There are five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. You know this because you heard a widow talk about it. But that is not exactly the whole story. You are immersed in your own grief, maybe not that of widowhood but the intense grief is definitely there.
You have been married to the same man for twelve long years. It was a love marriage, or so you thought. Five months into the marriage you realize you are married to a narcissist who doesn’t really care about you. You are his victim. He is emotionally abusing you but that is something no one talks about right? People talk of infidelity in marriage, physical abuse, sexual abuse, negligence…but who talks about being emotionally abused? You know what people will say. They will say you are ungrateful. You have a husband who pays the bills and feeds you, what more do you want? So you are patient with him. Maybe he will change. Maybe he will see that he is mistreating you and change for the better.
A year goes by, but he is still cold, rude and arrogant. He dismisses your existence the way a patient dismisses they are about to die. They ignore it. That’s what he does to you. He ignores you. He makes you feel small. He makes you feel unloved. You feel like a ghost. You wonder why. You question a lot of things. What happened to the love he claimed to have for you? What changed? Is it that he realized you are less beautiful than he actually thought? Is he dissatisfied with what you bring to the marriage table?
Soon enough, the first baby comes, and he is an excited dad for a minute. Then the rejoicing is all gone. It is all about duties once again. Buying pampers and cerelac. Then the second baby comes along. Then the third. Then the fourth. Before you know it, it has been twelve years already. You have withered like a flower. You have lost weight and your will to live life as it should be.
When you had the first baby, you thought, ‘maybe this is it. Maybe he will now be more emotionally available for us’ but he didn’t. You thought of giving it time. You have hope. You have faith that things will get better. But four children later, your husband is still like a dead man walking. No emotions. No intimacy. No proper communication. All along, people could see your misery behind your forced smile. You never had to say anything, they just knew by how each one of you would take a different lane while walking at the road. Or how he would go to the farthest section from you in the supermarket. Or how he would quickly let his hand slip when you try to hold his hand in front of your family. People knew. You knew. But you just had a lot more to be grateful for. So you swallowed the bitter pill for years.
On your bedroom wall is a beautiful painting of the serenity prayer used in recovery programs. It says,
‘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’
You stare at it every single morning, like it would give you answers.
‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change’ and you wonder, is your marriage and the misery within it something you cannot change? Is it something you should have given up on a long time ago? Is this simply how it was meant to be?
Several friends suggested that you pick your children and walk away. But you always had this anticipation that things will eventually change. You thought, ‘But how can I walk away now when my children are young and need more parents?’ so you postponed it. When they became teenagers, life became even tougher because now, your children are all moody, stubborn and aggressive. You think, ‘This is the worst time to make children go through a divorce’ so you wait until they become adults. But deep down your heart you know it, it wasn’t just about the children. It is also about you. You not accepting that you are caged in an unhappy marriage that is not fulfilling in any way.
You stare at the serenity prayer. ‘Very powerful,’ you think. But do you have courage to change the things you can? Take life into your own hands. Be realistic on where your marriage is headed to? Is it something that can be salvaged? Changed? Saved? Or are you just seeking a mirage. An illusion?
It is like what happens when you are a child and can’t wait to be a teenager because at that age and time, you think being a teenager is the coolest thing. Then the teenage years are as chaotic as humanly possible and you look up to the young adults and you think, ‘these lads have exciting lives. Once I get there, it will be exciting too’ but you get to your twenties and realize there is so much confusion than excitement. Then you anticipate being like the real grown ups with careers and families and friends. But you get there and it strikes you, ‘NO ONE HAS IT FIGURED OUT.’ No one can actually, in full certainty, tell you what they are doing with their lives or where they are headed to. A mirage. You too have been seeking a mirage in your marriage, always anticipating certain incidents to turn around your life. Only, life doesn’t happen like that.
Whenever you think of divorce, you think of your reasons to walk away. How long is it considerable enough to have hope but also not to allow yourself drown in the sea of emptiness? How many months or years should one be in a marriage before they walk away? One year? Two? Five? When is the safest time to walk away without having blame and guilt on you? Its been twelve years and you still haven’t figured this out.
You know the stages of grief because you have been living in grief.
Denial: It is not that he doesn’t love me. He is just not an expressive person. He doesn’t know how to show me that he loves me.
Anger: Why are you doing this to me?! Why did you marry me if you had no interest in valuing me as your wife?! I don’t deserve this! I hate you! I hate that I ever met you!
Bargaining: Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.
Depression: I am so so tired. I just don’t want to live anymore. I just don’t want to live anymore!
You are stuck here. In depression. You are yet to decide what really matters to you. You are yet to take action in either freeing yourself or saving your marriage at any cost. You are yet to decide whether an unhappy marriage is a reason good enough to walk away or patience is key here. Miracles do happen. Prayers do get answered. People do turn around and change completely. Question is, is your husband that kind of person? No one is going to decide it for you. No one knows your husband, your marriage, your children more than yourself. No one knows YOU than you. You know you need to face reality now.
You need to decide whether you want to die grieving of lost love or move to the next step of acceptance and take necessary action.
You know the five stages of grief so well, it is heartbreaking.