Slogging through the pain

The first time I noticed that I was healing was in the car. I was driving to work, and all of a sudden realized I had not cried in over half a day. This was six months after our separation. Before that moment, I grieved throughout the day every day, excusing myself to go to the bathroom at work, or crying at the drop of a hat at home. The pain would sometimes be so great, it felt like a knife was cutting me from inside out. (Click here for my previous post on this subject.)

The Modern Woman's Divorce Guide also discusses the indescribable (but inevitable) pain that one experiences. This stage is not only normal but necessary before you can begin to heal and move on. You literally feel you are going to die, and it will take all your resources (friends, family, strength of will) to face this dreadful period. In fact, I needed a mild anti-depressant, since my mind was unable to concentrate at work. I took it for only six months, but it helped me get over the hump.

Time does work wonders. My change was so gradual that at first that I didn't notice I was getting stronger. Then all of a sudden I would realize that it had been days since I cried; or that I was laughing at jokes again; or that I had completely lost myself in a book or a movie. The change is not linear. Often when I thought I had turned a corner, something would trigger a memory and I would plunge back to deep grieving.

Inexorably over time, the good days began to outweigh the bad days. Five years after the divorce I was largely healed. Today, six years later, I look forward to spending time by myself. The tears are gone, and I no longer yearn for the old days or my old friends or my former lifestyle, or my husband, for that matter, who has become unrecognizable.

These days I live totally in the moment. So, when you feel that your days are endless and that your grief will never subside, know that you will one day be happy and content again. After your restlessness vanishes, you will find yourself a different person, much stronger and perhaps a bit more cynical, but vastly wiser.

And that's not a bad trade off for having gone through this trial by fire.


You can be replaced

The previous post sat for too long by itself. Sometimes one's busy schedule gets in the way. The voter who agreed that it was "none of my business" how soon my friend's husband began to date was correct.

It is none of my business.

I was merely reacting to my own situation. Six months after Bob left (and deep into our marriage counseling sessions) he began to seriously date a new woman. She would give him expensive gifts. When I noticed his new watch or shoes, he would lie and assure me that he bought them for himself.

Six months after our divorce he married this person.

So I learned rather harshly that you can be replaced seamlessly and without too much effort. This happens when you leave a job , with friends who have moved on, and as I learned much later, with spouses. While I often think about my ex when I go to a place that we used to visit for enjoyment together or see a movie that we particularly liked, I know without a doubt that he wastes no time thinking about me at all.

Just because you are divorced, should you sweep everything - even the good memories - under the rug? I choose to remember. I don't know where I am exactly going with this, except to say that it is ok to recall the good times you once had with your former spouse. Just don't let those wonderful moments cloud reality and prevent you from moving forward.

Ok, let's get off this subject for a moment. Here's a neat website: www.Meez.com. You can create an avatar, much like I did, and place it on your blog, IM, My Space, or website. It's a fun and uplifting exercise and will keep your mind off your problems for a pleasant hour or so.


How long should you wait?

How long should a grieving widow or widower wait before seriously dating again? Today I learned that the husband of my best friend (who died in June) has been steadily seeing one woman for a few months.

Halt the presses, my mind screamed when I heard this news. Too soon! Too soon! I felt sick for Leslie, whose life had revolved around him and her boys.

I felt like calling him and telling him to give her the respect she deserves and to mourn her fully before turning to the first person within sniffing distance for solace! Worse, this person was Leslie's good friend.
Frankly, I don't care how horny or lonely he is, after 25 years of marriage my friend deserved more than a half year of mourning before her husband began to date one person exclusively.
My other friends were very forgiving. Well, you know, said one, he needs a woman. My ass.
Now that I've had a few hours to cool off, my question to you is this: How long is a long enough wait? Inquiring minds want to know. Here's your chance to leave some input without writing a comment. Am I the only person to think that my friend deserves a longer period of mourning, or am I out of touch with the rest of the world?

After 25 years of marriage, how long should a widow or widower wait before embarking on a serious new relationship?
Right away
3 months
6 months
One year
Never. They should wear sack cloth and ashes for the rest of their lives.
Never. They should commit hari kiri on the funeral pyre.
Why are you asking this question? None of your business.
Free polls from Pollhost.com


Change is inevitable

Let’s face it. As soon as you and your spouse separate, life as you have known it is no more. Some of you will take on the sole responsibility of raising your children while going to work full time, and maintaining the house. I’m willing to bet that you tumble into bed exhausted. Not only are you taking on the role of two people, but you are climbing a steep learning curve. Since my husband was an accountant who had complete control of our investments, I had to learn to about budgeting, saving for retirement, investments, pretax withholdings, and the like.

The biggest surprise about being single is that you have to drive everywhere. I miss being a passenger or seeing the scenery as I drive through the countryside. If you are married and have single friends, offer to drive them somewhere. I’m willing to bet they’ll take you up on it so fast your head will spin.

I was also shocked to find which friends stayed loyal and which friends did not. Some of my girlfriends were faculty wives and their husbands are still Bob’s colleagues. I was determined to keep these girlfriends, so I decided to keep my thoughts about Bob and our divorce to myself. When we are at gatherings I find other things to talk about, and keep the conversation light and frothy. All in all I retained about 90% of these friends, and although I don’t see them as much as I used to because of my travel schedule, we still see each other about 4 or 5 times per year.

As you attempt to avoid pitfalls during the worst time of your separation, you might find some help in these suggestions. I learned them the hard way, and then some.

  • Your friends are there for you, especially during the early crisis stages. But they lead busy lives too. As time wears on, expect them to drift away a little at first, and then a lot.

  • Don’t put your friends in the middle and force them to choose sides. I had two friends who thought Bob was a fiend and a jerk and a dork, and they minced no words about how they felt. I spoke my true thoughts to them, and I kept to the high road with all the rest.

  • Your friends want to help you but some don’t know what to do. Some others will feel very uncomfortable with the situation and seem to avoid you. Put them at ease and tell them you understand. If you need to see them, tell them. Better yet, ask them that you need their help. They’ll feel so relieved to be given something specific to do without having to engage in an uncomfortable dialogue.

  • Don’t expect your relationships with your couple friends to remain the same. It will not. I am rarely invited to intimate couples parties or gatherings. It’s just a fact of life. You can choose to complain about this or move on. At first I railed and ranted when I found myself alone on weekends, then I found new friends to pal around with. This process took a few years. And no, it wasn’t easy to be dropped by my couples friends from regular gatherings. However, I understand this is normal. I still see these couples at major events, though, and meet up with the wives for lunch.

  • Because of the above, expect to feel lonely on weekends at first. Saturday nights were the hardest for me. If you have kids, this may not be as much of a problem since you will be caught up in their activities. Nevertheless, be prepared. Find other things to do, and try not to compare your new social life to your old one.


Going it Alone

Bob was convinced that I hated camping, rafting, canoeing, tubing, and boating. Not true. I just didn't care to engage in these activities as frequently as he liked. I joined him on these expeditions once or twice a year, and when we owned our lakeshore property, at least twice a month.

But it was never enough for him. Not the times in spring when we embarked on 3-day canoeing and camping trips in Pennsylvania with twelve other couples; not the 18 mile bike rides through the Virginia countryside, not the day-long sea kayaking trip along the California coast, not the hikes along Blue Ridge Mountain trails, the hours of couples tennis, nor the 5-mile runs in European cities to see the splendor of old world architecture on foot. We've gone gliding, ballooning, and sailing. But as far as he was concerned, I never desired physical activity enough.

After he left, I continued to pursue some of the outdoor activities we once enjoyed. I arranged half day tubing trips down the James River with friends and family; and joined girlfriends on hikes along Blue Ridge trails. Of course I'm much older now, and my back and knees are creaky and sore, so I've stopped running and playing tennis.

One cheeky young guide told me how "brave" she thought I was, a fifty-something woman, for going it alone and joining a group of strangers to go rafting. But what choice did I have? So few women my age actively seek out these kinds of activities, and if I wanted to do it I had no choice but to go alone.

I no longer have anything to prove to Bob, of course, but sometimes as I course down the river in a raft with a group of strangers, I think smugly of the fact that I am still pursuing these activities on my own, while (quite accurate) rumors have it that Bob's new wife doesn't engage in any of these activities at all.

Ooooh, finally a snarky comment on my blog about my ex and his new soul mate. I'm just recovering from a long bout with the flu, so please excuse my lapse in good divorce manners.