning what we can and cannot change can help us through a trying situation.

I could not change how my body would react to the stress of my divorce, but I could change my role. I could take care of myself to the best of my ability and know, that in time, the symptoms would pass.

“Dear God, help me to put myself first today. Help me to take care of my health and my mental well-being. I will be of  no service to my family, my friends, and my community until I choose to take care of myself.”

August 17th: Beyond Reason

I hated that everything my husband was doing was beyond reason.

Why would he leave his family?

How could he live with seeing us only a few times a week?

What was so important to him that he would walk away from everything we had built: our history, our world… to look for something else?

One day, a good friend said, “It is beyond reason. No one can explain why people do the things they do.”

It was true.

I could question all I wanted.

I could ask my husband why… but I still don’t think I would understand.

It was beyond reason.

I could drive myself crazy wondering why certain things happen.

I could spend every day wondering why this person lived… or this person died… why one family stayed together… why one family fell apart… but I wouldn’t find logic in the answers.

Sometimes… they just do.

Life is beyond reason.

Today, I know that I can spend endless emotional energy trying to figure out why and still not get to an answer.

It happened.

It is beyond reason.

Now, what am I going to do with my life for today?

“Dear God, help me not to waste time trying to find reason where there is none. Help me to use my time to move on and move forward. Help me to accept that things in life sometimes… just happen. They are beyond my control. They are beyond my reason. I must have faith that you know the plan, you know the reason, and everything is happening just as it should.”

August 16th: Logic vs. Feelings

When I was growing up, I was taught not to show my true feelings.

It was not safe to express feelings in my home.

Exposing feelings in my home could cause terrible reactions. It was better not to express your feelings, better to rely on logic.

I began to excel at school.

I learned that logic could hold me. I didn’t have to feel anything to get an “A” on my math test. I could use logic and succeed.

I learned to bury my feelings and rely on my brain to get me through life. I could logic my way out of anything. I believed that if I just studied hard enough everything would work out fine.

Well, that isn’t the way life works.

Sometimes, we can do everything in a logical manner, hoping to obtain a certain result, and it still won’t happen.

When my marriage began to decline, I was at a loss.

Logically, I believed that if I just worked harder, studied harder, figured out exactly what my spouse needed I could make it work.

Logically, it made perfect sense. I had always triumphed using my logic. I would triumph again.

But, logic didn’t work.

Nothing about what we were going through was logical. It was all based on feelings, emotions, sensations, resentments that were buried for many, many years.

Every logical conclusion ended with us in a passionate argument followed by a silent stalemate.

We couldn’t get past the feelings… there was no logic.

When my husband decided that he truly wanted a divorce, I once again began to logic my way through it. I read all of the divorce books I could find. I made lists of reasons for this happening. I studied and worked to understand but, my logic failed me. I couldn’t logic my way out of this one.

I was devastated.

I knew that there was no logic to what happened, it just happened.

I would have to walk through my feelings. I would have to feel every emotion that I had hidden away.

It was very scary.

It was very painful.

Logic had failed me.

The one thing I had trusted throughout my life had let me down.

I would have to feel this and I didn’t like it: feelings were uncomfortable.

There was no other way.

I would have to walk through it.

Logic is good but sometimes there is no logic in life. Logic is good… as long as it isn’t used to replace feelings.

There has to be a balance between logic and feelings: one cannot replace the other.

“Dear God, help me to walk through my feelings. I know that it can be uncomfortable to allow myself to feel things, but if I bury them, they will resurface again and again, causing turmoil in my life. Guide me through my feelings, and past the pain.”

August 15th: Triangulation

Before we sought out marriage counseling, my husband and I would manipulate each other through triangulation.

Triangulation meaning that one of us would complain to a third person about our marriage, not to gain insight or deal with our problem, but to keep a connection and manipulate each other.

It worked especially well with our children but any family member would do. Even friends could fall into our trap.

We could put anybody in the middle of our arguments.

It was a very destructive cycle, one that was very difficult to break.

It is very easy to triangulate when emotions run hot:

When you have mutual friends and you each want to give your version of why the marriage is or was failing…

When you don’t want to talk to your spouse so you send a message through a child…

When you want to get a jab in and hurt each other…

When you’re feeling the loss of connection and want to create one, even if it is a negative one…

One comment given to the right person can then be relayed to your spouse and cause them to hurt.

It is a very affective technique when you want to “have power” over them.

It is not something you would want to to do in a mutually dependent and loving relationship.

I had no control over what my husband was going to do while we went through our separation and divorce.

I would have to work on my part to stop the triangulation.

It was very difficult.

Sometimes he would say things to our son and I was sure that he wanted me to react to them.

Sometimes he said things to my relatives that caused me to feel pain.

Sometimes he said things to our friends that I felt were untrue.

If I, while my emotions ran high, chose to go to those same people and send a message back, I knew that I could and that my message would cause him pain.

But, using triangulation hurts everyone; all the people involved.

I had to consciously choose not to do this.

At first, I sometimes failed and continued to “act out.” I sometimes bought into his game; hook, line, and sinker. He would say something to my son and I would call my husband and argue with him about what I had heard. I would do the same when I heard the comments he had made to our family and friends. He knew just how to push my buttons and I let him.

Until one day, I made a decision. I decided to not play the game. If I stopped, the triangulation could not continue.

I made a conscious effort not to play. If I wanted to communicate in a different way, it had to begin with me.

“Dear God, guide me in my communications with my spouse. Help me to be adult, loving and kind in all of my interactions.”

August 8th: Reaching Out

Several years ago, I went through a very hard time in my life. Yet, instead of reaching out to others… I isolated. I stayed in my home. I wouldn’t get dressed. I wouldn’t call friends on the phone or return their calls. If people did get hold of me, I would come up with excuses not to speak with them. If they asked me out, I would do the same. I spent every waking moment focused on my troubles. I reached out to no one. I asked for no help. It was a behavior that was hurting me. As long as I isolated, I could dwell in my misery. I could replay over and over in my head what had happened, what I had done wrong, what I should have done. It was a horrible experience. It was like being imprisoned in my mind.

Over time, I was able to look at my behavior and see that I had been isolating. I knew, that if I walked through a hard time again, I would have to practice reaching out… I didn’t want to at first. During my divorce, I wanted to hide. I wanted to wallow in my pain. But… I did reach out. I made myself reach out. I exercised with friends. I talked about my problems with them over the phone. I sought out counselors and professionals to help me through my experience and I reached out to my family. It helped. When I broke down, they were there for me. They didn’t expect me to be stoic. They didn’t tell me to “Buck up, move on, get over it.” They listened. They offered support. They let me cry and they hugged and comforted me when words would no longer help.

It wasn’t easy to reach out, but it kept me from being a prisoner of my mind. Now, I know that when I feel like isolating, I need to take opposite action. I need to reach out. I need to let someone in. It is the only key to the prison I create for myself. “Dear God, help me to reach out to others in my time of pain. Guide me to the hands of kind friends, loving family, and caring professionals who will help me walk through my pain and release me from my prison of solitude.”

August 7th: Decisions

I knew that my husband wanted a divorce but he wasn’t moving forward with the process. He told me in December, yet by mid May, he had still not filed the papers.

I believed that he had doubts about what he was doing and so, I didn’t push the issue.

I still had hopes that we could work it out… that something would change.

One day, I called my husband to speak to him about a commitment to our son. I was calm and centered as I spoke but as the conversation continued, it turned into one of our old battles. Once again, we could not resolve our issues.

I knew then, that I had to make a decision. I could sit around and wait for something to happen or, I could decide what I needed to do and go from there.

Sometimes, it’s okay to wait if you are feeling unsure, confused, or in a high state of emotion. In fact, it may be the best thing to do. Other times, it’s best to make a move, to take an action. I found that living in a state of uncertainty was more than I could handle. I could not wait one more day for my husband to make a decision.

I didn’t want a divorce but… in my many conversations with him I could see that for us, to get back together at this point in time, would not bring either of us happiness.

I called the mediator that evening and filed the papers the next day.

I felt simultaneously better and worse. Better… that I had followed through and made a decision. Worse… that our marriage had truly come to this.

Anticipating his moves had caused me so much worry and discomfort that I had been unable to move forward with my own life. It was a difficult decision, but one I had to make to salvage my own sanity and serenity.

“Dear God, guide me in my thoughts and deeds. If I need to wait before making a decision, help me to be patient. If I need to take action, help me to follow through.”

July 30th: Listening

Sometimes I ask my Higher Power questions.

Sometimes I ask my Higher Power for signs.

Sometimes I ask… but I don’t listen… or ignore signs once they appear.

A friend once said to me, “Remember, when you ask God a question, don’t forget what the question was by the time he answers it!”

I was always asking questions and asking for signs and then forgetting to listen or watch for them to appear.

One day, I was hiking on a path.

I was having a moment where I was lacking faith and I was questioning my Higher Power.

I was feeling abandoned in my time of need.

I asked my Higher Power to give me a sign… a sign to let me know that I was not alone… that a spiritual being was with me in my time of need.

I allowed my mind to become quiet as I hiked slowly up the path.

I listened to the sound of my breathing… to the sound of the ocean… to the wind blowing through the brush.

I watched my footing on the path and took it slow.

Suddenly, there was a small white feather laying in the middle of the path. I first walked past it, not really thinking much about it, but something inside of me said, “Turn around and pick that feather up… it is a sign from your Higher Power.” I turned around, picked it up, and then continued up the path.

I was almost to the top when I noticed a small turn out. I walked over and sat down on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean.

I sat and cried.

I cried feeling so lost and alone.

Where was my Higher Power?

Where was my faith?

How was I to walk through this pain?

How did others walk through this pain?

I reached in my pocket for a tissue to wipe my face and the small white feather fluttered out of my hands. It started to catch in the breeze and blow off into the sky when the wind changed direction and sent the feather back into my hand.

I calmed my mind.

I quieted my tears.

I listened.

Something told me to get up… to get back on the path and walk on. I stood up, dusted myself off and did just that. It was just a few steps more to the top of the hill… to the end of the path.

When I turned the last curve of the trail, I found a giant wooden cross, standing in front of a bench, looking out over the ocean.

I sat on the bench and stared at the cross in awe.

It did not matter that the sign was significant of a specific religion.

What mattered was the sign was a spiritual one.

Something inside of me said, “You see? You were just a few steps away from faith… if you had stopped, you would still be choosing to walk this path in fear… alone.”

I realized then that I had to believe.

I  had to watch for signs and believe my questions would be answered… in time.

If I wasn’t walking in faith…then I was choosing to walk alone and in fear.

“Dear God, help me to listen. Help me to look for your signs. Remind me that I can have faith if I choose to walk with you instead of walking alone in fear.”