Betrayal: A Life Lesson

Fourteen months into the process this betrayal has become, a journey through brokenheartedness, shame, grief, denial, bargaining, acceptance, pain, and healing, I am recognizing a cycle. I have gone through a similar sequence of emotions before,and it was again, related to this man whom I believed to be my soulmate.

When I took the baby and left him and his druggie lifestyle at the age of twenty-two, I came north, to this same town, to heal. The cycle was different; I had a baby to look after and so instead of processing my grief, I ‘stuffed’ it. Instead of coming to terms with how badly my young husband had treated his family, I made excuses for him and held his friends responsible for his behavior. In this way, I sheltered my heart from the miserable reality that the love of my life was a real selfish scumbag.

However, although I did not go through the emotions of grief consciously, these feelings gnawed at me for a good long time, close to a year and a half, after I’d cut off all contact from him.

I did go through an intensely personal cathartic process of growth which was painful and quite lonely. It was a time for spiritual introspection and for guarding myself closely, keeping myself and my daughter safe, and meditation. I”m going through a similar experience now: I am wondering about the spiritual aspect of this part of my life.

I am convinced that the reason this man came into my life was to betray me; one of my life’s lessons was to be betrayed. Or perhaps, from his perspective, he had a choice. He had a choice at the age of 22 and then again, a chance to change that choice at the age of 42, and both times he chose against us. He chose addiction, lying, betrayal, and low friends over his family.

At any rate, I am now curled up in my den for the winter. My wounds are no longer raw: I have stopped licking them. I am standing up and moving on.



The Holidays are No Time for the Bereaved

Christmas in the post-War United States

Image via Wikipedia

“I would say that the holidays is no time for the bereaved.” A dear friend wrote this in response to my post ‘The Damage Done’ in which I mentioned that Christmastime is no time for the brokenhearted.

Bereavement is perhaps a better term for the type of loss I suffered. Losing those we love, to death, to betrayal, to changes, is always painful.

During the holidays, we exult the family; we worship the love of those close to us.

When we lose loved ones, we grieve them most during the holidays. This is only natural. The cycle of life and grief continues. Now, my friend, who has suffered a great loss, mourns more than I do. We can only witness each others’ lives through these cycles of grief, of mourning.

I remember last winter, when the betrayal wound was fresh, the overwhelming pain and loss which I felt during Christmastime.

This year is better.

Christmas triggers unhappy childhood memories for me and for millions others. My mother was not emotionally well. Wanting to provide me with a perfect Christmas, which she had been denied in her impoverished childhood, she created holidays which were pure overwrought fiascos. She tried. Forty years later, I must give her credit. She did not succeed, but she did try. I forgive her. She has passed on from this life, and I pray for her soul. I wish her well.

Christmas is a time when I grit my teeth and bear it. I buy lots of present for my kids and hope they will be happy. Internally, I wish for the day to pass quickly. I drink too much, the night before and the night of. Let it pass. Christmas reminds me of him; it reminds me of those two years so recent yet so far ago in which I thought that he and I and our daughter were reunited again for the rest of our lives. Those were the only Christmases in which I did not despair.

But he was gone from me now; he was a lie. I mourn him, but I am not sure if he is worth mourning.

It is my illusion which I mourn; it is the dream of him as a whole person, not an addict, for which I grieve.

Is it more painful to grieve for a real person than for an imagined one?





[1] To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
[2] A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
[3] A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
[4] A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
[5] A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
[6] A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
[7] A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
[8] A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Quote~ Grieving for a Lost Love

With what a deep devotedness of woe
I wept thy absence – o’er and o’er again
Thinking of thee, still thee, till thought grew pain,
And memory, like a drop that, night and day,
Falls cold and ceaseless, wore my heart away!

~Thomas Moore

Lalla Rookh–The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan

The Grief Spiral

Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

I am told that towards the end of her life, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of Death and Dying, revisited her original grief cycle and clarified that the individual phases were not linear, but rather, more a spiral of feelings that one encounters during the grieving process.

One of my employees asked to speak to me this evening because he was going through a stressful time and really just needed someone to listen. He’s a young man, just turned twenty, who has worked for me for almost two years. His father passed away this January after a long cancer related illness and I’ve been impressed by how well this young man has  held up under his grief. Today he seemed to be cracking under the weight of it.

“I thought it would be over by now,” he said, almost pleading with me. “”I’ve been grieving for him all year, its been months. I thought it would be getting better by now.”

I didn’t tell him that it was going to get better. How could I? Grieving the death of a person you love takes a long time. I encouraged him to talk and we talked about things that could help like prayer (he admitted wanting to go to the Catholic Church, where he’d grown up, and light a candle for his father.)  I also asked him about members of his family who could give him support.

All I could tell him was, “Grieving the loss of a person you love takes a long time.”

I have read that it takes on average, two years, to process the grief of a lover’s betrayal. I can accept this. I know that I will never be the same person again. I can’t explain what it feels to discover that the one person whom you love and trust the most in the world has betrayed you. I have written tens of thousands of words in this blog trying to explain the feeling but in the end, feelings can never put into words. We can intellectualize the thought processes related to the feelings and we can tie them to stages others have written about. In this blog, I have also offered my dreams and metaphors to cope with this. But in the end, it is very close to having someone dying. The person whom I thought I was in a relationship with died, because he was no longer actually in that relationship with me, because his feelings about me had changed entirely, because the inner story and feelings and plans and hopes between us which I believed to be sound were actually all rotted through. It is the shock of the betrayal, and then the trauma, followed by the grief process, which makes it so prolonged.

Earlier in the day, I came across the little pink phone he gave me a couple of years ago, which I haven’t used since all this happened. It’s in the top drawer of my desk, and I keep just avoiding it. But today, thinking that I was strong enough, I charged it up and then took a look. There was the record of our last phone conversation, and in the inbox, although we rarely texted, a text he had sent me on a certain day in July, 2009, ‘Love you, darling’.

I told myself that he’d already been sleeping with another woman by this date, but I remembered the joy so sharply of receiving this text, that there was a pinch in my heart. I had spent the weekend with him and was taking the train back to Boston, and I remember waiting for the train with him that day, and the flash of sunlight through the train window and the wooded glades through which the train was passing, jetlike, and where I was sitting and exactly when the text had arrived, and its golden arrow to my heart, and my memories of hundreds of train rides to see him and back, first as a very young girl and now as a grown woman.

I scribbled down the date and time of this text on the back of a check book. For what possible reason?  what can it matter to receive a text like that from a man who’s already cheating on you and will continue to cheat on you for the next fifteen or so months until you find out? I told myself that it was good, I hadn’t cried. I was growing stronger. The grief was lessening. My heart may have shed a drop or two of blood after the pinch, but it did not burst open. ‘You never could have looked at this phone a few weeks ago, ” I told myself. “You are doing better. Time is healing you.

But the pinch in my heart took hold and bruised. It was the bite of a narrow snouted sharp toothed fox. Just a small quick bite- its razor-sharp little teeth just barely breaking the skin.

I wish I had not signed up for grief. I wish that I had always done what my father had wished for me to do in my life, and avoided all the tribulations I have put myself through by loving this one person more than others, for what seems like my whole life.

I pray for my grief and the grief of all other beings to be lessened.



Bargaining with the Patron Saint of Lost Causes

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Image via Wikipedia

In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of grief which a person facing death encounters as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kubler-Ross’ model of grief has been expanded over the decades to include general loss and bereavement and additional  stages of shock and testing. This more comprehensive model of grief is referred to as the Extended Grief Cycle.

In this blog, I am chronicling my own journey through an Extended Grief Cycle during the past five months.

In my recent post, A Month of Denial, I wrote about last November and the first month of processing my discovery at the end of October that my lover had betrayed me with a long-term involvement with another woman.

Last November was both a month of denial and a month of bargaining. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve chosen to write about each process individually, although they were experienced concurrently.

The denial came first; the bargaining began immediately after. Because I could not believe that my lover had betrayed me in such a callous way, and because his betrayal, deception and lies challenged my belief in what kind of person he was inside, I began to immediately bargain my way out of the situation.

“This can’t be true, there has to be a way out of this.” Whispered the spirit of bargaining to me as I drifted off to sleep, weeping, when I woke up every morning, half expecting his morning phone call.

Of course, my first action was to pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed. This relationship, this man coming back into my life after and absence of eighteen years, had fit perfectly into my understanding of my journey on this earth. With our reunion, I came full cycle. Back to him, the love of my life, my daughter’s father, my soul mate, our ocean town, my longed for beaches, even, spiritually, my relationship with my deceased mother, which somehow became elevated as I developed a close relationship with his mother.

Our reunion had been fated; how could it be undone by something as sordid as another woman? If everything he had told me in the past two and a half years had been a lie, that I was the love of his life, that we were soul mates, that there was a place in his heart empty without me for two decades, that he’d never looked at another woman all this time (unbelievable but apparently true)- if all this were true, then how could he have done this to me? How COULD he?

I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC in late November on the anniversary of our wedding. I lit candles for my mother’s soul at various altars of St. Mary‘s and circled around the perimeter of the back of the church until I came to the altar of St. Jude. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. This was our saint. He and I had always been a lost cause. How then, could we have been so close? Surely our reunion was part of something divine? At that point, I lost it and began weeping. I tucked ten dollars into the collection slot and began lighting candles. Another candle-lighter saw the amount I had donated and saw the tears streaming down my face and said, “God Bless You.” She then touched my arm and repeated, “God BLESS you.”

Her kindness at this point in my life produced a wealth of gratitude inside my heart. I will never forget her face. Where would any of us be in this world without the kindness of strangers?

Another piece of my bargaining process was through my blogging. In swimming through the details and feelings I was experiencing via written language, what I was really saying to myself was, “But this can’t be happening, there must be some way out of this.”

When I was searching for “some way out of this,” I half expected a deux ex machina event. The gods would come down to earth and create a miracle. This was easier to believe than what I really wanted, which was for him to step forward and make it better.

Appealing to him with a written account of our entire relationship, I wrote him two long letters urging him to take the steps necessary to become an honest person and to change his life for the better. Of course, this was never something he was interested in. It was enough for him to hide who he really was from me in the beginning (still, twenty years later, an addict)- and as soon as started figuring out that he’d lied to me and began confronting him about his addictions, he’d simply gone off and started a new relationship with a woman who didn’t mind his habits. (Or so I presume from what he’d told me about her, whenever they were together socially, alcohol was involved.)

The long bargaining process, in retrospect, seems ridiculous. I’d caught him red-handed and confronted him and he didn’t bother to communicate with me in any way about it for over a month.

The reality is that he was glad to be done with me. I’d become the bitch and the nag, just like I’d been twenty years ago, because of his substance abuse issues. I’d even tried drinking with him in the last year of the new relationship, in moderation, to show that I was flexible, but he’d just get mad at me for wanting him to limit his nighttime drinking to two drinks.

At any rate, the bargaining now seems pathetic and childish. But when my heart was broken and hurting so badly, it was natural for me to want to figure out a way to fix it. I imagined far-flung fantasies; he’d borrow or rent a car and  show up at my house with flowers begging my forgiveness. Poor, pitiful me, crying myself to sleep wishing for the impossible. I’d gone so far out on a limb to believe in this reunion, to trust him and forgive him and move into the future. I’d rearranged my whole life, my work schedule, time with my children, used my vacation time, only to be with him, and I just could not comprehend that he could be so low as to deceive me for so long and allow me to continue to put so much effort and time into the relationship.

Part of the purpose of the bargaining stage, for me, was a reaction to my inability to do anything to fix the situation. I’d spent my life fixing impossible situations through working harder. All my life, I’d worked two or three jobs to pay the rent, to send my son to summer camp, to replace windows on my falling apart house. I’d stayed up all night with a fussy child, one who did not sleep for years. I’d pushed myself and pushed myself to finish college at 32, get through graduate school, create a department at my new job. But this wasn’t a situation which could be fixed through my effort.

Again, twenty years later, he had chosen his addictions over me. There was nothing that I could do about it then, and there is nothing that I could do about it last November.

I think the bargaining stage helped me to come to terms with the denial because the longer I spent trying to figure out how to fix the situation, through prayer, through writing in my blog, through letters to him, the more apparent it was that I was banging my head against a concrete wall.

“No exit.” Quoth the end of the bargaining to the denial. “No way out.”



A Month of Denial


In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of grief which a person facing death encounters as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kubler-Ross’ model of grief has been expanded over the decades to include general loss and bereavement and additional  stages of shock and testing. This more comprehensive model of grief is referred to as the Extended Grief Cycle.

In this blog, I am chronicling my own journey through an Extended Grief Cycle during the past five months.

I spent last November in an endless cycle of denial and bargaining. I was unable to believe that my lover, my one true love, with whom I’d been reunited after a separation of eighteen years, had been cheating on me with another woman for eighteen months!

Since reading, “When Your Lover is a Liar: Healing the Wounds of Deception and Betrayal,” by Susan Forward, PhD with Donna Frazier, I now understand that my denial was normal. Most women who discover an unfaithful lover will experience the same denial and think, ‘This couldn’t happen to me!”

During the first month after the discovery, I kept thinking the following in a never-ending cycle to prove to myself and to the world that his betrayal simply could not be true:

1) He had promised me time and again that our reunion was precious to him and that I was his own true love and his soul mate; therefore he could never cheat on me.

1) Our relationship was so sexually intense that there was no way that he could have been sleeping with another woman at the same time!

3) He’d admitted to other issues which he’d lied to me about but had promised that he’d never lie to me about anything else.

4) We’d been attending all his family’s events for the past two and a half years: weddings, baptism parties, Memorial Day parties, Labor Day parties, Thanksgiving, etc. with our daughter, his mother and most recently, my father! So if this was true, then he wasn’t just lying to me; he was lying to our daughter and to both our families.

5) He’d been there in the recovery room with me after my father’s emergency surgery the previous spring.

6) He’d just been up to visit me at the end of September and we’d taken our daughter apple picking.

7) I’d just been to visit him the weekend before I’d discovered his betrayal; and we’d spent a great part of the weekend in bed.

8. Right up until my discovery, we’d been on the phone  up to 2-3 hours per day for two and a half years unless I was visiting him. I thought I knew everything he did on a daily basis because he was always telling me about his day.

9) He’d told me that we didn’t need to get married again because we were soul mates.

10) He and I were planning to get a duplex to live in when I moved there after my other children graduated from high school.

11) He and I were planning to take a cruise to Bermuda for my next birthday.

12) I’d taken an entire week of vacation time from work to help him with his website and to sell his art at a sidewalk sale in August. How could  he have  let me do that if he’d been sleeping with another woman?

13) I’d fronted him the money to help start his website and buy supplies for the sidewalk sale.

14) He’d assured me that there was no way he’d ever become involved with Jane (not her real name) because she talked too much and he could never get a word in edgewise. Besides, he’d told me, she’d had her chance with him before he and I had come into contact again and she’d turned him down coldly and made it clear that they could never be anything but friends.

15) I had two and a half pounds of love notes and cards from him during the time he’d been sleeping with both of us.

16) I had hundreds of emails from him, during the time he’d been sleeping with both of us, many with sexually flirtatious messages and emoticons.

17) He was constantly telling me that he loved me.

18) He was always buying little gifts for me and doing sweet things.

19) We always walked through town holding hands. If he had another girlfriend in his hometown, then wouldn’t he have hidden his public relationship with me when I came down to visit?

20) He never would have  allowed me to continue driving six hours round trip to visit him once a month or more,  for the past 18 months, if he’d actually been sleeping with another woman. He knew how much I had to rearrange my work and home schedule in order to  schedule these  visits.

One strong component of my denial during this time was his absolute silence. I had emailed him upon my discovery and I had called him a few times, but he did not respond. So I hung in limbo, expecting some deux ex machina to drop out of the sky and rescue me. In his silence, nothing had happened, although I had the proof. Without his acknowledgment none of it could be true. How could it be true? There was some terrible mistake. And so the denial cycled round and round, keeping me up at night and greeting me first thing in the morning.

Denial. My intellect knew what my heart could not comprehend. Moving through denial was as painful as giving birth. Thirty days of contractions to open myself into an unfathomable, obscene shape in order to absorb this hideous truth.Everything I had believed in was false; all my hopes for the future, dashed. My true love had betrayed me. How could I go on, if everything I had believed was false? How could I ever trust myself or anyone else again?



The Stages of Grief: Denial & Bargaining

212/365 - Don't cry princess, it was only a dream.

In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of grief which a person facing death encounters as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In the ensuing decades, researchers studying the effects of grief to include loss and bereavement expanded this model into an extended grief cycle with the addition of  two additional stages. These additional stages are shock, which precedes denial, and which I have written about extensively from my own grief experience in this blog, and testing, which happens before acceptance.

However, no one who has studied or written about the stages of grief has claimed that these stages are inflexible; rather they represent a theoretical framework for the grief experience.

As human beings are complex individuals who experience and process life events differently, many variables occur in the grief process overall. While some individuals may grieve in the five or seven stages in the exact order in which they are described by Ross or other models of grief, others may experience the stages in different orders or skip some stages entirely.

When I read through my posts from last November, each of them dripping with pain, denial or some type of bargaining, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of relief of being no longer in that mind and soul numbing place of agony.

After the three days of shock, I realized that I had been in shock and knew that I was entering a new phase of  healing from this emotional disaster.

I entered the denial and bargaining stages together around the beginning of November. They went hand in hand, as I tried to make sense of my lover cheating on me. I could not comprehend that he could such a thing to me- especially after our long separation and his outpouring of love and affection to me over the previous two years.

A post about my denial:  (11/30/10~ Gifts from the Stars-2)

I still cannot believe what has happened. Every day, I think, there must be some mistake. He could NOT have lied to me like that. Every day, I think that the worst thing which could happen to me, has happened. I still think there is some mistake, and I want to send it back. This is not in my story. It cannot be that he betrayed me and that I lost him.

A post about my bargaining: ( 11/22/10~ Reflections from the Waterfall: A Return)

If this man chooses to fix the broken parts of himself, which will take hard work on his part, and a very long time, then I could consider a reunion. If he chooses to continue living in darkness and denial about his issues, then I will pray for him.

It’s  wonderful to no longer be dwelling in grief and bargaining. I am relieved, and grateful, not only to others who supported me through this time, but to myself, for being strong and resilient enough to go through that period of absolute misery. It took a lot of patience and time, and it was, without a doubt, the most painful period of my adult life.