Divorce is a lonely island. No one sets out to go there. It’s not a part of “the plan” until it’s the only plan left. I reached those shores broken and tired, having swam so long against the tide I could barely remember a time before the water.
I don’t try to tell the story of that swim anymore. Early on, I mourned through soliloquy—sharing details and bullet points to preempt anyone’s objections or my own feelings of guilt. Yet, throughout time, I learned that tragedy is silent. My time in those waters has formed a layer of my heart that no one else will ever know.
Yet, throughout time, I learned that tragedy is silent.
When it was over, I thought loss was behind me. I’d signed the papers, sorted through the books and novelty cups and soap dispensers that became the artifacts of my marriage and hoped tearfully for what was ahead—life after divorce.
There was no “after.” There was healing, progress and, eventually, even laughter again, but it didn’t come “after” divorce. It came through daily divorces—through cuddling up with grief and holding her hand as each night bled into another morning of choosing what to keep and what to leave behind.
My divorce from my husband unearthed a million marriages I didn’t know I’d entered into—toxic unions with the fear of judgment, graceless legalism, shame, pride and all the cultural narratives and norms about timelines, babies and that thing about single women and cats.
My divorce from my husband unearthed a million marriages I didn’t know I’d entered into.
I had to separate myself, morning after morning, from misconceptions about abuse, bad advice from well-intentioned friends and all the whispers of worthlessness I found myself repeating.
Most of all, I had to divorce my desperate need to justify my divorce to people whose opinions didn’t matter. In some cases, I had to divorce those people too.
I say all of this without flippancy. These choices are heavy. Their fractures run deep, but from the sands of my lonely, little island, I see sunlight bouncing off the roughest of waters. In the ache of loss, I find grace in so much gained.
In the ache of loss, I find grace in so much gained.
I am now seasoned in choosing what gets a say in my soul. I’m an expert on my worth and in walking away from what denies it. I’ve lived a life without the baseless reinforcement of my Insta-peers and found that freedom waits on the other side.
I’ve faced the fear of others’ judgment, misunderstanding and disapproval. The sun still rose the next morning. The truth of my story didn’t change, but my need for people’s acceptance did.
There is no “after” divorce because I’ve learned a liturgy of daily divorces instead. Choose safety, anchor with grace, fight for joy and hold on to truth. The swim I thought might kill me only taught me how to live instead.
I am stronger now and steady on the shores of this island, not because the first divorce is over but because all the ones that followed helped me to heal. Today, I look back at those waters with solemn gratitude. Then, I look beyond them to see what happens next.
How has divorce changed you? What do you know about yourself now that you didn’t know before?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography