Today’s Writing Prompt
What were those first days like after going from married to single? I’m talking the moments right after “It’s over…I can’t do this anymore…I want a divorce.” How did you cope? Who were the people who held you together? Did you surprise yourself? Let it all hang out.
In the years leading up to the end of my marriage, I grew with each passing day more and more despondent. How was it so many areas of my life could feel so full and rewarding, yet my marriage caused me to cry myself to sleep? Imagine my surprise when my then husband left me and many nights found me sobbing on the couch.
It baffled me how I could shed so many tears and feel so broken from losing something, and someone, that had long ago stopped bringing me any joy. I realize now, I was mourning the loss of a dream and fearing the uncertain future ahead of me.
My girls were still young, just 4 and 6 at the time, so my days were spent plastering a smile on my face and pretending the world hadn’t stopped spinning. At night, I turned to childhood friends who would listen to my heartbroken babbling. They comforted me with humor and gave space to anger I couldn’t yet muster.
They even helped me laugh while trying to figure out where in the world a 30 something mother goes to meet men. It was the first time I laughed in earnest after my marriage ended. I was bent over with laughter and I knew I’d be okay.
I am forever indebted to these beautiful souls for being there for me. They were a reminder I still had love in my life.
When it comes to the stages of mourning, I dove head first into grief. I’m really good at it. I watched the sappiest movies, read all too much about heartbreak, lamented a life far into the future without any romantic possibility. I let all of it burrow a hole in my heart and I cried.
Let it be known I have always, and will always, enjoy a good cry. It comes naturally to me. When I feel things deeply, emotion manifests as tears – extreme sadness, anger, joy, excitement, fear, you name it and it spills from my eyes. I’d already shed plenty of tears about my marriage while I was still actually married, but these post-marital tears were a unique combination.
The tears before were shed because I was angry at myself for not being able to provide my daughters with a positive example of a loving relationship. I could provide them with so much, but my marriage had gone so far off track, that it broke my heart to know they would not find a healthy example of husband and wife in their own home.
Once things ended, my tears felt shameful. I was embarrassed at myself for being so chained to the idea of marriage that I couldn’t bring myself to end it long ago. I had not been the girl power version of myself I wanted my daughters to witness. These tears were also cleansing, emptying out every last bit of a dream I invested in that was no longer providing any kind of ROI. These tears were making way for what came next.
Some people might turn to wine or food or exercise (I wish) or even finding a new man to forget the old. Me? I turned to my favorite comfort – movies. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Holiday – name a romcom and I watched it. They weren’t the answer to anything. They were something familiar while I was treading in unfamiliar waters.
They allowed me to remember the girlish belief that love might be all those hopeful cliches while simultaneously holding onto a new found wisdom that love is none of those things.
I was so fragile in those first days, weeks, and months. I remember the first time someone asked me how I was doing. It caught me off guard. I’d grown accustomed to focusing on how my daughters were doing, how well they’d adjusted, how our daily lives had pretty much gone unaltered. All of this was true but also made for a pleasant distraction from my own open wounds. “How are you?” That’s what those early days were like. A simple question could threaten to bring me to my knees.
I didn’t know how long this phase would last. One day the sadness was heavy and the next it was replaced by a lightness I hadn’t known in a long time. One day I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I cried and even longer since I’d watched a sappy movie. Turns out my heart mends in about 2-3 months time.
Today that version of myself feels very distant. I look back at the end of things and can’t believe I ever let myself become that unhappy. The end of my marriage, without a doubt, was the best thing that could have happened. It was worth those weeks of sadness to come out the other side wiser and stronger than before.
I wanted to write about the first days after a marriage ends because it can look so different for everyone. And, like with so many things, sometimes what can comfort you the most is knowing you’re not alone. That someone else has walked a similar road before, lived to tell about it, and started a brand new chapter.
I know lots of single moms whose paths were very different from mine. Some were lit with anger while others sat in sadness like me and others who got under someone to get over someone. They are all right answers. If you’d like to join in, feel free to leave a comment below or a link to your own blog post.