Too often the pain from our past and our fears of the future keep us stuck and unable to see our lives as a whole.
~ Debbie Ford
Heather was a woman who was completely shocked by her husband’s abrupt announcement one day that he was unhappy and that he was leaving her immediately. She had thought that everything in the marriage was going along fine. (She later found out that he had met someone else and was living with her.)
After he left, she didn’t hear from him for three months. It was as if he had suddenly died and left her alone to care for their two young children. He didn’t call her and he didn’t contact their children. She had to pick up the pieces and try to make life go on as usual while also dealing with her grief and sense of devastation.
When the kids asked where their father was or when he’d be back, she had to tell them she didn’t know. When they cried because they missed their dad, she had to comfort them. It was not easy. Understandably, she felt a swirling of intense emotions going on within herself every day.
Then one day, three months after he’d left, her husband came back and apologized to her. He said he didn’t know what had gotten into him and that he now realized his actions had been wrong. By this time, however, the damage had been done and there was no longer any trust or connection between them. They agreed to divorce.
Heather was so hurt that she was sure she would never, ever recover from the breakup of her marriage. She was also sure that her children would be scarred for life. Heather very much identified herself as the victim of her husband’s utter disregard for her and their kids. She felt that his actions were so cruel that no amount of apologizing or the passing of time could heal the wounds. She feared she would be the one person on the planet who would never recover from her divorce.
I often tell people that they will know they have let go when they no longer identify themselves by their divorce. Heather could not imagine ever being in this place.
Heather went through the divorce proceedings, moved to a new home, got the kids situated in a new life, and was even on speaking terms with her ex, but she truly believed that she would never trust anyone again. It took her a long time to heal, and a great deal of therapy, self-help, and support, but eventually, Heather did indeed move to the other side of her pain. She was able to stop identifying herself by her husband’s abandonment and started seeing herself as the powerful woman she had become as a result of her challenges. She even began seeing her husband’s actions as a positive turn of events.
To the same degree that Heather had been knocked down, she began to feel good about herself and her life. As she got better, her kids also got stronger, and there was healing for them, too.
It did take a great deal of work and quite a long time, but because Heather hung in there, she did eventually reach the other side and can now testify to the fact that there really was another side to her ordeal—even for her.
I will recover from my divorce.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Stronger Day By Day with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc, copyright © 2010, Susan Pease Gadoua is the author of Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go (August 2008), and Stronger Day by Day: Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce (July 2010). Susan is a licensed therapist based in the San Francisco Bay Area with an expertise in marriage and divorce.
Other articles by Susan Pease Gadoua