Tomorrow, I will have been officially divorced for five years.
That’s half the time I was married.
If you want to get really technical, the official date of separation was March 1, 2009, which means I have been single for seven years. The majority of my 30s – supposedly my prime – have been spent without a partner.
Inadvertently, I scheduled a bikini wax on my divorce-versary.
Recently, I received an email from a reader who builds pianos in Norway. She shared pieces of her story and how my blog had challenged her thinking. She encouraged me to keep writing (thank you!) and asked me a question.
What do you think…even if you’re doing great, even if life is really good and even if you know it (you are way ahead of me in the process there) …even if you’ve healed and you truly know that…will the pain hang around maybe for the rest of your life? Not constant, but apparently still there and ready to pop up? Do you experience that? How do you deal with that? Could you blog about that?
Besides input about divorce as a whole, it seems everyone has an opinion about the divorce process: how long it will take to heal; how long you should wait to start dating again; to what degree you’re fucked up (and over!); what you should and shouldn’t be doing to get over it.
Perhaps the obvious answer is, it’s different for everyone. Divorce is not as clean, quick and relatively painless as a professional waxing strip. Why do we assume recovery will be? I believe every divorced person experiences the five stages of grief, not necessarily in linear fashion.
It simply takes time. But time doesn’t heal all wounds.
Divorce is like a death — perhaps worse because the other person is still alive! And to think that person who loved, accepted and married, then wounded, rejected, abandoned, abused, angered and/or betrayed you moves on and is happy…?!?!?
Some days I’m outraged by the injustice of it all. Other days I am so relieved to feel nothing but apathy for my ex-husband. Many days I completely forget any of it ever happened.
I think it’s safe to say if I weren’t writing and editing a book on divorce, it might just slip into the back of my mind as a mildly interesting fact about me. I don’t burst into tears over having to choose which marital status box to check anymore. I no longer use the “D” word as part of an introduction. I don’t feel judged or like an outcast; I don’t feel undateable. I’m still fairly annoyed by blissfully naïve and happily married couples (especially the ones who give each other back rubs in church), but I’m not threatened by them. For whatever reason, I have remained single. I think I’m okay with that. For now.
Most of all, I don’t feel like my marriage – or I – failed. I simply did the best I could, then moved forward.
A couple of years back, my therapist mentioned that certain wounds could only be healed in a relationship. I have had a few post-divorce relationships over the last five years. And, to some degree, I have felt like a complete disaster in all of them. Something inevitably happens to trigger my insecurities and fears and I get jumpy. I want to run away as fast as I can before I get hurt, realize he’s just not that into me, or – scariest thought of all – discover there’s another woman in the picture.
But when paired with the right kind of partner – one who is steadfast, kind, patient and unfazed by my version of crazy, I regularly experience – and affirm – the truth.
I am healing in relationship.
What about the lingering pain, threatening to well up at any moment?
Twenty years ago, my college roommate lost her younger brother in a freak accident in his woodshop class. On the anniversary of his death, their mother, Bonnie, posted a beautiful tribute. I was moved by her honesty and wisdom.
I admit, sometimes I need to be on the road; to feel the pain of grief; to mourn the loss of my precious Scott. I know that when I am there, on the road, when I allow myself to truly mourn, that is when the God of all Comfort brings peace to my soul. You see, time does not heal all wounds. It is what one does with the time that heals all wounds. Grief boxed up, stuffed down, ignored or denied, only festers and seeks a way out. It is what we do with our grief over time that heals.
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t experience grief over your loss from time to time. Like the chicken pox virus, it will probably remain dormant within you. But it doesn’t necessarily have to take over, nor will it be so visible. Acknowledge it with kindness. Don’t judge or ignore it. Experience it, even if it hurts like hell. Reach out to those who love and support you and ask for help. Stop pretending you’re okay when you’re not.
And in those moments of vulnerability and surrender, authentic growth and healing can take place.
I would never compare equally the death of a child to divorce, but they are both losses, nonetheless. What do we do with the loss of our spouse, identity, home, family, friends, pets, dreams, children, hope for children, etc.?
We fight, cry, pray, scream, grieve, despair, experience, run from, numb, run towards, stand still, spin, question, answer, learn, discover, laugh, try, try, and try again.
And the thing that keeps us going is the invisible thread of hope.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~ Romans 8:24-25