Getting Past the Anger

Learn the secrets of getting unstuck, and getting past the anger after infidelity. Learn what doesn’t work, and what does work. Anne interviews Ronda who shares her story of intense anger, and how she moved past it.

“The angry beast doesn’t live inside of me any longer (or right now), thank you so much for helping me beyond the pain.” – Ronda

January 28, 2019 – Getting past the anger after infidelity

Recommended Reading for Getting Past Anger After Infidelity


 NOT “Just Friends” : Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity
This is definitely one of the best books ever written on the topic. After years of research and personal work helping others recover, Shirley Glass remains one of the most highly esteemed experts on affairs.

Getting Past Anger

Getting Past Anger

There is often a thin line between anger and hatred. After I discovered my husbands’ unfaithfulness, I found myself grappling with strong emotions of anger and hatred, murder and revenge, emotions so strong, I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such things. I couldn’t imagine ever getting past anger I felt, yet I was desperate to do so, because neither could I imagine continuing to live with it.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James A. Baldwin

Getting past my anger came through a decision to forgive, to let go, and to lean into the pain that was behind my anger, instead of trying to run from the pain, deny its existence, or escape from it through some sort of destructive coping mechanism like alcohol, drugs or other self-defeating behaviors.

Our hatred and our anger are merely outward expressions of our pain.

If we are honest with ourselves, while we claim, “I want to get past my anger,” another part of us wants to hang on to it. Anger releases adrenaline into our bodies, which feels good, and we can become addicted to this, and therefore addicted to anger. Anger gives us a surge of power. Experiencing anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Anger is a positive emotion given to you for your healing. Ideally, we take the energy from our anger to take positive action to change our lives. The problem is not the anger itself. Anger can be both positive and negative. It’s what we often do when we are angry that so easily becomes a problem.

Hurt people hurt people. Never are we more likely to hurt someone then when we ourselves are hurting. The secret to getting past anger, is to break the cycle by being willing to have compassion and see the pain in the person who hurt us, the pain that was behind their hurtful, selfish actions. Yet many betrayed spouses will be read these words, and think, “Screw you and screw the pain of my spouse. I want to hold onto my self-righteous rage!”

But is that working for you? Are you getting your joy back? Are you being the person that you want to be?

Pain subsides only when we acknowledge it and care for it.

In her book, “Braving the Wilderness,” Brene Brown wrote:

“Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something lifegiving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or grief, regret, or shame and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”

“I can’t think of a more powerful example than the sentence, “You will not have my hate.” In November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed by terrorists at the Bataclan theater in Paris along with eighty-eight other people. Two days after the attacks, in an open letter to his wife’s killers posted on Facebook, Leiris wrote:

“On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. You are dead souls. If that God for whom you blindly kill made us in his image, every bullet in my wife’s body will have been a wound in his heart.

“So, no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. That is what you want, but to respond to your hate with anger would be to yield to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to see my fellow citizens through suspicious eyes, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have failed. I will not change.”

“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness. I love what Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailish Satyarthi says in his 2015 TED talk:

“Anger is within each one of you, and I will share a secret for a few seconds: that if we are confined in the narrow shells of egos, and the circles of selfishness, then anger will turn out to be hatred, violence, revenge, destruction. But if we are able to break the circles, then the same anger could turn into a great power. We can break the circles by using our inherent compassion and connect with the world through compassion to make this world better. That same anger could be transformed into it.”

We pay for anger with our lives, and that’s too big a price to pay! Decide getting past anger today. Replace it with love and compassion. Get past your anger by acknowledging the pain behind your anger, letting yourself grieve your loss, and processing your hurt.

How do I change my spouse?

How do I change my spouse?

How do I change my spouse ?

 At the beginning of every Healing from Affairs Intensive Weekend for couples in affair recovery, where couples receive a roadmap and all the tools to navigate their own journey, and make good decisions, whether that means staying or going … we know that almost every wife enters that seminar room (whether she is the betrayed spouse or the one who had the affair), thinking, “I sure hope Brian and Anne can change my husband!” At the very same time, almost every husband enters the same room, thinking “I sure hope Brian and Anne can change my wife?” They both think, how do I change my spouse?

Oh, husbands and wives, don’t usually ask directly, “How do I change my spouse?” They have much more sophisticated ways of asking, such as….

  • How do I get my husband/wife to tell the truth?
  • How do I get my husband/wife to talk to me?
  • How do I get my husband/wife to calm down and stop being so angry?
  • Why can’t my husband/wife, just get over it? I said I was sorry already!
  • I don’t see the point in rehashing the affair story over and over, it’s just making things worse!
  • How do I get my husband/wife to listen to me? Understand me? Comfort me? Send me flowers? Stop sending me flowers?
  • How do I get my husband/wife to come to a seminar? Go for counseling? Read a book?

It is so easy to see what our spouse is clearly doing wrong! It’s so very difficult to see our own blind spots! We so desperately want our spouse to listen to us, to understand and to give us what we need, and to change! At the same, it is so difficult to them, to have patience, compassion and maturity – to slow down when emotions are heightened. It’s hard to be the very change we long to see in our spouse!

We want our spouse to listen. But are we listening?

We want our spouse to understand us. But do we understand them?

 Getting Past an Extramarital Affair

In the case of affairs, we often look back and wish the past could be undone, but it can’t be undone. It happened, and nothing will ever change that.

Then a sense of justice overcomes us, and we want those who’ve wronged us to “pay the price” for what they’ve done. If we’re the ones who’ve committed the wrong and are overwhelmed with a sense of remorse and regret, we even seek ways to punish ourselves as if that will somehow make us feel better – and we long for reconciliation with those we’ve wronged.

But the more one thinks about major wrongs like this, one realizes, there is no price, we or those in our lives can pay, that would be big enough to right the wrong.

The encouraging thing is today is a new day. There is a time to recognize we cannot change what is past, but the past does not need to define our future.

If you’re unhappy with the way things turned out in your past, be encouraged, because you can learn from your mistakes and build a positive future, by changing your behavior now. Who you were yesterday, does not have to be who you are today, nor who you will be tomorrow. Who your spouse was yesterday does not need to be who they are in the future. People do have the ability to change, if they choose to. It’s all about choices.

How Do I Change My Spouse?

Daily, I receive emails containing this exact question in various forms, so I’ve decided to share the secret with you … The answer of course is that you cannot change your spouse, but you can change the way you are responding to them.

 You Change Your Spouse by Changing Yourself!

“If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of those assumptions.” – Stephen Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

Are you tired of being stuck where you are? Then you will need to be willing to challenge your own perceptions. Sometimes “your truth” is your enemy.

We teach people how to treat us!

When things are going wrong in relationships, what we often don’t see is how we are contributing to the situation. Every relationship establishes set patterns: he does this, she responds like that, which causes him to respond with …, which causes her to respond by …. etc. etc. etc.

The way to change the people around you is to change the way you’re responding to them. Do something radically different. The solution is not the same for every couple. But for every couple, you can rest assured, that if you do the same thing you’ve always done, you will get the exact same result you’ve always gotten.

 More often then not, when things aren’t going well for us, we simply apply more power and energy to the thing that isn’t working. To bring about change, we have to be willing to step out of our own comfort zone and do something different.

 “Until the pain of remaining the same, becomes greater than the pain of change, we don’t change.”

So what does it mean to change? What should you change? What could you change?

You ask yourself the question, “What have you been doing?” and “What results, if any, has that brought?”

Some wives have nagged their husbands over and over, telling them the things they need to do … and it isn’t working. If that’s you, your solution is not to nag more and louder. That’s more power to the thing that doesn’t work. Instead stop nagging altogether.

Some husbands have been ignoring their wives, and come home every night, hoping their wife won’t bring up the affair. Instead of ignoring your wife, lean into it, and initiate a conversation. Say, “I imagine you are probably really hurting about the affair, and you probably want to talk about it. So let’s go ahead and talk about it. What would you like to discuss?”

Some wives have been punishing their unfaithful spouse with unceasing anger, calling their husband names, saying, “how could you?” “You’re a liar!” “You’re a cheater!” While this totally makes sense, because you are hurting, and they did lie and cheat. But is this getting you the result you want? Do you even know what that result is? Rarely does outward expressions of mean and aggressive anger get anyone positive results. (People might be afraid of you, but that doesn’t help them to be more loving or more truthful!)

So if calling your unfaithful spouse names and raising your voice, and swearing and punishing hasn’t been getting you what you want, maybe try speaking calmly and directly asking directly for what you want (and you might want to consider apologizing for your mean and hurtful behavior while you were angry!) That would be radically different!

When I was on my own affair recovery journey, initially I did what most spouses do (which is exactly opposite to what they were sure they would do before it happened to them). I worked really hard to save my marriage, to get my husband to change, to get him to read books, and go for counseling. Somewhere along the way, I finally realized that I did not have the power to save our marriage. I did not have the power to change my husband, or to get him to do anything.

So I did something brilliant. I changed me!I stopped talking to him about the affair. (Imagine that!) I stopped telling him what to do. I enrolled myself in University and started working on the degree that I had always wanted. Guess what happened! My husband suddenly took initiative to read books, and to start doing what these books said. Then he discussed them with me. He began to think about his own behaviors. He began to change. He began working on himself. He became more loving. He started pursuing me (when I stopped pursuing him!)

He said, “You are growing tremendously as a woman, and it scares me to death!”Why did it scare him? Because he realized, that if he didn’t get with the program, he was going to lose me. Enrolling in University may not be your answer specifically, but I can assure you, that your answer is to stop doing what you are doing that isn’t working and do something totally different instead.

One unfaithful wife, who had ended her affair and all contact with the affair partner, and told the truth, coming completely clean with everything, found herself stuck for months walking on eggshells, while her betrayed husband stayed stuck in his anger. No matter how much she talked about the affair, no matter how much shame she bore, no matter how many times she apologized, no matter how many books she read, her betrayed husband stayed angry and often hurtful. She was being nice and loving and doing all she could, but he was not getting the help he needed. She was powerless to heal him. He was stuck in his anger, verbally abusing her, and sometimes frightening her, yet he couldn’t see it himself, because he was focused on how wrong she was for her affair, which she could not take back. He had loving moments, but she never knew when Jekyll was going to show up. She was living in fear, with her own needs as a woman for love, connection, gentleness and understanding unmet.

Then one night, things got completely out of hand. Not only was he yelling and screaming and calling her names, but he began throwing things. Her favorite vase, a cherished gift from her mother, slammed against the wall and shattered to pieces. And her husband left slamming the door and screeching the tires. That’s when the lights went on for her! This was not okay.

So, she did something radically different, something that ended up saving her husband from himself and saving their marriage. She left, got herself a good counselor, and wrote her husband a letter. Her husband did everything to try and get her back, but she told him that she would only be willing to speak with him again in the counselor’s office. He was not happy about this! (Your spouse will not be overjoyed either when you get smart enough and strong enough to change the dysfunctional normal in your relationship!) This woman loved her husband, desired to save her marriage, and wanted to do the right things, but she realized that what she had been doing wasn’t working (even though those had been the right things the experts told her to do). Did her husband need to change? Yes. Did she need to change too? Yes. Instead of focusing on what she had no control over, him, she focused on what she did have control over, herself. The pain of remaining the same had become greater than the pain of change!

Her husband wasn’t happy about it, but he met with her in the counselor’s office. There she read him her letter, which demanded a controlled separation. They worked out the details. In their case they only needed to be separated for one month, and her husband got help for his anger. Today, they have a loving, healed relationship, where they both feel safe. Trust has been restored. She changed herself. He changed in response.

While this is just one story, every affair recovery story, where a couple reconciles shares this theme, that while your spouse may be wrong, you can’t fix them. But if you will be willing to stop focusing on them, and figure out what you can change about you instead, you will find yourself empowered, and if there is hope for your marriage, if you desire to “change your spouse,” you’ll find they will change in response to the changes you make in yourself.

You want your spouse to take responsibility for what they have done? But are you willing to take responsibility for what you’ve done (or haven’t done)?

By Anne Bercht

PS – Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. We’ve personally helped more than 2,500 couples heal their marriages after infidelity. We can help you too! It’s not easy, but it’s not that hard either, and the rewards are so worth it!

PSS – For some reconciliation may not be the right route. We’ll help you figure that out too. Either way, reconciled or divorced, you still need to heal, so you can find happiness for your future, instead of dragging the baggage from this painful past into your next relationship! And for the sake of your children, get closure, healing and understanding, so you can move on responsibly, be happy and co-parent well!


Our contact information is at the bottom of this page!

©Copyright 2018 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
For information about confidential coaching with Brian or Anne click here.

If you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne

hope for your marriage after betrayal

How do you know if there is hope for your marriage after betrayal?

– A discussion with Brian & Anne Bercht, and some of the people they have worked with.

There is always hope for your marriage after betrayal if both people are willing to give the marriage a chance and do their own part in the healing.

That said, many healed marriages began their healing journey with only one partner being willing.

The bottom line is you can’t know if there is hope, until you’ve given your marriage an honest chance and gotten some good help.

Can a relationship really heal after an affair? YES!

Often times there is one spouse who believes it can, and the other spouse doesn’t, and that is not necessarily related to which spouse acted unfaithfully.

Can your marriage after betrayal be better than before? YES!

Brian: Many, many couples have in fact put back together the broken pieces of their broken marriage after betrayal, and most of those couples will never tell you what they have been through. That seemingly picture perfect couple next door, may well be a couple, who has healed their marriage after betrayal. Prior to our own healing journey, now 18 years ago, I had never met anybody who had survived, where their post-affair marriage seemed desirable. Usually you see stories where the affair card gets played post affair when there is an argument. I remember wondering; could Anne ever forgive me? We embarked on our personal journey, hopeful, but skeptical. People forget that it took us 2.5 years to live through the events that can now be read about it 8 hours or less in our book.

Through not only our own lives, but the 2500+ couples we have personally worked with and seen build stronger marriages after betrayal, it’s been proven that if couples are willing to do just a little bit of work, they can have a great relationship on the other side.

Anne: For me in the early days after disclosure of Brian’s affair, I walked around with such sadness, that I wondered if it was even sane to believe that I would ever know a single day of happiness again. Since then we have had many, many years of joy and happiness together, and some great experiences; special times with our children and grandchildren, some amazing trips, great new friendships, and the joy of being engaged in such meaningful work together. And in those 18 years (post affair) life has also thrown us some incredibly difficult challenges. Life is like that. How thankful I have been to have Brian to walk with me through those dark times too! That’s one of the rewards we got for the effort we put in back then. Back then it seemed like a long time. Now looking back, it’s become like a blip on the map of our lives together. (I can’t believe I am even saying that now, but it’s true!) I have absolutely no pain associated with the memory of Brian’s affair. I have an excellent memory, and I remember Brian’s affair and all the chaos, pain and uncertainty that went with that painful time. But when I do remember, the memory comes without the great pain. Now I think of it as a victory rather than a defeat, because we won together over the evil that threatened to destroy our lives back then. The greatest reward of all has been earning the respect of our children. They have all said, “You know what mom and dad, most of our friends parents have gone through exactly the same thing, except they just gave up and quit. You faced your problems and worked through them. We really respect you for that.”

Affair recovery was an unbelievable nightmare. We worked through it and, so can you!

Brian: I feel jealous of our clients today, because it’s so much easier for them than it was for us, because we are able to give them the tools and a road map, encouragement and help.

How do you know if there is hope for your marriage after betrayal?

First is your attitude, second is your willingness, and third is getting the help and the tools you need.

You need to be willing to give up our cultures “soulmate” mentality towards marriage. If you ask couples who have been married 25 years or longer and are still in love, what their secret is, one answer you won’t get is: “We were just lucky. We were soulmates. We found each other and lived happily ever after!” Instead you will hear stories about respect, commitment, effort, laughter, time and learning the skills. The willingness to seek and implement good advice from good mentors is usually a factor.

The couples that struggle the most are couples who were REALLY never in love in the first place, couples who slid into marriage instead of deciding into marriage. Yet we’ve seen couples, who have been married many years, and reported very low levels of love, nurturance and happiness in those years, that DECIDED to fall in love after an affair happened by doing the things we taught them, build very successful and happy marriages post affair. So again, the biggest deciding factor on whether or not there is hope for your marriage is your attitude as a couple, and the quality of the help you receive. With the right attitude (for both husband and wife) and with the right skills, any couple can build a loving post affair marriage.

There is always a lot of pain, hurt and anger, but those things can be overcome with love and security.

One necessary step to recovery is ending the affair relationship. Everybody’s situation is unique but the draw, the intrigue, the pleasure, and the payoff in the affair is always there. When the unfaithful spouse makes the decision to give up the affair, they are giving up something that has been giving them a payoff in some way, and coming into a broken relationship that is very difficult, painful and uncertain in the early stages of recovery.

Julie: My husband had an affair with a friend of mine. In the beginning I was real unsure. I didn’t know that I had hope. I just wanted to try something. But after the Healing From Affairs weekend with Anne & Brian, it was then that I first felt I had hope.

Tim: I wanted things to work out. Every affair is different. Not too many people have the same type of situation. But the steps we learned apply to everyone. We knew that we wanted to heal. We just didn’t know how to go about it. We were really poor communicators before the Healing From Affairs weekend. The tools we’ve learned have improved not just our relationship with each other, but also with our kids and everyone else in our lives too.

I was afraid Julie would never be able to forgive me. We took it one day at a time. Sometimes things get better for a day and then it goes backwards. It’s a rollercoaster. But you get to a place where the ups and downs are not so bad.

Julie: We’ve been married for 27 years now. Healing from Affairs was 10 years ago. We have been fully healed for years. We are much better at communicating. We are in a comfortable place. I feel very secure and safe in my relationship. I don’t have any worries that it will happen again.

Tim: That’s a good feeling to hear her say that. It’s just a matter of doing the right things, step up to the plate. It’s work. But it’s the person you want to spend the rest of your life with so it’s your job to prove that that mistake is not going to happen again.

How hard was that work compared to the 17 years pre-affair?

Tim: I had to learn to do the right things. When you know the right things to do, it’s easy. Then you begin to see positives from the good work you are doing, so you just want to do more good things towards your spouse.

Janet: I am separated for 6 months now. My husband is living with his Affair Partner and has filed for divorce. The person he is with is a bipolar alcoholic. I am not able to talk with him on the phone, because his AP has forbidden it. What are my chances?

Brian: It ain’t over til it’s really over, so you just don’t know. Sometimes it takes time for the unfaithful spouse to come to understand what the AP is truly like. The light does come on at some level some time. Every person has problems, and those problems don’t show up until the affair relationship becomes the primary relationship. So there is always hope that your unfaithful spouse may come to their senses at some level.

As unfaithful spouses begin to get wrapped up in their affairs, they have a tendency to rewrite their marital history in their own minds making the bad things in their marriage greater, and the good things in their marriage smaller, in order to justify their actions to themselves.

Anne: Relationships ebb and flow. You don’t live at the mountaintop of your best day every moment. At some point the newness and the excitement of the affair will wear off, and then the unfaithful partner is likely to also return to the point of willingness to consider reconciliation, but are you willing to wait that long? And there are no guarantees! It may never happen.

If your spouse is not willing to work on reconciliation at this point the best thing you can do is stop trying to control what you cannot control and start working on yourself and your personal healing instead. It’s often when you let go of trying so hard that you do get your relationship back. Don’t be too soft. Sometimes tough love is needed. If you continue to meet your spouses’ needs while they are still in the affair, then they have the best of both worlds. Tough love is lovingly helping your spouse to experience consequences (not punishment) for their choices. Like maybe you stop keeping their secret for them, because they are threatening you that if you tell anyone, then the marriage will be over for sure. They just need more time they say; more time and more time. I’ve seen that go on for years sometimes.

Colleen: I’ve been married for 16 years, and have 5 kids under the age of 12. My husband is a great dad. He moved out for a couple of months and then moved back in. Yet my husband is not working towards establishing a meaningful relationship with me. I’ve read everything there is to read about it from everybody. It feels like a series of chess moves.

Brian: If there is to be hope the person who has been unfaithful has got to be willing to make some changes. That takes courage and it takes self-reflection.

For any unfaithful spouse that is willing, it’s really not that hard to do. It’s not just about what the faithful spouse is willing to do, it’s also about what the unfaithful spouse is willing to do. If the unfaithful spouse is not willing to even give the relationship a chance, there is not a lot of hope. If he or she is not reading and being proactive, it’s going to be difficult.

All those things can change. So many husbands and wives, both the unfaithful and the betrayed, who have struggled to communicate, have learned how. Both the unfaithful and the betrayed have to be willing to learn, grow and make changes.

Anne: The greatest tragedies are those who never give it a chance, and who therefore must live with regret, haunted forever with thoughts of “what if?” “What if we had tried a little harder?” Inevitably if you don’t change, you find yourself repeating the same things again in a new relationship, and you slowly discover that you are the common denominator in your serial monogamy, as you move from one relationship to the next.

Laura: An affair happened 22 years into our marriage. Now we’ve been married 25 years. My husband had a pretty intense love affair that was discovered several months into it, and yet it continued for a year after disclosure, with many more betrayals along the way. My husband said he was in love with his affair partner and that he had never been in love with me. All of that wasn’t true, but that’s what he said and believed at the time. Talk about an affair story that seemed to leave our marriage with no hope! This was the last thing I could ever have imagined could happen to us. I thought we had good communication, but our pre-affair communication was nothing in comparison to the communication that we have now after the skills we learned at Healing from Affairs. It took work, but even we made it!

The most important thing to give hope to our relationship, was Brian’s advice to my husband to take 3 months and go cold turkey, and give up the affair partner for this period of time. He told my husband that if the affair was worth pursuing, it would be worth pursuing in three months and it could handle three months of zero contact. My husband turned around after he took Brian’s advice about that even though it was really hard for him.

Brian: Laura did you ever lose hope on your journey?

Laura: My husband was still involved with his affair partner and lying the whole time. He lied in therapy. While he lied, he was still trying. I give him credit because there was some part of him that was still trying. Today we are more in love than ever, and so happy to be together. From where we were, I could never have imagined that we could get to this place. There were times when I felt without hope. My story shows there is hope even for situations that seem impossible. You just never know. Each person must make their own decision as to how long they are willing to hold on, when they don’t see the right things happening on the side of their spouse. I know not all unfaithful spouses do turn around. One thing that did give me hope was the strength of the love I knew we had before my husband got wrapped up in his affair.

Brian: The unfaithful needs to look at what are they giving up in their relationship with their spouse, to get what they are getting with the other person. What they don’t realize is that if they put the effort into their marriages that they put into their affairs, in most cases, they can have the best of both worlds. They can have their marriage, reputation, money, self-respect, relationship with children, and the excitement of a fulfilling exciting romantic relationship with their spouse as well.

When is it time to give up and say there is just no hope anymore? At what point do you have to say enough is enough, and I just need to get a divorce?

Anne: Get out a private journal and write a list of characteristics that you would require in a husband/wife if you are going to be married. Not a pie-in-the-sky, prince-charming list, but a minimal standards list. Then give yourself smaller 4-month time lines. During that time work on your part, and don’t worry about what your unfaithful spouse is or isn’t doing. If there is no forward movement in 4 months you can give your permission to go, or you can choose to give it another period of time. Wait at least 6 months from the time of disclosure before making any major life changing decisions. Sometimes the unfaithful spouse only changes when you actually seriously take action towards divorce. And remember threatening divorce is not the same as meaning business. Threats weaken the relationship.




Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day – Whose “candle” can you light today?

You have most likely found our website because either you or someone you love has had their world rocked by the devastation, chaos and hurt that infidelity causes – one of the biggest things to divide families, and destroy relationships.

And now today is Mother’s Day, and we are surrounded by images that depict people wishing their Mother’s Happy Mother’s Day, or being wished Happy Mother’s Day, and that is lovely when that is what is happening. If you are one of those people, I hope you take in every moment, and are grateful, and appreciative, because you are probably in the minority. You are one of the lucky ones. For the majority, Mother’s Day comes with a lot of hurt, like Christmas does for many, because it can underscore the love you haven’t received from your mother, the relationship you don’t have with your child, or the fact that you desperately want or wanted a child, but that didn’t/hasn’t happened for you.

One of our volunteer Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) coordinators wrote this beautiful message to the members of the support group she leads. Her perspective and strength are inspiring:

Mother’s Day message from a BAN Coordinator

“This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day, now Mother’s Day has always been a sad day for me; having lost my mother when I was twelve years old.  The flowers, the cards, the brunches–the feelings I experienced being motherless on Mother’s Day was something like that same unexplainable physical  feeling I experienced when I found out about my husband’s affair.  So after I had my twins, I was so happy to finally be able to legitimately celebrate the day and that feeling subsided.  Fourteen years later, I find my husband sharing pictures of our Mother’s Day celebration with the affair person.   BOOM!

“I thought I could never celebrate Mother’s Day again, ever!  I remember wanting to spit at the thought of the day…until I changed, changed the way I saw things.  After a few years, I wrapped my head around not letting anyone or anything steal glory from me.   

“So what if on Mother’s Day those two exchanged pictures (jerks), I waited my whole life to celebrate Mother’s Day and I have three beautiful kids that I brought into this world and raised and that I love with my whole heart; why am I letting this overshadow the goodness in my life?  I reclaimed the day and I am so glad that I did–I gave each of my kids a card/gift telling them how truly honored I am to be their mom.

“It is so important for me to be with the kids that made me a mother on this day and to be able to realize that what I created is all good and no one can take that from me.  Evil never beats goodness!!!”

So any mothers you have in your life, (even if they have not been good to you), be the bigger person, call them and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.

If you are feeling sad and forgotten this day, then reach out and do for someone else what you wish would be done to you. This is a strategy I have used for years, and it works very well. You lift yourself up, when you lift others up.

“For all of the men reading this, remember that your wife (together or apart–here or gone), no matter what she did, is the mother of your children and she should be respected for that.  If you are apart, find a way to show some recognition to the mother of your children or maybe just silently think a good thought about her.  Remember you are the men that made these women moms, so give yourself some recognition for that.

“Monday will be here before we know it–and you can continue on beyond Mother’s Day then.  Give yourself the gift of mindful peace and let the goodness of Mother’s Day be well within your heart.”

Being a mother is the best and most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever done and I know I have made mistakes in the process but I have never felt more important, worthwhile and loved than I do when I am in the company of my children and grandchildren.

In closing, this day, May 13, 2018, marks the one-year anniversary of the death of our precious son. In a little while I will be heading up to spend some time at his graveside.

I wanted to share with you today, something very personal. This video is taken (non-professionally) of the words I spoke at my son’s funeral last year. I hope you will be inspired.

Whose candle can you light today?

There is so much selfishness, unkindness and hatred in our world today. But you can be part of changing that. Don’t let the hurt and injustice that has happened to you, make you hateful, bitter and revengeful. Instead rise up!

It’s easy to be loving when others are loving towards you. Anyone can do that! It’s in the face of adversity, you show the world who you really are.

Be kind, loving, and thoughtful. Listen. Really listen. Aim to understand the other side. Forgive. Reconcile.

The bible says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Will your tongue then, be bringing life to someone today? Or will it be bringing death?

Whose candle can you light today?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Strategies to Combat Obsessive Thoughts

We imagine our beloved in the arms of another and we wince …

We find ourselves plagued with murderous thoughts. We think about our now scarred marriage and wonder if we can ever be happy again. We beat ourselves up, convincing ourselves that we must be inadequate in some way that this has happened to us (not true!) We think about the other woman/other man. We think about revenge. We can’t seem to get these unceasing, obsessive thoughts about an affair out of our heads! What can we do? Here are some real life strategies to combat obsessive thoughts.

According to experts, obsessions are normal thoughts exaggerated with increased frequency. Struggling with obsessive thoughts does not mean your character or morals are lacking. Anxiety stimulates obsessions. We obsess because we are afraid.

When we discover that our spouse has been unfaithful, our world as we have known it is shattered. Our belief systems are shaken and questioned. Our sense of security is gone. Our future has become an unknown. It’s easy to worry about things over and over again to the point of becoming paranoid.

Part of the solution lies in learning to separate unsubstantiated worries from truth, learning to live in the present “What’s real?” instead of living in the past, thinking of things that are only exaggerated, untrue products of our imagination.

Obsessions are like quicksand, harmful. Our minds tend to take us in the direction we choose to focus on. If while driving a car, we focus on something on the side of the road, inevitably we will steer the car off the road as well. To drive down the center of the road, we must focus on the center of the road. The same is true in other areas of life. Whatever we feed grows. What we focus on, determines the direction we are headed in. We need to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy instead.

However, obsessions that come from betrayal are not going to go away, merely by willpower. We must get a grip on our problem areas and use strategies to combat obsessive thoughts – we must combat them with positive truth.

When seeking support from others, the key is to find people who will help us sort our thoughts, truth from untruth, what are the “real” problems at hand, and how can we solve those problems. Proactive discussion towards solutions is helpful. Feeding the obsession will only make it worse.

When we recognize that anxiety is the root cause of obsessions, we can understand that real healing from obsessions comes through reducing anxiety.

17 Strategies to Combat Obsessive Thoughts About An Affair

1. Make a list of all your obsessive thoughts. Then write down what type of things trigger each, and what you do after. What coping strategies to combat obsessive thoughts are you already using that work?

2. The 3 second rule – Allow yourself 3 seconds to think about the obsessive item, then purposefully redirect your attention to something more positive, a feeling, a happy memory, a pleasant vacation, or a kind word.

3. Learn how to relax. Sometimes just thinking the word “relax” softly in your head with a deep breath is helpful. I often whisper to myself, “You’re going to be okay.” (I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I find talking to myself quite helpful.)

4. Learn the art of taking minute vacations, stop and smell a rose, close your eyes and let the sun shine on your face, pet an animal (in fact animals can offer a lot of comfort if we stop to enjoy them for a few minutes).

5. Obsessions are projections of ourselves into the past, the future, other people and situations. Learn to live in the present. Often our present is actually going quite well, except that we are allowing what is good to be ruined by what was, or what we worry might be. As one individual so eloquently put it, “I have had many problems in my lifetime, a few of which actually happened!” (The way we are treated by our spouse during recovery does make a big difference. It helps enormously if we can balance the negative with more positive present-day experiences.)

6. Focus on your positive circumstances or behaviors rather than what might be “wrong.” Count the things that you can be thankful for each day. This strategy works miracles for bringing a person out of any gloomy mood. (The other day, I was doing this, and as soon as I counted, “and I haven’t lost all my possessions and loved ones in the Tsunami,” I began to weep thinking about how much I have to be grateful for.)

7. Reward yourself for any and all progress made in dealing with obsessive thoughts.

8. Use distractions. Many reported that distracting themselves with other activities helped them to stop obsessing negatively. One woman found her fast-paced job helpful. It forced her to take her mind off the painful thoughts for a time. The painful thoughts accompanying a spouse’s affair are so intense it is overwhelming to process them all at once. By taking breaks from dealing with it, we divide the pain into humanly manageable chunks.

9. Redirect your attention from thoughts to actual experience. What is real, today?

10. Change the setting. Take a day off, go to the beach, visit relatives or friends, go hiking – just get away from the persons or things that trigger your obsessions.

11. Give yourself some time each day to sit quietly without any purpose or activity. Oh, how I cherish those rare moments at my house, when I am alone at home, and I can just sit for a few quiet moments and do nothing, no music, no noise. Nothing. It’s rejuvenating! I also practice this occasionally while driving. Turn off the radio. Just be quiet with yourself for a few moments. You may even get an inspired solution to a problem. A relaxed walk through nature also works.

12. Learn how to say “No.” You don’t have to be everything and do everything for everyone. Freedom of choice and listening to your own desires opposes obsessing.

13. The Head Shake Technique. If you find yourself obsessing simply shake your head as if you were shaking the thought right out of your head.

14. Thought Stopping. When you notice yourself obsessing actually shout, “STOP” in your head and then move on to another activity or direction. This is different than trying not to think about an obsession – which only makes the obsession stronger. Rather it is interrupting the obsessive process. We cannot keep ourselves from having obsessive thoughts, but we can refuse to “dwell” on them; we can immediately try and think about other more positive things, like the biblical verse, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Renewing your mind (changing the way you think), doesn’t happen by accident. It is something you purpose to accomplish.

15. Massed Imaginational Exposure. Develop your own script of the worst fears you obsess about. Read the script onto an audiotape and play it for 30-60 minutes. Note your anxiety level (0-100) when you start and keep at it until the anxiety goes down by 50% or more. Feel the anxiety and don’t do any behaviors to avoid it.

16. Shadowing. Follow someone you trust through a behavior that has been difficult for you due to obsessing. This can sometimes break you through the mental barriers caused by the obsession.

17. Thought Backtracking. When you notice yourself on an obsessive train of thought, think of the thought like a train and reverse the direction. What was the thought you had before the current one? What was the one before that? What was the initial thought that started you off? When you get back to something involving your five senses and real, present experience, stop and enjoy that.

In Conclusion of Strategies to Combat Obsessive Thoughts:

The journey to healing from the pain of an affair is like a rollercoaster ride. At times you will move along quite far, suddenly to be triggered by something, and right back in the pain as if it had just happened. Do not be discouraged. It doesn’t mean you aren’t healing. It means you are normal.

It is important not to expect perfection from yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Failure is part of the journey to success. So when you blow it, as far as what some book or counselor told you to do, or what you think you should do, don’t worry. Get up again, and keep going. Don’t think, “Oh, I’m such a loser, I dwelled on that thought all day yesterday.” Think: “Good for me. I’m doing better today.”

When will these obsessive thoughts about an affair ever go away? There is no set time, no defined moment. As we do the HARD WORK of healing (that is facing our pain and processing it in a healthy manner), slowly the incidences of obsessing diminish in frequency and intensity, until one day we realize, “Wow! I can’t remember the last time I thought about the affair.

We will always remember the affair, and we will always remember the pain that went with it. The goal is not to forget (which is not possible – my memory is in excellent condition). The goal is to process and heal so that when we do remember, we no longer feel the pain. We no longer relive the pain with the memory.

Peggy Vaughan writes in her book, Beyond Affairs:

“I frequently wished I could have amnesia. That seemed to be the only way I could forget the past. Also, I wished for time to pass. I’d always heard that time heals, but I never heard just how much time it takes. I didn’t know whether I could last long enough.

“We spent many, many hours talking about our feelings and trying to get a handle on the whole experience. Little by little it got easier to handle the emotional aspects too…Finally, one day the pain just slipped away when I didn’t even notice.”

© Copyright 2004 & 2018 Anne Bercht. All rights reserved.

For information about seminars click here.

For information about confidential coaching with Brian or Anne or one of the coaches on our coaching team, call 360-306-3367 or send an email to . Your story matters to us!

Healing a marriage after an affair – 9 Keys

9 Important Keys for Healing a Marriage After an Affair by Brian and Anne Bercht

The healing journey begins with hope. You need to know and believe you can move beyond the pain and get the life you want. It does take two. Some people think you can never get over it. That’s not true. True healing is remembering the affair (you won’t forget such a big event in your life), but no longer having pain associated with the memory.

Our journey was a lot harder than it needed to be,because we did not have the tools or the roadmap. But it doesn’t need to be so difficult for you. We can now supply you with the roadmap and tools we didn’t have then, and help you to avoid the common mistakes.

When we were healing our own marriage (now eleven years ago), we sought professional help. While some was helpful, we found much of it to be damaging.

Once we healed we looked back on the journey and thought, “What is wrong with the world? Affairs are such a common problem and nobody seems to know how to really help people.”

We have now developed the program we wish we could’ve taken back then, a program that understands affairs, deals with the heart of the matter, and cuts straight to the core of affair issues.

The affair is not part of our lives anymore. Although helping others heal has become our life’s work and passion, we don’t discuss Brian’s affair anymore.

Healing from affairs is a process. Lean into the pain, and go through it. Trying to bury it, skirt around it, or avoid the issues will keep you stuck, prolonging the agony. Today Brian’s affair is just an asterix in our life story together. It’s no longer the whole book. The same can be true for you. We’ll show you how.

TO THE UNFAITHFUL: Step up to the plate, and take responsibility. The affair will change your relationship. It can change it for good or for worse. Which way it goes from here depends on what you decide to do.

Prior to the affair our relationship was like walking into Best Buy in the home theatre section seeing the highest quality big screen TV with film footage of the Grand Canyon playing. The colors are so vivid and clear. Likewise, our marriage was a very good thing.

Today our marriage is no longer like looking at the Grand Canyon on a 60” top of the line TV, instead it’s like standing at the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon. Although it was good before, it’s incomparably better today. How did we get here? We both had to grow up!

If you don’t want your marriage to be like it was before, don’t worry, it won’t be. The same is not an option once an affair has happened. It will be better or worse, never the same. Where you go from here is your choice.


To the unfaithful: Do not minimize facts about the affair. That’s lying. Be utterly truthful. For example, if your spouse asks how long was the affair, and it was a year, don’t say it was 6 months long thinking somehow that will hurt your spouse less. It’s going to hurt them more, because you are lying when you claim to be telling the truth. They will find out!

To the betrayed: Be careful with your reactions. Don’t do and say things in your anger that you can’t take back, which can cause deep wounds, drive your spouse away, and further damage your relationship. Don’t lose your dignity by lowering yourself, or embarrassing yourself. And by all means, don’t break the law. You will not feel better at all if you end up sitting in jail! We know you are deeply wounded, and we know what you are suffering is not fair, but inflicting more wounds is counterproductive to your own healing and well-being.

9 Essential Steps to Healing a Marriage After an Affair!

1. No contact with the 3rd party. No emails, text messages, phone calls, waves across the parking lot, smoke signals, facebooking, or putting a message in a bottle, throwing it in the ocean and hoping the affair partner finds it. This goes for the betrayed spouse as well. No contact! The 3rd party is an enemy of your marriage. Your enemy is not a reliable source of information. (If the unfaithful works with the affair partner, and changing this situation is not a possibility, we can help you find a safe way to deal with this.)

2. Gain perspective. Seeing the affair not just as a personal offence against you, but rather as a problem of our society as a whole. How do you gain perspective? Educate yourself. Read books. Talk with others who’ve been through it. BAN support groups.

The perpetrator has to turn around and become the healer. Even so, the spouse who had the affair cannot be the betrayed spouse’s sole source of support.

To the innocent spouse: You are not to blame for the affair. You are not the reason why the affair happened. Unfaithfulness is all about the unfaithful person.

3. Lots of talking. The unfaithful needs to be willing to answer questions about the affair. Tell the truth. We recommend often using a public place. We healed our marriage at Starbucks, because the setting creates safety.

Healing a marriage after an affair starts on the day of disclosure and when the betrayed spouse gets the whole truth.

When talking about the affair emotions can escalate so quickly. Your communication skills are going to be taxed to the max. This is the reason why it’s so important to get extra communication training before engaging in these difficult post disclosure healing talks.

As a foundation, you need to understand your differences. Husbands and wives generally speak two different languages. It’s important to first understand yourself, why you think, act and respond as you do. Then to understand why your spouse sees and thinks so differently in a similar situation. In the Healing from Affairs seminar we show you how to make your personality differences an asset to your relationship instead of a hindrance. We teach you how to use each others strengths and how to be conscious of and overcome your own weaknesses.

Usually both people are talking and no one is listening. You are having dual monologues. In our seminar we teach you how to talk through difficult issues in a way that will leave you feeling closer to each other instead of doing damage to your relationship. We give you a framework that makes it safe to talk. Those same talks that are probably now perpetuating damage in your relationship can be turned around to bring healing, understanding and ultimately build intimacy between you.

4. Discover the core issues behind “why” the affair really happened in the marriage. Brian was shocked that he had an affair because it was totally against his character. In our Healing from Affairs seminar we take you through a process to help you to discover the core reasons why the affair happened. Generally in the beginning when the betrayed asks, why did you do what you did? The unfaithful doesn’t really know the answer. That’s why the answers they do give are generally lame and unsatisfactory. We’ll show you how to discover the real reasons together.

5. Rebuild trust. How do you rebuild trust? The answer is easy. I can give you the answer in 4 words: Proven behavior over time. However, we consistently find this answer alone doesn’t satisfy people. In our Healing from Affairs Intensive we’ve put together a whole experience that helps couples understand how to rebuild trust. In our process we are able to break down “proven behavior” into clear, tangible, doable steps.

6. Forgive. In healing a marriage after an affair forgiveness is essential. This is asking a person to do something that is contrary to human nature. It does not come easily, nor naturally. Forgiveness is a learned skill.

Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness does not mean your feelings necessarily line up with your choice at first. Forgiveness is not forgetting about it. Forgiveness is not condoning the behavior. Forgiveness is not releasing a person from the consequences.

Forgiveness is not equal to reconciliation. In the Healing from Affairs Intensive we are able to teach you the skill of forgiveness. We teach you how to apologize properly, and then how to forgive. It’s not just about the betrayed forgiving the unfaithful. Forgiveness goes both ways. Even though the betrayed spouse has not had an affair, there are no perfect people and no perfect spouses and usually there are still ways we’ve hurt our spouse and need to ask for and be forgiven.

7. Rebuild sexual intimacy. It’s up to the unfaithful spouse to make the betrayed spouse feel loved, cherished, reassured and special again. There tends to be struggles from the betrayed picturing the unfaithful spouse having sex with the affair partner, and when this is happening it’s almost impossible to engage sexually in the marriage. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort. It takes time and effort.

To the unfaithful: Don’t expect the betrayed to respond sexually right away. Healing a marriage after an affair takes time.

Sex has many different purposes. One of the purposes of sex is to bring healing. We recommend, therefore, that a couple re-engage sexually as soon as they can without either spouse feeling violated.

8. Patience. The healing journey is not a straight line from terrible to good. If you are expecting perfection from your spouse it’s not going to work.

One of the biggest mistakes couples make is getting too caught up in how long it takes. As if you could say, you will be healed in 2 years, 3 months, 6 days, four hours, 11 minutes and 6.7 seconds. Each couple is different. It depends on the degree of the betrayal, the extent to which both parties have the right tools, avoid classic mistakes, devote time to the healing process, and the sincerity (attitude) with which both spouses engage.

It’s gradual.

If you are a betrayed spouse less than 5 months post disclosure stop reading. The following doesn’t pertain to you yet.

9. Both spouses need to take responsibility for ways they may have failed each other in the marriage. It’s important to separate affair issues from marital issues. The unfaithful spouse tends to blame the innocent spouse for their affair initially. This is not true. In reality they are deflecting, often without realizing it. It’s easier to blame the other person than to take a look at our own failings. Even in a bad marriage, there are always healthy ways to deal with unhappiness in the marriage. An affair is not an answer to unhappiness in the marriage.

Brian came to realize that even if I’d done everything right before the affair, he still would’ve had an affair because the affair does not have anything to do with the innocent spouse and everything to do with the unfaithful.

The question is how long do you want to struggle? If you need help in these areas, don’t delay. Come to a Healing from Affairs intensive now.

“We recently attended a Healing From Affairs Intensive. We are still less than 6 months post disclosure. We’re not healed yet, but because of the weekend I have been able to forgive my husband, and we are now on the most positive healing path ever. I could not imagine being where we are at now without the weekend. The weekend made all the difference in the world for us. It gave us such awesome tools. We are in such a wonderful place just because we did the weekend. I just cannot say enough. It was worth every dime and so much more. I would tell anyone going through this, that if there is any chance you can attend, please, please, please do!” – Christa, Dallas, TX

PS – If you want to rebuild your marriage, and your spouse is asking you for patience, asking for forgiveness and not yet doing the right things to heal the marriage, tell them sure, you’ll forgive and be patient, but they need to take a step to earn this. They need to call 360-306-3367 and ask for help. If they are a male unfaithful spouse, they can ask to speak with Brian Bercht. If they are a female betrayed spouse, we will hook them up with one of our female coaches who once was unfaithful, but has ‘woman’- ed up and done the work to heal. Our coaches understand the feelings involved. All have lived it. All have however, moved on and made their lives what they want them to be, restored their marriages and gotten to that “standing at the edge of the cliff” at the Grand Canyon experience. We can help you get there too.


Brian and Anne Bercht

PS – Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. We’ve spent the last 10 years doing what others have called “impossible” and healing a marriage after an affair with great success! We can help you achieve “impossible” too!

Our contact information is at the bottom of this page.

©Copyright 2011 & 2018 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.

For information about confidential coaching with Brian or Anne click here.

If you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne .

Dealing with Anniversary of Trauma

Dear Anne – Next week I will be dealing with anniversary of trauma. It will be the anniversary of D-day. When I think of all the lies my husband told me, my heart breaks. Today, my husband is very remorseful, has come completely clean, and he himself feels repulsed by what he did to me and how much he hurt me. He wants to move on. “Why do we even have to bring up her name ever again?” he asks. I’m doing better, but I am not over it yet. I still need to talk about it. How do we make it through this anniversary date?

Anne’s Answer:

Often life affords me a personal experience, that better prepares me to answer the questions we receive every day from people whose marriages have experienced the trauma of an affair.

A trauma is an experience that is life threatening. Affairs are life threatening because they destroy families, create rage, emotionally hijack our minds, and leave the betrayed person with their hopes and dreams dashed to pieces. It can feel as if your whole life has been a lie, and now nothing is safe and no one can be trusted.

Betrayed spouses often experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder including recurrent involuntary traumatic memories, dreams, dissociative reactions, intense emotional and/or physiological stress in reaction to trauma triggers. They also often experience negative changes in mood or thoughts, irritability, angry outbursts, guilt, shame, self-destructive behaviors, hypervigilance, magnified startle responses, and trouble eating and sleeping.

Approaching the anniversary of such a trauma, which can be the D-day itself or the anniversary of any specific injury associated with the trauma, tends to produce anxiety. How do I get through this painful day?

We just passed one of these anniversaries ourselves – albeit of a different nature – there are parallels.

Last Easter we spent with our wonderful son and his wife, and some of our grandchildren. Never in a million years would any of us have imagined, our son had only a few weeks to live. The pain and sadness of his death, the empty place it has left in our hearts, and the finality of it are harsh realities to bear. Like you think of your “anniversary dates” before they arrive, usually with anxiety, I was thinking of Easter, in the days leading up to it.

12 Strategies for Dealing with Anniversary of Trauma

1. Remind yourself that anxiety about the day tends to be worse than the day itself.

The day before Easter, I found myself needing to take care of one of those essential life tasks – grocery shopping. A clerk at the store asked about my plans for Easter, and the first thing that rolled out of my mouth was, “I don’t have to cook this year.” (As if that were actually a good thing.) I quickly added the truth, “I would much rather be cooking, and having all my kids home!”

2. Make a plan for your anniversary day.

Aim to create new good memories and/or give yourself room to grieve properly.

3. Consider using the distraction technique.

Do something totally different than you usually do on this day. If the anniversary is related to a holiday consider celebrating differently than you have in the past.

I am grateful for the fact that we have a wonderful church to attend. The music is amazing and I can count on an inspiring, encouraging and practical message that will make sense. I knew the Easter service would be extra special, so that was the first part of my plan.

Second, we made plans for Easter Brunch in a restaurant.

Third, I heard about the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” featuring the story of Bart Millard, leader of the band MercyMe, and how this famous song came to be. Going to the theatre to watch this movie was the final part of my plan to get through the day. This movie is a story about redemption of trauma and pain.

4. Tell someone closest to you about your plan so they can support you.

5. It’s probably best not to be alone.

6. It’s perfectly okay, and even good, to set aside some time or even create a service, ceremony or ritual to commemorate the loss.

Don’t stuff your feelings. Let the tears come out, or the anger. A healthy outlet for anger is simply to acknowledge the anger, to give a voice to those feelings. But make sure you do so in a way that does not hurt anyone physically or emotionally, does not hurt yourself, and does not damage property. Don’t be afraid to embrace and acknowledge your grief journey.

In discussing how to get through a difficult anniversary, one woman shared with me how her husband had sex with another woman on the couch in their living room. I suggested they burn the couch on the anniversary she was anxious about, especially given they had an acreage and could safely do so on their property.

7. Consider what you do or don’t want this day to be in the future and begin working towards this.

Our son died on May 13. This year that falls smack dab on Mother’s Day. (Luckily this won’t always be the case.) I’ve thought long and hard about what I am going to do about this, and I have decided that in years to come, I don’t want to taint Mother’s Day for my grandchildren by making it about death and sadness. It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s important for children to have the opportunity to honor their mother and their grandmother on that day. I will bring flowers to my sons grave early in the morning, and spend some time remembering him there. But then I will spend the rest of the day allowing Mother’s Day to be Mother’s Day.

8. Leave room in your heart for the possibility that good things could happen this day.

Your past does not need to define your future.

This is an attitude shift. Instead of being stuck in gloom and doom, look for the good that could possibly come on this day.

I had a friend who lost her husband a few years ago. He died suddenly of a heart attack, alone in a hotel room while on a business trip. She loved him dearly. Sometime after his passing she told me that she had been praying to God, saying, “I can’t deal with the fact that I never got to say good-bye. Please God, please. Let me see him again. Just once. I need to say good-bye.” God had granted her request in the form of a dream. In her dream she had a conversation with her husband and got the closure she needed. Her dream was so real to her, she said she believed it was real, that they actually had been together. An extra miraculous thing occurred at the end. Her husband said, “I can’t stay with you any longer. I have to go now. I have to go back to our daughter. She is here with me.” At first my friend, was caught off guard, as they don’t have any children who have died, but instantly she remembered her miscarriage. It had been a girl.”

Now that I had lost my son, I prayed to God for such an experience, but I did not get it. So instead, I have often passed messages on to him through God in my prayers; “Jesus, please tell Dustin ….”

In the early hours of Easter morning, I found myself tossing and turning in and out of restless sleep, struggling with negative thoughts. If such a terrible tragedy could be awaiting me around the corner from last Easter, what tragedies might be next?

Then I had a dream. In my dream God spoke to me and said, “Dustin asked me to pass on a message to you: “Mom, why are you worrying? Don’t you realize that God is watching you every moment? He is working out His plan for your life. And it’s a very good one!”

Peace, comfort and joy came over me. This message is exactly how my son would speak; short and to the point. And it just makes sense. Here I am passing on messages to my son through God. So he sends a message back. Whatever you make of it, this was a really good experience for me, and I am glad my heart was open to receive it.

9. Remind yourself that you are working towards acceptance and/or forgiveness of what happened, because it is not possible for it to un-happen.

One definition of forgiveness is choosing to let go of your bitter, angry and hateful feelings – thoughts of punishing those who hurt you, hurting them back, and getting revenge. Everyone has a story, a difficult, painful, tragic story of their own. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. No one is exempted from pain and suffering in this life. It’s not your fault. You did the best you knew how. Would you really be willing to trade your suffering for someone else’s? What made you think you were above this? Why did you think this could happen to others but not to you?

10. Consider what kind of a man or woman you desire to be.

Determine in your will this is who you are. Act accordingly. Determine that you will not be defined by your tragedy.

I want to be a joyful woman who people enjoy being around, so I will lean into my pain and process it. Then I will embrace my identity as a joyful woman. Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to enjoy life after our tragedies, to live in the present and to embrace whatever pleasurable moments life affords us.

11. Think about all the things you do have to be thankful for.

12. Focus on your purpose.

Why are you here in the first place? What will your life stand for? Focus on fulfilling that purpose. Believe God has a good plan for your life. We will not always understand or find a purpose for life’s tragedies, injustices and all the wrongful hurts we suffer. Sometimes it’s just bad. But that doesn’t change the fact that we can choose to live for a higher purpose – we can choose to be a force for good in this world. Even if that just means smiling and being kind to whomever we encounter today. Don’t expect a pain free life.

I love what Scott Peck says in his classic book, The Road Less Travelled:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth, because once we see this truth we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”