"It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security."
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The break-up of a marriage is not something that happens over night.
Sometimes, the actual event itself happens very suddenly - at least for one person - but it is never something that happens and then life goes on.
I know you already know this. Even if you have never been through a separation or divorce, everyone knows that there is a mourning process that happens when a major relationship falls apart - even if it was not a marriage.
What some people - I find - don't always grasp - is that if two people mutually decide to go their separate ways - that there is still a great deal of grieving that almost universally takes place.
Sure, some people seem to bounce back pretty quickly. Sure, some people already have alternate relationships already on the go. Sure, some people finally get out of extremely abusive situations that would seem like only a miracle to outsiders looking in.
But the mourning is still there.
Dreams of "happily ever after" are shattered.
I will stop making generalizations at this point and will speak of my own experience. Not my husband's experience (we are legally separated) - but mine and mine alone. I really don't know what his experience is or has been - nor is it any of my business to talk or even speculate about his reality and truth.
This is my truth.
Since the final decision to separate was made and out children were told, it started to feel real.
There was about a month in there where we knew, but the kids didn't. The school year was almost finished, so we wanted that to be behind them and so we waited. We also wanted to be able to have firm answers to questions such as "Where are we going to live?" and "Will we have to switch schools and/or hockey teams?" and "How much time will I get to spend with Mommy/Daddy?"
During that month or so before we sat down with our boys to deliver the news, my emotions were on a roller coaster ride. One moment I felt relief. The next I felt terrified. Then I would feel hope. Then I would feel despair. I would have a day where I was excited about what the future may hold. Then I would have one where I thought my world had crumbled.
It was a very busy time.
Once we had made the decision, we moved fairly quickly in getting things rolling. We found a family mediator and started meetings with her to sort out details of what would eventually become a legal separation agreement - mostly pertaining to the custody and caring of our children and finances. Luckily, we are pretty fair-minded people and were on the same page about most of the major things.
During this time, I also started looking for a house.
I knew I did not want to stay in our matrimonial home, nor could I afford to. I had a good guesstimate of what we could sell our home for (or what my husband's buy out would be if he were to stay - which he didn't) so I quickly found a real estate agent and started looking at townhouses in the same area as where I already was. Within two weeks, I had purchased a another home.
So when we did finally tell our kids (yes, the most dreaded moment of my life), we could tell them that they would be living in two different homes that would be in close proximity but that we were going to be selling the matrimonial home. We could tell them that they would remain at the same school with the same friends and would play for the same hockey teams.
It was a difficult period...needless to say.
Now instead of giving you the play-by-play of everything...as there was so much...I will tell you that we worked together with a family mediator and not separate lawyers (until we legally had to in order to have separate representation to review the final separation agreement) - and this not only saved tons of money, but helped us to communicate openly and focus on what we wanted to focus on - what was best for our children and what was best and most fair for the two of us.
I highly suggest this to couples who feel they are civil and mature enough to put any differences aside (which CAN be discussed as well) in order to keep everyone on the same page, keep the same focus and reduce stress on the entire family.
Fast forward to now. It is February. Some time has passed.
And for me...this has been the hardest part so far. I am not saying that it will be for you...but for me...it has been.
There are many stages that one must go through as one stumbles through the separation and divorce process. I won't go on about them here...but the following is a good overview:
The busy work of the mediation, the selling and buying of homes, the changing over of utilities, the real estate lawyers, telling everyone, moving, la la la...that is over.
The dust has settled.
Almost like a death (and really, separation/divorce IS a death - of a key relationship) - once the flowers stop coming, people stop visiting with hot meals, friends go back to their lives...YOUR life continues.
And there is a gap. A void. A something that you were used to having for so long (as good or as bad as it may have felt or been) is now gone.
There is an emptiness. A feeling of hopelessness at times - for me.
Moments of regret. Moments of gut-wrenching emotional pain. Moments of "What the frick have I DONE to my life? To my family?!!?"
All very normal - so the experts tell me - but still very difficult and real.
Major life changes involve major emotional shifts...and this often means a period of mourning.
I am mourning my marriage. I am mourning the loss of my family unit as I once knew it.
And that's OK. It has to be OK.
I know my family is different. I also know my family - or my home - is not broken.
I have supportive family and friends. I have a home. I have my boys. I have their father who is a reasonable, nice person and a good, responsible dad.
I tried to deny my feelings of loss for a while. I tried to fight them. Put on a happy face. Do the jig of the "happy, single woman".
But then I started feeling unwell. Then worse. Then pneumonia. Then it was not getting better. Then the realization that my physical state was in part cause by my emotional state and vice versa.
I needed to stop.
I needed to focus on me. My health. And that was hard.
I needed to stop working for a bit. I needed to get major extra help with my boys.
I needed to rest.
And so that is where I am now. I am seeing doctors and seeking help.
I am building a new foundation so that I can grow. Almost like a re-birth into a new chapter of my life.
I am going to get through this and come out stronger. I don't think this...I know this.
And that's what hope and strength is all about.