One of the most important things I learned in Grad school for Social Work was the grief cycle. Most of us attribute the term grief to death and bereavement, however, what social scientists and therapists now know is that grief can intersect with most any of our life experiences.
Grief is the emotional and mental process by which we mitigate or accept loss and failed expectations. By this definition, we can experience grief from job loss, status shifts, or relational brokenness including divorce.
Anyone who has experienced the end of a marriage, at least one that had any significance, will tell you that it feels like a death. It’s the most accurate depiction of the event. The Bible paints a picture of marriage in Genesis that describes it as two flesh becoming one. If this is true, then divorce is the raw tearing of said flesh.
Whether figurative or literal, your brain seems to be unable to tell the difference.
In the simplest of terms, it hurts, Fam.
Any study of grief will point you to the “5 Stages of Grief,” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (there is discussion that there are more than 5, but I digress). The stages are: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance; they may be experienced in no particular order or length of time, and, for some, stages may be revisited.
Okay, I know I just nerded out but stick with me!
Several months before the official end of my marriage I began to grieve it because I could tell where it was headed. I even reached a level of acceptance during my separation that gave me the strength to optimistically plan for my new future and forgive. However, I cycled through depression, anger, and sometimes denial as I encountered different experiences as a result of my divorce.
With each experience, inconvenience, or revelation I had to come to a new level of acceptance.
I had to keep healing.
In my eagerness, I tried to move forward too soon and prove to myself, and sometimes others, that I was okay, but I only hurt myself more by not allowing my heart and mind the space to keep accepting things.
It was like being prescribed to have a leg cast on for 12 weeks, but by week 10 deciding to run a marathon. Healing has taken place, but more damage can be done by using a partially fractured heart to do fully healed heart things.
If you’re reading this amid, or after, a divorce, separation, or break up I want to say this: Give yourself the grace to grieve. Be at Peace with not being ready yet. Whether that’s relationally, or not being ready to resume your full level of activity. Rushing yourself to move forward is usually an indicator of brokenness. It’s better you face it now than reap the consequences of damaging your heart further.
The most beautiful thing about grief is the healing that flows from it. When done well, the clarity of acceptance allows us to lay aside the weight of grief and incorporate our experience into a larger narrative of resilience, Grace, and the faithfulness of God.
As I turn the corner towards a year of single living, I am lightyears ahead of where I was and I praise God. However, if you’ve ever experienced the death of a loved one you know the sadness of the memory never goes away, but simply evolves.
You will never go back to being who you were before, and honestly you don’t want to. But you can have a life you never dreamed of if you trust the process.
Grief, for me, today is way less visible. It doesn’t come in tears, fits of anger, or depression. It’s in the deep sighs, or the random reminders of the ugliness of betrayal.
Although I am Peace with the past, my ex-husband, and the divorce itself, I also accept that it was not God’s, nor my own will for my life. What silently grieves me is the idea that love can sometimes be weaponized and turn volatile. However, what I believe is that God’s redemption is my portion and I can exceedingly Hope in His goodness as a single woman, and one day, as a married one.