When did it become the norm to congratulate individuals who have experienced a divorce? I mean – seriously – there are people who have lived in volatile relationships or have found themselves in a relationship where every vow taken at the altar has been ignored. I understand how these individuals are maybe experiencing a euphoria of relief. I can see where congratulations are acceptable in such a situation, but regardless of the circumstances, don’t we still experience a sense of loss? None of us goes into a marriage expecting it to fail. I’ll readily admit that I entered my marriage with images of two old people walking hand in hand through a park. Leaning on one another in sickness and in health – till death do us part. But ever so slowly, one decision that felt right at the time led to other decisions that were so, so wrong.
A few weeks ago, I was searching for the perfect birthday card for my granddaughter. Slowly traveling down the aisle, the cards changed from birthday to sympathy to coping to WHAT? Congratulations on your divorce! There must have been 10 to 12 cards to send to recent divorcees. Each card carried a flip little message about how wonderful life is now that your chosen mate has hit the trail. I’ve seen these cards before, but I never really paid much attention to them. Most of the women I know going through divorce aren’t running around giving high 5’s to everyone. Honestly, most of these women, like me, initiated the process, but that doesn’t mean we are happy about the situation. At best, I would say we are dealing with life on a day to day basis and attempting to land on our feet. It’s a scary place to be – maybe not as precarious as what we’re leaving behind, but standing on a swinging bridge isn’t exactly what can be considered security.
Through my life, I’ve lost a child and both of my parents. Technically, a divorce isn’t a death. Friends and neighbors don’t line up to offer condolences or a hug. No one brings over meals. There is no ritual where tears are free to fall and you say good bye in a civil manner. There is no tangible closure that marks the end of the sleepless nights or excuses the words that have been cruelly tossed back and forth. With a divorce, battle lines are drawn. Friends and extended family simply disappear. People that you once depended on to help out when times got rough – they are gone. The death of a loved one pulls people together. We gather to revisit memories of happy times and to tell stories that bring comfort. We send cards and write messages filled with words of hope that acknowledge grief. No one would dare to offer congratulations on the loss of a loved one. Good grief, the loss of a pet is given more respect than the loss of a marriage.
My divorce is, as I’m writing, still very new. I saw it coming. Like a run-a-way train barreling towards a brick wall. I’m in no way innocent. Multiple situations where I should have spoken up and fought for US have passed. Too many episodes where I should have forced acknowledgement of what was happening to OUR marriage. Way to many times of remaining passive because that is what I thought was the supportive thing to do. Realizing, finally, that “WE” had ended years prior to the date on a divorce decree. I don’t want to be congratulated. I don’t want to be reminded that WE are finished. Perhaps it is to our benefit that divorce brings out the beast in those involved. Seeing that beast reaffirms that decisions made are for the best. Accepting that at times we were the beast spurs us to refocus, center, heal. It is exhausting and our actions have effected not only two people, but many. We now have our baggage to unpack, and it consists of many extra – large bags. One friend, who has also weathered divorce, summed it up so perfectly. Get out of bed each morning and find a piece of you through the course of the day. Eventually there will be a healthy person again.
So, as I write this, my brain is using my fingers to realign the fragments of me. My family accepts that I’m not all here just yet. They have faith I will return and have supported my decision. My colleagues are aware of the events that have unfolded during the past year. They know this wasn’t an easy decision, but it appears they saw what was coming far before I did. Finally, to all those couples I know who are celebrating decades of marriage – Congratulations. May you be blessed for many years to come.