1. be in shock
2. feel horrible, sad, angry, hurt, bewildered, confused, scared, desperate, and sick.
3. enjoy the extra space in the bed, but wonder why when you and he bought sheets together a couple of weeks ago he bothered to pick a color, instead of letting you pick both colors, since in a couple of weeks they'd just be your sheets anyways.
4. do the dishes and sweeping and other chores with insane frequency. this insures that a) you never have a giant insurmountable dish or laundry pile to tackle while you are in complete pain and b) that you always have something to do with yourself and c) that you don't totally sink into a dirty, dog hair, dish-piled, linty, puking, unfunctional (yeah, i just coined that word) depression. at least your depression will be clean and free of literal debris.
5. you will find that even with your chore vigilance, there is much too much time in the day. so...clean your house of all that stuff you've been putting off getting rid of. put his stuff into garbage bags or boxes and stack it some where out of the way. i like to do this part in little bursts and stages by just doing a box from here or there (if like me you have a lot of stuff in boxes that you were going to go through someday--the day is here!). this is a good thing to do for a couple of reasons...if you have suddenly become a single mom of three, including a toddler, you are going to have to go to school funded by lots and lots of grants and loans or you are going to have to get a shit-paying, time-sucking job very soon (or both! ugh). when this happens, you will not have time for several years to deal with all that stuff and you will feel it weighing on you and looming above you and it will be hard to feel excited by your new life because your home will be heavy with all the shit you have to do. so do some of it now, while you have all this time that you can't sit or be still for long without crying and getting yourself all screwed up with no decent result. it feels good, is satisfying, is functional, is practical, and you and your home will feel better for it. and, most importantly, it uses up the time.
6. feel overwhelming hope and gratitude for the situation because if he would do this to you, he is a fucked up dick anyways and once all this horrible sadness and pain clears and heals, you will be a better person. your house will be a happier, more peace-filled place, and that will be good for you and your kids. the goodness part comes in the future and right now you have to operate on a cocktail of logic and faith. it makes sense even though you might feel like begging him to stay.
7. beg him to stay. when it doesn't work, reaffirm that you were right about that gratitude and hope. of course you were, you are always right!
8. hug your kids a lot and let them cry. tell them it's okay to feel anything they feel and you are there for them to talk to, hug, cuddle, be angry with, play games, watch movies....whatever they need. also let them know that they can call grampa, gramma, auntie, and friends to talk. let them know that they can ask you anything and everyone who loves them is there for them if they need anything, even if they want to just talk to someone about you, because it's okay if they are angry with you, or feel you did something to cause the situation. feel proud when your eleven year old says she doesn't blame anybody, but just feels so sad.
9. while you are having these conversations with your kids who have just been abandoned by the man they love and who promised to take care of them forever...you might feel a rage and hatred toward him that makes you want to beat his face to a bloody pulp and then stab it. let the feeling happen, and then let go of it because it just takes energy away from you if you hold onto it. the feeling will probably return the next day when you are having the horrible crying pain with your kids again. repeat process of letting the feeling happen, and then letting it go.
10. you will have moments of rage and resentment because you are being left to do the job of two parents all by yourself. you will think about how unfair and shitty it is of him, because your life is set up the way it is because you both agreed for it to be that way. deal with it. don't cling to the rage and resentment. what he's done is unfair and wrong and also stupid--but so what? don't let his idiocy ruin you.
11. remind yourself to love yourself and to take care of yourself. it's fine to be shitty to your body for a few days--you may be inclined to drink a lot of wine, beer, or whiskey and smoke too much. okay. do that for two or three days, and then get back to normal. get on your bike. take the kids to the park. if you can afford it, get a massage. if you can afford it, get a massage every week or month for the rest of your life. if you can't afford it, save your pennies until you can and in the meantime accept all the hugs people will offer you when they find out your husband left. feel them. don't let go too fast. these hugs are like plugging yourself into something that makes you light up, they restore energy.
12. you will probably be unable to sleep properly. if this happens longer than a couple of days go to the doctor's office and tell him your husband just left you and your three kids and you can't sleep and you need something to help you sleep so that you can function and cope. hopefully he is a nice and kind doctor who will probe you for how you're doing and give you tissues and say it's fine to cry. he will give you a short-term prescription for ambien. take them the way you are supposed to and be on the lookout for side effects. do this even if you normally don't take pills--this is what modern medicine is for. this is an acute trauma.
13. if you haven't done it yet, call a therapist of some kind and set up an appointment. guiding people through trauma is their job, they have tools and they know things you don't. it will be easier for you to do all the *stuff* you have to do to set up your new life if you utilize this resource. you will be less likely to slip into a horrible depression that you don't see. it will help you stay on track.
14. vacillate between emotions and feelings and desires. but don't tell them all to your husband. they will change a hundred times a day.
15. try to remember that he is wounded and broken. that a sane and healthy person would not do this. try to have compassion for him and know that he is doing the best he can with what he has. do not try to take care of him, but try to have compassion quietly in your heart. this is for you. resentment and anger that are not allowed to pass through us, but rather encouraged to stay, will poison you. you didn't ask for this or want it, but it's happening and you will be okay some day--some day will come sooner if you acknowledge the angry feelings and let them go.
16. you will have friends reveal themselves to you. people that you know on a casual but regular basis will quickly learn of what's happened. allow them to commiserate with you. talk to them about it. you didn't do anything wrong and have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. they might offer you help, hugs, childcare, tea, etc. you might feel like not taking them up on it because of this or that reason you make up in your head. don't let yourself do that. thank them for revealing themselves to you in this way, and for offering help. call them and let them help you. you are building friendships that will strengthen your new life. you will be able to reciprocate some day. accept everything you can, even if you have to force yourself. you need the help, there is no getting around that. so accept their offers with grace (and yes, you can have grace while you are blubbering and wearing the same shirt for three days and smell like cigarettes and pain). thank god and the universe for the people in your life who support you, and thank the people.
17. just keep going. you will get through it.
18. if you have kids, make sure to facilitate good times for them if they want them. there is no reason for them to wallow in complete misery. doing this will also help you to not wallow. good times are good times. rent movies and plant seeds and take care of your pets and your house together.
19. figure out what you're going to do to pay your mortgage, electricity, gas, phone, internet, dog food, etc bills. yes, it's overwhelming and if you think too long on it, you might start crying. cry. then go back to figuring it out. if at all possible figure out a way to survive that involves doing something that you love. your life is transforming now, you will be creating something different than what you had. this is an opportunity to create something you will love and enjoy. if you have been a homemaker for your entire adult life, go back to school if at all possible--you will be able to meet new people, learn new skills, and be better prepared to take care of a family and all the attached responsibilities than if you just panic and run out and get a job any job. ideally you will be creating a life where you don't just survive, but also thrive.
20. try to eat something.