“I need you to update your forms for me, please,” asked the receptionist at my doctor’s office the other day.
Single, married, divorced, or widowed—these were the options to choose from.
Relationship status always falls in the third section after name and address. A giant beaming spotlight there to remind me, just in case I forget, what I did have and don’t have anymore. What I was, married and what I am now, divorced.
I never thought I would be, but I am. It follows me everywhere. It’s my shadow that I have no choice but to walk with every day.
My divorce was not just amicable; it was loving.
Four and (almost) a half years later, we continue to support one another. We raise our children as a team. It was the right decision then and it continues to be the right decision now, but that doesn’t stop the grief from penetrating my life on a daily basis.
Why? Why am I still grieving after all these years?
Because, it’s a loss, it’s a death.
I’ve started to refer to divorce as a miscarriage of a promise—of the heart and of a dream.
Although my two miscarriages happened early on in pregnancy (in between the birth of my first daughter and my second daughter), I can remember the grief.
I didn’t just grieve the loss of the reality of what was, but what I hoped would be: The baby’s birthdays, graduation, wedding and all the thousands of moments in between.
After I lost both pregnancies and for months after, I had to go through the process of unweaving the dream that appeared right along with the plus sign on the test.
My divorce is no different.
Last month would have been our eleventh anniversary. On a breezy Saturday afternoon, we stood face to face, hand in hand and took a vow to love one another until the end, until one of us stopped breathing.
Regularly, we would sit and fantasize about our life together, about growing old, about sitting on the wrap around porch watching our grandchildren play. The future felt real, the dream was tangible and then, I made the decision to end our marriage.
Since that day, I find myself embodying two emotions at all times—joy and sorrow. I am the conduit through which both flow evenly. On Thanksgiving, joy and sorrow. On birthdays, joy and sorrow. When the girls get their report cards and I am so proud of them, joy and sorrow. When a tooth falls out, joy and sorrow. During our bedtime routine, joy and sorrow. Playing at the park, joy and sorrow.
With every day that passes, I continue to unthread the tapestry of the dream. The marriage itself is like a ghost. I can feel its presence, but I can’t see it anymore. What existed has becomes invisible, but what could have been remains touchable.
I have to remind myself, it is an illusion, a mirage. The dream is no longer viable; it died with the miscarriage of our marriage. Or did it?
Grief is the acceptance of an ending intertwined with a longing and attachment to what could have been. The acceptance doesn’t cover up the remaining flicker of hope or the immortality of the dream.
The dream is like a flame that won’t extinguish. It takes time to go dark, a lifetime, particularly when there are children involved.
Lately, I’ve wondered if these feelings will ever go away completely, I don’t know. I don’t know if meeting someone else will dull the dream. I’m not sure.
It has become my lot in life to make peace with this grief. I find comfort in its after-quakes now, because in my heart, grief is a sign of something real. It pays homage to something (our marriage) and someone, whom I valued and cherished and continue to, to this day.
Grief is a symptom of love. A reminder that, I connected. That whomever I am grieving was important to me. They mattered.
I wish I could end this piece with an answer, something that would solve the pain and replace it solely with joy, but that’s impossible. The two go together. They are married for life. They dance within us in perfect rhythm.
If I choose to love, I choose to grieve. I’m ok with that, because it means I am willing to keep the dream alive that one day, I will sit on that wrap around porch with someone whom I love and who will understand and accept my sorrow too.
“Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all…
Still mine, that cannot but deplore,
That beats within a lonely place,
That yet remembers his embrace,
But at his footstep leaps no more,
My heart, tho’ widow’d, may not rest
Quite in the love of what is gone,
But seeks to beat in time with one
That warms another living breast.”
~ Excerpts from XXVII and LXXXV, In Memoiram A.H.H. by Lord Alfred Tennyson