Monday, September 20, 2010

Divorce and Death

Seven years ago, on Father's Day, my best friend buried her husband.  He was thirty-nine years old and died from colon cancer.  She was left to raise three beautiful, young children on her own.  It was such a terrible and tragic time.  I don't think that you can ever get over the death of a spouse.  You just learn how to cope.  That is what I have watched my friend do for seven years.  I am so proud of her for the amazing job she has done.

When I hit bottom back in March, I finally called my sister and told her that she needed to come.  She asked when I wanted her here, and I said, "Now."  This was 3:30 in the afternoon.  She is a school teacher, so she had to arrange for a substitute and get lesson plans.  She arrived at my house at 9:00 that night.  I knew my mother was coming with her, but she also surprised me by bringing my best friend.

Those couple of days are a blur.  It was March 17, and the next day would be my twenty-first anniversary.  The only way that I think I can somewhat describe the situation is that it was like an "out of body" experience. I remember a good friend had come over from the church.  The house was a wreck.  I simply did not care.  (Those who know me well know that I keep an immaculate house.)  She was one of the few people that I allowed in during that time because she was traveling a similar journey.  I knew that she understood what I was going through, and she would not care if I sat and cried the whole time we talked.  The girls came in.  They were hungry.  The last thing that I could possibly do at that moment was cook.  Lily said, "Mom, we are just going to run get fast food."  My friend assured me that it was just fine, and they would survive if they had to eat fast food for a few days.

She left shortly before my family and friend arrived.  Being married to a pastor, I have been through deaths with countless families.  The atmosphere in my home that night was not very different from those experiences.  My sister came in and sat down by me.  I just laid my head in her lap.  They were trying to cheer me up by telling funny stories of their whirlwind trip over.  I laughed when they did, even though I had not processed a word they had just said.

I slept with my girls that night.  I wanted them as close to me as I could get them.  The next morning my mother and sister got up and cooked a massive breakfast.  While they were cooking, my friend came and asked the girls if she could spend some time with me.  It was the day of my anniversary.  She just looked at me and said, "Well, twenty years ago you and I would never have dreamed that life would turn out like this."  She was a widow, and I was soon to be divorced.  We were both forced to start over in life, and that had surely not been a part of our plans.

Years ago, a very kind friend who had gone through a difficult divorce said to me, "I think divorce is worse than death because in death, they don't choose to leave."  I never fully understood that until now.  I still do not know that I would say it is worse, because I have watched my friend grieve through her loss.   Instead of comparing the divorce and death, I have come to the conclusion that divorce is death.

The relationship with the love of my life is dead.  I can finally say that.  Months ago, I would have been so overcome with sadness that I could not have even processed that mentally without sinking into despair.  Now I can acknowledge that fact.  It is gone and buried.  There will be no twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  We will not grow old together.  I did not think I could ever accept those facts.  However, as the months have passed, I have gotten more accustomed to my life without Jason.  I have finally come to accept the reality that this is what will be.  I have grieved at depths to which I never knew I could go, and I have survived.  I have accepted that this marriage is over, and I am moving forward.

I have finally reached the point that I rarely grieve over my relationship with Jason.  More often, I grieve over the family that we were.  We had good times.  It is amazing that I can sit here and smile as I write this.  We were a family that played together and enjoyed each other.  Lily told me once a few months ago that she thought the whole process would have been so much easier if ours had not been such a great family.  That family, as it existed then, is gone.  I have grieved and continue to grieve for that.

Finally, I grieve over all the loss of hope that others have experienced because of our divorce.  So many people have said to me, "If you guys can't make it, then who can?"  One reason that I blog is so that people who are considering divorce can see just how detrimental and destructive it is to the adults involved and to the children.  Please hear me loudly and clearly:  unless there is abuse involved, it is not worth it.  The pain and suffering that come with this journey are so vast, and the consequences just keep coming.  Please do not think that the grass is greener on the other side.  As a good minister friend said once, "Grass is grass."  Stay where you are and cultivate and fertilize the grass.  It can be lush again.

My flower beds are showing the signs of fall.  The summer annuals are beginning to die away.  One of  my favorite flowers is a black-eyed susan.  We planted  several of them last year.  After the planting, they just went limp and eventually withered away.  I was so disappointed.  In April I was beginning to have some hope that life could go on.  I walked outside one day, and to my surprise several of these plants had come back.  It seemed to have happened overnight.  I watched them over the next few weeks.  They grew to be at least twice as big as they were last year and were covered in blooms.  They were breathtaking.  They had lost everything and withered away to nothing.  While in the ground, they had endured a long, cold winter.  Yet they had survived.  Not only had they survived, but they had come back stronger and more beautiful than they were before.

I have experienced the death of something that to me was amazing, wonderful, and beautiful.  But I know that God has new life in store for me.  I am already experiencing it, and as the following verse says, my joyful anticipation of what lies ahead deepens every day!

Romans 8:18-21 (The Message)
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

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