We all know one constant in life is “change.” We are going through forced change right now with the coronavirus moving among us. Since I have been through some past difficult losses in my lifetime, I want to share what helped me through each change, one was a forced loss and the other one, I chose. I discovered lessons and answers with each one. God was amazing and sent me unexpected help through both situations.
We have followed the path of the three stages of change with the coronavirus. We gained awareness of a strange virus in January and suspected something was wrong. Our attitudes were affectedas we learned more. Fear, anger, depression, blame, and self-pity still affect many that are either staying at home or being a front-line worker.“ Then when we moved to acceptance, we each made a new plan took action. These past life changes may also show the three stages.
My first husband and I married in 1963 and had two wonderful children in the first three years. We were both achieving in our professions when he began having health problems. I suspected something was wrong. He kept trying to ignore it until a trip to Mayo Clinic brought the result: Cancer. Six months later, he died in 1979 at 39.
I had been doing talks on change for a long time as part of my role at the mental health center I helped build in New Mexico. However, when we learned he had cancer and he would not live more than six months, I began crying could not stop. Several days later, I called my office and asked my assistant to go through all of my files and see if I had anything on change that would show how long I would be in each of the three stages of change. She found nothing.
Lesson 1: It takes as long as it takes to go from one stage to the next. It is different for everyone. Many get stuck in the second stage. It is important to not get stuck there. If you notice you are staying in this stage for a length of time, find a support group or a counselor. I, of course, did not do that. I was running a mental health center and thought I was fine. I was not.
Lesson two: Grieve completely. Perhaps that is why they say “do not move from the home you are in after a death for at least a year.” For me, I had just kept going. I had work, presentations, and two children that were now rebellious teenagers. I did not take time to grieve or heal.
Lesson 3: Teaching positive thinking seminars right along and trying to always be positive in front of Dawn and Johnny was not good for me or them. If going through this again, I now know not to hold tears back. If I needed to cry, I cry. That would have given my children more permission to grieve and share. We all three were struggling.
Next, I severely messed up for our family. In 1981, I met a man that made me laugh. He was a relief from the pain I ignored. living far from me, we saw each other only once in awhile. This man I shall not name was always on his best behavior at those times. If I saw a negative trait, I brushed it off and thought I could fix it and all would be okay if we married. He asked. I accepted! My second marriage began. We landed back in my home state of Oklahoma.
Each year of the next five years of this marriage worsened. I wondered if his self-esteem improved, would he improve? Ha! I kept trying. What happened to all of that relationship stuff I taught in New Mexico? Nothing worked. My fear he was dating others was true. His emotional abuse techniques increased. I had insomnia, was afraid to leave the house due to what I might find when I returned, and was losing my self worth. Our beliefs and values did not match. I filed for divorce.
Lesson 4: Find a counselor or someone you can trust if you need help. I found a marriage counselor for us. He went twice. I continued and then visited some 12-step groups. The surprise came with all I learned in the twelve steps. My eyes opened. Life improved.
Lesson 5: I cannot fix someone else. They have to do it themselves. I can only fix me. If a relationship is good 80% of the time, stay, if it is good 50%, stay and get help. If 80% is bad, find a counselor or support group. That helped me gain the courage change a believe and leave. Do not file until you see your part in the situation. After all, I said “yes” to marriage. Close the door. Open a door to new possibilities and a personal transformation!