According to the ‘experts’ the top five most stressful life experiences are:
1) Death of a spouse: 100.
2) Divorce: 73.
3) Marital separation: 65.
4) Imprisonment: 63.
5) Death of a close family member: 63.
I disagree, and I believe that any woman who has been abandoned will agree with me.
Here are my top four.
1) Death of a child
2) Divorce due to being abandoned.
3) Death of a spouse.
4) Death of a close family member.
Even at my lowest point, I knew that my husband’s walking out on me was not the worst thing that could happen to me. As a parent, my worst nightmare – my absolute worst nightmare – is something happening to either of my kids, even though they are now adults. No question.
That realisation was both reassuring and frightening, because in those dark black moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through, the knowledge that I could experience something even more painful was… terrifying.
The thing about a beloved spouse dying is, yes you will grieve, but deep down amongst all that pain and anguish you know – you know for sure – that you were loved. You know your spouse did not choose to leave you. And although you may weep when you look at old family albums, they conjure up only happy memories of a life and family shared together. When you talk about your spouse with your children, the memories will be happy and your family, though missing a member, will be intact.
When your husband walks out on you, you have none of those certainties or assurances to comfort you. In every other way, your husband is now dead – to you at least – but he’s still walking the streets, he’s still living his life, loving the woman he left you for, and, unless you live in another city, you run the risk that you might run in to them, hand in hand, at any time.
To be lied to and discarded, leaves you feeling not just alone and broken, but worthless. What value can you have as a human being, if the man you loved – the person you believed was your soulmate – could discard you and your life together so easily?
Looking at old photos doesn’t bring reassurance and happy memories of a life shared. Instead it brings doubts and questions. If he told me he loved me every single day of our lives until the day he walked out, did he ever really love me, or was it all one big lie? That picture, where he has his arms around me and we’re smiling at each other, taken just months before he left, was he thinking of her even then?
No, the death of a spouse is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Not even the second worst. When your spouse abandons you, it’s going to take time to grieve. I’ve heard a statistic that it can take one year for every decade of your marriage, if not more. So don’t let anyone – least of all yourself – underestimate the depth of that grief or how long it will take you to get back on your feet.
But please remember this – you will get better.