Do you feel you need to pretend?

The month was February and my dream of ever seeing my three-decades’ long marriage heal and recover had come to an end. My painful divorce was soon to take place.

My heart was breaking.  Believing I might receive some solace by attending worship, I put on a brave face and drove to church. Here is my journal entry from that day and a portion of an email I sent to my safe supports . . .

Journal Entry – February 2013

I felt very lonely today after church service. I drove home. Alone. I am still trying to get used to that feeling, going to church alone and leaving alone.

A well-meaning, self-composed woman leader at church walked up to me today after service. With eyes of steel, she asked, “How are you doing today?” She had witnessed me break down in silent tears a few weeks before during a church service.

Not feeling emotionally safe to tell it like it is, I smiled faintly, “Good, thank you.”

With a syrupy voice she replied, “That’s goooood!” and with an enthusiastic pat on my shoulder, she quickly walked away.

This Church leader, though well meaning, does not grasp the enormity of my grief.  She does not get the devastation a woman experiences when she discovers she has been betrayed for decades by the man she thought she knew.  For whatever reason, she does not have the capacity to ask me the hard question, “How are you? Really?”

A religious pat on the arm can seem so cruel. I feel so unsafe, so vulnerable, and so fearful.  I feel like I am going to shatter into a million pieces.  I am hanging by a thread.

God, help me!

I need the comfort of real friends tonight. I decided to share my heart with you, my dear friends, here, in this email. Just knowing you are there gives me hope. Knowing you understand, helps me not to feel so alone and “homeless” in my heart. Your genuine love helps me to feel I belong somewhere. Thank you for being there for me. I need you all and I am not ashamed to say it.


Afterword:

Within twenty four hours, I received heart-felt responses from all my supports.  Their words of comfort was exactly what I needed to lay down my mask.

Dear reader, are you in a similar situation right now? Are you wearing a mask like I did that day because you are fearful you may not be heard?  Please know you are not alone.  I did not give up getting the help I needed.  I have been there. I get it. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You are safe here.

With gratitude,
Louise

“Know that painful feelings will be lessened or relieved when you own them, talk about them with someone who can validate them, or in some cases engage in problem-solving. Trying to ignore them, divert them, stuff, or numb them may provide a momentary respite but will actually heighten your pain in the long run.” ~ Dr. Janice Caudill, PhD, CSAT, SRT, SEP, CCPS

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Louise works as a professional counsellor in her native Canada. Through her private practice, in online forums, and through public speaking and writing, her work is about helping others find hope and healing in their lives. When her first three-decades’-long marriage ended in divorce because of ongoing sexual betrayal, Louise knew in her heart that she was to use this painful experience for the good of others. Many of her clients are women who have experienced the trauma of sexual betrayal. They know Louise “gets” their pain; this helps them not feel so alone in their journey of healing. Louise is finally happily married to a man who loves and respects her for being herself.