How long till I feel better?

Women sometimes get scared if they hear about another abandoned wife who is still dealing with recovery years after her husband left. Often women ask me how long it takes and I always answer with the banal statement - “It takes as long as it takes” - because there are so many factors involved in each person’s individual case. There is no blanket answer.

I was reading an article today written by Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook and bestselling author of Lean In. In spite of all of her success, Sheryl’s life was touched by tragedy when she experienced the trauma of her husband dying suddenly of an undiagnosed heart problem at the age of 47. She wrote a book about her suffering and recovery called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

Sheryl wrote that she was given two pieces of advice that really helped her in the early dismal dark days. The first is that people recover more quickly from grief when they stop blaming themselves for their hardship. She felt responsible for what happened and guilty for being so down and needy and would apologize several times a day.

Her psychologist friend advised her to banish the word “sorry” from her vocabulary. He also threw is the words “I apologize” for good measure. He said that by blaming herself, she was delaying her recovery.

Another strategy she learned was about her expectation that this misery would never pass and she would never feel normal again, let alone happy. She had a belief in her head that this was her life for the rest of time.

Now, I know that no matter how miserable you are in the beginning, you definitely will move past that phase and start to feel better (take a look at the Transitional Stages in Runaway Husbands). But when you’re in the midst of it, your mind can’t lock on to that possibility.

When she thought about it, she realized that she occasionally had a few better moments, that the pain would wax and wane. And so, along with the words “sorry” and “I apologize”, she decided to banish the words “never” and “always.” Instead of saying, “I will always feel this awful,” she learned to say instead “I will sometimes feel this awful.” She talked about writing down a belief that caused her anguish and disproved it.

When I first started blogging for Psychology Today magazine, my second post was called “The Healing View in the Distance.” I wrote about how healing it is to take the long view, how to look beyond the suffering of the moment and know that there's a future always waiting for you.

So if you want to speed your healing, you need to do those two things: Stop saying “I’m sorry” to yourself and everyone else, and stop telling yourself that this pain will never cease. Because it will.

What do you think of these concepts? Have you been grappling with them yourself? Please share your thoughts in the Comments box below.

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