Dates and anniversaries mean something to me and I am facing some big ones in the next weeks. It has been a momentous year--one that I hope never to repeat. Approximately one year ago a cataclysmic event brought multiple imposed changes to my life--changes that I did not want, did not anticipate and could not prevent. I find myself in a pensive mood most days as I reflect back on the unbelievable events of the past twelve months. Often the year just seems surreal; the shock of all that has happened stuns me still.
In the immediate aftermath of the raid on our house and my ex-husband's arrest on charges of possession of child pornography, I walked around in that wonderful state of denial. I was not denying the reality of what had happened but I was numb to the pain of this new "normal." I recall saying that "numb is wonderful," that is until it wore off! I have circled around and through the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining and depression have been my constant companions.
Frankly, anger has been my favorite stage. Anger is just so empowering--it puffs me up with strength and righteous indignation. I do not feel weak and powerless when I am angry; I don't feel the helplessness that I felt when the police broke down our door before the sun came up on a cold February day, when I am angry. Unfortunately anger masks the deeper emotions underneath--emotions that are not empowering and that can quickly plunge me into the depths of despair.
I read recently that blaming anger is a "negative way to keep the old person around." (Carnes, P., Betrayal Bonds, p. 142). It creates a negative intimacy with someone who has betrayed us. As long as I angrily blame my ex-husband for the devastation that he brought on our family, I am still connected to him in a negative way. Ouch.
So, I am learning to let go--to open my fist and release my anger about the past, to allow it to fall from my fingers like sand. And as I let go, acceptance comes. "Acceptance is about fully acknowledging this reality and my feelings about it." (Reflections of Hope, p. 137). Like tumblers falling in place in a lock mechanism, acceptance is sinking into the deepest part of me. But acceptance means that I must grieve more deeply what I thought I had in my life. "To finally grieve means to accept that your life did not turn out the way you wanted, the way you deserved or the way it should have." (Carnes, P., Betrayal Bonds, p. 142). And grief is such hard work.
But with acceptance comes peace. Each week I recite the Serenity Prayer with my recovery group:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. With acceptance comes serenity. There is still pain, there is still grief and I am certain there will be anger and depression again. But I am appreciating this circuitous route to acceptance. I am appreciating the gift of serenity that only comes through acceptance.