Someone I know has someone important in her life going through a divorce. This friend is watching the person she loves experience pain and loss. She feels helpless. This is for you, to share with her.
My divorce was amicable, but not at first. When he left, the sadness was like having thirty pounds of weight strapped to my back. It hurt to move, to breathe, to be. I looked forward to going to sleep, because I would dream we were still together. I hated waking up to reality. I still loved him and wanted to work on things, but he did not.
I examined myself through a microscope, analyzing everything I had ever said and done. What I didn't do or say. Whether or not I complained too much. I didn't look the same as I did when we met, and I wondered if he missed the girl I once was. I worried that I had spent too much energy on other things, not leaving enough for him. Everything that had transpired over twelve years replayed in my brain like an old film on a loop. I felt like a failure. I failed to keep my family together. I failed to keep my him interested in me. I failed to be the person he wanted me to be. I failed my children. I failed everyone.
After the initial three days I spent crying, I went through the motions of my day. I woke every morning and strapped on the weight of my pain. I carried it with me while I dropped my daughters off every morning, tears stinging my eyes as I drove away from them. I felt like I had doomed them to relive their parents' failed relationship. What would their lives look like? Would they be the berries tumbling around the cracks of a broken bowl, constantly searching for stability? They were unaware, at first, that their family was fractured. I lugged the pain to work, and flashed my best fake smile to the people I had to face. There is no other way to describe what it feels like to lose a marriage besides death.
I hardly ate. I dropped down to 111 pounds. When friends and family members would hug me, my bones dug into them. I tried...I just had no appetite. I had trouble falling asleep, and when I did sleep I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night. The memories, the what-ifs, and the guilt plagued me. For the first time in many years, it was just me. The days the kids went to their father's house were agony. I would find myself sitting on their beds, smelling their pillows, and begging God to take away my pain. It was so unbearably quiet. My heart ached to hear the steady breaths as they slept. I worried when they were with me, that I wasn't enough without him. I worried more when they weren't with me. It has been over three years, and I still miss them when they are gone. Now, I fill the quiet. I fill the silence with the things that I love to do.
In addition to not eating, I stopped writing--the very thing that normally offered solace repelled me. I stopped doing everything that reminded me of the man who left. I needed to distance myself from all of those things, but somehow I found my way back to my authentic self.
One day, instead of allowing myself to wallow in my pain, I grabbed my sketchbook and pencils. I sketched, I drew, and I painted, spending every spare moment the kids weren't home creating. I have always been an artist, I had just strayed for awhile. It was the perfect thing for me to do while watching mindless TV, something to concentrate on, something other than my ex and where I went wrong. Some of the pictures I drew were dark, like I had opened a vein and bled charcoal onto the page. Others were bright and colorful, full of hope. This was the first step I took back to myself. The next step was forgiveness. I had to let go of all of those unrealistic expectations I had held onto for years, of myself and of my ex-husband. Forgiveness takes time and lots of practice, but it starts with a choice.
I know when you are living in it, it's so heavy, it is suffocating. It feels like you have lost everything. You don't understand where you went wrong or what you did to deserve it. The truth is that things must come to an end when you are no longer growing in a relationship, whether a friendship or a marriage. You can either grow together, adapting along the way, and feeding one another with love and understanding or you grow apart. My relationship with my ex-husband had become toxic for both of us. Neither of us were growing together, and the end was inevitable. Death is necessary for rebirth. It's not easy, but it is worth what comes next, which is rebirth.
You will be okay, I promise.
The last photo from: Jessica Crosby