So allow me to talk for a bit to that wounded woman who was me just three short years ago. Here is what I want her to know; these are the concepts I have learned by living them. This is an assurance that I can offer from the perspective of distance, time and healing. This is my letter to my own self and to all women who discover that their lives are not what they believed them to be.
Dearest Broken Woman,
I see you sitting in the ash heap of what once looked like a beautiful life. You are devastated by a betrayal of incredible proportion and you fear what is yet to come. You sift through the soot and debris looking for something that remains--some remnant of the life you once knew. The intensity of your aloneness is profound; you feel like a pariah, a leper, an untouchable. You are raw from the pain and your eyes have shed more tears than you thought was humanly possible. You long for human comfort and compassion but unfortunately have learned already that few are able to be present in the way that you need them to be. I am so sorry, so very sorry.
I want you to know that this is not the end of your story or your defining moment. You will survive this because you are far stronger than you ever imagined. This devastation is not the final chapter of your life; there is more, so much more--and it will be good. You will laugh again and experience joy and maybe even love. You cannot imagine that at this moment but it is true. You have a future and a hope and your needs will be provided for. I cannot tell you how but I know from experience that they will be. And though you feel completely alone, you are being held close by the God who collects your tears and saves them in His bottle. He has not abandoned or rejected you; this did not catch Him by surprise.
Please hear me when I say this: you did not cause this, you could not control it and you certainly cannot cure it. Maybe you've tried (assuming you knew what your partner was up to). Whether you knew or not, you certainly tried to maintain a good relationship with him, working hard to keep him interested and connected with you and your relationship. But this is bigger than you and you bear no responsibility for the crimes he has committed. Repeat that to yourself again and again until it begins to sink into your heart. You did not do this and you certainly do not deserve it. This happened to you; you did not do it.
You grieve for your children. Whether they were victims of his perpetrating behavior or not, they have suffered a grievous loss--a loss of innocence, trust and a parent who may have been a good father to them. But your children are stronger than you think and they are incredibly resilient. They are suffering and their lives will never be the same but living in truth always trumps living inside of a falsehood, even a pretty one. As difficult as this time is for them, they are learning important truths about their father--truths that with love and support may empower them to make different choices in life.
My dearest sister, please don't give up. It may seem easier to just end it but don't add that to the burden your children must bear. You will see better days; the memory of this pain will never go away completely but the intensity of it will diminish. Don't opt for a permanent solution to a temporary problem--choose to embrace life, even the pain it brings because in the end, life is good. This devastation will be redeemed and one day you will look back on this incredibly painful time as a necessary and good thing.
Hang on! Reach out to at least one trusted person when you need to; don't be afraid to tell your story again and again and again and again--as long as it takes to digest what just happened to you. Give yourself space and time to heal and don't be afraid to feel the pain when it comes. Know that grief is much like the waves crashing on the shore--it comes in quickly and envelops one in pain, confusion and despair. But just as sure as it came in, it will recede again. Take a deep breath and plunge into it because that is the path to healing.
You are not alone--there are many of us--far too many to count. You are not alone and you will survive. I promise that you will.