Mighty Life List
Jun 26 2012

Divorce and Grief

The revenants, Amy Friend

Image: The revenants, by Amy Friend © 2002-2012.

I was a wife, and now I’m not.

The product is so much cleaner than the process. And in the beginning, this is how I thought of divorce. Discrete, an event. So I waited for it to be over.

There were mundane moments of suffering — my thumb would feel for my missing wedding band, I’d overfill the teakettle, or be half-asleep and bewildered to find only a single toothbrush near the sink. Every time, the surprise of it was clarifying, a series of breathtaking realizations. I moved the tissue box from room to room.

Beyond these details there was a progression of endings — moving out, quitting therapy, getting a lawyer, signing papers — all of it mounted toward the final goal. But each milestone passed without much change in my feelings. The finish line I imagined was in motion. Slowly I came to understand that divorce wasn’t so much an event as a death.

The distinction is crucial, for two reasons. First, because we have fewer expectations of when we’ll recover after a death. We understand that feeling normal again is more a function of time than effort. Second, because we have better tools for coping with mourning than with divorce. There’s a protocol of care, we forgive outbursts, moments of insanity. And if we’ve lost someone, perhaps we go easier on ourselves.

I did not go easy on myself. The grief eclipsed me, and embarrassed me. And thinking of it as an event only increased my suffering. When each phase found me still mourning, I worried that I would never be myself again.

Pain and confusion aside, just the paperwork seemed insurmountable. It was easy for me to get caught up in logistics and mistake them for the journey. Once you’ve taken actions A-Z, you are no longer married, and you get your life back.

Except, as with a death, once everything normalizes it doesn’t resemble your life anymore. The plans you’d made, the things you’d thought settled, are blown apart.

Now I’m no longer a wife, but the afterimage of that identity remains. Sometimes my habits still bend to accommodate the preferences of a person who isn’t there. I don’t know how long it will last, only that I don’t need a finite date anymore.

Divorce has changed me, matured me, perhaps more than marriage did. Now I know that our loneliest moments are some of the most universal.

If you’re going through a divorce, try not to worry so much about when everything will end, just know that it will. You’ll get through it, and there’s so much possibility waiting on the other side.

For those of you who have gone through it, when did you start feeling better? Did your thinking about the divorce process change over time? Advice appreciated in comments.

105 Responses to “Divorce and Grief”

  • karla Says:

    Hi Maggie. I was saddened to hear that you were in the process of a divorce, knowing that it was such a hard process for me. Divorce was hard, the hardest thing that I have ever done, and I have had a lot of other hard things in this life.

    As for ‘when did I start feeling better?’, it took a few years. I was not happy that it took a few years. I wanted to be OVER IT. But, time takes time. And, let’s see here, a ‘few years’ was really 5ish. I was married at 28 and divorced at 31 and didn’t feel better until my mid-30s. It just took time. My ex had moved on and re-married and that was hard, too.

    Has my thinking about the divorce process changed over time? Yes, it did change over time. I now come to see that, while it was the hardest thing I ever did, it was also the best. Undoing and unraveling and then rebuilding made me into a more stable and happier me.

    I am recently engaged and I bring this new me into this relationship and I vow not to do many of the things that I did before. I had to grow up a little more and I have been changed by the divorce into a more adult person. I can see now that we both had our faults but the only person that I have any chance of changing is me.

    Blessings to you as you move through this. People told me to have fun, enjoy life, find things that you like to do, and your life will be full with that and the new friends and if a new man is to come, he will come. I was very impatient and wanted to re-marry, but it took a while for me to find my fiancee (and for me to become ready). He is not perfect, nor am I, but we try, and trying is a lot better than what was happening in my first marriage. Love to you!

  • dgm Says:

    Beautiful post. I haven’t been through a divorce–only deaths of loved ones–but the way you speak of grief is spot-on. It sounds cliche, but death (of beloveds, of relationships) is a process, and the fact that we feel sad about loss long after the inciting event does not necessarily mean we are unable to move on or stuck in our grief. It can mean simply that the process is not yet complete. I told myself this during a year when I lost my father and my brother-in-law, and it helped me not feel embarrassed or like something was wrong with me during those times when I would suddenly be whacked over the head with a giant Grief Club and find myself crying breathlessly (sometimes in public). I would breathe and say to myself, “okay, okay, I know what this is. I got this.” And soon it would pass.

    Once you have had your foundation shaken, you can never put everything back like it once was because the walls of the room have fallen down and some of the furniture has been broken. I think the people that get frustrated and stuck are the ones who keep trying to live in that old place.

  • Jeannie Says:

    I went through this ten years ago. A good friend — experienced in divorce — told me I’d feel better in two years. I was horrified. I wanted to feel better *now*! But it did. It took at least that long. It was six months before I came out of the numb fog and another 6 before I would stop and cry at random things.

    The thing is that, for me, divorce was a good thing. Well no. Not a good thing. It was something that made me sit back and really think about who I am and what I want, and ten years later I can honestly say that I like the person I’ve become much more than the person I was. And because of that, I’m so much happier. When did that change happen? I’m not sure. I know it started about two to three years after though.

    I’m not glad I went through it. If there were other ways I could have learned what I did, I sure would have chosen those. But having had to, I had to choose the way forward that led here.

    I read once that divorce is the most traumatic thing you can go through, second only to death of immediate family. It’s true, it’s a death of many things, and you do need time to mourn.

  • Shelly Says:

    I have to start with the caveat that for all intents and purposes, my first marriage ended very terribly and very suddenly one day (although it still took over a year for me to become legally divorced). Your comparison between divorce and death resonates with me, although perhaps not in the same way that you meant it to, because the best way to describe the way I felt about my divorce is to say that I feel like I died the day my first marriage ended. Over time, I felt like I’d been reborn and the 6 years since my divorce have unequivocally the best years of my life. Slowly I learned to make my own happiness a priority, I fell in love and married someone much more worthy of my love, and over all I’ve just been incredibly lucky to have stumbled into a post divorce life more wonderful than I ever could have imagined for myself.
    My thoughts about the divorce have changed. I don’t think about my ex or really remember him all that well anymore, perhaps because I feel so disassociated from the person who was married to him. What remains for me is a sadness that I had to go through so much pain when that marriage ended. It is tempered by gratefulness that I got through it and that my new life has been so wonderful, as well as a sense of security that comes with knowing how strong I truly am. The process for me is that the pain over the trauma gradually overwhelmed the feelings I had for my ex, and now gratefulness is slowly overwhelming that pain.
    I think that I’ve stopped thinking about the divorce in terms of “getting over it.” My father says things like “you’ll never get over it and you just have to accept that” but I just don’t agree. After about 3 years, I felt a real sense of having moved past it, despite having lingering sadness. And even prior to those 3 years, I definitely felt like I was on a fairly linear path to healing. There are parts of me that I hope time will heal a bit more fully- I never thought that 6 years out I’d still be having nightmares about my ex. I still cannot stand to say his name. It’s only in the past year or so that I talk (sparingly) about memories that involve him somewhat closely- like how I related to his mom, or the story of how my parents adopted a dog that his apartment wouldn’t let him keep.
    I never thought that being a divorcee would be such a big part of my self identity. I don’t feel bad or ashamed or anything like that- it’s just that if I had to describe myself, I’d say that I am someone who endures. (Perhaps this is also why I enjoy long distance running- ha!)
    As for advice- the thing that helped me the most was seeing a therapist for a number of years. More broadly, solicit all the professional help you need. I also saw both a psychiatrist and a nutritionist for issues that arose during the process.
    Be gentle with yourself and don’t try to pressure yourself or set a date to feel better. Alternately, don’t let life pass you by just because you don’t feel fully recovered. I honestly met my now husband very early in my grieving process and I’m glad that I decided that he was too special to let slip away just because meeting him didn’t fall at particular place on my timeline.
    Sorry for writing a comment book, but I do hope that you feel better soon. In my experience it’s like the divorce slipped from the center of my view to the periphery of my vision. I don’t know if it will ever fade away entirely, but it’s at a fairly comfortable place in my sphere of existence. I hope you find at least as much peace.

    “As for advice- the thing that helped me the most was seeing a therapist for a number of years. More broadly, solicit all the professional help you need. I also saw both a psychiatrist and a nutritionist for issues that arose during the process.
    Be gentle with yourself and don’t try to pressure yourself or set a date to feel better.” Yes to this. -M

  • Michelle Says:

    Hi Maggie. First time writer, long time reader.
    I feel like divorce, for me, changed over time, much like how marriage changes. I definitely feel more mature, and definitely humbler post-divorce. I no longer offer “advice” about dating, marriage, relationships. I instead just listen, and empathize. When pressed, I ask what they feel in their heart and in their gut. And then listen some more.
    I was actually talking to my ex-husband about this on Sunday, as we sat in the park watching our respective spouses wrangle our respective children. We contemplated how really fucking hard (and this is a proper use of an expletative) it was to work through it all, but that we both knew we had no choice. That it would be hard, but that it was worth it to work through this impossibly hard divorce and post-divorce life and be friends after. We cared about each other too much to do anything else.
    I can’t speak to the loneliness, as I quite like being alone. Nor can I speak to “feeling better”, because I don’t believe I ever did feel better. I felt…different.
    When my current husband and I went to our first parenting class, they told us to be prepared that things will never “go back to normal”. Instead, recognize each change as “the new normal”. I think divorce is like that, I think marriage is like that too.
    Like I said, I don’t give advice anymore to friends going through divorce. However, the one thing I always recommend is Marvin Gaye’s album, “Here, My Dear”. It’s the album he made as a part of the settlement agreement with his wife when they divorced. All of the emotions you feel – anger, sadness, betrayal, hope, inspiration, and the goofy, almost pubescent realization that you’re in love again – are all there in song form. Ignore the fact that Gaye was equally if not more so coupable in the dramatics that ended his marriage – that album covers the process of divorce in a nutshell. I wore my CD out in the first year of my separation and divorce.
    Good luck Miss Maggie, you’re awesome.

    Thanks for the album recommendation. Music is so useful in these situations. -M

  • Meg (MIMI+MEG) Says:

    I have no advice considering I’ve never gone through it. Only the experience of my parents divorce after 28 years, during the year of my wedding.

    The great thing is (and hopefully something for you to look forward to) is that they both found amazing people and both got re-married within just a few years of their divorce. Both of my parents are now so so happy, and I couldn’t be happier for them. I know you will get there too.

    I know it’s not the same, but my husband was in the Air Force and we didn’t live together for a year. Totally sucked, but I appreciate him so much more now that I get to see him everyday. I’m sure you’ll take great lessons from your first marriage into your next relationships.

    Hang in there. And I think it’s totally normal to freak out, cry, be sad, be out of it, etc., considering I’m happily married and do those things. :)

    YOU ROCK Maggie!

  • Amy Says:

    I got married 8 years ago today, and divorced 6.5 years ago. I sobbed my way through yoga last night because sometimes, it still hurts so acutely.

    I think that one thing that was difficult for me, as a generally Successful Person, was that it felt like a failure. I felt like I’d failed someone else, and I felt like I failed myself. Being a divorcee didn’t jive with the notion I had of who I was.

    And you’re right on that it’s like a death. It’s the death of the life you shared, but it’s also the death of the hopes, dreams and plans you’d made as a couple or family. I remember thinking that I’d never do some of the things we’d planned (travel, have a baby in a certain year, etc.) and some of that was hard, but once I felt a little better, I was able to make some of those dreams happen for myself, albeit differently.

    I remember that about three months after we’d split (and my ex has chosen to never speak to me again, btw) I came out of the gym, and picked up my phone to call him and tell him what I wanted on my salad for dinner that night, as was our Wednesday night custom. The forgetting and simultaneous remembering hurt so badly, and I remember sobbing to a friend that “there would never be someone who’d go get my salad and know what I didn’t want on it again.” And sometimes, it felt like no one would ever know me that intimately again.

    At first, I set tiny goals for myself each day: wash sheets, make cookies, don’t lay around and cry. And after a few months, that became unnecessary. There is no deadline of when you will feel better, and sometimes, even years later, the pain does kind of take you by surprise. But you WILL feel better. You will adjust to a new normal, you will learn surprising things about yourself and your strength and you will recover. Divorce made me more sensitive to myself and to others.

    If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s don’t punish yourself. I’ve spent far too long punishing myself for what I could or could not have done, not just in my mind but in the way I’ve treated myself. I regret that time period, because the truth is, I don’t know if anything I did or said could’ve saved the marriage. I am still learning to be nice to myself.

  • Stephanie Says:

    Hi Maggie,

    I don’t really have an experience with divorce but I just wanted to say how profound and articulate your words captured grief and loss. I can’t imagine this was easy to write or share but I thank you.

    Stephanie

  • MikeT Says:

    A few weeks in, I had a moment between breathing in and breathing out where I felt okay. And then it was gone. But I held on to the memory of that moment. I took care of my body, avoided intoxicants as best I could, and fixed little things around the house. And I kept my eyes open for those moments, which were few and far between, but powerful.

    Somewhere between a year and two years in, a friend looked me in the eye and said, “Shouldn’t you be getting over it now?”

    I was pissed, but he was kind of right to ask. Gradually, I allowed myself to be okay. I didn’t want those ten years to have been a waste of my time and my heart, and I had to find a way to let myself be happy without diminishing the value of what I’d lost. It’s a tricky needle to thread.

    And then there’s the crusty wisdom of my best friend’s dad, who said, “You won’t be worth a shit for at least a year, but it gets better. It just takes longer than you think it will.”

    “Shouldn’t you be getting over it now?” Oof. Gotta love the no-bullshit friends.. -M

  • C Says:

    I don’t have the perspective of losing a spouse through divorce, but I do have the perspective of losing one to a sudden death. I think it’s completely callous to say “divorce wasn’t so much an event as a death.” Suddenly, permanently losing the person you love the most, imagining the pain he felt as he died and you having no chance to save him or say goodbye is a lot different than making an adult decision to build separate lives and deciding that you will be happier without the marriage. Yes, they are both painful, and I don’t think the pain of one makes the other less valid, but I know that when people say they can sympathize with me because they got divorced I want to kick them in the shins. I’m sorry you’re in this pain, but you had a chance to fight for your love, and your son has a father in his life, and you and your ex’ each have the chance to live. My husband does not have that chance, and my daughter does not have that father. Please don’t compare divorce to death. It’s sad, it’s grief, but it’s not a death.

    I’m sorry for your loss, and I don’t mean to diminish it with the comparison. I have also lost close loved ones, though not my spouse, and my intent was to convey that the mourning process is similar. It was helpful for me to connect the two events because it gave me a greater emotional understanding of why I was reacting to my divorce the way I was. Still, I understand why this hit a nerve, and I’m surprised to hear that people have tried to relate their divorces directly to your loss. That was not at all my intent. Again, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. -M

  • Jess Says:

    I am a first time commenter that is in the midst of ending a 10 year relationship. Every single day I have a different emotion. Some days I wake up and think it is for the best. Some days I can’t stop crying and thinking what I could have done differently. I know in the long run it will be better but it is going to take me a while to get there. One positive thing that I decided to do was up and buy myself a house. I am in the process of looking and after that, I will be adopting another dog. I might not have the life I imagined with the husband and kids right now but damn it, I am having some kind of life!

  • Amber, theAmber Show Says:

    Oh my god. I’ve been thinking about this like an event. And I’ve been so embarrassed by how much it hurts.

    I’m currently in bed, where I kind of haven’t moved from for two days, and I am in a sea of crumpled tissues. My hair is on end, and I haven’t showered since… dunno. This post at this moment was a comfort. Thank you.

    Oh honey, I’m so sorry. -M

  • Cassie Boorn Says:

    I am so glad you wrote this. xo

  • Liz Says:

    Amazing post. So very on point.

    It started to get easier for me when I started to let go of being angry (at whatever – him, the lawyers, the house, the stuff, the situation in general). Once I realized I could let the anger go it became harder and harder to get mad and that’s where I found peace.

    To this day it’s very difficult for me to get angry. Annoyed, irritated, hell yes. But real anger? It’s such a senseless emotion for me that once I made the choice to let it go the rest of my emotional responses became so much more in tune with reality.

  • Liz Says:

    In response to the death comment, I don’t think of it as a sudden death, and not even of a person specifically, but the death of the relationship and the life we once had. More like a drawn out battle with cancer than a sudden heart attack.

    That’s not to minimize anyone else’s experience with an actual death of a loved one.

  • Emily Says:

    It has been four years since my divorce, and I feel a greater sense of self than I ever had. I realize how much strength it took to leave and rebuild, and I am so proud of my younger self for getting through it with as much grace as possible (not always that much).

    It was a roller-coaster and I second-guessed myself for the first year. By the second year, I was just angry. The third, a little better. And now — really good. I look back at the last few years and realize how rich the experience was — coming to really know myself, leaning on my friends, exploring new interests. It was awful and it was beautiful. It was necessary.

    I have an amazing therapist and an amazing yoga practice now. Both have helped immensely.

    It will get better. It takes a lot longer thank you think. Honor the journey. So many people support you!

  • Mandy Says:

    Oh, thank you for such a wonderful post. I have never been through a divorce, but my boyfriend and I just broke up on Sunday and I’m reeling. I know it’s not even on the same ballpark as a divorce, but even in an amicable break up, there is so much pain and loss. It really helps to read about how others muddle through it. Thank you, thank you.

  • Marie Says:

    Divorce is a funny thing, like death, we all know something about it, but until you are in the thick of it, you might not know the depth of the feelings and reactions you will have.
    It’s 4 years out of a divorce driven out of mental illness and safety issues. Even with something that is so clear and so needed, it’s still hard. It has become easier, but like a death, you grieve at different times, often unexpectedly. I have learned that there are certain holidays that are triggers or places too. But (!) overtime, the sadness, while still there to some degree, has softened. I am more patient with myself as I muddle through. My kiddo (who was 2 when Dad left) has more questions now, and while I would like to have it on a shelf we don’t have to deal with, he is making sense of it. I get to practice patience with him as well.
    There will be events that you may choose not to go to — like a family camping trip, b/c you are the only single parent there — and all that coupling is rough in the wilderness somehow. But try to find a tribe of single parents you can hang with, so you can still go and do those things and enjoy! Some women who are insecure in their marriages or see your freedom as something they wish they had may be mean to you — I didn’t know this would happen, and it was painful and unexpected. Even though they were supportive and helpful when things were bad, once you are free, the friendship shifts. And patience is needed there too. Some friends will step up in ways you didn’t even know or imagine, but others might not. And that’s ok. You will find new and different supports. I agree with folks that it takes a couple years…which isn’t easy to hear, but there is a time when it will be on the upswing.

  • tea_austen Says:

    I remember reading a line somewhere that has stayed with me:
    Each divorce is the death of a civilization.” It’s not the same as a person dying (as mentioned above), but it is the loss of all that you had worked towards building, all that you had imagined. And sometimes it is the right and necessary thing.

    Sending you all best thoughts and wishes as you move through it. It’s a tremendously hard and brave thing to have done. xox

    Great quote. -M

  • Nicole Freire Says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this.

    I’ve been separated from my husband for a year now, and completing the divorce paperwork has seemed an impossible task. I carry it around with me in my bag, every single day, promising myself that I’ll work on it, but always fall apart just looking at it.

    I do have to say though, my children, my parents, my friends, coworkers, everybody tells me how much happier I seem, how much lighter my spirit is. And they’re correct. I am happier, my spirit is lighter. I made the right decision. Not the most popular decision, this is true, but the one that was right for me.

    But it’s been hard to share the feelings of inadequacy when it comes down to – what other people assume is the easiest part – the damn paperwork.

    So thank you for telling us about your struggles. It’s hard to not be a wife anymore, even if you were the one who ended the marriage (and I was).

    Your strength and spirit have really kept me going sometimes, I check in with your blog daily. If you can manage to share your life, the good parts and the difficult parts, then it gives me hope.

    What keeps me going is the undeniable sensation of living my life honestly, of being true to myself. This has helped me to be a better mother, a better friend, a better friend to MYSELF.

    And just writing this has clarified something for me. Why am I struggling to complete a hard task alone? Why don’t I ask a friend or family member to help me? I would do that for a friend, and so I need to remember (and ask!) a friend to help me through this final task on the divorce checklist.

    Please continue to share with us as you move through these stages. You’re helping more people than you could ever guess.

    Keep on rocking, Maggie, you are amazing.

    Ha! Yes, ask a friend to help you. Getting through the red tape was a huge weight off. Good luck with everything, and thanks for the kind words. -M

  • Susanna Says:

    My divorce was final in March of last year. I thought that being divorce meant that it was over. I was so caught up in the struggle over keeping my house and separating from a person who used to make me happy, but now caused me pain and grief, that I felt no pain. I used to joke that I would throw myself a “divorce party” the day the divorce was final. And the date came and went, and the relief I was supposed to feel was eclipsed by the most overwhelming grief I have ever felt. I am in a relationship with a wonderful man, and I would cry to him every night at the dinner table. I felt like I died, my dreams died, my best friend (my ex-husband) died. I spent 10 years with this man, and having him extirpated from my life (after he continued to harass me over who keeps what furniture after the divorce was final, I asked him to never get in touch with me again) I felt that those 10 years of my life were taken away from me. My 20s were gone and I was crying to get them back. What good are memories is you cannot reminisce them with someone else? By October, I was a wreck: I would visit old neighborhoods filled with memories of my time with my first husband and cry my eyes out. One afternoon, while going back to my office, I thought I saw my ex-husband walking towards me – smiling and looking like the 25 year old I used to adore – and in a nanosecond, this image vanished and I realized that it was an old man walking towards me. This is what made me realize that I needed therapy ASAP. I found a wonderful therapist and within 3 months, I was able to work through that grief.
    Graduating from therapy gave me the closure and finality that I thought the legal separation would give me. I still have a tiny pocket of pain in my heart, but I am moving on. I asked my boyfriend to marry me before my last therapy session and I let go of the fear that just because marriage #1 ended poorly, #2 would would be the same.
    Like you said, I grew much more through the divorce than I did in my marriage. I felt pain like I had never felt before. While I don’t wish to relieve that ever again, I am glad I such a maturing experience.

  • Puanani Says:

    One day, it just didn’t hurt as much as the day before. There are days now, many years later that I mourn for what I “thought” was going to happen, like the children’s milestones. In the end, we all seem much happier, fifteen years later…Xoxo.

  • Sheryl Says:

    I’ve never been through a divorce myself, but my parents got divorced when I was a tween and my father in law passed away recently. Emotionally, they are surprisingly similar things. There’s still a complete sense of loss, and when life starts returning to “normal” there’s a realization that normal is now completely different from what it was before.

  • Emily Says:

    I’m two years out from the time I started the divorce proceedings, which drew out forever and made the whole process even more painful. Just this past February the final papers were signed, and the day I received them was the day I finally felt free.

    But when did I feel better? That was about 6 months after the decision to end the marriage. I had finally found the person I knew I could be. My attempts to prove I could make my seven year marriage work (at the cost of my own safety and happiness) were making me far more miserable than I had ever known till I finally separated myself from him.

    Now I see that divorce was a necessary heartbreak for me to find myself. Divorce is not the ideal solution, but now I realize people who stick out a marriage “for the kids” are sacrificing so much of their own happiness. No one should be stuck in that situation.

    My frequent thought during the divorce process was “I can’t believe how much joy there is in my life now.” Of course there were terrible heartbreaking moments of sadness, but I hope anyone going through a divorce can find a way to see the joy their new life will have.

  • Jill Says:

    My husband has been divorced from his ex for a little over a year, and the separation was for two years before that. His ex-wife is engaged to be married next spring, and my husband and I were married last summer. Together, the four of us work to raise “our” (we all refer to him as such) four year old son.

    It didn’t start out as the simple and straightforward partnership of sorts that it is now. It started with a lot of anger and resentment (I joined right in on behalf of my now-husband…I’m sure that was totally helpful) but time and distance from the main event have given everyone perspective and lessened the pain. Their situation was perhaps different (I know no details about your situation, so I’m just guessing) as both parties were incredibly unhappy, and are much happier now with different partners. I don’t think either one of them ever had much regret that the divorce took place. It would be lovely to have full custody of the four year old who we all adore, but he’s got four parents who are crazy about him, and we have managed to create a stable, two-household environment in which to raise him.

    I’m sorry. This is very me-me-me, and I meant to offer words of advice.

    It gets better. It has to get better. My dad is a huge fan of quoting “this too shall pass” at me whenever anything awful happens, to the point where I’d like to smack him and screech, “What if it DOESN’T?” Except that it always does.
    Lean on your friends. Don’t hide from the grief. Trust that it won’t always feel like this. And with regards to the person who suggested you not refer to it as a death – it’s your website, and your divorce – you can call it any damn thing you want.

  • Liss Says:

    C, I understand you are feeling upset about the comparison from death to divorce but there is no winner in the pain Olympics. I’ve lived through BOTH OF THESE EVENTS and I tell you, divorce indeed can be as painful as divorce. Don’t presume you know for other people. I didn’t get to “fight for my love,” because he up and left me for a younger woman while I was pregnant. He left us, he never looked back, and he shattered my entire life at the time. It indeed was a huge loss to me at that time, and I had to GRIEVE just as much if not more than when I had a loss through death. It’s not better or worse when your partner leaves because they do not want to be with you than when they can’t be with you. No one is a winner in any of these situations, no one is a worse loser. It all is awful.

    Don’t make assumptions, please.

  • Julie Anne Says:

    A piece of advice I always give to people going through a divorce (and there are so many of us) is that the grief will ebb and flow. You will be fine for days, weeks, maybe even a whole month and suddenly a moment will just…wash over you. And you will feel very alone. But it passes. And the spaces grow larger. Another element of this type of grief is the fervent wishing that things could have been different. I don’t mourn my marriage – it was awful – but I do mourn my greatest dream, a lovely marriage. Even now, 2 or 3 years out, I desperately wish things could have been different for everyone. Ultimately, know in your secret heart that everything is going to be okay. It may not look like you thought it would (or like you wanted it to) but it will be okay.

    The ebb and flow is a perfect way to put it. Succinct. -M

  • Jordan Says:

    Holy crap Maggie. You are such a good writer.

  • Cindy Says:

    This is why I think death is easier. I said easier, not easy. At all. This is a week for leaky eyes for me. I’ve never been more sad and angry at one person before in my entire life as I am with Chris. Some days are better then others.

    You’ll find your own way to heal. We all do in the eventually. You are strong and amazing and you can do this. At least, I believe you can.

  • Justine Says:

    Even though I got married young and to a person I had no business being married to, and even though it was only for 3 years, it took me a long time to stop acknowledging things like what might have been my anniversary or how many years we would have been married. Twelve years since the divorce and it’s finally something I can barely remember. It’s more the relationship than the divorce that caused me pain. The divorce gave me the possibility to start anew.

  • Laura Says:

    Thank you for this. He left suddenly two and a half years ago. I was lost. In some ways I am still lost even though that marriage only lasted six years. I loved him with all I had and I never imagined life without him. I’d been through a previous divorce and it wasn’t anything like this. I still haven’t filed divorce papers after 30 months even though I know it’s over, he’s moved on, we haven’t spoken in over a year. I still reach to buy his favorite foods or to pick up a shirt I know he’s like. It’s crazy, it’s done, I’m not in denial. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the point of filing the papers and cutting all the ties.

    It has gotten better and my friends were patient with me. Six months ago one of them lost patience and told me to stop bringing him into every conversation. That was an eye-opener. I hadn’t realized how close I was still holding him. Now I watch what I say and I really try not to bring him into the present.

    It will get better. It has to get better. It’s almost been worse than a death because I know he’s still out there living, but not in my sphere of reference.

    Every separation, or divorce, or death is different. Be kind to your friends feeling the loss.

  • nakedjen Says:

    Today would have been my 12th wedding anniversary. I had no idea it would have been my 12th wedding anniversary until I just looked at the calendar to sort out the “how long” business in my response to this lovely post.

    I was married for eight years. I’ve been divorced for four. I can share that it took nearly four years for me to feel better and that when my marriage imploded (and it really imploded) a sweet and kind friend shared that it would take me five years to truly feel like myself again.

    I also did one very big wrong thing that I will share because I don’t recommend it to anyone and that was I abandoned my own community and moved far away thinking that was going to help. While it feels like a great idea at the moment of implosion, it is the worst idea ever and landing in a strange land, alone, with no net makes everything that much more difficult.

    I know that isn’t your story, but I’m just sharing it because I know many beautiful people read here and the end of a marriage can make us do irrational things that feel and look quite rational at the time.

    Breathing and standing still and taking the best care of you that you can are all the things I highly recommend. Time will heal and there’s really no special road map for divorce, unfortunately. Because, as we know, there’s no special road map for marriages, either. We’re all the unique hearts that met and came together and said yes to one another and when it no longer can be, well, then the unraveling and the unspinning and the paths we take to finding the happily unmarried me is just ours alone for the taking.

    I wanted to move so badly after the separation. I know this is different for everyone, but having to stay paid huge dividends in growth for me. -M

  • MD Says:

    There’s an old adage that states that it takes a person half the length of the marriage to fully emotionally recover from the dissolution of said marriage.

    I’m not sure whether that’s true. I’m also not sure whether one ever gets over the pain of a failed marriage.

    I only know that before I started feeling better, I had to feel a lot of pain. My advice is to embrace the pain and don’t try to gloss over your feelings too quickly. Recovering from divorce is a long process with many bumps and hurdles. Sometimes you’ll start feeling better, only to realize that it was a temporary reprieve and you still have a long way to go.

    That being said, it took me about two years to “get over” my divorce. Those two years were fraught with more introspection and maturation than at any other point in my life. I learned an incredible amount about myself, my ex-spouse, and our relationship during that time.

    One day, you’ll wake up and realize that things are better. When that time comes differs for everyone but hopefully everyone gets there.

    Best of luck to you.

  • Triona Says:

    I was divorced three years ago, after seven years of marriage. You’ve gotten a lot of thoughtful advice and comments here, but here’s what I would add: I’m now remarried to a wonderful man and have the life I always wished I had with my first husband. He wasn’t a horrible guy, he just wasn’t the guy for me–and if I hadn’t gone through the seven years of not-quite-right, I know I wouldn’t be able to appreciate what I have now.

    Even though the divorce was one of the most painful things I ever had to go through (I think calling it a death is spot-on because that’s how it feels!), I wouldn’t change the way things worked out.

  • Val Says:

    To resonate some of the comments, yes – it does take several years to feel better. And yes, I love the person I have become after divorcing. I, too, think it helped me grow up and become the person I was meant to be.

    The thing that I didn’t realize is that I have had to continue to work on my relationship with my ex-husband, because we have a daughter. And so, unlike death, the thing/person grieved hasn’t gone away entirely. And while it’s rewarding because it means Nina benefits, it still can be difficult. We know all of the right/wrong buttons to push. And it has been a lesson in how some things will never change. And maintaining that relationship with my ex has even cemented even further that we were not a good match.

    However, sometimes I am still hit with grief and it is unpredictable in its appearance.

  • Kimberly Says:

    I was divorced almost 6 years ago after 9 years of marriage. I’m getting married next week (whoa!) and there is still the occasional moment where a scent or a snippet of a song hits me like an unexpected medicine ball. It was about a year for me before I stopped wishing I could stay in bed forever. But understand that my marriage was on life support for 2 years before I pulled the plug.

    I will always refer to my divorce as the death of a part of my life — a death of the person I used to be.

    Congratulations on your new marriage and the fresh start. -M

  • Carla Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have friends, happily married many years, who sometimes behave like I should be happy it’s over; now I can get on with my life once more. Only I can’t.

    I’m on my 2nd divorce. I don’t even like admitting to it; for now my 2nd husband and I are only separated, but I know where this is going. He moved out (his choice, not mine) six months go and after all this time without him, I’m okay. Except I’m not.

    I’ve been half a couple since I was 17. I haven’t been single for six months since then. I don’t know what life alone is like, and it’s very bewildering, and at times the loneliness is like standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon. No way up, and no way out.

    I’ve learned to pursue the things I like, not the things WE liked. I took up running, and I’m considering classes, though I’m not sure for what. I’ve always wanted to learn guitar and sign language, and who knows? Maybe I’ll meet someone there. But every time I think about meeting someone new, I feel guilty, like I should really spend MORE time alone because otherwise, I won’t get to know myself and what I want.

    Except I think I do know what I want: to find love again. For now I’d just be happy with a new friend to hang out with, do things with. Someone to make me laugh, and not feel so alone. It doesn’t need to be permanent, and you can bet the next time I walk down an aisle, it’ll be at my son’s wedding. I don’t have a lot of faith in the opposite sex anymore, but really, it should be me I’m unhappy with. I know I played a role in the breakup, and I’m working to learn how not to do it again.

    When does everything stop looking like a whirlwind? I know the answer is “eventually”, but *when*? :)

    It’s only been six months, girl. You don’t have to make any decisions or take any action right now. Let yourself take a nap. -M

  • Doyce Says:

    There was a point where, going through the divorce with a (very) young child involved, I and my ex-wife looked at each other and said:

    “What we need to acknowledge is that we won’t be married, but we ARE in a long-term relationship, because of Kaylee. That’s inevitable, unavoidable, and ultimately good for HER, so we need to acknowledge that and embrace it. If we expect to file the divorce papers and never have to talk to each other, we’re going to be angry all the time, because that’s not going to happen any time in the next 20 years.”

    So we did that. It was very hard. Then it was hard. Then it was hard some of the time. Now it’s kind of hard, some days.

    Most of the time, it’s pretty good. We’re all going to Brave tonight (“as a family” as my daughter likes to say).

    Amen to that. Treating each other with respect as parents is so crucial to your kids’ health. It speaks well of both of you that you’re putting that first. -M

  • netkahuna Says:

    I’m a child of divorced parents and it definitely marked my life growing up. In the end, it made me be very careful about who I married and thus I didn’t marry until much later in life. On the plus side, it was a huge relief when my parents did finally divorce. It was better for them to be happily separated than miserably together.

  • Adrienne Says:

    Gradually, slowly, I healed over the first year, and then it began to speed up. After the first year, I was still healing, still hurting, but the balance had shifted in favor of contentment over pain. By the time we’d been apart for two years, I felt like myself again.

    He moved out in 1997, so it’s been a very long time now, but I remember so well how at first I felt like I could never quite get my feet under me. I was disoriented and on edge and out-of-sorts. Occasionally, I would discover that I felt OK, and then it would happen again, and then more often, and eventually it made sense that my towels were the only ones hanging in the bathroom and I had the whole closet to myself.

  • Evani Says:

    Wonderfully written Maggie. I can feel the pain in your posts and it really makes me reach out to you and wish I could give you a hug. While I know nothing or marriage or divorce, I’m enlightened by your posts and incredibly thankful for you sharing your journey. Reading is and always will be a pleasure (not reading your pain, but your story obvi).

    Evani

    Thanks, Evani. -M

  • M Says:

    During the process of getting divorced, I read a comment (on a wedding website, no less) that referred to divorce as “the death of a dream.” And that struck me as completely true—what I was mourning, more than the actual husband I was leaving, was all of the hopes and dreams and plans I had for our life together. That was the hard part, coming up with new dreams. Maybe this is where your Life List will come in handy—a ready made space for coming up with and pursuing new dreams. (Plus, you seem to be really good at checking things off!)

    Also, at one point in my new place, about 2 months after I left him, I cooked. He’d always shamed and bearated me in the kitchen, so I hated cooking, but I needed to eat, so I turned up the music, fired up the stove, and danced around while throwing things in the pan. And it was delicious. It felt like such a victory, like I was discovering who I could be without him, and as it turned out, I liked that person very much. I hung onto the memory of that dinner every time things were hard, and now, two years later, I’m a pretty good cook. You will be too.

    I love this story. One of the bright spots of all this has been discovering new things about myself, and letting myself try things that didn’t interest me before. -M

  • Jess Says:

    I think there are certain ideas of ourselves, past identities, that we mourn. (We mourn our youthful selves, for example. Some people never get over it.) Divorce strikes me as the kind of thing where you mourn your former self even if you were the one who killed her. Even if you couldn’t exist if she still did. We can mistake this greif for greif about the relationship or the husband, and we grieve for those things as well, but losing the identity of ‘wife’ is also like losing an old friend.

    Still, mourning is different from regret. One of my favorite writers is David Velleman. He has a paper called “Forget What Might Have Been.” There he writes,
    “We can perhaps envy the (versions of ourselves) for whom things might have gone differently, as we envy any other person. But we cannot think of them as our more fortunate selves, because they aren’t selves of ours in the relevant sense, and so we cannot regard what they have as something that we ourselves might have had.”
    Or in other words, “a future self of my past self is not a self of mine,” so regretting a you that might have been is weirdly like regretting that you were born who you are. Maybe that is comforting, to think about the future self of your past self that you are today as a person who was born into this divorce, you couldn’t have been otherwise because then you wouldn’t be you.

    I agree about the difference between mourning and regret. I think it would be much more difficult to overcome regret, which is perhaps why so many people report wishing they’d taken more risks on their deathbeds. -M

  • SAWK Says:

    Maggie – Thanks you so much for writing this. I am just in the middle of this murk and turmoil, and I thought I was the only one who understood how death-like a divorce is.
    Now I know I am not.
    Ohh, now I am c rying again.
    But still, thank you. We will be whole again eventually.
    - SAWK

    I’m so sorry. Sending good thoughts your way. -M

  • Kellee Says:

    Wow. When did I start feeling better? That is a question with so many answers. My divorce was a VERY long time coming, and so, in some ways, I felt better IMMEDIATELY. There was a certain relief that came from making a final decision; from being able to say, firmly, it’s time for you to go. But that relief, of course, was mixed with a number of other powerful feelings – most of them not the positive kind.

    At the same time, since we have a son together and I’m adamant that we be civil co-parents, sometimes I feel like I’m still in the thick of it. For parents, the divorce ends the marriage, but it doesn’t end the relationship. And, woo boy, those co-parenting waters can be tricky to navigate sometimes.

    But, if I had to boil it down, it took me about a year to start feeling better. I distinctly remember one spring day almost exactly a year after my husband moved out. Nothing exceptional was happening. I was sitting on the couch watching my son play contentedly on the floor with his matchbox cars. I looked out the window and saw the sun shining and the buds coming out on the trees. A hummingbird flitted its zigzag pattern across my front porch. After nine months of Seattle gray it was, rather suddenly, spring. It was a painfully obvious metaphor, which is maybe why I was sufficiently knocked out of my divorce stupor to notice it. If those daffodil bulbs had the strength and courage to push though a winter’s worth of cold, dark, muddy earth to find the sun, then so could I. THAT was the moment I started feeling better, and it was all uphill after that.

  • Annie Says:

    I “started” feeling better after my divorce when I really began to believe that I deserved a better and healthier way for me to live my life. My marriage counselor advised me that it would take nearly five years for me to “get over” my divorce. It has not been five years. But, unfortunately, it did take about two. Two solid years of grieving this person I was madly in love with. Grieving the loss of what I wanted so badly in my future, my best friend, a marriage to one person – I know I did everything I possibly could, at that time, to make my marriage work. Would I do things differently now? You bet. I would have believed in myself and believed that I was worth someone upholding what I believe is a covenant of marriage – but, for so long I believed that he was everything and I was second-best. I do not regret the divorce, but I honest-to-God did not stop feeling better until I realized my self-esteem was in the garbage. I allowed myself to get there and I allowed my divorce to keep me there. I wanted my best friend back but what I didn’t realize is that HE was not my best friend and oh boy, that realization really hurt. My thinking about divorce has changed significantly. I guess I still believe in marriage, but I do believe profoundly that there are absolutely NO guarantees in life. There are no guarantees that anyone’s marriage will last or that someone will be faithful or that there is a perfect anything. However, I do believe that I can guarantee myself one thing. I can guarantee that I will never deny myself the opportunity again to believe that I am worth having a happy life, with or without someone. For me divorce was a huge wake-up call. I wish it did not take this because I loved my husband very much. But I do not think I would have been woken up unless this event occurred. “Hang in there” is so cliché’ but it’s so appropriate. Baby steps. Heel-toe. Every.Damn.Day. And sometimes, thankfully, there are amazing rainbows to see. Just never doubt just how much you ARE loved and the propensity for your heart to love again.

    This is a great point. I’m interested in how much self-esteem is tied up in the way we interact with one another, especially in our romantic relationships. -M

  • Valerie L Says:

    Maggie,

    I have a little different view of divorce, as I haven’t been divorced myself (or married for that matter) but I am going through my parents divorce right now. I’m 28 and they have been married for 33 years. You describe the grieving process much as I see my Dad going through it. My Mom on the other hand has a new relationship (she did just days after leaving) and hasn’t grieved at all. As the adult kid through all of this I have learned that my parents, especially my Dad, need their friends, their family, and people who aren’t directly effected by their tears to cry at. I know I won’t ever get over the loss of my parents marriage, but I do know day by day it will get better. And even if my parents move on, re-marry and live “happy” lives they won’t ever not grieve the loss of their marriage. I think feeling that way is what will allow you, me, my parents all to move on with life, and accept that this different normal is the new normal.

    I’m not so sure that this is advice, so much as I am just chiming in and saying “yeah, that.”

  • claire Says:

    Zero experience with divorce, lots with death. And with using process/procedure as a yardstick and then being surprised that life doesn’t go back to “normal” when tasks are successfully accomplished.

    Six years to the day since my father died, I’m still sometimes surprised at his absence. And, on big days (birthdays, father’s day) I’m irrationally pissed off that, after doing everything(funeral, estate, court case) in perfect little-type-A fashion, he didn’t come back. That there was and is no reward, no instant cooling balm of feeling better.

    The surprise comes less frequently now, but I suspect that my personal redefinition of normal will be an ongoing process.

    Finally, my mum also is fond of “This Too Shall Pass”, as well as “Stay calm, be brave, and wait for the signs.”

  • todd Says:

    nearly seven years since my 5 month marriage to someone mentally ill and mentally/physically abusive ended. though i am better now and do not hear her abuse in my head as much as i once did, it is still there and colors every moment of the world i perceive and my relationships. not that i’ve really had any relationships since.

  • Jan Says:

    I hate the expression “get over it” when applied to the death of anyone or anything that has been part of our own identity. As someone who’s been through divorce and deaths, don’t expect to “get over it”.

    To me that implies that there will come a time when it no longer matters in your life, and – again just for me – that never happened. What DOES happen, however, is that you assimilate what happened. It becomes part of who you are, part of your life story, part of what makes you you. It takes time but IT DOES HAPPEN and YOU WILL NOT ALWAYS FEEL THE HURT/CONFUSION/LOSS/BETRAYAL YOU’RE FEELING NOW.

    I was lucky. When my ex and I split up, by the time we got to the decision to divorce, we had been through most of the awful-est parts because we had beaten that dead horse practically into the ground, and the divorce was a relief to us both. This isn’t to say I did cry a lot, wonder what I’d done wrong, question EVERYthing, and miss him/us (the good times) terribly, but we had as close to an amicable divorce as it’s possible to have and I stayed close with his family and saw him – and later his second wife and their son – at family events, and it was, in the parlance, “all good”.

    It was probably also easier for me because I was the one who moved out. This was a conscious and much-discussed decision but it was pretty clear: He was in law school and we had scored a coveted apartment right across the street, and I couldn’t see why he should have to leave that, so I moved out. His mother never forgave me for what she saw as abandoning her son although he tried for years to make her see it as the favor it was. I’m sure that not living in “our” place anymore made it faster/easier for me to move forward than if I’d been surrounded by all those visual reminders and cues.

    It also helped that we had no children and that we came to our property division agreement on our own without the lawyers. I could have gotten alimony from him and was encouraged to seek it since he was going to be (and did become) an attorney, but all I wanted in the decree was to get my own name back, which I got. Not having a monthly reminder of what had happened helped a lot too.

    Sending you comfort and strength. You can do this. You ARE doing this. You’re MIGHTY and don’t you forget it.

  • Denise Says:

    A friend just sent this to me. My husband is divorcing me after 16 years of marriage, 18 together. There’s nobody else, there seems to be no clear reason he can point to, just “he’s done and wants to be happy.” I am devastated. It does help (at times) to know there’s someone out there who is feeling the same as me, but it doesn’t take the pain away. I know I will be ‘okay’ eventually, and like a death have to go through those first milestones without him. But unlike a death, he still lives on and goes about his life ‘being happy.’ A close friend’s husband died a little over a year ago and she said she would rather be in her situation than mine. How about that? Mind blowing to me, but she’s right. For now I can only hope to get through each day without crying (yeah, right) and look to a future I didn’t plan for. Thanks for putting my feelings into words, they do help.

  • Terry Says:

    It took a few years before I really started to feel like myself again. I married the guy I fell in love with when I was 17, and at 32, it was excruciating to let go of someone who’d been an important part of my life for nearly half of it. (And there was a massive amount of deceit that shook me to my core and made me question every belief I had, but that’s a long story.)

    But now, 15 years later, I can hardly remember that life, because the one I’ve built since then is so much better. SO much better.

    But don’t rush through the grieving. The only way out is through, and you’ll get there. There are times that will be terribly lonely and painful, but for me, I’ve never been so lonely as I was in that failing marriage.

    It gets better. I promise.

  • Jan Says:

    Oops – significant typo above. “…not to say I didN’T cry…”

    Blargh. Sorry.

  • Alycia N. Says:

    I was 2 days from my divorce being final. 12 years I fought against his mental illness. I could wait no longer for him to get help, because I had young children to protect. I still had all the hope in the world that he would change and get help. Even with the divorce two days away, I had time to hope.

    Then he committed suicide.

    This is the difference in divorce and death. The two have a similar grieving process, but are not the same.

    With divorce, even if painful, there is still interaction. The ability to hope the other changes for their benefit. Your timelines still continue.

    With death, everything stops. Period.

    Divorce is the loss of a shared dream. Death is the loss of a person.

    Please never confuse the two.

    “The two have a similar grieving process, but are not the same.” This is the point I was trying to make. I’m sorry for your loss. -M

  • Maria Says:

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had my widowhood compared to the painful loss of divorce. I’m at the point right now where I finally avoid responding, because I know better. Divorce, widowhood, parenthood and basic life experience have only one lesson: you have to live through it to know better.

    And I have. By the time I was 31, I was both a divorcee and a widow. I married early, dropping out of college because I wanted to be married instead. And for nearly 8 years, I tried the best I could to be a wife and mother. I failed miserably. In all fairness, my ex-husband admits to the same thing: we both failed. We both made dumb choices, and reacted immaturely to the immense commitment of marriage. It was no surprise to anyone how horribly our marriage ended. In retrospect, it’s hard for me to say that I would do it again, if only for the sake of our daughter. I would, but it’s definitely a nasty pill to swallow. I would definitely do a lot differently.

    And I got lucky. I actually found someone who was more on par with how I communicate emotionally, and otherwise. By that time, I knew what not to do, and thankfully, so did he. We were happy for a very short time, but we were definitely happy. We had another daughter, and I felt like our lives had years of companionship and love ahead of us, no matter what the circumstance. The distinction between both marriages was so stark, it was only too obvious why the first one didn’t work. Taking my half of the blame made my second marriage a better effort. It was something I had control over. I could choose not to make the same mistakes, or not react in the same incorrect ways, saving myself from ruining what was a perfect second chance. And it was good.

    Until, of course, my second husband dropped dead at the age of 27, from a class five brain aneurysm, and everything I thought I had control over ended sharply.

    I don’t expect you to understand what it has been like for me, in the years since he died. It was nothing like my divorce, which I thought was pretty painful. I once considered suicide because the man I was STILL married to was actively trying to get his fellow-soldier gf pregnant in order to help her get out of the military and avoid another tour down range. On the outside, I pretended I didn’t care, but it tore me up pretty badly. I never thought I’d ever love someone again, or be able to trust them enough to let them love me. I thought my life was over.

    I didn’t realize that the love I felt for my first husband was more based on how he made me feel about myself, as opposed to loving him unconditionally. It was easy to fall apart because of that. What kind of identity did I have, if I wasn’t married to him? Who was I? Regardless, I do know that I did love my first husband, even when we finally finalized the divorce. And it was difficult to say goodbye, even as I was emerging into a new relationship with my late husband. But I did say goodbye. And I can still talk to him, just about any time I need to. It’s important, especially in regards to the raising of our daughter. I still have his input, which I am grateful for. I cannot tell you how hard it has been to explain to my youngest why her only sister still has a daddy around. And having to assure my oldest that she has no reason to feel guilty for it has been just as hard. I don’t expect you to be able to identify with that.

    I will say this: I’m not going to invalidate your feelings regarding your divorce. Being rejected by someone you expected to love you unconditionally is painful. I know what that feels like. It’s definitely a game-changer.

    But I also know what it feels like to watch that one person you trusted with everything you had fall dead to the floor in front of you. You cannot compare the two. You may want to, because it does hurt, but you cannot. Not until it happens to you. And God, I hope it never does. These are words you never want to have to eat, trust me. There is no comparison. It is NOT the same.

    Maria, I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree that it’s not the same, and for the record, would never say to a widow that I understand what she’s going through because I’ve been divorced. That’s not what I’m trying to say here, but I still understand why any comparison would be upsetting. Again, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. -M

  • Jessica Says:

    Two years ago, in the midst of a divorce, my husband died.

    Having dealt with both the death of a marriage and the death of a husband: neither is something I’d wish on my worst enemy. But to the comments who feel that they’d rather have death than divorce – I pray you don’t get what you asked for.

    Though divorce is awful and long lasting and you will mourn the loss of the life that you had planned, it is NOT the same as mourning both your marriage and the ACTUAL life of a human.

    I wish only peace and love to the hearts of anyone trying to build a new normal after the loss of a marriage or spouse.

  • Homa Says:

    I remember in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” they call divorce a death and I looked at my recently divorced mom as she nodded in agreement. Beautiful writing, as always, and so kind of you to open your life to share the experience with others. Hang in there.

  • Elizabeth Says:

    Thank you for this post…

  • Lori from San Diego Says:

    I appreciate your perspective but never having been divorced I cannot relate. I was married 362 days to an amazing man who, undeservedly, died in my arms from metastatic cancer. To compare the two is unconscionable. My love had no choice, but I suspect those who go through divorce made some choices along the way.

    I don’t want to disrespect your pain in anyway. I just need you to know that I have been told by divorced friends (two went through divorce as my husband was dying) that it is similar but 27 months later I still beg to differ.

    I wish you well on your journey, but do me one favor and never let a widow hear you make this comparison – out of compassion and respect for those of us who know we’ll never have the chance to see/hear/touch our loved one again, even by chance at the mall with their new spouse/kids or across the stadium at a child’s sporting event. We will never have the chance to call them up and bitch at them for whatever they did. We will never have the chance to scream at them for the way their mother treats our kids. There are so many things we can’t do that a divorced person can do if they CHOOSE.

    Thank you for your time.

    Lori, I’m sorry for your loss. -M

  • Jen (The Trephine) Says:

    I was lucky (or she was unlucky) that I had a Divorce Buddy (TM) to pace me through everything as we made the same realizations and wandered through the same stages of grief. I still remember the conversation in which we realized that nothing was ever going to be the same again. We were never going to be the same again.

    It wasn’t a depressing realization, exactly. Bittersweet is probably the more appropriate word. Because there are things you don’t miss about your old self or your old life one tiny little bit, of course — hopelessly intertwined with the things you always will.

    Divorce is, in that way, exactly like every other irrevocable transformative experience. But somehow we expect not only to heal, but to revert.

    As for when I started feeling better … I would have said six months, but I was kidding myself. I don’t think a solid two years is unusual, and maybe, as in the past, I only THINK I’ve moved on, and will later discover some aspect of it that I have yet to let go of. But if you define “feeling better” as “grateful for my life as it is and uninterested in imagining things any other way,” which as you are already keenly aware is nowhere near the same as “good as new,” I think I passed that mark at about a year or so.

    I say it every single time someone talks about this, but: I am so glad we are talking about this.

    Speaking of which, thanks so much for your posts on this. They were helpful to me:

    http://www.thetrephine.com/category/divorce/

    -M

  • Kristy Says:

    I was married for 7 years, and have been divorced for 4. I agree with the comment above, that the grief and ache come in waves. During one of the worst waves, maybe a year after all was said and done, one of my best friends sat me down and, as she put it “dropped a truth bomb on my pretty little head.”

    She said that yes, it was going to hurt for what seemed like a very long time, but later it would seem like the blink of an eye. Time is relative. Moments as you experience them seem infinitely longer than moments as you remember them.

    Your first 20 are spent learning to tie your shoes. By the time you’re 30, those first 20 years seem like 20 minutes of playgrounds and first kisses and tree climbing and graduation. Over time, you make peace with the notion that you’re an adult, and find the happiness related to adulthood.

    I was married for 7 years. Looking back now, it whooshed past me in a blur of happiness and frustration and heartache, that seemed to last no more than a few months. And just recently, the phase of loneliness and mourning and letting go of dreams seems to be drawing to an end. I signed those papers in 2008 which in my head was just last week. Mercifully, it now seems like I rushed through the awful phase too. I’ve found the happiness and comfort of being smarter, and more fully informed of what I require and what I cannot tolerate in my life.

    I’m saying it hurts now. A lot. But there will come a moment when it doesn’t seem like it lasted so long, or hurt so bad.

  • Carole Says:

    No advice. No recriminations either.

    Just a gentle (virtual) hand squeeze to you and to anyone here who needs it.

  • Phoebe Says:

    Hi Maggie – thanks for this post. I laughed at your comment about the toothbrush – my mom, who worked for a dentist, gave me an electronic toothbrush for Christmas the year I got divorced. I sobbed when I saw the 4 spare toothbrush heads as they seemed to represent the husband I no longer had, and the kids we would never have! (plus, kind of sucky gift)

    I was married for 6 years, we were together for 10. For me there were a couple of things that made this harder than anything I had ever experienced. For me, it was so much harder than the untimely death of my father, because this marriage was something I chose. With death there is of course intense grief, anger, sadness. But with divorce I experienced all of those things magnified with the disappointment I felt in my ex for letting me down, disappointment in myself for picking him, and the disappointment I felt that I didn’t see the red flags that I dismissed because we were both so in love. We have no control over a loved one dying, but most of us have control over who we marry.

    It was also horrific to know that when I stood there and promised to love him for the rest of my life, I really did mean to keep that promise, and yet there I was walking away from the relationship. It is a terrible thing.

    I went through about a year of weight loss and self-destructive drinking and being a bit of a ho. I call that my Skeletor phase because I really did look awful and felt 10 times worse than I looked. After that, I got better at forgiving myself for whatever mistakes I made, and just generally cutting everybody some slack including myself. Also, one day I woke up and I wasn’t so angry anymore, and that made a huge difference.

    The songs that were in heavy rotation for me were “Fly” by the Dixie Chicks and “A Little Past Little Rock” – it has been 9 years since my divorce and both songs still make me tear up, but in a way that is more bittersweet than sad. Also re-read The Incredible Lightness of Being.

    It will get easier.

  • Sierra Says:

    Eloquently said! I was only married for 3.5 years and didn’t have children, so I honestly think that made it much easier as I was able to make a clean break from my ex husband and his family. He did however refuse to give me a divorce for 2 years. He even had moved in with another woman and she was pregnant before he finally signed the paperwork. I dated and had relationships after we separated, but they were with men I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere with….10 years younger, 15 years older…an ex boyfriend or 2. As much as I was ready to date, I was not ready for a serious commitment for quite some time. For me, It took about 6 years to feel like I could take a risk like that with love again. I am currently engaged but was a bit weirded out when what would have been my 10 year anniversary passed last month, and for a moment panicked that I would fail again. However, the reality is that I too matured greatly from the process of divorce and have met someone who I want to commit to. It took me a few years to feel like I was deserving to find love again though. My mom and sisters pointed out that for a while it was although I felt I had to serve relationship penitence (regardless of my not being religious) because I felt I failed at something so important to me. Whatever the cause, I eventually felt I could fall in love again. It’s a journey, but one that made me feel emotionally stronger and incredibly more sure of myself as a result. Thank you for bringing it up and writing about it, it’s wonderful to read how much we’re not alone!

  • Melanie Says:

    I think I finally was on the road to getting over it when my ex-husband and I stopped trying to work things out AFTER we were already divorced. Seriously.

    We split up at the end of 2005, got divorced in 2006, and went back and forth once or twice before finally ending things for good at the beginning of 2007.

    Physical distance helped a lot. Even when we were “broken up” we’d still hang out together sometimes, which definitely dragged things out a lot longer. If I could have a divorce do-over, I definitely would go for a clean break.

    I think one of the hardest things after you’ve been with someone for so long (10 years in my case) is trying to figure out who YOU are again. I had to actually figure out what I liked to do and where I liked to go. Before there had always been so much walking on eggshells and always thinking about how my ex would react/hate to do certain things, so I usually just avoided them.

    Dating sucked afterwards, that’s for sure. I mean, I hadn’t dated since I was 25. Dating at 35-37 is a little different. UGH. Sorry.

    My story does have a happy ending so far. After being convinced that I’d never meet anyone that I liked enough to hang out with for a few hours, let fall in love with and marry him, I met my husband in 2007, married him in 2009, and had a son with him in 2010 (at 40) :) So, cool things do happen sometimes.

    Oh…something else that I HATED after my ex and I split up. I hated feeling like I NEEDED to meet someone else. I didn’t actively go out and try to do that when I felt this way, but it was just this overwhelming feeling of awfulness that was horrible to experience. I felt like such a loser because I wanted to be and felt like I “should” be independent. Yet, when I was single again, that’s what I was constantly obsessed with. “I’m never going to meet anyone.” “I’m going to be a cat lady.” “I’m going to be a dead cat lady.” I felt like I should have been using that time to do awesome things for myself, but I was just wishing I’d meet someone and fall in love. That really made me feel pathetic.

    If I could hug you right now I would. xo

  • Sarah Says:

    When they say that laughter is the best medicine, it is really true. Don’t wait for the right moment or a good time. Just set a routine–get up a little early if you have to–but spend at least 15 minutes a day (the more the better but if you have kids, you may only get a few minutes at a time) watching something funny.

    If you can’t watch anything, at the VERY least do the laughing Buddha exercise. It takes 1 minute. Here is a sitting version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFdRtXAFv-8 Here are some standing ones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4WP1MfRoSA&feature=related

    I highly recommend watching the laughing baby videos on YouTube daily (unless you want a baby and can’t conceive, then go to Cute Overload and look at bunnies, and I’m sorry for mentioning babies).

    Shell out for Netflix and watch every stupid comedy they have.

    DO NOT WATCH NORA EPHRON MOVIES. NOT KIDDING.

    Watch John Hughes movies and thank god you are not in high school any more.

    I have never understood why people think getting divorced means you failed. It means your relationship ended. It’s not a personal failure that you fell out of love or your priorities changed or you grew apart before you noticed.

    Marriage is really f’in hard. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. Forgive yourself.

    Maggie, you’re absolutely right that divorce is like grieving for a death, which is why it’s so important to sleep and eat and make yourself go through the motions. It’s healthy to break down from time to time, but you have to practice holding it together till it starts happening by itself.

    My divorce story is boring, so I won’t tell it. I’ll just say that post-divorce, there were periods where we didn’t speak and periods when we talked fairly regularly. It’s 11 years now and we’re Facebook friends. He lives a few blocks from me and I’ve meet his new wife. I’ve seen the way he re-did the condo. And he’s apologized for a lot of stuff. We had a good debriefing, really. We don’t socialize, but we call to tell each other good news. And that’s enough.

  • Karen Says:

    Lots of good insights here and I don’t know if I can add anything brilliant, but I will join the chorus anyway!

    I’m on my third marriage, so I know this song far too well. I married far too young and divorced within a year. I felt sad and ashamed, but the relationship was too brief (for me anyway) to feel that much loss. My second relationship cratered 2 years into the marriage, ending 7 years after we started, and to this day it was the darkest two years of my entire life. I felt like I was losing everything, and in a way I was – just like so many people here, what I lost was my entire mental and emotional understanding of who I was and how my life worked. This is absolutely a death, if not a physical death – the loss of identity that comes with the dissolution of a major relationship is a death that is unlike any other.

    Not more or worse, obviously – I’m sorry that people misunderstood your comparison there, because it was certainly clear to me. There are all kinds of deaths, we all go through them all the time, and it’s an accurate term. The concept of death isn’t remotely limited to the physical death of a person. For most of us, that is the worst form of death, but not for everyone, so I will join the ranks of those respectfully suggesting that we each own our experience and not try to impose our definitions on other people.

    Again, many others have hit on this – the death is of identity and expectations, which cuts deeper than most of us ever expect. Very few people really understand how much their expectations of the future shape them, and the loss of the entire landscape of your life when your expectations explode is terrifying in a way that’s very hard to put into words. You literally don’t know who you are anymore – that’s how our identity as a partner (particularly a spouse) is woven through our being. That thread gets pulled and suddenly we’re just a collection of parts, falling to the ground, nothing connecting to anything else like it used to. Who knew all that was bound together by that thread, that word?

    There’s always more there than we think at first, and usually the new entity that arises when the parts grow back together is a better one, but she’s indisputably different, and it’s a process that never truly “finishes”. I agree with everyone else that a separation of this magnitude diminishes over time but may not ever go away entirely – I think it’s a “long tail” type of thing, and that seems to be consistent with all major loss. I’m not sure it’s fair to ever expect anyone to “be over” something in the sense that it never hurts ever again in any way, for the rest of your life.

    That being said, others have pointed out the real danger in nursing our wounds, too. I don’t get the impression (from this distant vantage point anyway) that you’re prone to that, but a lot of us do hang on to the hurt a long time past when it’s beneficial.

    I think of our emotions as the tides of our oceanic beings, but our culture doesn’t support the “ebbing and flowing” nature of feelings (as someone else commented). We’re supposed to “manage” our emotions and keep them linear and organized, they’re supposed to be good servants to our busy little minds, and they must above all never be inconvenient.

    I have never known this to work for anyone.

    Letting those surges come up, and then fall back again, in their own time and to their own height, as much as possible seems to be a key element to healing. Clearly there are times we can’t just let our emotions do as they will, but those times are rarer than most of us believe. It’s also important to keep enough of a “watcher mind” to insure that you’re not getting into genuinely dangerous territory – if the ebbs get deeper and deeper, or start to outnumber the flows by an increasing amount, it’s important to change course and get help. If you’re basically functional, though, make as much room in yourself as you can to just let those tides come and go. You don’t need to do anything in response, almost always, and not blocking them, judging them, or trying to escape from them lets the emotions actually move through less destructively.

    Beyond that, caring for ourselves in whatever positive ways we can is essential, but that’s so personal it’s hard to advise – each of us finds comfort and fortitude in such different things. The common elements of really understanding the magnitude of the loss and disorientation helps to give us permission to take as long as we need to take, and letting the emotions come up without fighting them, judging them, or needing to react to them is like emotional cleansing. Get feedback to make sure we’re not stuck in the hurt, comfort and tend to ourselves in whatever way works for us, and that’s about all any of us can do, I think.

    Well, one more thing – we can share our own stories if we’re able, so that we can share the pain and share the fact that it always does get better. I’ll quote one of my favorite writers, Spider Robinson, who based his life and writing on the belief that “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy increased.” May that always be true for all of us.

  • Laura in Milwaukee Says:

    With no experience of marriage or divorce but a fair amount of experience with blinding soul pain and loss, I can only offer you the phrase that simultaneously humbles, comforts and reminds me to treasure all The Good that I’ve got:

    This will not last forever.

    So much love to you, Maggie and to all of your readers, too.

  • Laura Says:

    Hi. I have done this twice. I have layed on the floor in a fetal position several times thinking life was over. I promise you it is not. You will come out on the other side I promise. You may even see that you are so much happier even if that seems absolutely unbelievable right now. I went to several divorce groups and got to hear others stories and interact with other people at different stages- and to see even a week makes a difference. I found this helpful just to listen. Stay busy. I am unashamed to say I called a crisis line just to talk once. My mark was four months in I noticed I was breathing without as much pain and often didn’t think about it for over an hour and laughing. It will be better this I promise. I can see from the comments many people are sending good thoughts. Don’t loose sight of this. My other suggestion is to talk about it because it helps. And again you are’t alone – Laura

  • Sarah Says:

    I have divorced my daughter’s father and I feel that our relationship transformed entirely from something deeply dysfunctional and painful, to something kind of sweet. This transformation is quite shocking, as there were terribly negative, painful moments early in the process and I’d never imagined we’d move past the pain and anger. You will always share your child, and hopefully enjoy him and his growth together. You’ll share the responsibility of rearing your son. Sooo…really your life tied together doesn’t end, it changes. And hopefully, for the better. I admire you, and I have confidence that you will discover the good in this for you, your boy, and your Ex. You are one neat lady. You can look at this with a lens that is all your own. I wish you well, my dear.

  • Jamie Says:

    divorce is brutal. i was embarrassed, ashamed, destroyed. i was completely alone in it, as i was the first person, besides my parents, that i knew to get divorced. then i started talking to people & realized there is a whole underground society of divorced people. people that are happy & productive & so glad to not be in that life anymore. i was amazed. still am. most of the coolest people i know have been divorced. i think that’s because we’ve been through the muck. we’ve dealt with the worst sides of ourselves. we know what we want & most importantly what we don’t want. it’s tough. it’s life changing, you’ll never be the same. you won’t even want to be. people always told me i’d be happier, to just wait & see. i didn’t believe it. i thought i’d always be a shell of what we had planned together. but they were right. 4 years later, i never imagined i could be so happy & have this life. when i think back i can’t recognize the person i was, i even feel sorry for her. still 4 years later i still deal with it. when you get an out of the blue email from the ex, seriously i didn’t think he had my email address. then when he’s trying to get me to help him annul our marriage with the catholic church so he can marry the woman he left me for, & i’m not catholic. just brutal. but he simply can’t affect me anymore. you’ll get through this soon. just go day by day, moment by moment. keep moving forward. it’s slow but it’s worth it.

  • Susan Says:

    I was at a layover in the Singapore airport when a silk screen caught my eye. The woman who worked at the shop told me that it symbolized ‘the most beautiful spring comes after the harshest of winters.’ I was on my way home and planning on finally leaving my husband. My body was falling apart, my nerves were shot and I just needed peace at last. I bought the artwork because I knew that I needed a visual reminder.

    It turns out, the shop keeper was correct. Those rough days turned to months and eventually our court date happened and it was over. The pain didn’t stop there, but there were some bright spots along the way (I highly recommend a divorce party!). Eventually around 2 years later, I felt human again.

    Nine years later, I’m happily remarried with two kiddos. Now I can say that there is nothing I would change about those dark days. It got me where I am today. I grew up. Sure there are still moments when something makes me flash back to the rough stuff, like an unexpected punch in the gut, but I quickly move on. I now know what really matters.

    It’s hard. Very, very hard, but I promise you that your beautiful spring awaits.

  • Leona Says:

    Maggie, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this. My mom and I have talked a lot about the issue some of these folks have raised about divorce not being like death. I ended a 7-year relationship with my fiance a couple of years before we met, and it took me about 3 1/2 years to really move on. My dad passed on just shy of my parents’ 30th anniversary, and my mom is still sorting through it 12 years later. Whenever I equate what I went through with my ex to her losing her partner, she cries and tells me that the difference is that daddy is never coming back, and that I could still talk to my ex if I wanted to. What I don’t say back to her, though, is that in a way that makes it easier. I lost daddy, too, and I know it was nothing personal. He didn’t choose to leave us, he didn’t make any bridge-burning remarks on his way out the door, and he isn’t vaguely in the periphery of her life dating someone else. When you separate from someone who has been your most constant companion for any number of years, and the separation is by choice… even if it’s mutual, it can hurt so deeply and feel so arbitrary not to talk to him every day and not to have to consider him when making choices.

    I understand that as time has passed and my life has moved on, my mom’s loss has been more profound than mine, but I definitely understand what you were trying to get across, and I think it makes sense.

    Much love to you,
    Leona

  • Terry Says:

    Just re-read my comment (#52) and feel like I should clarify – I was not 17 when I married him… I was 17 when I fell in love! I was 26 when we married, which made me think we knew who we were and what we really wanted in life.

    Oopsie! ;)

  • sugarleg Says:

    Dear Maggie,

    Thank you for sharing, reaching out and asking for support. I’m in the club too, and outside of having a lot of extra money to afford some travel, therapy, weekly body work, high-end dermatology and frivolous purchases of cashmere, time, patience and reaching out are the only cures.

    My split came at the end of a tumultuous relationship, but it was unexpected and brutal. The divorce itself took over two years. I see that so many of the commenters have listed stats (years married, divorce duration, years divorced, remarriages etc.), but those numbers don’t represent the depth of the pain, confusion, grief, shame, loneliness, apathy and sheer heartbreak of the process.

    Because my relationship was actually one that was totally abusive, and I did not figure that out until well after the divorce finalized, I am now grateful being not married to that person. However, you do not have to be in a marriage as tormented as mine to have the eureka moment that your divorce might someday be realized to be a positive part of your life.

    When did I start feeling better? When I recognized, in a very honest and quiet moment (because you know how many more you get of those now) that I knew he was not my person, but that to get to here I had to go through him. My perspective on the process has totally changed because of that; in fact, I think people who decide to split – AFTER going through the compulsory therapy and confrontations as mindfully as possible – are braver and better for it.

    I know this is not a popular opinion, but it’s the truth. And not my truth, it’s THE truth. If two adults who were once in love and made well-intentioned plans and had kids and made major purchases and had a life together only to realize that something is just not there for them together, then don’t stay in it and when you get out, do it as respectfully and fairly as possible. I don’t know how many people will say that out loud.

    Also, one of the comments was about a friend asking “when are you going to get over it” and I have to admit it made my skin crawl a little bit. As long as you are not harming yourself, sadness bordering on morbidity is to be expected as part of the grieving process of a divorce. I had a friend say this to me, and while I do know she was genuinely concerned, I also knew she felt uncomfortable with my shame and sadness. Tough love is not love.

    I am sending you tender love and will hold the knowledge for you that you will heal and be stronger on the other side. What good is a scar without a story to share about it.

    Much much love,
    Justine

  • jen Says:

    godamn you are brave
    a courageous blaze.
    I bet you don’t feel brave, just super sad by the sounds of it but from the outside you are doing better than alright.
    brave, even.
    many many many blessings
    on your blessings

  • amy Says:

    hi maggie. thank you for sharing – i know it is difficult and very sad. my divorce was my choice(which somehow people think makes it easier for me), however, for me it made things worse as i kept second-guessing my decision. once i accepted that i had no choice (and therefore had made the right decision for myself), it became a bit easier. mind you – this acceptance period took nearly a year and to fully “recover” took longer. but it will and does get easier and you will be ok. putting a time limit on this process is difficult because everyone’s experience and recovery is different. just try to be patient and be very good to yourself no matter what!!! i wish you luck and happiness for the future – it will be ok. xx amy

  • katie Says:

    The Kubler-Ross stages are grief are exactly what I went through:
    Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
    Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.
    Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.
    Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can we still be friends?..” when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.
    Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
    During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the ‘aftermath’. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.
    Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
    In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person’s situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.

    Personally the hardest part was the tension between getting to that stage of acceptance and mourning the loss of my dreams, especially for my kids. Which if anyone ever said (kindly, too), “how’s the kids?” made me want to crawl under a rock in shame. How could I do this to them? The pain and guilt is enormous.

    If anyone is going through a divorce due to a spouse’s addiction or mental illness please read “Co-Dependent No More” by Melody Beattie. I resisted for so long because even the title seemed cheesy to me – but my god, did it help.

    Good luck out there ladies. You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul. Lets give ourselves a chance to get this right. But let yourself cry to “Your gonna make me lonesome when you go” – Bob Dylan but especially (yes, really) the Miley Cyrus version – I know…but trust me.

  • Joanne Says:

    MAggie, you wrote a wonderful piece, but I am so impressed by your commenters. Each and every one has relayed their story in such a caring and responsive manner… You are all good writers.

    I have nothing to offer on divorce, but the piece touched me enough to come back today and read the comments, and Wow! You guys are good!

  • poptart Says:

    Technically, I’m not divorced. I was with my partner for 18 years. It got bad about 10 years into it and then came the point that I finally realized I had to get out. With that said, I left with practically nothing. A suitcase filled with the laundry sitting next to it. I had to go at that moment or I would never go.

    Initially, I found myself trying to make drastic changes to try to erase as much as I could as quick as I could. What I discovered is that it just takes time. I was told by different people that it takes 1/2 the time you were in the relationship to recover. I didn’t have 9 years to recover. I’m 5 year out of it and still find myself healing over some things. Most importantly, I found myself again and won’t give myself over and that has been the most valuable lesson.

    The other thing I had to tell myself was to be kind to myself. I couldn’t beat myself up over what had happened. I had a life, I lived a life and there were good times. I had to move on. I had a network of friends that were there by my side and helped me through it all. I found new love and I know that it is different and good and it isn’t my past.

    Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself.

  • Megs Says:

    Yesterday I was sitting several rows behind my ex brother-in-law. Dear God, he looks like his older brother (my ex) from behind. I have been separated for about five years and divorced for almost three. But the emotional pain of unexpectedly “seeing” my ex was so deep I felt it physically. Exactly like if one of my dead loved ones was sitting in front of me. Just out of reach. 99.9% of the time, I am good. I have moved on. But I have finally admitted to myself that no matter the passage of time, I still find myself having the occasional “ugly cry” over all that does and does not remain.

  • Lisa Says:

    I am now three years out from a tsunami divorce. I am just now realizing that healed may never happen. I am still healing, though much better than before. I am learning to find peace in the process and to forgive myself in the moments when the pain still bubbles to the surface. Moving through and from a divorce is a passageway, not a doorway. It will always be a part of you; the hard part is not letting it define you.

  • Michele Says:

    Whew….deep breathes…

    I am very sorry that you are going through this Maggie. I love what you wrote and I have been fascinated and enlightened by the responses left here by others that have gone through divorce. Having never been through a divorce, I am particularly noticing the recurrance of the “shame” theme, and, I must say, that comforts me because, while I don’t feel that, I understand it, and understand how that could color almost any response. The idea of Failing at marriage, even if you were the one who chose to leave, must be very hard to deal with. And the urge to create similarities with the grieving that happens with the death of a spouse has to be alluring, a way to help lessen that shame and guilt.

    I am a widow. My husband, who I loved dearly, died very suddenly, unexpectedly, and left my son (13 at the time) and myself to live afterwards. I almost didn’t live, but I had my son. I wish with all my heart that we were divorced. That my son still had his father. That I still had him in my life, even if I thought he was a complete bastard. That he was still alive…the things he has missed out on just take my breathe away. Life is amazing and he isn’t in it. It’s unfathomable to me, as has been the pain.

    Early on after his death I sat across a table from a woman who was going through a divorce. She looked me in the eye and said that she wished he was dead. that it would be so much easier. I lunged across the table and slapped her right across the face, she fell to the floor and I felt amazing.
    I know it was inappropriate, but it was real and it was true, and it was deserved.

    That was the first time someone said that to me. I had nowhere to put that comment, no way to deal with it. Subsequently I became involved in a grief group where I could talk about those feelings and laugh at the utter stupidity that comment evokes, but not then.

    Other people have said that since that time…they’ye gotten off easier.. I just calmly, firmly and vehemently explained to them that their children still had their father, that their ex was still alive and that a comment equating death with divorce was insanely stupid and that they should be ashamed of themselves. And to NEVER say that to another widow as long as they lived.

    I have come a long way with my grief. I have processed it, talked about it in therapy and with other widows. I fell into the hole of drinking too much and emerged from that. I now give back by volunteering in support groups and nodding sagely as newer widows express their disbelief at some of the ridiculous things people say. My son is hard…his pain is palpable still, it kills me, but he is moving ahead with his life and I wish that my husband could see us now.

    I wish, every moment of every day, that my husband were here with us, that he were ALIVE.

    I believe all the women who wrote here that you do need to grieve this divorce, the loss of your dreams and expectations, and that it will get better.

    I am telling you that, even moving ahead with life, which I am doing, the best I have is a new normal. I have found hope again and courage and strength to go on. But death ends a life, not a relationship, and the pain of the death of my husband will NEVER get better. I will NEVER see him again. My son will NEVER have his father.

    This is the difference. There is no hope of that ever getting better.

    That is not your reality, or the reality of any of the divorced people who have responded to this blog post. I have great sympathy for all of you; I have many friends who have divorced, i understand the awfulness of it, I have held their hands and listened to their stories and loved them fully as they got back on their feet. AS they have done for me, through my big awful.

    Do not compare it though, do not. Or at least out-loud in front of a widowed person. On your blog..YES, do it. Because then the few of us who have had another experience can chime in honestly and openly and, hopefully, respectfully, and offer a different view.

    I am sorry for the loss of your relationship, for all the loss here. I am glad I read this and am able to comment. All any of us can do is keep moving forward, feeling those feelings when they arise, telling our truths..in this way we are very similar.

    Thanks for your post and my chance to respond with my truth.

  • Raven Says:

    A friend forwarded this to me, as I have just made the decision to pursue a split from my child?s father. I?ve given myself X months to get out, as I must be able to do this alone, even though support will probably be provided.

    I went into therapy to try to learn to live with the current situation for the sake of my daughter, but as I discover things about myself and this relationship I?ve been in for almost 30 years, I?m keep coming back to the conclusion that maybe ?separate but together? as parents and not spouses is the best way to raise our child.

    The commenter that said, ?There?s nobody else, there seems to be no clear reason he can point to, just ?he?s done and wants to be happy.? I am devastated? really hit home with me and I?m deeply saddened that my spouse will be also devastated for the same reason. That said, I can?t imagine a life of being so unhappy always and how that would affect my child in the long-run. Someone else said, better to be happy apart than miserable together. I really hope that is the case.

    Maggie, thank you for sharing your deeply personal decision, and to the commenters for their stories and wisdom. I didn?t agree with everyone, but I learned something from all of you.

    I look forward to sharing this journey, and truly believe the Universe puts in your path things for a reason. Namaste.

  • abby Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I wasn’t married – my partner and I were together for six years. After the first year, we exchanged rings and vows and I took that to heart. And because I knew (or thought I knew) the depth of our commitment, it didn’t matter that we couldn’t get married and never had a commitment ceremony with our families.

    Now, 9 months after she left, I hate that we never did anything to publicly symbolize that commitment because people don’t understand my loss. It’s different than just breaking up – not that that isn’t hard enough.

    I gave myself seven months to move on. I said that by my birthday, I’d be ready to get back out there. But I was thinking of it as an event. I had seven months to adjust my routine, get my feet under me, re-plan my future. Then I’d be all set and ready to dive back in to the dating world and everything would be fine. I’m sure you can guess how well that went.

    If I’d read this post six months ago, would it have touched me in the same way? I’m not sure, because it took me a long time to acknowledge that I could view it as a divorce even if it wasn’t, technically, and even if those around me didn’t see it that way. It’s an awkward way to grieve but less so now that I’ve come to accept that how I feel is how I feel and that’s what is important, not the label. Funny it took me so long, since that was how I felt about us not being married.

    Anyway, I found great comfort in this and in the stories that your other readers have shared. Be well!

  • Sassafras Mama Says:

    Hi Maggie.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings; for being so honest and for inviting us to share our advice.

    It’s certainly true that time helps mightily….as I got through the first year,I felt like I was limping toward an imagined finish line. I felt overwhelmed at times, barely keeping my head above water so that I could care for the 6 year old whose world had also shattered. In that first year, I read Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking, and I found so much to identify with in her discussion of the loss of her spouse.

    One of the things that hurt the most about the breakup was the setting aside of all those expectations of a shared life. Without my partner, thoughts of the future were so extraordinarily painful. Then came your Life List idea and with it, permission to think about my future. It was a huge part of how I found the power to move on and find peace and hope, so I owe you a big thanks.

    Now, 6 years later, I can say that I am better for the experience. I like myself a whole lot more, I’ve matured and found what I value in life. I made my own Life List to help get there. I (finally!) learned to take it easy on myself. I learned to love again and that feels amazing.

    It does get easier, it really does. But you can’t read ahead in the book of your life and so you just have to trust that time will bring peace. In the meantime, count me among those who are holding you in the light. Your Life List gave me a lifeline and I will be forever grateful.
    Thank you.

    Stacy

  • Mary Says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you so much.

    I was married at 20, separated at 27 and divorced at 28. I’m 30 now.

    I feel like I’m over my ex husband, that didn’t take very long for me (as I was the leav-er, he was a right prick in the end so it was a relief) – but honestly I’m still not over the divorce itself.

    See, I found that divorce isn’t just about separating from a person (wife/hubby). It’s separation from a life you knew, a house you knew, friends you knew, and dreams you had. THAT for me was so hard to grieve.

    I’m still grieving it. I’m still in therapy (3 years on – probably for issues that have arisen as a result of the divorce). I still get terribly anxious. Your whole life changes. It takes years to recover and find your feet again. Well it has for me anyway.

    I find it really comforting reading about other peoples experiences, and oddly I find it reassuring when some report it taking 5 or so years to feel right again – as I still don’t feel quite myself, and not quite strong enough to deal with everything life throws me. Each year I get stronger.

    Thank you everyone for sharing in the comments too.

    Good luck! xx

  • Lise Says:

    I think it’s important to make a distinction between saying, as you did, that divorce is like a death, and saying that divorce is like being widowed. There are many kinds of deaths.

    When my marriage ended I grieved many things. I mourned the loss of my children’s perfect childhoods. I mourned the loss of the person I had been. I mourned the loss of the life I’d had. I mourned the loss of the close friendship and connection that I’d shared with my ex-husband. We had been together since I was fifteen years old and I didn’t know how to be a person without him.

    I got through it all, though. My period of intense grief was fairly short. It was probably muffled by the fact that I was thrown back into the workforce after 15 years of being a stay-at-home mom, so most of my energy was spent trying to provide for my children. I felt better within a year. After two years I had become an a more complete and independent person and was happier than I’d been in many years.

    It’s been almost twelve years now, and my life is better than I ever could have imagined. I have a career that I love, through which I met my fiance. My ex is happily in a relationship with a lovely woman. We all celebrate holidays and birthdays together, just one big happy non-traditional family. Our children are happy and well-adjusted and our grandchildren have extra grandparents to love them.

    During those first weeks and months, when I was curled up in a ball sobbing, I could never have imagined that divorce could have a happy ending. But it *does* get better. The pain slowly ebbs away and gradually you’ll have more good days than bad, until they’re all good days.

  • Kim L Says:

    Your post brought me so much comfort. Just over a year ago, someone handed me a copy of the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship and I recognized my husband’s behavior in every single one of the 14 types of verbal abuse listed in the book. Our 20th anniversary was yesterday. Instead of dwelling on the future I thought I had 20 years ago, I focused on how much has changed since our 19th anniversary. We’ve been separated since February. The last time he blew up at me, I called the police and he was arrested. Friends, family, and therapists are noting how much happier I am. I’m learning to manage my post traumatic stress disorder. Our 3 children are in counseling getting the help they need. Everything feels terrifying, heartbreaking, and wonderful at the same time. Knowing that things will never be as bad as it was keeps me moving forward.

  • mia Says:

    I just wanted to thank you and all the commenters for their insights and experiences. It is so comforting to read. I have not experienced divorce or death, but am struggling with different forms of loss. And it amazes me that, though these are all very different and distinct things, there is a very universal emotional undercurrent. O, to be human…

  • neo Says:

    Hi Maggie, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’ve been following you for several years and for some reason I feel like I know you. I wish I could give you a hug through the computer screen and pat your hair. Everything will be ok. Lots of love to you.

  • Fanny Priest Says:

    Dear Maggie, thank you for your beautiful and honest post. I went through a divorce when I was even too young to be married, and I know this: I would not have the deeply loving and fulfilling marriage I have now if I didn’t have that divorce first. It takes a while to get over the grief–honestly, I don’t know how long–but, as painfully hard as it is, divorce has many true and lasting gifts to offer. I sincerely hope you find the same to be true for you.

  • ael Says:

    Hi Maggie.

    Here is a snapshot of the last decade of my life, for orientation’s sake. I met my now ex-husband in the summer of 2001. I was 19. We started dating a year later. We got engaged mid-2005 and married in the fall of 2007. We separated in 2009, days before our two year anniversary. I was 27.

    During the immediate months after my divorce, I stayed with my (incredibly awesome and understanding) friends. I lived out of Ann Taylor Loft bags. I slept on the floor. I let dogs lick my face (I had never let a dog lick my face before). It was a blur and honestly I do not remember exactly how I felt, although in retrospect I am pretty sure I mostly just felt numb.

    When I moved into my own apartment, it was a small first floor studio. 7 years of cohabitation and a mild hoarding problem got squeezed into a space that might be a few square feet larger than Carrie’s closet in the Sex & the City movie. I had a very tiny stove and an even tinier stovetop, but this did not stop me from making some of the most delicious dinners I had ever eaten. I learned to cook for one. Pre-divorce, I ate a lot of ramen. Post-divorce, I made a lot of filet mignon. Speaking of eating well, I also lived a block away from a cheese shop. On the weekends, I would walk over there at 8 am and sample gourmet cheese. This would be my breakfast. By the way, I’m lactose intolerant. WORTH IT.

    The apartment had a step separating the living room/bedroom from the kitchen/dining room/bathroom. I called that my Crying Step. Whenever I felt a cry coming on, I would sit on this step and allow myself to cry. I stopped feeling guilty about crying, I didn’t try to hold the tears back, I didn’t think about how I made a mistake or how I wanted to go back to him. I just let myself cry until I stopped naturally. Then I usually went and ate more cheese. Needless to say, I am a stress eater. Specifically, a stress cheese-eater.

    In the past three years, he has: started to date an old friend, moved across the country to live with her, and asked her to marry him. In the past three years, I have: met someone new, moved in with him, adopted a dog, felt relaxed.

    Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I am divorced. Sometimes I regret responding “break a few hearts” to the high school yearbook question: “What do you want to accomplish in your future?” Sometimes I still need to find a step, any step, to sit and cry on.

    But mostly I think my divorce humbled me. I am more conscious of the effects of my actions and my words. I think a lot more about wearing other people’s shoes. I avoid axioms. And I cut myself way more breaks. Like, waaaay more breaks.

    Because in the end, I learned that getting divorced isn’t a huge failure. And it wasn’t MY huge failure. It was just something that happened that sucked but also was a little bit inevitable. We were unhappy, we did not see eye to eye, we fought often. We loved each other so hard, which made the divorce so sad, but I knew that if we stayed together on the path we had set out on, we would only be divorced with multiple children and multiple assets that we would then fight over. I loved him but I hated fighting with him. And I just couldn’t bear the thought of getting used to fighting with him in front of our children.

    I miss him, I do. We don’t talk anymore, which was the right decision, but I do miss talking to him. We were best friends for so long and during such formative years in my life. I was with him for almost my whole adult life. I imagined the rest of my adult life with him, and now my life is without him. Sometimes I forget what it was like to talk to him, and that breaks my heart. That memories can be that flimsy, that fleeting. Sometimes I am just so glad I can’t remember anymore.

    I would say that I am passed the spontaneous tear combustion stage, passed the “feeling a little dead inside” stage, the “float through all this fog” stage. I don’t think I’ll ever “be healed” but I will always “be healing”. I am a different person now and I love who I am. But I allow myself to have sadness about our divorce because it was just that: sad. And to try to justify it away, or give it more or less worth than just that – than just sadness – would be dishonest. It was sad, and it made me sad, and sometimes it still makes me sad. But it is just part of my life now, and I like my life and I like me now. So I wouldn’t trade it away for anything. It is part of who I am.

    I don’t know if this was helpful, but I hope something I said helps you through the days ahead.

  • Traci Says:

    I heard some where that it takes 1 year for every 4 years of marriage before you start to feel better after a divorce. I didn’t want it to take that long, but it sure did – 12 years together, 3 years to grieve the end. I think it’s harder for the one who was pushed into the decision instead of the one going off into a new happily-ever-after. I hate the throw-away society we’ve become – from things to people. Always on to the next new thing.

  • Laura Says:

    I don’t have any divorce words of wisdom. I just wanted to say that I’m so glad to see you WRITING personal stuff again. I hope it continues. I hope this doesn’t sound too negative, but I’m frustrated whenever I see your blog pop up in my reader because I knew that it won’t be actual writing – it will be more of the generic, surface stuff that we’ve had since your divorce. I do understand that it must be so difficult to write about anything personal while you go through all the crap (I really do UNDERSTAND why you haven’t written much). But – I hope you are able to move forward in your writing so that we can see your talent again.

    Good luck in your journey.

    Laura

  • Joy Says:

    I am deliberating divorce after 22 years of rocky marriage. I got married very young and have never lived on my own. I am seeing how I have given my power away. I am blaming my husband because I lied to myself. I compromised with myself. I deceived myself into living a life I do not want. i am disgusted with him when I am truly disgusted with myself. I think I may blame my kids a bit. I know that is a terrible thing to say. I adore them and they adore me. But, I wasn’t the mom that I should’ve been. And it may have been a passive aggressive thing for not wanting to be in a marriage. I have always ‘made’ things better in my marriage. But I just can’t ‘make it better’ anymore. I wonder…I don’t like my life minus the kids who are about to go off to college…it really is my fault. I compromised and deceived myself into this life of mine. So, My husband, seeing that I have emotionally left the marriage is trying to do all those things I had begged of him for 22 years. It is very unattractive to me. I feel guilt. Tons of guilt that he is so unhappy at my emotional absence. But then I think, hey, what about my 22 years of unhappiness and horrible loneliness? But then the guilt hits again and I think, well, maybe, I should stay…and then a little part of me dies. I am overwhelmed with thinking of the statistics that 1 year of ‘rehab’ for every 4 years of marriage. Almost 5 years of adjustment at a minimum. I am afraid that I cannot go through with this divorce. I am afraid that I cannot emotionally sustain myself through this. I am afraid that my kids will lose what mom they do have. I am afraid that I will get this divorce in hopes of getting a full life of beauty ( not materially) and openness and vitality and then falter and realize, I never really did want it. Which may be why I didn’t live it to begin with.

  • Lisa Says:

    Hi Maggie. I’ve been divorced for thirteen years, remarried for twelve. I’ll cut to it, although these feelings are complex and difficult to articulate. It gets better and it doesn’t.

    Although my ex and I parted amicably – a process beyond surreal – in hindsight fighting and angry closure would’ve made things a lot easier on both of us, I’m sure. There are still days it comes out of nowhere and punches me in the gut, even after all this time. I’ll remember something he said that made us laugh until we were giddy with lack of air and the enjoyment of each other’s company. I’ll see someone on the street who stands the way he did. I’ll smell a scent that reminds me how I loved him, or a time we were together and happy, and I’m right back there again feeling that loss. It’s a mourning that doesn’t diminish but seems to get further and further away with each passing year, like watching someone walk to the horizon.

    I agree it’s very close to experiencing a death. It’s the death of the life I planned with him. The person I was when I was with him. All we might have been together. Letting go of that was like giving up an entire lifetime. One that I wanted and meant. That part never gets better. I’m sorry. The price of having those good memories is getting to keep them.

    There is consolation of a sort being at peace with the decisions you made, knowing you’re human and did the best you could with what you were given.

    And then you go on. One step at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time, whatever it takes. You do it in spite of yourself. You take a broken foundation and build it new. It’s almost surprising when you realize it’s happening, against all your blackest ideas of ‘what happens next’. We’re so resilient, even against our own will.

    You mend what needs to be mended and in doing so find it stronger. You love again, you love better. You learn. You’re more forgiving, not only of others but also yourself. You revel more in the love you receive now, knowing what it really means, how much it’s worth, and what a fragile, priceless gift it is.

    You eventually relax. You find yourself happy again, albeit with a tinge of sadness around the edges every now and then. You wish your former love well, always. You begin to remember them and that time with sad fondness.

    It does get better. It never goes completely away but becomes bearable as it melds into you and becomes a part of who you are.

    I’m very tired right now. I hope some of that made sense. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience with us. I wish you peace.

  • Käthe Says:

    Goodness, Maggie. I’ve never put it in those terms, but that’s how it feels – I am a child of divorce and I’ve always known that something broke, something that cannot be repaired or fixed. It’s broken and it will never be whole again.

    Yes, it died. Thank you for putting it in those words for me. I don’t know when the mourning ends; I am still sorry and it’s been 29 years. But I suppose like any death, the sting fades with time, but never really goes away?

  • Jenny Says:

    I think what helped me most was learning that the conditions that led to divorce/breakup were not limited to that one relationship. Rather, there were patterns and expectations involved in that that relationship that, in retrospect, existed in some form in previous relationships. Only when I made the connection did I identify a way to break the cycle, if you will.

    Too often we think that break-ups and divorce happen because we picked “the wrong person” or that we “grew apart”. But in reality, we didn’t change so much as we had different expectations that were deeply rooted, but weren’t apparent at first, second or third glance. Identifying and better understanding how to address those expectations really helped me to understand how I could prevent my next relationship from playing out in exactly the same way.

    Imago therapy and the classic book “Getting the Love You Want” were really eye-opening and helpful towards better understanding the conditions that led to the divorce/break-up and how to better address those conditions when (and they will) come up in the context of the next relationship.

  • JL Says:

    Thank you. What a beautiful post. I like how you didn’t compare divorce to the death of a person, but instead, compared the grief processes as being similar. Divorce is a kind of death, not the same as an actual death of a beloved person, but still something with a long grieving process.

    I agree that the grieving processes are similar. Not the loss, of course, but the process.

    We should give ourselves a break when it comes to processing any kind of grief. I remember after I left my ten year relationship, I would just suddenly cry without warning, almost without any understanding that I was going to be crying at that moment. I let myself do that. My body seemed to need me to do that. I lived in the most comfortable clothing possible and didn’t sleep much. It took me five years to fully process all of it. For some of my friends, it took only a few years. It’s simply what’s right for you.

    I think the mantra of “No judgment–Only patience” with oneself needs to be firmly in place in terms of grieving of this kind.

  • Corrin Says:

    I think my ex-husband and I are a very rare case. Our marriage turned into purely friendship and we just decided we didn’t want to be married anymore. We spent our Saturday’s sitting next to each other on the couch Googling how to divorce in our state without a lawyer. I ended up representing us in court and we were divorced in 61 days for $245. $10 more than our wedding.

    That being said, I felt like a new person (or rather, my old self) the moment we both agreed that our marriage was over. Our lives were headed in different directions and it felt so good not to worry about what I couldn’t control and I didn’t dread being responsible for someone else’s unhappiness.

    We’re so much better as friends as we ever were married.

  • Lee Says:

    “If you experience a moment of joy, keep it going!”

    When my husband suddenly died, I went through a period where I didn’t experience any joy. One day after a few months, I had an actual moment of joy! pure joy! but in that moment, I knew I was capable of experiencing it once again—so I tried with everything I had to create another moment of joy to go with the first one!Unbelievable! It worked.
    When you find you have a moment or two of happiness/joy, keep it going as long as you can. The pain will inversely decrease as the joy increases… gradually you will have so much during the day, that the pain will be put in it’s place.
    P.S. Going to the Greek Isles next month with my daughter— I loved your comments on Greece!

  • Cate O'Malley Says:

    The Ex and I separated a little over three years ago, and have been divorced for a little over two. I agree with the other commenter who said this is the “new normal.” We have our moments when we get along, and moments when I’m glad to be divorced from him. I do, however, miss being a wife. Just not his wife. I miss the comfort that comes with being part of a committed team, family. Although I turned the page very quickly, mostly because of the words he used in ending it, it probably took a good solid year before I felt ok with the new normal. Now it’s been so long that I remember less about being married, and more about present day events.

  • marie Says:

    My good friend was contemplating divorce at the same time I was just wading into it. Her husband was suddenly and shockingly killed in a car accident. As I helped her navigate that tragedy, jealousy that I can only speak of anonymously (because I am ashamed) reared up.

    I know it isn’t right; her children were without their father. But I was so jealous that I lost friends, family couldn’t understand, and I felt alienated for the decision I felt best for me and my children.
    She had half a million in insurance money and all the casseroles she could eat.

    I say all of this with sarcasm. She and I had discussion about it — but I have never voiced it to others. She admits that as horrible as her husband’s death was, she sees how my “death” did not get the support. Well, except from her. She knew.

    Now, four years later, it is much better and I feel myself again. You all will too.

  • Melissa Faye Says:

    My own divorce is eight years in my review mirror. I do agree that it does take a year or two before feeling normal. I saw that theme in the comments here, and I am so grateful for the advice book that told me the same when I was in that space. I clung to that wisdom as hope through the bad parts of those first couple years.

    And now – I look back on it all and hold it as my K2 I never meant to climb. I am grateful for the life lessons learned. I am also on some level proud of myself for navigating though, for surviving.

    And life is sweeter over here. You wrote of the maturity that came to you, and I can relate in my experience. And the pride I feel help me love myself a little more, be a little more confident in my abilities to navigate tough circumstances, hold good times and good people a little tighter, and gather more hope of the future – look how far Ive come! My imagination can even extend to what awesome things and opportunity the next eight years might yield. And yes, the knowledge that loneliness is indeed universal. It calms the anxiety that feeling can bring, and even offers new strength and ability for joy out of those very moments.

    Your post here is beyond awesome. Thank you for sharing and giving space for this dialogue.