The end of a marriage, is like a death.
In fact, it is, in many ways, worse than a death.
I know this, because I have experienced both. I have also heard many survivors of divorce, make this comment and comparison, with absolute certainty.
I thought that my father’s tragic death, before I got married, was the worst thing, that I would ever have to go through. I thought in the lottery of life’s knocks and scars, that when I lost him, I had paid my dues and developed all the character that I would ever need.
I was wrong.
A divorce, like a death, is often out of our control. Yes, sometimes, it may be us that choose to end our marriage, but, it is often a choice, based on the actions and the decisions of our spouse. Many of us would never everave have chosen it. We would have stayed the course, even if our marriage wasn’t perfect. That was me. There was a lot that was not as I would have wished it be, in my marriage, but loyalty and commitment are in my DNA and I used to believe that marriage was forever and…..I loved my spouse with all my being.
We often cannot understand why life has brought divorce to us. Why me?? How can divorce be MY reality? Don’t OTHER people get divorced?
The death of our marriage, like the death of a loved one, is often a shock that we never saw coming. If ‘death be not proud’, as declared by poet, John Donne , then, oh boy, divorce too, ain’t …….proud nor pretty…… nor easy! My divorce is nowhere near started. My spouse and I have been separated for nearly a year and I am on the verge of the terrifying civil process.
We have to go through certain stages of grieving, for the loss of our marriage, as we would for a death. We feel anger – that is an understatement! Fury, bitterness, hate …..no doubt you can add your own adjectives to that list.
I certainly went through the denial phase – I’ll bet you can relate to that! The “this can’t be happening to me” phase. I hated that stage of the grief, because it keeps you hopeful and in a limbo, and makes you feel angry with yourself when you look back on being in that place of still thinking that things could work out ok. Denial is a necessary stage though, because it protects you from the full impact of the life shattering and life altering event of losing your marriage. The denial cocoons your brain until you can process the trauma. The full impact of realizing that “it’s over” is too devastating to take in all at once. So letting the reality that there is no saving your marriage…drip into your psyche, drop by drop is far safer for your sanity.
Then there is the phase, linked to denial, where your brain tells you, that you could maybe negotiate and salvage things. I most certainly bargained. I bargained with my spouse by trying to fix things and lowered myself ( I’m afraid to say) by begging and looking at my flaws and even getting into therapy, when the problem was clearly his and not mine. I also bargained with G-d – “please G-d, fix this, save me from this somehow, save my children from this. I’ll be better G-d. I’ll pray more! I’ll give charity…..” Wow! I prayed a lot in the denial and still hopeful stage!
G-d, by the way, wasn’t so keen on my negotiating and seemed to push my marriage to end, no matter what I tried and to my many angry and tearful prayers to somehow make my marriage survive, said ‘NO’.
Why is divorce even worse than death? Well, the person that creates the illness, leading to the death of the marriage or just plain murders it, unfortunately, does not just disappear. If you have children with them, you do not get to just walk away. You have to deal with them ……forever. I heard a wise woman, who is the bravest survivor of divorce that I know , compare the ex spouse to an unpleasant disease. She said that despite many doses of strong antibiotics, this kind of disease will just not go. I laughed. And then I nodded.
The hardest phase of the grief for your marriage, is the depression. There is nowhere to hide from it. The pain and the loss and the heartache are all-consuming. There are days in this phase when you cannot even eat. And days when you cannot function. Days when you have cried oceans and you cannot bare to even glimpse yourself in the mirror. These days are peppered with better days where you cry less and eat more and think the worst is over, only to be hit with new grief and raw anguish the next day. This part of the grieving process is looooong. It is normal. It is necessary. It is healthy.
You have lost your marriage. Dreams have died. Promises have been broken.
The love you had does not just evaporate. You certainly wish it would. That would make things soooooo much easier.
I had days when all I wanted, was to feel nothing. I didn’t want to still love my spouse. That hurt far too much. I just wanted to be numb. I discovered, much to my horror, that real love does not evaporate, just because we want it to. It’s a real, beautiful energy in the world and it slowly changes form. I am not sure when I will reach the point of healing and recovery, where I will feel nothing. I know that I will get there though, because I already feel less. And less. I still cry. But only very seldom now. I have climbed over the mountain of sadness and it’s wonderful and actually surprising to see that the sun is still shining on the other side. The journey over the mountain, I admit, nearly beat me, but I bear my scars proudly. I have strength that I could never have dreamed that I had. I have become resilient. I have shown my children what it means to be strong and survive and that is an invaluable life lesson that I plan to pass on to them. They of course, are in the throes of their own emotions and pain and survival of what has happened to their once sheltered world. They too will build resilience from this sad experience. I try now to see that as a gift for me and for them, rather than look at us as victims of divorce.
I want us to all be survivors. And I want my children to look back on their own journey through this darkness and recall how hard it was, but that they too found the sun shining on the other side.
The stage, when you know you are going to be ok, I hear, is acceptance. I say that I hear this, rather than I know this, because I am not sure that I am completely enveloped by acceptance…….yet. It is true, that mostly, I now, finally accept that this has happened to me and that my marriage is over. I still, however have moments of bitterness and anger, often because of the pain of my children. I am walking forward every day, but every now and then, a memory of what I once thought I had, will smack me between the eyes and the tears will come. I allow those times and no longer fight them. They are part of my path to growth and discovery of who I am and the beauty of love. I recently made the decision to come out on the other side of the hell that was the end of my marriage, better than I was before. Better than I was in the marriage. Better than I thought that I could ever be. Yes, it is a conscious, daily, sometimes minute by minute decision. I owe it to my children. I owe it to my family. I owe it to my friends. But most of all, I owe it to myself.
And yes, YOU can make that decision.