Today, in my fourth installment of Grief Stories, we tackle divorce. Nothing can turn a person's world upside-down quite like divorce can. I'm happy to welcome one of my fellow Her View From Home writers, Trish, who is a divorced mom of two girls. The way she talks about her divorce, the feelings she had, the emotion she went through, feels a lot like how I felt when I found out Joey had cancer. But people view divorce differently. Trish explains how.
“The light has gone out of my life.”-Theodore Roosevelt
One sentence can change your life. A string of words can shatter your heart like an ice sickle landing on concrete. Grief and loss come in many forms, and many situations can feel like death.
The night my husband told me he would not be coming home caught me off-guard, and left me feeling wounded and desperate. We had been together for twelve years, had two beautiful daughters together, and I was comfortable. In one moment, everything that I thought was stable and safe was yanked away from me.
One of the most difficult parts of going through a divorce, in my experience, was the way others reacted. When someone dies everyone shows up at your doorstep with a starchy casserole, but when your marriage fails people avoid you. Friends don’t know how to react, and they worry about which of you to support during and after the divorce. Separation and divorce can feel isolating.
The five stages of grief apply to divorce. They can be experienced in any order.
Denial and Isolation- The first night I sobbed in my closet, making sure my kids couldn’t hear me. That is another difference between divorce and death. When a spouse leaves, you feel like everyone examines your marriage through a microscope. People give unsolicited advice. The worst part is that if it isn’t just the two of you, children have to come first. I had to make sure I held it together for my girls. The next morning, I could not go to work. It was tough enough to compose myself around my girls. All I could think about was him, our relationship, and everything I had ever said or done that could have driven him away.
Bargaining- When my husband stopped by—he worked out of our home—I begged him to reconsider. I was convinced that if I could just make him see the good things about our relationship, he would change his mind. He did not say he wanted a divorce. He said he was unhappy, and needed space. I held on to hope that we would reconcile.
Depression- The only thing I looked forward to was sleep. In my dreams, we were still together. Reality slapped me in the face the second I woke up. I cried, hiding away in bed while the kids were at school. I felt like I swallowed a giant rock. Sometimes the boulder lodged itself in my throat, and in other moments it would settle in my stomach. I went through the actions of my days, doing what I was supposed to do. I went to work. I made dinner. I made sure everyone took a shower, read my youngest stories, and tucked them in. During every waking moment I could feel the weight of the rock, the heaviness of my pain. I was terrified that my girls would be devastated by the end of our marriage. Who would they become if they came from a broken home? Would they forever be searching for a father figure to please? Would they blame me?
Anger- After three and a half months of living in our house out of boxes, with my soon to be ex coming in and out daily, I moved into my own apartment. I was relieved to have a space of my own, a safe place. The anger I felt wasn’t directed toward my ex; it was directed at me. I felt like such a failure. I had not given my husband the attention he needed or wanted. I had become absorbed in the day to day life of working, caring for my children, writing, and keeping my home in order. My husband had fallen to the bottom of my list. I should have fought for us.
Acceptance- As the days turned to months, the rock became lighter, and easier to carry. One thing became clear to me. I had changed throughout the course of our marriage. I was not the same person that he married. We had both grown, but we had not grown together. Eventually, I realized I needed to work on making myself happy before I could ever be happy in a relationship. The thing that no one tells us about marriage is that you can never stop working on your marriage, and you can’t stop working on yourself. I remembered what made me happy, and realized that the only person I had the power to make happy was me.
Throughout the year of our separation and divorce, we did not speak negatively about one another around our children. We went to mediation and formed a parenting plan early in the separation. He paid child support before we went to court. We are both happily remarried to people who are ideal for each of us. The four of us successfully co-parent our two daughters.
We are still family, we just molded ourselves to fit the life changes for our children, and we ended up better people for it.
Trish and her daughters
Connect with Trish on her blog and follow her on Twitter.