First, let me say that this is not an article I ever planned on writing.
I am not pro-divorce. I’m pro-love. Pro-families. Pro-peace. Pro-happiness. Pro-healthy relationships.
That being said, I DO believe there are times where divorce needs to happen. For a variety of reasons. I’m not going to share the specific reasons my marriage had to end right now… so those of you looking for juicy details: back on up. Or as my conservative Christian brotherhood/sisterhood would say: get behind me satan.
Speaking of Christians, I come from a very conservative Christian background and was raised in a church. As far as I was concerned in my young brain: Divorce was simply not an option. Until it was. And needed to be. I didn’t take this lightly and I still don’t. If two people coming together in love creates “one flesh”, then two people coming apart from that love essentially tears and rips that flesh apart. That is brutal and painful. For me there is a delicate line that exists between believing in marriage and love and understanding that people who are successfully and contentedly married have worked really really hard at it… while also being willing to acknowledge that believing in love is simply not enough. People in a successful marriage have to continually choose love and choose each other. They have to be good for each other. I could write a whole book about this and how my mind has opened and my vision shifted.
Third, this is a process and it will look different for every person. It has been a long and hard year of sadness over this decision, and my hope is to offer help to anyone else out there going through this mess.
Lastly, this is not a comprehensive list. This is a short list of things that have helped me navigate the journey of saying goodbye to what I thought my life would be and learning to create a new and different path for myself and my children.
1. Acknowledge the hard
This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t what I signed up for when I got married over a decade ago. Choices have been made within this partnership of a marriage that I would not have agreed to and am now somewhat responsible for. This sucks.
It was vital that I let myself feel these feelings of betrayal, neglect, anger, and sadness. I didn’t push them away. I didn’t run to a rebound relationship. I didn’t drink a bottle of wine every night. I just let myself feel it. I wrote about it. I leaned into it. I talked with trusted people about it. I instinctively knew that I had internal work to do within this space of my feelings. I sought out therapy and friendship. The more I let myself feel these uncomfortable feelings, the more I realized I had been stuffing feelings and truths about myself for the last few years of my life. My heart had taken a beating and much of that responsibility to care for my heart falls on me and no one else. In order to become a truer version of myself, I needed to figure out what my heart had been trying to tell me that I wasn’t willing to listen to.
When I write that last line it sounds intrinsically corny to me. But I’m not afraid to be corny anymore. I’m way more afraid of being untrue to who I am deep within my soul. I started opening up more to those close to me. It started with phone conversations where I started dropping in “hey things are hard right now” and “I’m scared”. And as I felt these friends caring and wanting to know more, I was willing to keep peering into the realities of my current situation and asking for their outside perspective. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Get good with your girlfriends
I had close friends before this divorce started. Now these friends are just even more precious to me. They’ve held my heart so carefully and tenderly. They’ve cried on the phone with me late at night. They’ve sat in silence with me, not trying to fix anything, but just understanding the level of pain and grief I was enduring. They flew out to visit me. They let me stay over at the drop of a hat. They sent me money and gifts. They never tried to fix me or have me snap out of anything. They asked me the hard questions, but they also rested in my words and encouraged me in every way they could find. They allowed me to be human and struggle through this. I truly felt known and loved by these girls and I learned a healthier version of intimacy than what I’d been living. As my marriage crumbled, these women rose up as love warriors. I had to stop and relish in this gift of girlfriends. Present in the moment with me. Treasured gems. Speaking truth and love into me. Cherished.
These friends also carried the vision for me that I would eventually come out of this on the other side. During most of this grueling process, I just could not see a light at the end of the tunnel. Everything felt like it had been turned upside down. They gently reassured me that I would get through it. I WOULD. And that they’d still be standing there on the other side with me. One of them told me that when I’m weak and lacking faith, she’ll carry the vision for me. She’ll see my bright future and hold it for me while I take the time to get strong. I softly cried and said “Ok. Hold the vision for me. Because I just cannot see it.”
Sometimes I still don’t see it. But I do see that I’m getting stronger. Slowly. Surely. Improvement is not a straight line jolting upward. It’s a messy, foggy, crazy road wrought with triumph but also missteps and struggle. This is why we need people in our lives, and we need to be there for our close circle of friends. I’ve told these precious gems of mine countless times that I DO NOT think I could have gone through this without their love and support. I’m forever grateful.
3. Choose your words carefully
Words matter. Yes, even in a world where words flood the internets and twitters and facebooks and blogs and instagrams. Words cannot be unsaid. Depending on your specific personality style and disposition, you can err on the side of saying too much or too little. For me, I tend to err on the side of saying too little. At least too little of the important things. I’ve been too timid to share, or not willing to be seen. I had to balance my conviction to speak up and say what needed to be said with the desire to also yell and scream at those I was angry with. There’s no exact formula for this. Unspoken words can be just as dangerous and powerful as those spoken carelessly.
I had a friend tell me a story about a couple who probably could have mended things at one point when the dust settled. But. One had spoken such vicious words and done such irreparable damage that they both couldn’t come back from it. I heeded the warning.
4. Be ok with not being ok
This one kind of sucks to admit and write down. But isn’t it the truth of all humankind? Who actually has all their shit together? Not me. Not anyone I know, actually.
This season has been particularly raw and scary for me because I have little babes I adore. I wanted so badly to keep this family together for them. And now that I realize I can’t I have all of these questions and insecurities. I’ve tried really hard to be willing to be raw and real with those close to me: being ok with having tears in my eyes (and even streaming down my face). Being ok to not answer certain questions. Being ok saying no to things that are just too much right now. And being ok to just not enjoy the holidays this year. I’ve been nothing short of devastated that this marriage is ending. I’ve cried more in 2018 than I knew possible. I never wanted this life for my kids. There are so many layers to the pain and grief we’ve all endured. Of course I’m not ok, and neither are you if you’re going through this. It’s ok to not be ok. We aren’t robots.
5. Take a break from social media
We all know it’s fake. It showcases all that glitters. And yet why do we torture ourselves by looking at images of happy, healthy, smiling people when we are down in the dumps? I just found that looking at happy families and happy couples was NOT doing me any favors. I mean, kudos to you for your happiness. But it’s only making me feel less happy. And I cannot afford to feel or be less happy right now. I’m already a little short in that department.
I have one friend with severe health issues and in chronic pain. For her, seeing healthy people doing yoga (or even just WALKING) is a trigger to set her into disappointment and sadness. For another friend who’s struggling with what her kid has been diagnosed with, seeing other parents post pictures of their kids on the honor roll and getting awards is a trigger. We all have areas of our lives where we wish things could be different. And facebook isn’t evil or the problem. It just isn’t real life. And I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can just keep scrolling through it unscathed during a sensitive and desperate season.
This suggestion might be unexpected. It was a hard sell (to myself, from myself) to actually go out and do things for other people when I wanted to crawl into a hole and hibernate. But one of the best things I’ve done during this season is to volunteer with an organization and give myself to people hurting. I found that even though I felt very broken inside that I had so much to offer other people. There is a great big world out there with people in all stages and walks of life. We, as humans, share the most basic parts of humanity, including pain. I volunteered as a photographer with NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) and have been able to provide remembrance photography for families of their precious little babies that are terminally ill or recently passed. Being able to give them a small gift in such a tremendous time of grief brought light into my life as well as theirs. Being around other people in intense struggle also opened my perspective and helped me focus on those around me and not just my own sadness. I came home and hugged my kids a bit tighter, and I found even more to be grateful for.
7. Practice gratitude
This is a tough one. For all of us. All of the coaches and mentors and health gurus talk about the importance of it, but times of grief can be the hardest times to move into this direction. First let me clarify where I’m at by saying it’s 100% ok to scream and yell and pout and cry. We can even set up a tent and camp there for awhile at the crossroads of “this blows” and “why me?” Emotion is part of being human and I think to deny our emotion is to deny our humanity. But even while camping there, I tried to at least see the beauty of one figurative star at night. To look at it and try to take it in and feel that it was there and still shining despite my circumstances. That’s all I’m saying. This isn’t about forsaking the trauma and sadness and pretending I’m just all enlightened now. For me, appreciating the gifts of friendship and those who valued and loved me pulled me out of despair and helped me be willing to see the stars. It was important that I take time to acknowledge the full picture (to the best I could see it) and know that there are amazing blessings around me and in my life.
That’s it. That’s all I got.
What has helped you the most in a season of grief and sadness?