There are no time limits to heart ache

I apologize for my long silence. In recent months, a hectic schedule filled with deadlines and immediate concerns prevented me from tending to this blog. When I write my thoughts about this topic, I need time for reflection. After two months of merely acting and reacting, it is nice to find the quiet time to respond to the heart wrenching comments on my previous posts.

To my readers in pain:

The shock of your spouse deserting your marriage is so painful that you feel like you might die. There is no place to which you can escape, and the pain is with you 24/7. Some seek relief in sleep, and they sleep 12-14 hours at a time. Others can't sleep and spend their nights wandering and thinking about the "what ifs?" Sometimes you are so tired physically and emotionally that you can hardly think straight. Your mind mulls over the same issues, which lead to the same dead ends.

Your pain is raw and new, and you are still in a state of disbelief. All you want is your old cozy life, and your familiar schedule, and your spouse. The house is deadly silent, too silent, but hope springs eternal - maybe this is all a mistake and your spouse will return.

For some of you, the anxiety is so great that you feel as if you are having a heart attack. Your doctor will probably prescribe a mild anti-depressant. Others will try to dull their pain with alcohol, or increased smoking or exercise. I did all three.

Your need to talk is insatiable, and your friends and family, so helpful at first, start to be less available after a while. They have their own lives to lead, and many feel helpless in the face of such grief. You feel lonely and isolated, and the one person who understands you best and who you need the most is gone - your spouse.

After six months it feels like the pain simply won't go away. You are continually shocked with new developments, for the process of divorce is one of discovery. You discover how emotionally cold your spouse has become towards you; how painful memories crop up at the most inopportune times; how much your lifestyle must change and how much you will need to sacrifice in order to carry on; and how hard it is to move forward when you have lost your rudder.

Everything seems bewildering and new. Some will have to seek a job; others are paying bills for the first time. Taking care of the kids and house by yourself seems tough enough, and then you discover your car needs servicing and will have to be left at the garage. You've found two jobs, but they are at the opposite ends of town and the transportation costs are eating away at your income.

Meanwhile, society treats your pain as a trivial thing. You are merely going through a divorce, and it isn't as if your spouse has died. You find that the following piece of advice does not help at all: "In time, you will find someone new." You don't want someone new; you want your spouse!

You hear over and over that time heals all wounds, but the days are crawling by so slowly that you begin to despair. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that a few hours have passed without your having thought about your situation. You attend a party and you leave it feeling young and light. You hear a laugh and you realize it came from you as you watched a comedy show.

These are the small symptoms of healing. Take them to heart. The process of grieving isn't simple. Some seem to bounce back faster than others, but the situation for each person is different. Some are overwhelmed with having to tend to their family's emotions as well as their own; some are left completely alone.

My friends told me I was lucky because I had no children to be concerned about. What did they know? My spouse left the year I entered menopause, and I grieved as much over not having children as at losing him. We had made a pact in our careless youth that we would always be there for each other, and for the first time in my life I began to fear growing old.

The other day a new acquaintance asked me if I had been married. "Yes, 26 years," I replied. "How long have you been divorced?" she asked. "Seven years," I said, somewhat shocked at the passage of time. "Ah, well," she said dismissively, and changed the subject. I did not have the courage to tell her that Bob is still with me every day. How can he not be? I spent over half my life with him, and he was my best friend. The same as my brother and parents are with me daily in my thoughts and memories, so is my ex-spouse. Out of all those years together, 90% of the memories of my marriage are good.

The difference is that seven years later the agony I felt over the divorce is gone. Oh, I still experience pangs once in a while, but largely my new life is full and active, and I have a great career. There are no time limits to heart ache, however. Each one of us must deal with our hurts in our own way. You have come to this blog because you are grieving and because you are searching for advice or answers or support. Know that this intense pain you are feeling will eventually recede. My counselor told me that it would take two years for me to recover from the shock of divorce, but that it could take up to five years for a full recovery and a sense of peace and acceptance. I was horrified at the thought, but she was right. After one year I stopped crying daily. After two years I started to feel like myself again. Five years later I had let go of the situation to the point where I felt strong enough to write this blog without rancor or finger pointing.

Here are some links that might help you, although there is no substitute for a good, caring friend who will listen without judgment, and an effective therapist:
These two links are for people who have moved beyond the first stages of grief and anger: