There is a sweet girl that I work with at my part-time job who is going through such a hard time! She has been married for almost 20 years, has two beautiful teenagers, and her spouse decided someone else was better for him. Isn't it odd how people think the grass will be greener on the other side? She didn't see it coming. At all. She is going through a lot of the same emotions I went through, and some that are unique to her. In a very strange way, I am so thankful that because of my own experience(s), I am able to listen to her and to offer (when asked) advice and suggestions that helped me and that I hope will help her.
I often times remind her that I have no doubt that she is doing better than she thinks she is. I can see that she is, but in her dark hole it doesn't feel like that. And that's ok. That is why we surround ourselves with people who CAN see that and who can carry us until we can walk on our own.
I remind her that this was HIS choice and does not reflect on her at all. She often asks "why?" Why would he do this? Why would he leave his family like this? I remind her that we may never know, but that the choice and the consequences are on him. I remind her that her pain will be for a short time compared to his.
I tell her that it is going to hurt for quite some time. I tell her that it's a myth that time makes it all better. Time changes how it feels, but it doesn't "heal" you like people tell you it will. I tell her that she will learn new ways, new traditions, new coping mechanisms, new things to avoid because they just hurt too much. I tell her that she will also discover just how strong she is. She will discover things about herself that will make her stand even taller.
I suggest that she tell her children that mommy is going to cry, and that's ok. I suggest that she tell her children that they, too, are going to cry and that's okay too. I suggest that she not put off counseling if she feels that counseling can help even a little bit. We are not meant to go through these enormous, weight-bearing trial on our own. We can't. I suggest to her that she allow those she trusts to love her, to hold her, to walk with her, to listen to her, to bring her meals, to help in whatever ways they offer.
I tell her that when she has a few good days and feels that everything is "better," to be prepared that bad days will still come and that this does not mean she has failed. This is real life for everyone - not just those going through life-altering challenges.
I remind her, and myself, that being brave does not mean that we are not scared or sad or mad. It means that we keep going in the right direction, despite the fact that we are hurting. It means that we keep doing our best, especially when doing our best is all we have left. It means that we recognize that we are strong because being strong is all we have left.