My separation from my husband was sudden and traumatic. There was no, “I am unhappy and we have some things we need to work on to save our marriage” conversation. It was just, “I don’t love you anymore. I want a divorce.”
The shock and pain of this betrayal and abandonment was very intense. Being alone in Alaska, more than 5,000 miles away from my family, was (and continues to be) excruciating. Here are the things that got me through the first month of this crisis.
- A heating pad or two- I’m not kidding about this. I would literally shiver in my grief. I actually used two heating pads. A hot water bottle placed at the foot of my bed to keep everything warm in my big empty bed. I also carried around my hugaroo and just layed it across my chest. It was warm and heavy and provided some small, though immediate comfort to the cold loneliness and pain of his abandonment.
- Tea or Other Hot Beverage – Heat was extremely helpful in the shitstorm that was the first months after X left me. In addition to the constant company of my heating pad, I drank a lot of tea. I’m not totally sure why heat helped. It was a small comfort, to be sure. But I think it had to do with making me feel alive. I wasn’t dying. I was warm. It really helped in those small moments.
- A Portal – My whole family lives on the east coast and being so far from them was incredibly difficult. My mother bought us each a Portal (video chat display). Every day we talked on the Portal and it really did feel almost like she was in the room with me. When I had to go back to work (he left at the start of Christmas break) my mom called on the portal every morning at 5:30, which was enough time for me to get up and get moving. She’d be on work calls in the background and I’d get up and go. Without that, I’m not sure I could have gotten up and moved. I wasn’t really sleeping then, so it wasn’t that I was asleep. It was just that the house was so empty, even with Moose and Rosie, that I’m not sure I would have had the inertia without her help. Hearing her on her calls was background noise with my mom’s voice. It helped me not feel so alone.
- Cheerios and Meme’s Brown Rice – for a few weeks after X abandoned our marriage, I didn’t have an appetite. My friends and family had to encourage me to eat. All I could stomach was a bowl of cheerios. In fact, for the first week, at most I ate a bowl of cheerios a day. After that week, I started making my grandmother’s brown rice. Saute onions, carrots, celery, (garlic and mushrooms optional) in a pat of butter. Add a cup of rinsed brown rice. Saute for a minute. Add two cups of vegetable or chicken stock. Simmer for 20-40 minutes. Add more stock if needed. It’s so nourishing. And when you are in the midst of your life shattering into a million pieces, nourishment and nurturing are exactly what you need.
- People- I am blessed to have some amazing people in my life who have been so supportive. I know not everyone has this, so I want to encourage anyone in the midst of this kind of abandonment to reach out to whoever you can find. My friends and family reached out to me daily with texts and phone calls. One friend came over to play cribbage. Another came over to clean my kitchen while I took down the Christmas tree, each ornament a memory of our 13 years together. My cousin called almost daily. Plus, my job is as a teacher and kids are a source of such joy. Going to work was essential. Whatever you do don’t isolate yourself.
- Walk – Walking was such an amazing tool for me. If I started to go into panic attack mode, or the anxiety was too much to sit with, I’d put on Moose’s harness and head out for a walk. Moving made me feel a bit less stuck, physically and metaphorically. When that feeling creeps in, a walk is still my solution.
- A Furry Friend – I know that I would not have survived the last four months without my Moose dog. He was so affectionate and supportive of me, always at my side. I also was now the sole person responsible for his well-being. Spending time and thought energy on taking care of him helped get me out of my head a little bit. And made me share some love. Plus, he was full of snuggles, even if sometimes I had to bribe him with treats to get them! It helped immensely.
It’s interesting to look back on those first couple of months and remember just how tumultuous they were. It was hands down my worst face in the mud moment. But I’m also really proud of how I muddled through it. I found ways to make it to the next moment. I took care of myself and I let loved ones take care of me too. While things are still a mess, it’s not as intense – more like the new normal, even though I know this is also temporary. I’m glad I have tools I can use when things get rough to help me take that next “One step at a time.”