So you’ve spent all this time – months, years invested in one person! Someone who you shared dreams with, sorrows and joy and plans for a future together. Maybe you shared children, families, holidays, friends and all sorts of plans and dreams that were promises of a future together. Also we are in a society that values ‘couple-dom’, being in a long term relationship carries status… Being married or in a relationship means we are not alone…. How can the breakdown of your marriage – whether you chose this or the choice was made for you or even if it was a mutual decision – be anything other than excruciatingly painful!
There are few experiences in life that cause greater pain, grief and other intense feelings than Divorce. In this, we not only face the loss of a person we once (or still do) love; in the words of Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “We never stop loving those silently we once loved out loud”, but divorce is also the death of our dreams, hopes, partnership and emotional connection with our nearest and dearest loved one – our other half! Unlike death however, divorce can also bring about an added sense of failure, guilt and of not doing or being ‘good enough’ to’ succeed’ in keeping the marriage alive. In addition, divorce can carry with it a sense of waste, wasted energy, wasted years, a wasted life. Rejection and mistrust is there too, leaving former partners unwilling or unable to trust others or themselves again. The word itself looks and sounds like what it is ‘DIVORCE’ – a ripping apart.
Divorce is a gut-wrenching wound that bleeds like no other – slowly, agonizingly and invisibly. We are torn open in our most vulnerable place, our soul – the place where we love. Ours is a love wound…
The first few days, weeks or even months after our split we may feel controlled by rolling, whirling emotions – emotions that can change from minute to minute. The roller coaster ride has begun and there is no where to go but to ride it out!
After the shock and pain of the initial split, this love wound can continue to throb so badly that we can become convinced that we will never survive it; that it feels too unbearable to survive it and in this place we may fear that time will never end and that we’ll never know happiness again… Sometimes sleep or a conversation or a movie can take us away from our feelings but then we land back again into that hopeless and depressed place. Anything can set us off – finding an old card, hearing a familiar shared song, the sight of a happy couple – and the wound is re-opened, sending us reeling again with the throbbing ache of our sore heart and open solar plexus. Maybe there are fleeting moments of hope and even joy as the sun streams in the window or you look out over the stars and contemplate an unforeseen and uncertain future but more often than not, these joyful moments are eclipsed by hours of despair. The roller coaster can take you from desperate sadness and emptiness one minute to an all encompassing anger and blame in the next. It is only later on in time when our healing is more complete that we learn that in surviving this roller coaster existence we understand that we are capable of surviving and recovering from the very worst kind of injury – that to the heart.
IT’S A PROCESS…
This emotional roller coaster ride is the natural process of grieving and loss. No matter what the loss is, the healing only happens if we see the process through to the very end. There is no timetable for grief – it takes as long as it takes. People will experience grief differently and everyone heals at their own pace. Our hurt can feel compounded if our partner has moved into another relationship and appears as if they’re not grieving at all. How shattering to be the only one grieving deeply for something that was once precious to you both. It may be that this person is at a different stage of the grieving process or that they have cut off from their feelings in order to cope or maybe they have even distracted themselves with a new relationship. Sooner or later we all have to go through that grieving process if we are to fully let go of our ex partners, to fully integrate the learnings and lessons of that relationship and to have fully healed the wounds of it too.
Many people distract themselves by going quickly into another relationship but very often when that relationship most likely breaks down (which it is likely to do because healthy relationships cannot be formed on the fresh burial ground of a recently lost and ungrieved for old relationship!), people then re-experience all the grief of those accumulated losses. For us not to carry our woundededness or ‘baggage’ of that relationship into the next, or to have another failed ‘rebound’ relationship, we need to take some space and time to recover and heal – all the way through to the end – in order to be fully , healthily and truly available for a new committed, open-hearted relationship.
During this roller coaster time when you have first split from your partner, remember to be compassionate and kind with yourself – you are suffering a bereavement, a loss, maybe a trauma. Try to treat yourself as you would tend to any other person who was in the same situation as yourself. The emotional pain you are feeling can feel almost physical – like somebody has ripped out your insides. Your body is on high alert – in ‘fight or flight’ mode, ready to deal with this highly stressful time so you may not feel like nourishing or resting yourself but remember to EAT (even if its tiny healthy amounts) and to SLEEP. Let yourself off the hook for your mistakes, for being angry, for being forgetful etc – you WILL be ok but right now at the beginning of the process, there at the sharp end, life can feel nightmarish and something merely to survive minute by minute.
You will survive, there will be good things ahead but when you’re going through what you’re going through it’s about hanging on and bearing the ride as much you can with the help of friends, family and Counselling support if that feels like it will be supportive for you.