Thursday, March 31, 2016

PART 3: Divorce & The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I've discussed my gut-wrenching decision to divorce my husband here before. I've also talked a bit about setting boundaries in the event you decide to give it another shot. As we all know, though, sometimes we are forced to end a relationship because what once was has been utterly destroyed - and there's just no coming back from it. 

It's exceedingly difficult to end a relationship when you still love the person but know that you can't be together. It's probably one of the hardest decisions you'll ever make - to pick up the little pieces of yourself scattered around and will yourself to put one foot in front of the other and walk away. Your life is full of confusion, self-doubt, and sadness. But you keep walking. Every day you choose to save yourself from a life that has become unrecognizable and detrimental to your happiness.

For a while, choosing to walk away is a daily - sometimes, hourly - struggle. An internal battle that wells up unexpectedly at really strange times and sucker-punches you. That's the problem with nostalgia, though, isn't it? It lingers. It's specific. And it's not convenient at all. It's the smell of his cologne on your jacket that you haven't worn in a while. It's the show you used to religiously watch together popping up on your TV. It's the song with that special significance to just the two of you that comes on the radio. It's the deafening silence at dinnertime. It takes everything in your being to push away the nagging nostalgia and just keep walking. To not give in. To not go back. To not be scared. To trust yourself and choose yourself. It's really fucking hard.

But one day - whether it's weeks or months or even years later - you will wake up feeling excited about the day. The fog and haze of brokenness will have cleared a bit. You'll find yourself looking forward to things again and enjoying new things that maybe you didn't even know you needed in your life. Maybe it's some new music you stumbled upon. Maybe it's your newfound love of documentaries. Maybe you find yourself looking into cooking classes. Maybe it's just taking a daily walk by yourself to regroup and breathe. Don't get me wrong - you'll still experience pain and pangs of nostalgia; however, irrespective of the specific "thing" you find yourself enjoying or looking forward to, the point is that your fire has been relit. You're beginning to live in the present and think about the future again as opposed to lamenting the past. You turn the corner. 

But here's the question we all want the answer to: When? When does the pain and loneliness and sadness finally subside? How long will this go on?

Answer: There is no answer.

Each of us will have different timeframes for healing from the grief and loss of our relationship. So, unfortunately, "when" isn't something with which I can help you. But I can definitively say that the healing will come. That you will find yourself experiencing feelings of excited anticipation and real joy and connection again. And I can also tell you that there are only two things you can do to get to the light at the end of the tunnel - neither of which are comfortable. But you should do them anyway.

1. Accept that you have to give it time. This sucks. None of us want to hear that it just takes time because that sounds so indefinite. Because it fucking is. The truth is, though, that you just have to get through ONE DAY. Then the next ONE DAY. Then the next. Focus on doing the best you can with the 24 hours in front of you. Consider for a moment how long it took you to compile the flood of memories and experiences from your relationship - and how engrained into that familiarity you had become. It's going to take time to process all the little ripples this decision is going to send through your life. And each ripple deserves your attention and acknowledgment of this change. Soon enough you'll need a bit of a break from the constant overanalyzing, which brings us to the next thing that will help get you to the light at the end of the tunnel...

2. New experiences should be a priority. When you finally reach a point where you can get through a bit of time without feeling devastated with nostalgia, make some plans to do something. And keep making plans. Experiencing new things has a double-dose positive effect: One - It distracts from your overanalyzing past memories tendencies and replaces that time and energy with creating new memories. (At some point, you'll recognize this "distraction" as your life - the one where you get to decide what it looks like and who is a part of it and which activities you enjoy. But for now, it'll just get you out of your own head.) Two - It'll help you to start to feel capable again. Capable of feeling positive things about your new life. Capable of connecting with people that you maybe didn't even know you needed. Capable of deciding. Capable of joy. Capable of laughter. Capable of loving yourself. All of these are things that will eventually lead you to look at your relationship in the rearview mirror, as if it's a chapter in a book you read once. 

But it's certainly not the last chapter.

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