Every loss, every grief, and every experience is unique to the individual experiencing it. To make it universal by generalizing any experience to the one going through it just cheapens the hurt and hopelessness they may be feeling.
And the hurt is real.
The same is true about divorce.
It hurts. Those who have never experienced divorce may think they understand what the divorced person is going through. I used to think I understood it. But I didn’t. I did not fully grasp the fallacy of my thinking until four years ago. You see, after 25 years of marriage, I became divorced. What had in reality occurred some months before was legally recognized on a hot summer day in August of 2015. It was official. My marriage had ended. And I felt like I had lost my identity. I thought I had failed God. I thought I had failed my family. I thought I failed myself. Life as I knew it was over. I felt like there was no hope.
Similar to coping with the death of a loved one, there's a mourning process associated with divorce. The ending of marriage should be mourned. At least, I think it should be mourned. I know that some actually celebrate divorce. They throw parties. They hire deejays. They quickly move on. I do not want to judge other situations but I, personally, could not do that. There were so many reasons for me to mourn. And so, that is what I did.
But why mourn? Some who go through divorce may mourn because they do not want the divorce. For others, it is because of the circumstances leading up to the divorce. Maybe it was both of these reasons for me. Maybe more. While it is not what I wanted to happen, I accepted that it was necessary. It had to happen. Maybe there are different reasons for others. Circumstances and situations are limitless. That is life. That is why we shouldn't generalize, and we must be careful with casting judgment, particularly without knowing all the facts.
As for me, I did not mourn the life I had. It was not perfect, of course. But it was not so bad that I regretted the marriage completely. No, I mourned the life I thought I was going to have. I mourned the loss of an ideal. I wanted to live happily ever after in love with one woman. And that did not happen. I mourned my inability to live up to the standard of marriage. I felt inadequate. Broken. As such, I went through all the stages of grief.
During this grieving process, I could not ignore the day the marriage died. I had to face it. I had to go through it. Unfortunately, I also could not ignore the day the marriage was born. During the divorce proceedings, our 25th wedding anniversary passed. What was supposed to be a celebratory milestone ended up as a figurative tombstone instead. It was a lonely day for me. The dichotomy was striking. Now all alone, I looked back and thought about the wedding ceremony when I was surrounded by hundreds of family and friends. I remembered a day filled with love, happiness, hope, laughter, and a universe of possibilities.
Although it was painful to reminisce, I do not regret the wedding day. I did not regret it four years ago and I do not regret it now. The birth of that marriage led to the birth of many other things, most importantly two incredible children. So, in that respect, it was a great day.
But now it is also a day of sadness. It is a reminder that the universe of possibilities that seemed so vast for the couple who exchanged "I do" until death no longer exists. It is gone, replaced with the "I don't" anymore of divorce. Sadness, because the promises made were unable to be fulfilled. Sadness, because what should have been and what I so deeply wanted could never, ever truly be.
These strangely conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow are valid, especially when the divorce is fresh. The pendulum of emotions swung widely and wildly to both extremes. Thankfully, time levels out these emotions. However, I know that I am not alone having gone through these types of feelings. Others experience it, too. Some may be in even worse circumstances, so I do not think that there is something unique or special about me. Yet, in some respects, I had become a statistic. Maybe that bothered me. Whatever it was, I did not see much point in ignoring my feelings, although a part of me wanted to act as though nothing was wrong. In a way, I wanted to act like I was perfectly fine in my brave, new world. Yes, I was fine. But all was not right.
Therefore, I could not act as though everything was simply fine. Instead, I choose to face it head on. As only I could do, I acknowledged the anniversary for the special day it was. I did not look at my wedding pictures, I did not analyze what went wrong since that day 25 years ago, and I did not make a list of regrets and what-ifs. I simply remembered the joy I felt so long ago and also allowed myself to feel however I needed to feel during each moment as the difficult day passed. The day of the divorce was exactly the same. I allowed myself to feel. I determined to move ahead, happy to be alive. Life was not over. It goes on. There was so much to look forward to doing. Although He seemed strangely absent at the time, God was there, too. He still is. Nothing changes that.
But I must remain vigilant. Divorce can bring out the worst in people. It certainly did in me. I was little aware of the fathomless depths of anger, spite, sadness, fear, regret, pettiness, and selfishness within me. Divorce can reveal the dark places, unearthing once dormant evils within the human heart. It’s an uncomfortable journey of self-examination. It is a journey one must make. And although, thank God, most of the time these monsters within us remain caged, the sheer fact that they are there at all is enough to make me scared of the hurtful person I have the potential to become. I had to be careful and rely upon God and those who truly love me to help me navigate through the valley of the shadow of death of my marriage. I made sure I surrounded myself with a "team" to help me navigate every facet (spiritual, emotional, financial, legal, professional, etc.) of this experience. I made a lot of missteps, but this was, perhaps, the wisest thing I did. I thank God for each of these special people in my life. They really helped me.
And so, four years later, I take stock of what I have lost and what I have gained. Kathy, who was also dealing with her own failed marriage at the time, was a Godsend to me. We fell in love, got married, and today I cannot imagine life without her. I know there is a stigma about divorce and remarriage. We understand that and we live with that. However, we also live and serve God together. It is quite an adventure! It is not perfect, but that is what makes it perfect. I would not have it any other way.
In fact, Kathy introduced me to a new hobby - sailing. We love to sail, and we have learned that the direction of the wind is not the main concern. How you set the sail is what matters. And when it gets too rough, we have an anchor. Lower the sails and ride out the storm.
When life blows up like a storm, we have a hope that is an anchor for the soul - firm and secure. No matter what. My grandmother gave me some final words of advice before she passed away several years ago. I will always remember what she said: Accept what you get and face it bravely.
She did. I will do that, too. I am doing that. And yet, a part of me will always mourn my losses from the storms of life. I can still sail through life. But I have an anchor so I can mourn with hope. So can you.
And that's more than OK.
Submitted by: Kevin Horath
I have been through divorce, as most of you know, so I could relate to so much of what Kevin says. There is a grieving period and it will look completely different for each person. Maybe they don't start grieving until the marriage has legally or "officially" dissolved. Maybe they have been going through the process for years before the actual divorce and by the time the dust settles they are more than ready to move on with their lives. Whatever their journey looks like, just know that one thing almost will always be the same. They need your support, love, and encouragement.
Thank you Kevin for being brave and sharing your story!
Love and lemons,