As I said earlier this week, I can’t believe my divorce has been final for one whole year! Since we were separated for two years on and off before the finality of the divorce, our marriage really is a distant, blurred memory. Glancing at pictures in our daughter’s baby book, seeing our name on a piece of mail together, running into a mutual acquaintance who hadn’t heard we split up… They are all somewhat surreal experiences. I see myself in the pictures, but have difficulty fathoming the feelings that were there at the time. For the most part, I look back on my marriage fondly. I see the marriage and then separation/divorce as two completely separate entities. Keeping them separate has helped me in holding on to the positive memories and stories I will be able to share with my daughter of our family pre-affair/divorce. Before you get the wrong idea, I don’t spend my days fantasizing about my former life. Far from it. However, I think when there’s a child involved it’s important to hold on to any possible good you can about the person you are co-parenting with. Okay, moving on. My point is that my marriage seems like a distant memory, but the fact that I’ve worn the divorce label for a full year seems crazy. It feels like just yesterday that I got that legal stamp.
This past year has been equal parts rich blessings, continued healing, coping with triggers, and rejecting the stigmas. When I knew my marriage was officially over, I prayed for some pretty specific qualities that I wanted in my next love. And did God ever deliver. The blessings I have experienced from my current relationship are the epitome of God’s faithfulness. As I outlined in Dating After Divorce, the more time you spend healing and alone, the better! Hands down, the goodness of my new manfriend is without a doubt the highlight of my one year mark.
The progress in healing has been real nice too. It’s a continual process though, even still. There were times throughout this past year where my grieving was more difficult than others. I am writing a whole separate post on the grief process in divorce, but in short you must itemize your losses. I learned the importance of this in DivorceCare. You aren’t just losing a marriage. You must break it down by individual losses. I lost my spouse, my life partner, my drinking buddy, my travel companion, our family of three under one roof, my daughter having married parents, the future house we wanted to build, the three more children we wanted to have… and the list goes on. You don’t just lose your marriage in divorce, you lose an entire life and future. I will tell you, I made that list two years ago and the first time I put it to paper I was balling my eyes out. Now I simply look at it as a life that could have been. There’s no real sadness this time around. Loss, but no sadness. The only one I wrestle with is the loss of my daughter having married parents. She is certainly not short on love and will have a wonderful blended family, no doubt. It’s still just something I grieve for her, since she was an innocent bystander in all of this. Anyhow! One year later, I will say, I have experienced much peace from grieving my former life. I happily look forward to what my new life has in store.
There’s a whole chapter in my book devoted to dealing with triggers. Man, they can just hit you out of nowhere and make you feel like you’ve regressed years. The reaction to them does get less intense with time, but they still show up, which sucks. Only one trigger from this past year really stands out to me and that was when I was reorganizing my kitchen. In the very back of a high up cabinet I found one of our wedding favors, a bottle of wine we drank at our wedding, and a bottle that we had brought back from a trip we had gone on. Bang, bang, bang. That was a rough site to see. It caught me off guard and it did make me sad. So I felt sad, sent a depressing text to my ex (just being real), and then I simply brought all three items to the recycle bin. Farewell, my friends! I’d say one intense trigger in the past year is not all that bad. Sadly, in the beginning, they were everywhere. Time really helps in this.
My last bit of wisdom from the one year mark: steer clear of the stigmas. Damn that divorce stigma. I hate it. Yes, people will have thoughts and opinions. Some will share with their words, others will share with their looks. If you have young children especially, parents at preschool assume you’re married. Of course they do, who calls it quits when they just had a baby? Well, it’s not their fault that they assume you’re married. Correct them if need be, and move on. For me, I had to change all of my medical and insurance policies through my job. I will never forget meeting with HR and the director wrote DIVORCED on a post-it and put it on my file to remind her to change my beneficiary. I left that meeting and immediately needed a pick-me-up cocktail. Sheesh! Talk about scarlet letter. There is no way around the stigma or label that seems to stalk you at times. The general public may think you gave up, that it was all your fault, that you were an impossible spouse, and how on earth could you do this to your child! Blah, blah. Ignore and avoid it. All of it. You know your story, don’t let the stigmas drown out your strength.
All in all, one year later, the blessings are abundant, the triggers show up less, and I’ve decided to reject the lies told by stigmas. My one year mark can be graciously summed up by one of God’s promises that would show up like clockwork during my entire divorce.
Isaiah 61:1-3 says,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oak, that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”