I was deeply private about my divorce when I went through it. I quietly changed my relationship status on Facebook, and did not offer a replacement or post publicly about it.
Some people walk away from their marriages after a few years, some stay and fight. I have yet to come across many women that didn't give it all she had to save her marriage. I have known men to do the same - only to wake up one morning, take that long look in the mirror and ask, "Who am I really ...?" Something deep inside of us finally snaps and we make the decision to save ourselves instead.
I knew I had changed. People were saying it to my face - "You've changed. You're different." Some couldn't figure out exactly what it was about me that had changed and would ask, "Did you change your hair color?"
I would just smile and ask, "Well, is the change for the better or am I worse?" They would simply smile back and say, "No, it appears to be for the better. So whatever you are doing, keep it up." And so I did. I began my journey to heal, to forgive, and to rebuild. And to this day, I have never looked back. I began to listen to my heart, a screaming heart that was pleading from the inside out. A heart that was exhausted from being hurt. A heart that was barely able to feel anymore. A heart that was beating just enough to keep me afloat for one more day.
I saw that all the nails were firmly in place around the death of our relationship. All that was left to do was to take the legal steps to finalize everything and bury the dead. Divorce is never easy for all that it involves. It takes the innocent as well as the guilty. Lives are forever changed, just like a real death. You fight for another reason now. You don't know exactly what it is at first, but soon you realize that you are in a deep season of grief, except your spouse is still alive and well. They show up at birthday parties, and weddings. It's awkward at first, but you slowly realize that you have moved on and you have discovered a new normal and that everything is going to be okay now.
I really let myself go after my divorce was final. I let myself go to the U.S. Virgin Islands and I sailed a beautiful yacht. I let myself go snorkeling and I discovered a whole new world that I had only dreamed of. I let myself go to the ocean and I rode horses on the beach and I let myself discover a whole new world. I let myself go on long walks along the shore and I talked to God about discovering His plan and purpose for my life. I let myself begin to see that I mattered. I let myself go and found that where hope was once a beggar, hope had a whole new meaning again. I found my wings again and they could still fly! I flew across the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and played the slots in Vegas.
No one can completely understand a relationship from the outside, and I have been mindful to respect my ex for what he was going through when I approached him and told him that I had signed a new lease on an apartment. I also wanted to respect our children, all were grown and on their own at the time I left. I had spent nearly seven years in the darkest grief I have ever known in my life.
I call it The Wasteland. I had gone through the shock and denial phase. I had hired a therapist who helped me with my season of anger and deep rage. I spent the rest of my time in a dark season of depression. I had finally woke up and took that long look in the mirror and came to the place of acceptance. It was time to move forward without him.
My time spent in The Wasteland was finally over. I thought I was going to die there. But I didn't. I survived there. It was simply time to bail ship and begin searching for a lifeboat to save ourselves and to start over - A new life.
Divorce changes us. It is hard to trust again - but trust is usually found deep within our own ability to trust in ourselves more than putting our trust in others. Divorce teaches us to face our demons and face our darkest fears. It has taught me to be raw and transparent about my own personal struggles in life that I had kept locked away for my entire life because of the shame of being a child of divorce. It allowed me to truly feel again, the truth about my own dreams, my own desires, and I had to take off the mask of people pleasing and simply care for self now.
When we realize that we cannot save the relationship single-handed, we have finally come to the end of ourselves, we simply decide that it is up to ourselves to step out and start a new chapter of our life. I have come to see that I have the most loving and understanding family anyone could ever hope to have. I was never judged, or hated because of my choice to move on with my life. They just listened. They never gave advice, or told me to stay or to leave. They just heard me verbalize all that I had held inside for the thirty-three years and gave me permission to process everything for myself.
There were a few bullies along the way that tried to get me to stay, but it was only due to their own selfishness and deep down, I saw that. I knew they were hurting too and I slowly learned to stop taking things personally. I simply find myself wanting to help others now.
I work this very day with others who find themselves in the midst of grief. The widows, the widowers, the mother's and father's who bury a child. I work with those who say goodbye to their health, their hopes and their dreams. I work with others who say their final goodbye to familiar and are reaching out to chart new waters.
I listen to their stories and I am amazed at how they are all in the grip of grief. Life is a beautiful thing and I see that grief is simply a part of our journey. My prayer for you if you find yourself in the valley of the shadow of death - whether it is a physical death, or simply and end of something, that you will use your season in the wasteland to face your darkest pain and heal. Seek to mend the hurts of your past and stop dragging those heavy bags into your future. That you will give yourself permission to experience your true feelings of fear, loss and change. Faith, hope and love will return as long as you do your grief work. I can testify to that. God simply took something that was broken and is making something new.
Today, I stand taller and I have unpacked a hell of a lot of baggage that had weighted me down for years. I travel much lighter these days and I am putting the new pieces of my life together again. I have new boundaries now and I have a zero tolerance for bullshit these days. I walk, no .. I run from the drama that others attempt to kick to my side of the street. There isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful for how far I have traveled even though I know that my journey will no doubt bring me to yet another dark valley at some point. This has taught me to be grateful for the suffering.
Suffering refined me. Suffering allowed God to reveal the bitterness inside of my own heart that He wanted to remove. Suffering provided me a season in a place I call Sanctuary and I began to heal there. Suffering left behind scars, that prove to me that I didn't quit, I survived.