Since then Janet has faced having no income. She not only fears having to shut down 85 Broads but also worries about supporting her children, Meredith, a college sophomore, and Chris, a high school senior. "I am terrified," she admits. "You really have to sit back and ask, 'Did I fail?'"
Even more acute than the evaporation of her net worth is the ongoing grief she feels about losing her husband. For more than a year after he left, she prayed he would come back, only to discover that he was commuting to another state to see an old girlfriend. "My sense of failure around my marriage is so massive, I feel like I'm engulfed in flames every single day," she says. "It's like I can't breathe, I can't get out from under the excruciating pain and loss."
Despite such abysmal moments, she does find the humor in her situation ("Jesus, you're 56 and don't have any boobs and you're kind of a mess," she says, addressing herself). She has also found a powerful source of strength: The women of 85 Broads have, it turns out, been her greatest investment, because now they are offering her priceless support, emotional and practical. Most of all, she finds passion in sharing her knowledge with young women around the country. Living for now off her savings, Janet says, "I have no intention of throwing in the towel. I will make it, come hell or high water. Walking away from 85 Broads would be a far bigger tragedy than losing my husband."
Dr. Boss' Analysis: Look for evidence of your accomplishments.
Highly successful people often come from the worldview that if you work hard and are a good, fair person, you can solve anything. And when that fails, many blame themselves, which makes things worse. It's no surprise that Janet's husband's walking out has hit her harder than her other losses. Research shows that betrayal from inside the family is one of the toughest blows to deal with because you can't readily make meaning out of it. Having someone disappear from your life, in fact, is one of the most difficult forms of "ambiguous loss"—a situation that has no real emotional closure (the husband is not dead, but he's gone from your life as you knew it). One way to start healing is to look for evidence of past competencies. (Ask other people—family, friends—to help you remember if you can't.) Janet, for instance, was able to build a network, become a CEO of her own company, and raise two children—and she's done well to reidentify with those accomplishments. She might also find it helpful to recall the strengths that have gotten her through past losses. Overall it's inspiring that she's trying to make something good come of her trials by persevering with 85 Broads and speaking to young women. The support of others is important in easing a person's pain and helping her begin to imagine new options.
We Hear You!