“Dorothy now took Toto up solemnly in her arms, and having said one last good-bye she clapped the heels of her shoes together three times, saying… .”
A story should follow a pattern, right? A beginning, a middle and an end.
So what happens when a story is abruptly cut short before we reach the end?
When my husband first left me, for some reason, the biggest thing I couldn’t get my head around was the fact that I wouldn’t see him grow to become an older man. Often in our marriage, I would look at him and try to imagine what he would look like as he grew older. I imagined softer features and peppery grey hair, someone who looked weathered and altered and yet so very familiar to me. So when he suddenly left, I found it devastating to think that, now, I would probably never get to meet that man.
When we begin a relationship and invest our feelings in it, we load that relationship with potential, with hopes, with dreams. We imagine the milestones we will meet together. We envision our story and give it a destination. When we marry it feels like those hopes and dreams become more solid and tangible. I believed my story had a very clear path, my husband and I would live our lives out in happiness, raise a family, grow old together and in my mind, we would love each other until one of us left this earth.
What I didn’t realize was that my husband had started to adjust his sails and was changing the course of both our lives, when he started a relationship with another woman. He kept his betrayal very well hidden and showered me with love and affection. He had given me no chance to adjust or prepare for the shock that I was about to receive. I had no warning of the extreme change of course my life was about to take.
My story, with my husband was cut short in a very unexpected and abrupt way. Within minutes of me finding a message from another woman, he had walked out on me and that was that, my marriage was over.
My husband’s sudden abandonment left me feeling utterly bewildered and lost. I didn’t go out for months, I would have panic attacks if I did. For a long time, I couldn’t even bear to watch TV because my mind had this overwhelming need to focus on processing the shock of what had happened. I would replay the events over and over in my mind on a vicious loop and any other activity, like watching TV, would simply make me feel too overloaded and overwhelmed. I couldn’t talk about anything other than those two minutes between me finding the text and him walking out on me. The need to try and make everything sink in became an obsession.
In an instant, I had been set adrift, with no answers or explanations.
It has taken a great deal of love and support to be able to begin to mentally accept that the marriage has truly ended. It still feels like I am constantly looking back searching for answers and I am constantly looking forward in sheer disbelief that the ending I expected will never be. My mind is so often either in the past or in my stolen future that, sometimes, it takes a great deal of effort to simply live in the here and now, accepting the present reality.
It blows my mind to imagine the stages in our married life that we will now never live out. For me, it really does feel like our life together and all our hopes and dreams are being stolen from us. Our story is being stolen. But then I have to remind myself that this is what he wants, he wants our story to end.
How does it leave us feeling when a story ends abruptly, without fully being told? Shocked. Unsettled. Unsatisfied. Without closure. And how do we begin to seek closure when so much is left open-ended?
When a person leaves our life in a very sudden and abrupt way, it unleashes an enormous wave of pain, confusion, and despair within us. When a spouse leaves their partner in such a way and yet has never shown a hint of any unhappiness or discontent in the relationship, it feels all the more overwhelming. It turns life from the bright sunshine of the day to the all-encompassing darkness of the night in a single instant, with absolutely no time for transition, no time to brace yourself or prepare. As a result, the mental impact that this kind of abandonment leaves in its wake is a maze of shock, anguish, and confusion. I can say that over the last year it has certainly taken me to the brink but I know my Lord and my family and friends have helped pull me through.
Without a doubt, the loss of what I believed would be the happy ending to the story of our marriage deserves its own place in my grieving. It is so important to grieve for the loss of those stories, the ones that we will now never experience. Whether an ending is sudden or not, there are the same difficult feelings to navigate because the destination we had hoped to reach, the story we thought was being told, no longer becomes a possibility.
When my marriage met its unexpected and sudden end, all I could do was hold firm to the belief that God would still make a way for me and that while my marriage may be ending, the plan for my life wasn’t. It can be easy for the distinction between our relationship and our very life to become blurred to such a degree, that we believe that everything is ending when a relationship ends but I need to tell you, it isn’t.
I described the sudden ending of my relationship as day turning abruptly into the night with no time for transition. I look back now and see how God bridged that violent change. He met me in my despair and gave me the oxygen I needed when I felt like I was drowning.
In those early days, I truly thought that the book of my life had been slammed shut. I now see the end of my marriage means that a chapter in my life has ended… but a new one will begin. My story is far from over and I know that one day I will look back on this sudden ending and understand that it leads to my new beginning.