The Extended Grief Cycle; Shock, Part 1


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Shock: I am sitting at my computer on a Tuesday morning. I have recently caught my lover lying to me about some substance abuse issues. On an intuitive hunch, I find myself trying to log in to his email account guessing his password. It works the first time. I have never tried to get into anyone’s email before. I am a staunch believer in personal privacy. At first, I feel guilty for invading his privacy; the only emails that I see are from myself and our daughter.

Then, I find the email which will forever divide my life into before I read it and after. It is from a former colleague, a woman, a friend of his. I don’t grasp what it means at first and have to read it a second and then a third time. It is like reading something in a foreign language because it doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand what I’m reading for a long space, probably less than twenty seconds but it seems like much longer. There is a long space where time is hanging and my brain simply will not accept what this email means. It is a short email, just a few lines long. I will never forget what it says. On my deathbed, I will remember what it says. It is the end of my life; it is the end of my happiness.

He is sleeping with her; my brain struggles not to understand or accept this. But the words are clear; he has been sleeping with her. They have a relationship. This has been going on for some time. But this isn’t possible, a small voice inside me cries out, he couldn’t have slept with her in the same bed this past Sunday when I spent the weekend with him in that bed the weekend before. And yet, it is not only possible; it is irrefutable. I see that there is a string of emails between them.  I don’t dare to look. Already the words from this one email are searing into my heart. I am damned. You don’t spend your entire life missing someone only to find them again only to lose them again and survive, emotionally, you just don’t. Part of me knows this and begins a swan dive down into the depths of loss. A functioning part of me picks up the phone and calls a co worker. It is Tuesday. wE have lunch on Tuesdays. It is only 10;15. I ask her if she can come down right away. She says yes. I hang up the phone.

I blank out and don’t remember what happens next.

When my coworker arrives I am standing up a few paces away from my desk. I don’t remember standing up or moving away from my desk, b ut I can sense the emails like poison emanating from the computer screen. I do not dare look any more. It will kill me. Already I don’t know if I will survive, but I know enough that I cannot look at her writing, at her light hearted cheerful verse, at the familiar terms of endearment; if I read any more of this I will die.

My coworker asks what is going on. I am standing in the middle of my office in one of those moments that will define my life. It is amoment of defeat and yet survival as I am already proud of myself for having moved away from the screen, from the emails. I point at the computer. She sits down. In single words I blurt out what has happened. I back further away from the computer and sit down on the couch in the rear of my office.

My rational mind says, “I need to know three things; what date did the sexual relationship start between them, is this casual sex or a love affair, and does she think that she’s the only woman or does she know about me.”

My coworker b egins going through the emails to ascertain these things. I am sitting on the couch, perched on the edge, just sitting. My brain comprehends nothing. Something terrible has happened. The unthinkable has happened. I knew he had problems; I knew he had lied to me but it was about his substance use. I never had any reason to suspect him of cheating on me. He’d been completely devoted for over two years. It made no sense. There had been no signs. I sat alert on the edge of the couch.

There is a knock at my office door. My coworker opens it. It is another coworker, whom I am close to. She is here because we had a meeting. I have forgotten about it. I am happy she is there. She sits next to me on the couch. I think this can’t be happening to me. This isn’t happening to me. There must be some mistake. I think I remember beginning to cry. Both these ladies ask me who they should call. I tell them to call my two best friends, one works there and one does not. I watch the second co worker call my friends; I hear her telling them what has happened. It is like being in a dream. It is like watching a movie. It is not my life. This is not my life.

My first coworker friend has the answers to my questions. They are terrible answers. First, the sexual relationship seems to have begun around April, 2009 (Eighteen months! My soul cries, so long!) Of course, that makes sense. That’s when he and I had that fight. It is a love affair and not a casual fling. Terms of endearment are used throughout all the emails by both of them. And it appears that she has no idea that he’s also sleeping with me, as there’s no mention of me, and her language indicates that she seems to think that she’s the only woman in his life. My brain cannot digest these facts. They float around and around. I ask my friend to log out of the email account.

My other friends arrive and everyone decides that I am in shock. I am still sitting on the edge of the couch. I am told that I will not be allowed to drive because I am in shock. My friend, B, drives me home. It is a beautiful October day, so warm and lovely, but none of it is real to me. None of it is real. This can’t be happening to me. He can’t be sleeping with her. How could he do that to me? But I was just there visiting him. And then he slept with her the next weekend in the same bed? These questions begin to spiral around my brain as my friend drives me home. There is numbness in my sensations. There is a layer of cotton wadding separating me from reality. None of this is actually happening to me. B is not driving me home. My car is not left in the parking lot at work, needing to be picked up later. I have not left work. I am still at work. But my body is in B’s car, driving me home because they have told me that I am in shock. Why? I keep remembering. I keep remembering the words of her email. I will remember them forever. They are not true. It is not true. She did not send him this email. He does not allow other women to talk to him like that because he is mine. We waited for each other for twenty years and we have a daughter together and nothing can separate us now after all we’ve been through. Who is this woman?

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