I hear it all the time, “this is not the person I married.” Or “I feel like he/she is a totally different person.” Even if you have never been through a separation or divorce and found yourself reconsidering everything you thought you knew about your spouse, you can probably relate to a loved one becoming someone else – the kid that comes home from college with new values and new vocabulary you don’t understand, the friend that you haven’t seen for years that has changed everything about their life, the elderly parent that has gone from a brave, independent person to a scared, angry shell of their former self.
Studies have shown that the loss of a loved one to divorce or death impacts the brain in a similar way to physical pain. But when we stub our toe or have an appendectomy, the pain does fade over time. Finding that you don’t know someone that you loved any more can take a much less consistent path, taking us by surprise when the one that felt so comforting and familiar is now a stranger.
I think I’m supposed to tell you now that it gets better. That you will get over the loss. That time heals all wounds. And even though those things are mostly true, I doubt it will make you feel much better today, when you find yourself feeling that punch in the gut of loss.
So instead, I will tell you that you are not alone. That the feelings are normal. That the best thing you can do is try to make your choices based on how you want to live and where you want your life to lead you instead of letting your reaction be guided by the deep feelings of fear that come over you like waves.
If you are fairly certain that the person you once loved (or your kid or your parent) has been taken over by aliens, you are not crazy. Keep breathing. Phone a friend. Don’t let pod people keep you from having an awesome life.