Moving beyond grief in cottage country

While I moved beyond grief many years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever come back here again. My daughter would ask and ask but as far as I was concerned, it was off the cards. I’d spent enough time looking back. If she wanted to revisit this gem of a place we last visited just after he left me, he could bring her himself. But then I finally caved.

As I write this, I am overlooking Bella Lake from the screened-in porch of a cozy cabin nestled on a picture-perfect hilltop just a few hours north of Toronto. Anna and I arrived at Billie Bear yesterday afternoon. It’s a magical place. My ex-husband and I discovered this community of housekeeping cottages while we were on our honeymoon and we swore we’d return when we became parents.

Moving beyond grief in a cabin in the woods

Moving beyond grief in a cabin in the woods

We first came here when Anna was six months old, then again when she was 18-months-old. And then when she was two, three, four, five, and six. Each year, we reconnected with friends from the previous year. They, like us, had embraced Billie Bear as an annual family tradition. Our children became fast friends with each other, and began to eagerly await the following summer so that they could pick up where they had left off, running from beach to tuck shop and weaving in and out of one another’s cabins with a sense of freedom that we would never have granted them back home in the city.

I associated Billie Bear with bliss – until the pain of divorce took over.

In 2008, my husband – a man so demonstrative with his love and affection that everyone who knew us thought I was the luckiest woman alive – told me that he wasn’t happy. That he didn’t feel like himself when he was with me. And that he had felt that way since we’d met 10 years prior. It was the start of the end. Within a couple of whirlwind weeks, I learned via our phone bill about his interest in another woman. I suggested we get counseling. He said he’d attend but that it wouldn’t change his mind about anything. He was done. So really, what was I to do? I asked him to leave.

Sadly, all of this unfolded (far more dramatically than implied above) just three weeks before we were due to return to Billie Bear. My heart was crushed. My family was broken. I couldn’t see beyond grief. We had dropped the biggest bomb we could have dropped on our darling seven-year-old (mummy and daddy are getting unmarried and we promise it’s not your fault), and I didn’t have the heart to take away her long-awaited Billie Bear holiday on top of everything. And so we came, just the two of us. It was one of the saddest weeks of my life.

Somehow I found the strength to put on a brave face for Anna while we were here, but the minute she ran out of the cabin to join her friends (which she did often, thank heavens), I would break down and cry. The other parents, while genuinely empathetic, left me to myself, no doubt feeling this was the right thing to do under the circumstances. Yes, we’d chat on the beach, but once I was back in my cabin there were none of the casual porch drop-ins or spontaneous barbecue invites typical of previous years. While Anna whooped it up with her seven-year-old Billie Bear bestie, I sat there looking back, wondering what it was all for, and crying into my gin and tonic.

I couldn’t imagine life beyond grief

For years following that awful last visit, I responded to Anna’s ‘let’s go back to Billie Bear’ pleas with, “why not ask your dad if he’ll take you?” But then, last summer, we bumped into the family that used to stayed in the cabin next to ours. They were still making their annual trips, they told me. Billie Bear was still working its magic charm. We’d never been particularly close to this family, but they were lovely people, and nostalgia got the better of me. A few days later, I put down a deposit on a cabin for the following summer. That summer is now upon us, and here we are.

I am no longer grieving the demise of my previous marriage. On the contrary, today marks the sixth anniversary of my second very happy marriage. I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t still nursing a small wound from the first. As I began writing this post, a few tears escaped me. While I have no regrets – I am exactly where and with whom I am meant to be – some wounds run deep.

I will forever wish I could have given my daughter the stability of a loving mom and dad raising her, together. That I was unable to do so still hurts my heart. But I have long moved beyond grief. Life is beautiful, and I am living it without regret. Just 24-hours into our Billie Bear visit, we’ve partially assembled a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, munched on ‘noisy’ crackers that my husband can’t tolerate us eating at home, played endless games of cards, and cozied up together to watch a movie.

Everything has a purpose

Bringing Anna into my life was the primary purpose of my first marriage. This moment right now – this moment in which I sit here typing while she sits inside the cabin, headphones on, humming sweet melodies as she patiently awaits our next puzzle session – is exactly where I am meant to be.

Viv for today xo

Moving on is hard. One thing that helped me heal, though, was accountability. Here are my thoughts on the importance of owning your shit.

Oh, and if you like what you’ve just read, scroll up to the GET MY NEWSLETTER button and subscribe. I’ll deliver all future posts straight to your inbox.

2020-05-11T12:58:28-04:00July 16th, 2017|Categories: WELLBEING|34 Comments


  1. Priscilla Barton July 18, 2017 at 4:30 am - Reply

    aww i’m so sorry to read this though it seems it is for the better and you are happily remarried. at least you still get to visit this place and make new memories.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 18, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Thanks, Priscilla. Life is so much better now, and I am having the best time with my daughter.

  2. Melissa July 18, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

    This is a beautiful post — so honest and emotional. It is so important to focus on the present and future instead of the past. Thank you for sharing.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 18, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Yes, Melissa. Beyond learning from our experiences, there is no benefit to looking back.

  3. Kristie July 19, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

    I love to see people find purpose from their pain. I too, had a rough go at first. My oldest two kiddos, who are 7&8 now, were the best gifts from that relationship.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Can’t imagine life without her, Kristie. I’m sure you feel the same way about your gifts, regardless of what ‘they’ cost you emotionally.

  4. Katie B July 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing such a real and vulnerable post. Your daughter will look back at these memories with Mommy and absolutely cherish them when she is older. While the past will always be there, it makes us stronger in the decisions we make today. Take care!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Katie.

  5. Shell July 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Beautiful post… I relate to you on so many levels… my youngest has wanted to visit a place that holds sad memories for me due to his father but you are motivating me to plan a trip and build new memories…

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      We’re 5 days in. Just 2 to go and we have created so memories that are ours and ours alone – including mice in our cabin, snakes on our porch, and her first experience driving. Go for it!

  6. Addison Messer July 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    I can’t imagine what that experience must have been like, but you are definitely stronger now. I am so glad that you didn’t let a negative situation take away future memories at a place you love.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      Thank you. Yes, the memories we are building this week are pretty precious. Loving every moment of this trip.

  7. Elise Cohen Ho July 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    It is wonderful that you have made peace with the past. You have a bright future ahead of you.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      The past served its purpose. Now, onward and forward!

  8. ohmummymia July 19, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Hope it will be your last marriage and you will be happy now)

    • THE WORDY MOM July 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      Oh, I hope so too! Feeling pretty optimistic : )

  9. Sahar July 19, 2017 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful post. I’ve read it a few times and each time it felt like the first time–super powerful and so warm. Thank you!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Oh my … thank you so very much for your kind words.

  10. Yes, I'm That Mom July 19, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    This post is so BEAUTIFUL and RAW. I definitely shed a tear as I am semi going through the first scenario. Love this post and thank you for sharing!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

      I am so sorry that you are going through this. Wishing you strength and sending you love and light x

  11. Clair July 20, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

    I am a daughter of divorced/remarried parents. My mom says the exact same as what you mentioned above….as a child in amidst all of it, I view my mother as someone even more beautiful and stronger for how she picked up and kept pushing forward with love and compassion for my siblings and myself. I see the same in you ❤️

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Oh Clair … you just made me cry. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. And your mom is a lucky woman x

  12. Tara July 20, 2017 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I’m glad a place you love is no longer ruined for you. God bless you and your daughter!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 5:41 pm - Reply

      Thank you Tara. It is beautiful here, and I feel really privileged that I’m the one who gets to create new memories in this beautiful place.

  13. Vaishnavi July 20, 2017 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Beautiful post. Life moves on, the best you can do is to not regret what you couldn’t have controlled! Hugs

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 5:41 pm - Reply

      Agreed, and hugs received with thanks.

  14. Tayler Morrell July 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I sorry that happened, but I’m glad that everyting is working out now.

    • THE WORDY MOM July 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm - Reply

      It’s all part of the journey, Tayler! But thank you : )

  15. Betty July 20, 2017 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Aw this made me so sad but I am glad that you are staying strong. It’s wonderful to hear that you did end up taking your daughter and had a good time with just the two of you!

    • THE WORDY MOM July 21, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

      It’s been wonderful. Home tomorrow morning. Will miss this beautiful place, but not the bugs, mice or snakes!

  16. Jenn July 20, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Oh I’m so sorry you had to revisit bad memories. However difficult it is, I hope it gets better. You make new joyful memories there with your daughter !

    • THE WORDY MOM July 21, 2017 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Thanks, Jenn. Today’s the last day of our vacation and going forward I will remember it as the place I got to have a love-in with my teenage girl! All good.

  17. Nadine Cathleen July 21, 2017 at 11:03 am - Reply

    What a wonderful post as it shows your strength and at the same time helps others that are going through something similar :) You will make new amazing memories :)

    • THE WORDY MOM July 21, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

      Thanks, Nadine. We have a lot of special memories to take away from this trip, for sure.

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