I sat on my bed crying, looking down at the diamond on my left hand. I had never seen a more beautiful ring. The perfect colour, the perfect size, the perfect engraving around the band. I loved this ring. I loved the man who gave it to me. And I loved our surprise proposal in our favourite coffee shop in one of our favourite little towns only two weeks before.
So why was I cuddled between blankets and pillows in my bedroom in the middle of the afternoon sobbing because soon this wouldn’t be my home anymore? This would never be my bedroom anymore. Why was I afraid? Why was I terrified the wedding date we had just set of March 28 (less than four months away) was a mistake? Why did I walk up the stairs to my bedroom with tears in my eyes after every evening lately? Why wasn’t I feeling happy?
I couldn’t picture my life with any other man.
I knew that I knew that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Randy was the man I wanted to love forever. He was faithful, constant, steady and kind. He was giving, caring, thoughtful and strong. I wasn’t afraid of him. I was afraid of marriage. And moving out of my parent’s home. And becoming a wife.
I was sad. Overwhelming, all consumingly sad. Three days before, we had sent our invitations to the printer (Yeah, I know, two weeks in – we had a tight timeline!) and I cried thinking about them. I told so many people our wedding date by now… I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t postpone our wedding. Most of all, I couldn’t tell Randy I was feeling these things. It would break my heart to have his heart think I was having doubts.
They weren’t doubts. They were… well, I don’t know.
I didn’t hide my emotions well. Every night for a week straight, I would greet Randy after work happily and by the end of our evening together, I would be in tears. Randy would sit with me and hold my hand and rub my back. He didn’t understand why I was sad. And I didn’t either. With a ring on my finger (a ring I knew was coming for two months and was excited about!) suddenly, life started moving at a rapid pace. I wanted it all to slow down. And most of all, I wanted to stop crying and stop being sad about dumb things. I was lucky to have Randy in my life.
Try as I might, I couldn’t simply “stop being sad.” Many late nights in bed were spent on my iPhone googling: crying during engagement, scared during engagement, anxious about engagement, postponing engagement, scared of marriage, overwhelmed engagement and by some miracle, I stumbled upon two books that changed my life. And I don’t say that lightly.
- Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life by Allison Moir-Smith
- The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings about Getting Hitched by Sheryl Paul.
I immediately purchased both books. While I waited for their arrival, I read forums and blogs and reviews. Any information I could find, I soaked it up. I was desperate to be known and understood. When the books arrived, I took a day off work and sat in my parent’s living room. I read them both cover to cover. I realized other brides out there had experienced the very same emotions that were ripping me apart.
Turns out, Experiencing grief and sadness while you are engaged is normal.
Wait, what? Let me say that again.
Experiencing grief and sadness while you are engaged is normal.
In Emotionally Engaged, Allison opened up my eyes to the life changes taking place. Before the diamond ring was on my finger, I was a daughter. First and foremost, a daughter – my parents were my “covering.” Now, I was committed to becoming a wife – I was leaving the only identity I had known to become somebody new. I would be Jamie the wife, a role I knew nothing about. It wasn’t a fear of house-cleaning, cooking, bill-paying, taking-out-the-garbage, sharing a bed or a closet. I could handle those changes.
It went deeper than that.
I was losing a part of myself.
And it was terrifying.
Sheryl in The Conscious Bride writes about engagement as a “rite of passage.” In North American culture, we have very few traditions to signify a rite of passage and generally speaking, we are uncomfortable with grief. (To contrast our culture, think about Spanish Quinceaneras, Jewish Bat Mitzvahs or Bar Mitzvahs, Native traditions of learning from tribe elders – all marking “rites of passage.”) Add the two together and we live in a culture afraid to feel sadness and left to transition through life stages primarily on our own.
Emotionally Engaged gave me the key to understanding my emotions. I opened up to my fiancé Randy and was able to communicate why I was sad and what I was grieving. He listened patiently, tried his hardest to understand and we had some great conversations about the transition we were headed towards. I can’t say that’s the last time I cried during our engagement – and it wasn’t all “magically better!” – but Emotionally Engaged gave me framework to work through my grief.
After a couple weeks of processing privately and aloud with Randy as well as journaling my thoughts, I started to open up to my bridesmaids. (Four of whom were newlywed in the last two years.) Guess what?
Three out of four had experienced these same emotions.
It may have been two weeks before her wedding day, in tears seriously considering calling it all off. It may have been on the honeymoon, anxious and emotional about the wedding being over. It may have been in the first few newlywed months, as the reality of “the rest of my life” sets in.
But almost every newlywed woman I have asked has felt sadness during the course of her engagement.
A tension between “the happiest time in my life” and “everything is changing and I want it to stop.”
By Christmastime, one month after our proposal, I was well on my way to understanding my emotions. Randy and I learning how to navigate the new tensions and pressures of our relationship. We had open lines of communication – a trust that allowed us to share happy thoughts and terrified thoughts. I adored our engagement parties, our Christmas season and the rest of our wedding planning months. We worked on wedding projects together, laughed at my Pinterest fails and thought about March 28, 2014.
The week of our wedding, I was as calm as could be. I was happy, joyful, at peace! I felt sadness thinking about my last week in my parent’s home but I smiled through my tears, knowing this was normal. I packed for the honeymoon and prepped all the individual decor boxes for each guest table with anticipation in my heart. The night before our wedding, after the rehearsal dinner, Randy kissed me and dropped me off at my parent’s home. I hugged him tight. Upstairs, I found my mom getting ready for bed in her bathroom and I hugged her with tears in my eyes.
“I’m excited for tomorrow. But a little bit sad.”
“I know,” she said. “Me too. It’s going to be a great day.”
I didn’t experience one bit of sadness or fear or anxiousness on my wedding day.
I would re-live our wedding week, day and honeymoon, again and again and again.
I truly owe it all to the knowledge both Emotionally Engaged and The Conscious Bride shared with me. If you’re struggling with these emotions or know someone who is – I cannot recommend Allison Moir-Smith’s Emotionally Engaged enough to you.
[Edited to add] P.S. Honoured to have this post featured on Huffington Post, February 2019. You can read right here.