With divorce comes so much loss; even the little things you didn’t think held much weight with you can leave a gaping hole. Like when you stand in your kitchen one late Sunday morning and watch your dining room table being taken apart and carried out the door.
Suddenly, you see all the meals you’ve shared, art projects, and homework-helping that happened around that rectangle of wood, and you want nothing more than to dig your nails into it and put it back just how it was.
After all, a missing piece of furniture, even when it’s replaced with a new one, is a reminder that things are different. That your family is different. That you are different.
Your short-term memory goes on vacation and you do things like leave your purse at home when you are going out to the grocery store, search for your phone while you are speaking into it, and forget to text friends back who want to be there for you.
Your family unit that used to be the center of your life is now divided. No matter how amicable the separation and divorce are, when a family splits, it’s excruciatingly painful at best.
You try really hard to snuggle into your new normal, but you can’t get comfortable, because with a life change such as divorce comes a shift in yourself. And when you shift, so do the things around you. That means losing some friends.
As a divorced woman, I think this can happen for a few reasons.
When you enter the first stages of separation and divorce, there is often an outpouring of support that you sometimes can’t tend to. Not because you don’t care, but because you are trying to keep your head above water with so many other things.
Your mental health feels like it’s getting squeezed to death. You are constantly worrying about how your kids are adjusting to their new life and you have big details to sort out, like custody agreements, splitting assets, and selling property.
Then, you fill in the cracks with packing lunches, signing permission slips, getting your roots dyed, and trying to find a face cream to hide the sad and tired that is written all over your face.
You are exhausted, and it feels like another thing you have to keep up with — so you don’t.
It’s impossible not to shut down certain parts of your life in order to tend to the most important tasks so you are able to survive during this time. This means while you are trying to rebuild your life and get through moment to moment, some friends might feel cast aside, and they are right in those feelings.
Yet divorce also brings out something else in people, and I’m not talking about those going through it. I’m talking about the friends and family who may wish they were able to move on from their marriages but can’t, and then become resentful and angry with you.
You won’t know this is what their silence means, because it’s hard for them to recognize where their feelings are at, much less explain it to you. Maybe someday you will be able to talk about it with them. However, there’s also the chance that it will never come up and your friendship will drift away.
They make your divorce about themselves. They get so upset and consumed with your life and the fact you are diving head first into the unknown, that before you know it, you are consoling them. You wipe their tears because they are so devastated about the fact your partner cheated on you, left you, or betrayed you in some other way.
That said, I think the most common reason to lose friends during divorce is because the weight of your decisions, or your emotions, are much for them to bear, and they pull away. It’s subtle at first, but then it becomes crystal clear — they are too uncomfortable. Or, they don’t think they can remain friends with you and your ex, so they choose your ex.
It hurts. Maybe more than it would if the friendship dissolved for reasons other than your marriage ending. It feels like a betrayal.
What I have found, however, is that it’s okay to let them go.
That doesn’t mean you don’t sit through the pain and wish things were different. Yet, I realized, after letting a few people go, that you don’t need to talk anyone into staying friends with you. Instead, your life shifts in order to bring the right people around you — and before you know it, you will find the support you need.
Sometimes that looks like reconnecting with old friends or family members.
Sometimes that looks like meeting someone in the middle of the skincare aisle while you are looking for that miracle cream, and before you know it, you’ve shared the past five years of your life and make a date to meet for coffee.
Saying goodbye to people is difficult. A life change can make you feel like you are constantly walking on a balance beam, just waiting to fall off. But one day, you will wake up and realize you have what you need. You will find it through old friends and new friends, and they will be there to remind you what you are capable of.