I was talking to a friend a few weeks after my husband moved out about the overwhelm I felt as I faced this new life of being a single mother. She assured me it was going to be okay.
“Take a year,” she said. “It’s going to be horrible some days, but realize that now, accept it, and when you get through the hardness of that, you will be better than ever.”
And she was right — that conversation was almost a year ago, and I’ve felt all the things she said I would. I’ve hung onto her words, and they have gotten me through my hardest days and moments.
Like those scary mornings in the shower when my anxiety decided to come over for a visit, kick me in the ass, and leave me a mess for the rest of the day.
You knew this was coming, I’d think to myself. And it somehow helped soften the blow.
Or when I drop my kids off with their dad, and as I’m pulling out of his driveway, I see the four of them walking away. It still feels so foreign, even though we’ve been doing this for almost a year.
It’s still new. You knew this was going to be gut-wrenching.
Her words have gotten me through this first year, as they’ve been a constant reminder that I need to feel these feelings. I am supposed to have these emotions. I am allowed to be confused, mixed up, and sad. I was warned this was all going to part of it, and I’ve decided to sit with it. Welcome it, even — because after trying to fight it and push down my feelings, it’s clear that I don’t have a choice in the matter.
Divorce, just like any other big change, takes a lot of time to process and heal from before you come out the other side.
When you decide to end your marriage, you have a long road ahead of you. You may feel better you are on your own and independent. You may be happy to start anew. You may feel full of hope and anxious to start a new chapter in your life.
And all of these feelings can be kidnapped by feeling mentally tapped out. You may need to lie in bed for a day (or days). You will need support. You will crave friendships. You will long for companionship, even if it comes in the form of meaningless sex.
You will want to be held. You will have days when you don’t eat enough, and times when all you want to do is wear sweatpants and empty the contents of your fridge.
There will be times when you so desperately want to talk to someone for hours — not just about your situation, but about their life. Escaping from your life and focusing on someone else’s can be healing, and you will welcome the respite.
And then there will be the dark times when you can’t reach out to anyone and ask for help because you just don’t know what you need, or what to ask for, or what you are supposed to do with everything happening inside of your mind and your soul. You will want someone or something to come and fix it for you.
But it won’t happen, because life jerks you around like that.
You will feel guilty when others pay extra attention to you, or go above and beyond and do things for you in hopes of brightening your day. You will feel undeserving. You will feel too empty to give anything back, and you will beat yourself up about that as well.
Because that is what divorce does: It breaks you down. It wipes you out. It feels like a stranger who has overstayed their welcome, destroyed your house, and doesn’t give a shit. And no matter what you do, no matter how many times you ask them, they won’t leave you alone.
The only way to get through it is to do exactly that: Get through the hard days, one moment at a time. Don’t forget to breathe.
And remember, you will emerge a new, better version of yourself. You don’t go through something that tears you apart and not come out a stronger person — life can be beautiful like that.
So, give yourself a year, minimum. Feel all the feelings, do what you need to do, and just focus on one moment at a time.