I just went through a divorce this week that finally ended my roller coaster marriage of the last three years. He had pledged to stay with me forever after leaving in 2015. After our separation, we struggled to even sit close to each other and the pain was unbearable at times. I walked on eggshells for fear of losing him, but I slowly began to believe that he still loved me. I began to feel like I could breath, that things were getting better; that I could roll over in the morning and find him still laying next to me.
Thinking back over the past three years evokes both painful and joyous memories. We went through the loss of our two beloved dogs the next summer, we celebrated the birthdays of our grandkids as they grew from 2 to 5, and 4 to 7, we adopted two new puppies and bought a house in Arizona last April. I planned a surprise trip to San Diego exactly a year ago on our anniversary, where this picture was taken. We were rebuilding our life together, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. We had survived and were loving our new life.
Then just months after buying our new house, my world came crashing down.. He wanted a divorce, once again with no fight, no forewarning, just completely out of nowhere. He never said why, never said he was sorry and refuses to talk to me even now. The overwhelming grief that I felt when our dogs died, was nothing like the searing pain that ripped through my body. I was completely unprepared. There were no warning signs at all. He just walked away and never looked back even though I humiliated myself over the next six months, begging him to come back to me, over and over again. We just needed help. We could make it work somehow.
I had to sell our Denver home and downsize, I struggled to get a new loan to have enough cash to live on, moved by myself, and hurt my knee right at the end. Then I spent the Christmas holidays alone while my family celebrated with him a thousand miles away in the new home we had just bought together. How much more could I go through? How could I survive, living alone after 34 years together? I despise it even after all these months later. Is he happy alone? He says he is. It’s one of the few things he has said to me.
By the time all of this was behind me and I finally signed the papers on December 29, I thought the worst was over. I was ready to face the bright light that has been barreling down the tunnel towards me since he left again. I was ready for the court to finalize our divorce. There couldn’t possibly be anything else that would hurt me more than what I had been living through. I was wrong.
I found our marriage certificate in a file, just days after my grandson said he wants “Paw Paw” to still be married to me. He didn’t like spending the holidays with us apart. Then my son said that my granddaughter says softly every night as she lays in bed, “I just want Nana and Paw Paw and the puppies to be back together.” And just this week, my 88 year-old mother says her life has changed forever, that she is heartbroken because he now lives a mile away from her in our new house, while I live a thousand miles away. She knows that she doesn’t have much time left to spend with me at her age and I will not return there. It hurts too much to go back. I thought I would be a snowbird and spend the winters in Arizona with my mom, but that part of my life is over now too.
My ex-husband took something from all of our lives. He ripped up our wedding vows where we promised to be “United as One.” “Husband and Wife.” “Mom and Dad.” “Nana and Paw Paw.” “Daughter and Son-in-law.” He did not just break my heart, he broke all of our hearts. How can he go through his everyday life knowing how our grandchildren feel every night?
I thought that I was ready this week for the divorce, that final cruel moment of something I didn’t ever want or ask for. But grief has a way of tearing at your throat, gripping your stomach, bearing down on your chest, pounding on your head, and crushing your soul. My friends and family want to talk, but I just can’t. It’s hard to eat, hard to get up, hard to pay bills, hard to breathe, hard to take a step forward. That is what my grief feels like. It’s like a noose around my neck that tightens a little more with every breath I take. It doesn’t subside or get a little better every day, like everyone promises it will. It just holds on a little tighter to remind me of what we have all lost. Even he has lost wonderful parts of his life, whether he wants to face it or not.
I wish I could hate him. Maybe then, I could start the healing process. But I still love him after all of this and always will. That is called unconditional love, a love that is so many wonderful things. That is what I believe my marriage vows were supposed to stand for.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”