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Picking up the pieces

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Hi y’all, I’m new here. This is long and dear diary-y but I need to get it out, so thanks if you get through it and have a word for me...


I was with my husband 17 years, we had 3 kids. He became increasingly addicted to cocaine and alcohol and increasingly abusive until I fled with the kids and gave him the choice of rehab or us ghosting permanently.


That was the Mr. Hyde.  The Dr. Jekyll was our favorite person in the world. We adored him. The world adored him. He adored us. 


He had been doing well across the country, I thought. There were clues though.  Working and not going to therapy was a big red flag. A relapse in the spring was another.  I knew he wasn’t ready to come home, and I wasn’t ready for him to come home, because of my own issues. But I wanted us. We were so much better in our interactions. We were healing, slowly.  I kept the faith. I could feel him slipping from me though, somehow. 


Anyway, 8 months into his stay, a few weeks ago, we had a text argument. He said he wanted to come home. I was cold, unkind, harsh in my truth. He said he was hurting, he needed a friend... I apologized for not being who he needed me to be in that moment, told him if he needed anything to let me know. He said “ok.” 36 hours after I last heard from him, I got a call from the coroner.


Our whole world shattered. 2 of our kids are old enough to remember all the best and worst times, and one is just grasping the concept of loss.  


And now I’m here. I’ve written this story a million times, deleted it...  but my friend said reach out. So maybe one of y’all can help me make sure I do right by my brilliant, beautiful children who have been through a lifetime’s worth of trauma in a little bit of time. For us. For their dad who was dealt a terrible hand and forged an amazing life for himself anyway, but who fell to his illness.


Sometimes these children are so angry. I know it’s normal, but it’s hard to manage “I hate my dad/you/my sibling” energy when I am grieving myself. And part of my grief is the deep seated anger I’m still holding, the anger that clouded my love, that complicates my grief. I am working so hard to keep us from going down the path of anger and violence. It killed their dad, in the end. Drunk, he swung at a stranger and fell, hit his head. It almost killed me, before I sent him away.


I’m so triggered when I see my kids reflecting behavior they learned from our interactions as parents. I’m sick with guilt but I’m committed to doing what I can to reverse that learning.


first thing is putting on my own oxygen mask. I’m the most functional fuckup I know. And I’ve had some big fuckups this year so I know I’m off track. I want to wake up and do yoga and draw and read good knowledge and make myself beautiful instead of waking and baking and chain smoking cigarettes and reading trash on the internet. I have so far been my own biggest obstacle, and I am a formidable opponent.


i have an appointment with a grief counselor this week.  


Congratulations, you read this whole saga. Thanks!


Bueller? Anyone?

Edited by Newtothis
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Hi New To This, so sorry for your loss.  You have certainly been through some extra difficult times.  Loss of your spouse is an incredibly difficult thing to work through, even without all the other challenges your relationship threw at you.  I have a friend who lost her partner under similar circumstances.  I can't offer any great advice, just someone to listen and offer condolences.  Take care

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Im so sorry you have had to go through this - there are other members on this Board who have been through similar experiences. Going to a grief counselor  is a good start. (Counseling for your kids too would be a good idea). I made a number of changes in my life post widow (to help my well-being and for my son) and I have certainly evolved in a positive way because of it.

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Thanks y’all for the support. If you don’t mind, I will continue to work out my emotions in this space. There are oh so many of them, profound sadness the one I wish I could express more, but it gets buried under the grind of daily survival (three months before they say it’s a problem right? Lol) and shame and guilt and anger.


first, I’m thankful to be healthy enough to start to engage my children in meaningful healing discussions.


in a book about trauma I read, the first step is safety and self care. Well, we’ve been physically safe 9 months now, and I’m working on emotional safety and higher level self self care (I mean, we get by.   The second step is processing the trauma. Little by little the kids are opening up about the horrific abuse they endured at the hands of my LH. My son said, “it was like a war zone...” It makes me so angry and sad and terrible guilty for being too scared to leave earlier.  


But you know what? It’s our story and it is past. I looked my kids in the eye tonight and apologized for not being strong enough to leave earlier, and my son said, “it’s not your fault.” And I told them I will never allow another person to treat them like that again.


i mean it. I loved my husband the best I knew how, and he did us. We hurt each other in all of the worst ways. He was profoundly traumatized, addicted, and socialized into terrible violence. He gave us some of the best and worst memories we have ever had. He’s free now. We’re free now. 


But our freedom is full of the frustration of having to fix the legacy of our dysfunction alone. The anger that he’s not there to help me make things right. The resentment of not having time or energy to heal my own wounds...


i suppose I have to carve out space for myself. I find myself lacking the self love to do that.

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Hi, Newtothis,


First of all, welcome. I’m glad you feel like you can use this forum to express yourself. I haven’t lost a spouse in the manner that you have, but I have been widowed twice. Please do not think you have to figure this all out and heal in a specific timeframe. Those of us with losses that are well, less complicated, we don’t pull ourselves together overnight or in 3 months or even 3 years.  Please don’t  put that kind of pressure on yourself. It seems to me that you are really addressing your situation in a healthy way at this point and you should take credit for that. 


I feel for you and your children and I hope you continue to find this place safe for you to express what you need and hopefully others in similar circumstances will feel more comfortable as well. 





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Today I’m feeling the weight of carrying on our family alone. I worked overnight and the baby woke up about 20 minutes after I got home. I napped with her 2 hours and the rest of the day  was in mom mode.  My career is ideal for the spouse of a parent with a flexible career, and a logistical nightmare for a solo parent. I can’t bring myself to say single parent, even though many parts of our marriage were far from ideal. 


Today I was angry at my situation, at how unfair it is that I worked so hard to get to where I am, just to have it all come crumbling down. I am angry with my broken, ignorant 20 year old self who had no business with another person’s heart in my hands. I introduced so many cracks in our foundation.


i know forgiveness is key. I want to spend this time forgiving myself, and treating myself and my life with more than the utter disrespect i am showing myself and, by extension, everyone I love.


i know I need long term therapy. I was 15 minutes late to my first appointment with a wonderful grief counselor because I couldn’t get my 3 kids to stop fighting and getting distracted, because I couldn’t organize my family like Dad did. He got everywhere 15 min early, kids or not. In some ways our strengths complemented each other. In the end though we weren’t two wholes.


and now I’m still here, with a giant new hole in my not-whole-soul (lol) and I know I need to heal myself. But it’s midnight and I’m behind on work stuff and I just want to smoke and disappear from reality.


i am meeting with the counselor again next week so that’s good. And I do celebrate the little steps and maybe next week I will get up earlier, manage my life better, be there on time.


In the meantime I remind myself to be gentle with myself exactly where I am , to be honest with myself and to work to grow in self-love. 

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You are going in the right direction. Half our battle is also understanding and recognizing the skills we lack/lost in our partnerships and how to compensate. You'll find a rhythm that works. Sometimes  creativity and thinking outside the box helps. Keep a positive outlook, be patient even if you want to dig a hole and hide, you'll get there! It's not a race so definitely be gentle on yourself and shrug off the plans that don't work for you and your family. Hugs! 

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Writing is very therapeutic...Write away..sort it out..get all the feelings/emotions out...the old board was almost like a diary to me in my early years/months. 


Your post struck a chord with me-I was once there..3 little kids (under age 5 one a baby)-and had to pick up the pieces of a traumatic death after dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde. 


The He best advice I can give...is give yourself the gift of time. I wanted everything fixed immediately and had a real hard time..it took me time to sort through all the new responsibilities and emotions and at times anger. It’s been almost 11 years (those babies are teenagers)I’m not on here often anymore..and life is good again..But it was on my own timeframe. Hugs to you and your kids. ❤️

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Thanks so much Sugarbell. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in this.




At the same time, all I want is to be alone in this. I’m so rarely alone. I’m so rarely fully present. 


I am in a toxic limbo. I need a Yoga retreat.  I need to pick up the tools I have in front of me — drawing, writing (not typing with a joint in my hand), dancing...


and yet im stuck. I know smoking makes it worse. And yet here I am.  


I was so fucked up before he died.  I envied him in rehab, just the opportunity to be responsible only to my own healing. But now the only person equal and better than me at parenting is gone. I don’t have the luxury with leaving my kids with the only other person who cares as deeply for them as you do. I’m the best they’ve got. 


So what I want is to be a better person. I want to love myself.  I want to live up to my (kind of extraordinary, if I’m being a little Kanye about it) potential as a woman. I just need to apply the things I’ve learned and stop being so...


_______. I said scared, then lazy, then stuck. 


My microprocessor is giving the rainbow beach ball. 17 years. This morning I thought back to 15? Years ago having my first traumatic flashback to the first traumatic fight. And today I think to a year back to the one of the last bad ones, the one where he beat so much blood into my soft tissues that I almost passed out later at work. At work! How did I do that? What strength allowed me not to wince when the nice young staffer squeezed my blood-engorged arms under long sleeves and said, “you been workin out?”  Where is that now? I told myself when I was leaving... being without you will be easier...  being a single mom to 3 instead of 4...  


But now I see I was wrong. His Dr Jekyll kept our family together in a lot of ways. I feel like my bones are gone. 


I steal these paragraphs while the kids sit, fed, the eldest bribed with the computer if he can entertain the little for 20 minutes while I get my life together enough to shower... to build some momentum so I don’t melt into the windowsill.



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Y’all don’t have to read this. But I have to write it. Thanks for the space.


Today I’m celebrating the little victories, things I want to keep in my life as I rediscover who I am as a woman.


i cleaned out the car! 

I made my bed!

i got the kids to school on time!

i caught up with a mom friend!

My kids sat quietly doing their homework!

i loaded the dishwasher! Twice lol

I made a kick ass dinner and cleaned up after!

i washed clothes!


well that was yesterday. Today I’m raging in the wind at the rehab facilities and sober living houses that contributed to LH’s death. 


See the thing is, he chose to fall in with a drink on two legs, like they call these rehab romance girls who believe the whole “separated... waiting for the papers” bullshit.  He chose to keep me 100% invested, asking me to come home, lying about his meth head “roommate” who facilitated his relapse with mediocre p*ssy and a similar taste for uppers (I had to wipe the laptop I bought him, when it came back to me with his belongings, and a few of hers, so my son didn’t stumble across that dirty little secret. So he could hold his father, in whose image he is created, in some esteem.  Sure, Dad was an abuser and an addict, but a philanderer who chose some strung out whore and a ratty little dog over his incredible children? No. I won’t. So it’s my dirty secret now).


but the thing is, he was in treatment.  The same bastards that made him sign paperwork stating sexual activity is grounds for discharge  sent him merrily to a “sober living house” to shack up with the bitch who helped him land back in relapse the first time.  


I see him both as actor full of hubris and victim of a system that profits from relapse-inpatient-outpatient-relapse cycles. How could that clinical misjudgment (a fatal one, in the end) be unintentional, if not personally, then systemically?


its my ego... how could he leave me? How could he think this girl was better than me?  This girl who was, by his own admission to his mother, which I found out after the fact, “just a dumb whore with big titties and a fat ass” that he was trying to save.  


I am humiliated. My husband the great (mourned in cities all over) died playing captain Save a Ho. Smmfh 


I’m midway between and on both ends of “he got what he deserved for how he hurt us” and “oh how do I go on without my life’s love.”


thank god for this therapist I can’t comfortably afford. I see her tomorrow. 


Been reading David Burns Feeling Good again because my negative thoughts can be consuming. 


My living room looks like 3 kids with no parent live here. Let me do something about that.


writing it out helps. 



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  • 1 month later...

i Started writing this a while ago


One thing I wonder if people like my mother who tell me things about “who you chose as a husband and father to your children” is if they realize that my children would not exist were it not for him.  Good and bad, we made them. They are incredible. How could that have been a mistake? 


Today, weeks later, I wonder how to help my tween son who, entering middle school without his shining star/ sometimes tormentor, is raging at his father, at me for marrying him, at him for dying drunk, at me for not letting him come home...


i try try to make it age appropriate. The salient points:


it’s  not your fault 

he loved you so much (no he didn’t or he would have been here)

daddy was sick (if he loved me he would have gotten better)

i was protecting you 


I’m sick for my son. 3 months in (and a year into our separation), my waves of grief have done what time has meant them to do — not hit with quite such a blinding force, not flip me in their constant surf — and I am more prepared for them.


but my boy.  His poor raw developing brain, unable to process and transcend his emotions.  He doesn’t want to speak to anyone. I try my best.  I hurt so much for him.


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It is all hard. Time does have a way with easing the intensity of pain. You will likely have waves when it feels harder and periods in between when you feel like you can get through this and keep going forward. In many ways, there really isn’t much choice. Life goes on and somehow, we have to find what it takes to get on the train and get carried along until we find enough reserves of our own to make our own path. 


Hugs to you,



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  • 2 months later...

Here I am now. It’s almost 6 months now. While life goes on, and I’m learning to live as me, having seen myself as we for so long. But god dammit it’s hard sometimes. This last few weeks has been rough. I’m triggered especially by the sympathy of those who have lost. Years, decades later they connect with my pain and it is so hard to think that it’s always there, forever. 


I feel so out of control. I feel like I need to be more consistent in using my positive coping mechanisms. I remember I worked out today and not to be so hard on myself.


I want to feel a man’s body.

I want someone to love.

I want to love myself enough to wait for healthy love. I want to fuck every other man who gives me the eye. I don’t want my kids to see a revolving door of men. 


Joan Didion wrote about her year of magical thinking. Naive me at 2 months out said she was wrong. Now I see how crazy with grief I still am, despite the glow that has returned to my cheeks.


thats enough for now. It’s like my pain is sap I can tap at any time and it will just flow out forever unless I shut it off. All the pain of our relationship and his death are coming to the surface. 

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That skin deprivation is killer especially if you had a healthy intimate relationship with your LH. I was feeling starved pretty quickly, looking for touch and physical comfort. I pretty much retreated into myself because I knew I wasn't ready. I continued to journal and work through my thoughts and feelings. It was a brutal cut off and one of the hardest things for me to cope with. It was hard to even think I could be intimate with someone else and at first I felt I could do without it. However you learn when you get acquainted to the new version of yourself and can identify what you need and what would make you happy. I do believe you are right that it's best first to love yourself enough to wait and look for a healthy love. I had to learn and it made me a better person and helped me to be patient to look for a good relationship and not to despair. Read some of the dating threads and the discussion is crazily accurate. Give yourself more time to reflect and one day you will know when you're feeling brave to venture out there. Hugs today! 

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