Self help book recommendations on self love & personal stories of growth
August 24, 2016 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Presently, I am going through one of the toughest times I have ever experienced: horrible heartbreak, and the loss of what was once my family and life. I am seeking recommendations on self help books possibly in the realm of self love, or learning to cope with loss and not blame yourself, not worrying, or getting out of your own head. What may be of more help is hearing other women (or mens) "survival," or that it DOES get better.

I am a weekly question writer because sometimes I feel it's the only way I can get through the days is hearing advice or encouragement. The father of my child has left, we had planned a life together, now he is planning that life without me and without looking back much, he realizes he is happier without the extra responsibility and he is now able to do everything he has wanted. At the end, I know it was the best decision, but it doesn't make it easy...he is off beginning to soar into this new life that I thought would be ours. He is doing everything now that we were working towards, just without me and our child together, and without any feeling or guilt or remourse.

How can I survive this? How can I survive watching someone continue their life, when I should be doing the same thing but all I'm doing is sitting her pining over if I had just been better, if I had just done this, it must be me... how will I ever be okay with him having his own life, a new wife/girlfriend/lover, the emotions I have inside of me are so overwhelming that I wonder if I can make it and the only thing pushing me is my daughter. How will I ever get over this so that I can find my happiness? He wasn't in love with me, he wasn't good for me, for 3 years I believed him but I see now he forced this, but it is so hard to watch someone just move on happily with their life while I am here trying to pick up the pieces of a broken life that once was. If you have been through this, how did you move forward, what gave you strength, how did you not cringe when you ran into him with someone else, or hear he is dating and sharing that life that was supposed to be yours with someone new and your baby? I dread the day my little girl comes home and says the new woman's name, or how much fun she had with daddy because I feel I will always hold on to this hurt. His life hasn't skipped a beat, it's actually blossomed and makes me believe I really was holding him back, I wasn't the woman for him as he has told me.

Distractions, book recommendations, quotes, hope, sanity- stories of strength and love after is what I am looking for. Thank you all.
posted by MamaBee223 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been to a therapist? For me, a therapist and giving it time are what heals wounds like this. One step in front of the other, one day at a time. I'm so sorry you are going through such a tough time right now. But I promise you eventually one day, it will feel less terrible. Focus on you and your daughter and building the best life you can now for the both of you.
posted by FireFountain at 9:10 AM on August 24, 2016

Perennial recommendation from me: When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.

posted by RedEmma at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, it may seem trite, but I use the 3 Things app on my phone. It's supposed to be a productivity app, but I use it to mark me having done 3 Things That Make Me Feel Better. Like, I weeded the garden for five minutes. Or, I took a five mile hike. Something, anything, that shines a bit of light in my life. Trying to stick to it as a daily practice is a way to take each day one after another.
posted by RedEmma at 9:16 AM on August 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I think allowing yourself to experience grief is appropriate, not something you should judge yourself for. You lost your marriage, and with it your expectations and hopes for the future, without your permission - that's huge, reality-shattering, disorienting. It's a real shock, and it will take you some time to make sense of it. Be patient with yourself.

Anger or envy are understandable, too, because it's his decisions, his movement towards his own personal fulfillment that initiated this loss.

It's cold comfort now, but ultimately, ultimately, it is probably better that he did, if he felt compelled to, or if you were not a good match... the alternative would have been years of frustration and resentment (on both sides, because if one feels that, the other will too, in response). Alienation, aloneness together where there should be partnership - that's worse than being factually alone.

It was his idea for your lives that carried you, so it's easy for him, all he has to do is keep moving. Feeling resentment about that is fair, too. For you, it's much harder. You have to reorient yourself, and grieve for a while before you're free to dream up a new kind of life for you and your child. It will take time, can't be rushed, can't be done while your heart is heavy and while you're still making sense of things. Give yourself a year or two (at least) before you expect that you should be flying the way he's flying.

In the meanwhile, gather your bearings and hold steady. Find your support - reach out to friends and family. (Your financial support, also - hopefully that has been addressed, legally?) Shut out news of his life that might come to you, don't look for it (beyond what you need to know to sort things out). Give yourself some time. Hunker down, rest, nest. Sooner or later, you'll hatch an idea for the next phase of your life. It will evolve as you respond to the things that need to be done.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:48 AM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

I like The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion!
posted by heavenknows at 9:49 AM on August 24, 2016

Response by poster: Oh, and I am in therapy... I have a lot of support with friends and family. Our baby is one and is my strength, but she goes to sleep at 7 pm and never fails, every night when I'm alone all of my thoughts flood in of how I'm going to overcome this.
posted by MamaBee223 at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: I'm really sorry about your situation. My mother and I went through the same thing with my father. And unfortunately, my mother has never gotten over the pain of him leaving her.

Seek any kind of help you can find during this difficult time. You owe it to yourself and your daughter. I don't have any book suggestions, but a quote comes to mind that has meant a lot to me......

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” – St. Augustine

For me, this quote is not about God or religion, but in the possibility of good things taking place in my life and me deserving those things. I actually wrote an essay about this quote as part of an application for an Ivy League university. I explained in the essay about being an alcoholic for many years and how it had ruined my life including the pursuit of higher education. I went on to say that I had been sober for a little while and was starting to gain confidence in my abilities. Interestingly enough, I was accepted to that school, continued with my education, and graduated too. I have a good job now and my life keeps getting better over time.

At the end of the day, no one knows how events are going to turn out. You can and will get through this. Work hard at believing the best is yet to come. And one of these days, your life is gonna be amazing again.
posted by strelitzia at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a big believer in learning how to re-narrate your life, i.e. taking some time to figure out how the events of the past and the coming future can be re-organized and re-scripted for you in order to help you process grief but also, importantly, move on. Quiet evenings when the baby is asleep might be a good time to write out broadly and beautifully who you are becoming through this (terrible, heartbreaking) process. Figure out your new metaphors--are you a butterfly? steel?

On a very different note, I've found it helpful--when I've had to rescript my life--to create awesome playlists. (Mine include: "Get Over It"; "Make Me Happy"; "The Fuck Yeah List"; "R-E-S-P-E-C-T".) They are curated to help me do what I need to do: get angry; mourn; see how shitty the situation/person was; move on. If you want any song suggestions, let me know!

Also, of course, I'm sorry you're going through this. The fact that he *wants* to move forward and away without responsibility, without commitment and that he does so without remorse?? Geez, he is terrible and he does not deserve you.
posted by correcaminos at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

This answer is on the survival part. It does take time, how much? Everyone is different.

I had a messy divorce many years ago and the things that helped the most were venting to friends, some counseling, and mostly not looking for fault his or mine but working on changing me and my thoughts.

I realized after a long time that the other person wasn't sitting around like me all angry, so I was poisoning myself with my thoughts and it was eating me up. So over time, and it took awhile, I learned to let it go and forgive. Not for his sake but mine.

It's probably hard to hear that now to forgive when the anger is so strong, I would start first by venting out as much as you need to all of the anger you have a very good reason to feel.

And be extra nice to yourself, find the money for a massage or give hints to family that you could use one.
posted by oceanlady at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: Now he is planning that life without me... he realizes he is happier without the extra responsibility and he is now able to do everything he has wanted...he is off beginning to soar into this new life... He is doing everything now that we were working towards... he is dating...he wasn't in love with me...His life hasn't skipped a beat, it's actually blossomed...

Look at this. Really look at it. He is the subject of all your sentences, the active agent, the one who *does,* while you are the subject, the passive recipient, the one who is *done to.* Everything about the way you tell this story frames it as something he did to you. He is the subject, you are the object. His dating, his moving on, his blossoming, his following his dreams, living his own life: in your interpretation of events, he is doing it all to you.

This is not about blaming you, or about who is actually at fault. It's about agency, and about what you can control. You cannot control him: his life, his dating, his relationship, his happiness. That is a realm in which you are absolutely powerless. As long as you keep beating your head against it, gripping tightly onto this thing you don't possess, you will continue to suffer. That can last your whole lifetime, or it can end tomorrow. Not the grief - it's normal and human to grieve the end of the marriage - but this endless, exhausting striving to control another person's behavior. Accept that you are powerless over him, and you will still grieve, but you do not have to struggle.

if I had just been better, if I had just done this...

Finish these sentences:

If I had just been better - I could have controlled him.
If I had just done this - I could have controlled him.

No. You could never have controlled him. What you had control over, while you were in the relationship, and what you continue to have control over now, is your own choices.

I feel I will always hold on to this hurt.

Yes. Right now, that is what you are doing. But you don't have to do it. You can do something different. You can do it right now,.

Every single time you start as sentence with "he," know that you are doing so as a way of avoiding your own choices. You're saying 'he' so you don't have to take on the responsibility of starting a sentence that begins with 'I'.

"I am planning a life..."
"I am dating again...."
"I doing everything we were working towards..."
"I am beginning to soar..."

How do you get to that place? People will say therapy, meditation, Buddhism, self-help books, Al-Anon, time - but really, those are all different methods to get you to a place where you're ready to make the choice. The choice itself happens instantaneously.

Start your sentences with 'I.'
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:27 PM on August 24, 2016 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I read your earlier questions and feel like I'm telling you something you already know in your bones: Codependent No More.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: I'm so sorry you're going through this.

What I would tell my past self, when going through this kind of life change, is this: Right now you are viewing your future as the same future as before, but with a huge gaping hole in it where your ex smashed his way out. Ditto your present - it's the same except for the bit that's missing. Your feelings, your plans, your ambitions, your hopes, your worries, your day-to-day everything, they're still there and still quite like they were before, except now they're right next to that gaping chasm of pain and loss.

When you are in this mental place, it is very difficult to even imagine how things could ever get better. Maybe you could distance yourself a little from the big hole, fence it off a bit - but the big hole's still there. Maybe you could try and fill in the big hole everything else you've got - but right now it feels like a bottomless pit, and you don't have anything more to shovel in there, and even if you did, it's still going to be there as a massive scar on your mental landscape. Any future you imagine is always going to look like your old visions of the future, but damaged and lacking. So you can vaguely maybe imagine being okay, at some point, but you can't even imagine being happy.

What happens as you heal is this: you don't so much fill in that hole, as you start building up a whole new landscape. Your feelings and plans and ambitions and hopes will be similar, but not totally the same. Your day-to-day life stops looking like a damaged version of your old life and starts looking like something else, something new. You start finding that parts of your old landscape, parts of how you think and felt as well as what you did, were built around who you were in that relationship, and you drop them without realising. You find new things to build your life around, and not as an inferior substitute for your ex but because these are things you want to build your life around. You stop trying to live around the edges of that big hole. After a while, you realise that the current landscape of your life doesn't even include it.

It is hard - maybe even impossible - to picture that now. That's okay! You don't have to. You are grieving, you are devastated, you're not in a place where you can picture things improving. But they will improve. You just can't see it from where you're standing now. Nobody ever can, when they're where you are - and yet, from here in the future, hundreds of millions of us can look back and say "I wouldn't swap this life now for the one I wanted then."

I remember your previous question, and honestly, your ex has been awful to you. You are viewing your current life and your future life through the lens of what he wants and thinks and feels, and what he thinks about you, and what he wants from you. He has made your world small. But your world will get bigger again.

In the meantime - focus on what you can. Try to find things, even tiny little things, that are about what you want from your present and future rather than what he wanted. Buy new bedclothes, in colours you like but he didn't. Get a camera and take photographs every day of things you think look nice. Write in a diary. See a counsellor. Buy a new book to read with your daughter.

Believe me, one day, you're going to look at the life he's living and think "that could have been my future too... and thank God it's not."
posted by Catseye at 3:02 AM on August 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The book Loving What Is by Byron Katie has been an ongoing help for me for accepting unacceptable outcomes resulting from unacceptable circumstances, and getting on with things, making the best of them, with less rumination/bargaining/counter-factual imagining.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:34 AM on August 25, 2016

Best answer: Have you seen Jane McGonigal's TedTalk about her app game SuperBetter? I've found it remarkably helpful getting through the day to day during rough patches. I may start playing again now that I have some SuperCrappy work stuff going on - if you want to be buddies MeMail me and I'll send you my player name!

It focuses on small easy to take steps and recognising that you're doing it - small things are all I can manage with a full time job and a 2 year old!

I'm so sorry for your (massive!) loss.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:29 PM on August 25, 2016

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