We live in a time and place in which nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Divorce is essentially commonplace; certainly I know and am related to many people who have experienced the ends of their partnerships. Yet, despite how much divorce surrounds us, I think there is still a sense of shame or embarrassment that keeps it from being talked about with true openness.
I knew that divorce would be hard, and I knew that it wasn't what I had hoped for in my life or for my marriage, but I was completely unprepared for how intensely awful it would be.
As I've written before, I have been taken by my health on several occasions to the precipice of what I could physically endure. Nothing has topped the combined physical and psychological suffering of those times, but from a purely emotional perspective this is far and away the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I have never felt more of a sense of grief. I feel as if I blew my life into a million pieces and now have to find the energy to reassemble them into a semblance of a new life as someone with a chronic illness and in the midst of grieving all I lost when I made the decision to leave my marriage.
I know that the depth of my sadness sometimes seems confusing to the people who care about me, because I chose this fate for myself and I chose it for considered reasons. But nobody hopes for their marriage to end. Divorce is a loss of a shared history and dreams of a future. Divorce is a loss of inside jokes and companionship. Divorce is a total restructuring of a life. Divorce is the loss of a commitment. It's the loss of the person one hoped to either hold or be held by at the moment of death. Divorce is coming home to a house in which the only sound is the ticking of the clock. Divorce for me is needing to find out how to financially support myself for the first time in 10 years, as a person with a chronic illness. It is accepting a new loneliness into one's life. Divorce is losing a vision of a structured future and being left feeling adrift and uncertain. Divorce feels like the failure of deep and focused effort to save something that was precious.
During the first few weeks I was almost unable to leave bed and I cried often and hysterically. I am gradually gaining some footing but waves of grief still find me every day. A sudden vision of the long and hard work I will have to find the energy to do to sustain independence. The realization that randomly hits me as I stand in my kitchen that my ex and I watched every episode of Mad Men together but we will watch the ending separately. Terrible loneliness in the evenings when I am alone in my home.
This is not to say that my life is free of good, or that nothing of value has resulted from my separation. Ahead of me is the chance to discover autonomy and independence if I can take it. I have the opportunity to build a future that aligns with my visions. More friends have reached out to me than I ever, ever expected would in a crisis and I appreciate and value this unbelievably. There is love in my life, and support.
But now, as I want other people who are facing separation to know, the sense of being adrift, frightened and lost still frequently outweighs a feeling of certainty in my independence, and is only very slowly ebbing to make way for the strong person I hope that I someday will be.