Monday, September 2, 2013

The Second Year: A Sinkhole

I recall the sense of euphoria I felt when my kids and I had completed the last "first" holiday/birthday celebration in the cycle since our world exploded.  My bubble was abruptly burst, however, by a friend who has decades in recovery.  She predicted that the second year would be harder; I didn't like what she said but I am finding that she was right.  I recently stumbled on yet another blog by a former partner who is also on this journey of discovery and recovery and have been thinking a lot about a recent post she wrote about the second year.  It resonates with me on many levels; the second year is harder because we are forced to deal with:
  • Nostalgia for the life we thought we had.
  • Horror and disbelief that our former partner is a child molester.
  • Our children's pain.
  • Disbelief at the duplicity of our former spouse.
The first year is about crisis; the second year is about magnitude.  The first 12 months after the raid on our house and my ex's arrest for possession of child pornography many tasks demanded my immediate attention.  I was in shock, traumatized and lived on pure adrenaline.  Everything presented as a crisis, because it was.  I am half-way through the second year and the theme continues to be about the magnitude of that crisis.  Absolutely everything in my life has been impacted by my ex's arrest and the fallout of that arrest.  The magnitude of the crisis continues to reveal itself and it is huge.

The first year begins with loss; the second year reveals corollary losses.  Surprisingly, I have found that while the first year's losses involved my future, the second year's losses involve my history.  I am no longer married and do not face the retirement and rosy future that I long anticipated.  My children and grandchildren no longer gather around our table for holidays and our home is no longer home for any of us.  But learning that I was married to a pedophile reframes my history with him.  Every struggle, every argument, every happy family memory, every romantic weekend must now be viewed through the lens of pedophilia.  My past is not what I thought it was and that is a huge corollary loss, among many that have revealed themselves during this second year.

The challenge of the first year is survival; the second year demands that we find a way to go on.  I think I cried buckets of tears during the first year and know that neighbors must have wondered about the wails frequently coming from my apartment.  Surviving the grief, trauma, fear, shame and humiliation that the raid and arrest triggered has been and continues to be priority one.  The  practical ramifications of the arrest of the primary breadwinner of the family created immediate needs that threatened my survival and demanded attention during the first year.  But the second year demands that I find a way to go on--that I do more than survive, that I find a way to thrive.  I never anticipated this ending to our "love story."  I thought that I would eventually be alone because of the probability that I would outlive him but I did not imagine this kind of ending.  So I have to reimagine life as a single woman and find a way to create a different future for myself. 

The first year is like a devastating earthquake; the second year resembles a massive sinkhole. 
ABC News
The "house" of our life together as a family was completely destroyed during the earthquake of our first year, post raid and arrest.  But the second year resembles a massive, growing sinkhole that threatens all that we deemed stable and safe in life.  Sinkholes develop when water deep beneath the surface of the ground erodes the bedrock.  When the rock gives way, the ground above it sinks.  Pedophilia is like the water beneath the bedrock--it slowly but surely erodes and destabilizes the ground that our marriages and families are built upon.  Recovery during this second year has involved trying to find a stable place in which to stand on ground which continues to sink.  With physical sinkholes, when the ground stabilizes, engineers are able to shore up the ground that remains and fill in the hole with rock and dirt.  But they must wait until the sinkhole stops growing before they can do the necessary remediation.  And no one can predict when the sinkhole will stop growing.

So the uncertainty of life in year two is real; the grief is different, the losses seem more profound.  The work of recovery seems to be more about assessment of the damage and figuring out how to rebuild a shattered life on more solid ground.  It involves reframing and reimagining life and self.  A favorite artist/poet says it best:

"the power lie in the seeing.
until she could see herself
with her own eyes,
she could not regain her power."
terri st. cloud 


  1. Brenda,
    Thank you so much for sharing the complexities and the different way we grieve in year two. I find myself crying so much more this year -- hurting so much harder. I hurt for my children, and I want to "fix it", but I can't. I hurt for my grandchildren, and I don't know how to begin saying to them that life sometimes doesn't turn out how we want. My older grandchildren are afraid to marry. They're afraid to trust.

    And, I find myself thinking more and more that I'm now alone -- this isn't how it was supposed to be. I didn't want to be alone at this age. I want to be like my friends who talk about traveling with their spouses, spending quality time together now that the kids are out of the house, and retirement -- something I will probably never know due to all of the debt that was left behind.

    Yes, year two is different and it's hard, and it hurts. We will survive, but it's taking a lot of "reframing" to get to a happy place in life.

  2. Oh Clara,
    It is a sinkhole, isn't it? It is just massive and so difficult to contain. It is brutal and not how life is supposed to be. I am learning that the sense of outrage that I feel is God-given--I have a strong justice meter that reflects the heart of God. We should not be alone at this age--we should not have been betrayed and abandoned by the one who promised to love us until death. Our children should not be fatherless when their dad is still alive. But that is the reality--as difficult and overwhelming as it is.

    And innocent children should not have been molested by someone they trusted. Their lives have been forever changed by the actions of one man. This world is not as it was intended to be and I am learning that when I lament that, my heart beats with God's heart. Thanks for visiting.