Ellen’s Story: How the Tool of Joy Is Helping Her Search for Treasure

Of all the tools we use to help us heal from betrayal trauma, Intentional Joy is the winner. How I wish I could send you an audio file of one of my groups yesterday, which of course I would never do. But if I could, you would fully understand how much “magic” this tool can bring to our shattered hearts and dreams. And I know that you, like me, would delight in hearing women “get” the power and life-changing potential Intentional Joy brings to our lives. And the best part? It leads us straight to our buried treasure! One of those group members wants to help you “hear” what I heard. This is Ellen’s story, and if you listen carefully, near the end, you can hear her striking gold:

My name is Ellen and I am in the process of healing from betrayal trauma. Five years ago, I read “Living With Your Husband’s Secret Wars” by Marsha Means, and never had an inkling that my pastor husband had a sexual addiction. I got the book so I could be a help to other women who were dealing with their husbands’ secret wars of pornography, affairs, and sexual addiction. But after my husband’s death from cancer, I discovered his sexual addiction and his affair with a friend of mine when I discovered a laptop computer I didn’t know he had. How in the world could this be happening? Not him! How could he do this to me and our children? My life went spinning out of control. 

Today, approximately a year and a half after my discovery, and after so much heartache, searching for answers, searching for help, searching for anything to help me get through this, I believe I have finally grasped the key. That key, is JOY! Joy can be defined as “Being with someone who is glad as glad can be to be with me.” And it is only when our joy “cup” is greater than our “pain cup” that we can suffer well. Suffering well requires high levels of joy. But where would I be able to find joy?

I have three children still living at home. Two weekends ago ended up being my first weekend since my husband died that I would be alone from Friday to Sunday evening. How was I going to make it through the whole weekend without crying the whole time, or going crazy? I do not enjoy doing things by myself. I decided that I would be intentional about creating joy in my life throughout the weekend. What I originally believed was be a dreadful few days turned into a joy-filled weekend! Here’s what I did….

First, I asked another widow lady to join me for dinner Friday evening—and we had a lovely time. Then Saturday I joined some young couples and helped paint a Sunday School wing at my church—and we had fun, just talking and laughing and being together. Then I helped the church choir by playing their parts for them on the piano (and I barely play!) as they practiced for the Christmas cantata, and they were so grateful. My weekend was filled with people who were as happy to be with me as I was to be with them. I had joy! And I even watched the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” and a Chonda Pierce comedy DVD--alone. Funny thing about the DVD’s is that I paid for them with a refund check that had just come in the mail, made out to my husband from the hospital where he was treated a year and a half ago! The amount of the check was the same amount as the cost of the DVD’s! I perceived it as though he was trying to help me to have a better weekend too!

In the beginning days of my discovery, I reached out to people who, although well meaning, were not able to point me in the direction that I needed to heal. They listened to me, and I will forever be grateful for that. I looked to a therapist who listened to me as well, gave me information that I desperately needed to know about my husband’s addiction, and guided me with some self-help tools. Finally, I reached out to Marsha, through her A Circle of Joy website. After a sweet time of talking to Marsha on the phone, she encouraged me to join a telephone support group with other women who were also seeking help to heal from the trauma of infidelity. The workbook, “Journey to Healing and Joy,” Marsha, and the other women in the group, have been the greatest source of help through this journey. I cannot stress enough the power of joy to bring healing from your trauma. It is not always easy to find joy, especially at first. But if you take action and add joy-producing action steps to each day, you will find joy. Sometimes in the place where you least expect to find it!

In addition to discovering my husband’s laptop, I discovered his many journals. In them he described his pain and shame. I know that there is nothing my husband would love more than for this situation to be redeemed. My greatest joy would be for me to be able to tell my story and be able to help other women in their healing journey. There is absolutely nothing so terrible that my God cannot turn around and use for HIS glory. One day, I will be able to share all of my story, but in the meantime, as my God and I are writing my future, I will intentionally use joy and as much of my story that I can tell now, to strengthen other women in their healing journey!