I was enquiring after a mutual friend, whose husband had just deserted and betrayed her.
“How is she?”
“Distraught. She was asking how long it lasts.”
“What? The pain?”
“The ‘it-hurts-so-bad-I-don’t-want-to-live-any-more’ pain lasts, erm, well, for me it lasted about 6 months. All she can do is concentrate on getting through the days, and congratulate herself for it. Then it gets easier, but it takes time. Two years later and I’m only just beginning to feel like me again, as opposed to someone who is surviving something.”
And then I realised. That was the first time I’d said it out loud, that I was really ready to get on with being myself rather than having every thought and action overshadowed by what I used to be, and am no longer. That’s taken two years. Two years since my (ex-)husband told me he no longer loved me and wanted a divorce.
We all heal from grief, pain and tragedy at different rates, and those emotions specific to divorce are no different. My ex has already sold the former family home and moved out of the area to set up a new home with his fiancee; within a year of decree absolute, he will be married again. If he is the hare of divorce recovery, I am certainly more the tortoise.
I’ve lost track of the well-meaning mentions of the need to “move on” and “get over it”, even “forgive”, but this isn’t something I can rush. The aching void of pain began to close over some time ago, and the razor’s cut of rejection only clips me occasionally, when I am brave enough to again experiment with trust and take the risk of vulnerability. What has taken so much longer is working out who I am and how I live now I have lost my life partner, my family unit, my home, and in the process, my home church and many close friends and family members. I couldn’t move on because I didn’t know where I should move to. Aside from the blessed necessities of work and parenting and setting up home, I had no idea how to gather the fragments of who I once was and what I once had into a new identity, a new life. So I stood and waited. I paid attention to what was left and nurtured it as best I could. I let what had gone slip quietly away and wished it a silent farewell. I carried on, I continued, I coped as best I could. And I stood and waited.
Now, two years later, I am finally ready to kneel and gather the fragments into a cohesive whole, to sift through the remnants and decide again what goes and what stays, and to add to them the new, and the rediscovered. I am ready to let what has happened to me shrink into the distance in my rear-view mirror, to choose who I am now rather than be defined by losing who I was.
Again, this will take time. The assumptions on which I had founded my adult life now seem to have all the solidity of drifted sand. Even my faith in God feels threadbare, tenuous, forever stripped of the somewhat arrogant certainty of blessing and provision for those who believe. I feel like the blind man waiting for healing whilst Jesus plays with spit and dirt.
My “moving on” is consequently a hesitant shuffling over the threshold, rather than a purposeful stride. I weigh my decisions more cautiously now, trying to do the right thing, aspiring to wisdom. Each choice defines my new identity and shapes my new future and the future of those now dependent on me. Just me. If this all goes wrong, I have no-one to fall back on, no-one is on-hand to catch me if I fall and fail. Each day is a series of moment-by-moment choices, each day lays the foundation for a week, a month…another year. I live thankfully, carefully, tentatively. I rest as much as I can, and forgive myself often. There is no clearly-defined route to where I am going, there is no map and my compass isn’t what it was. I speak comfort to myself that it is hardly surprising if I feel and act “lost”.
I shuffle on. One day I trust I will be able to make another public admission – that my life is finally coherent, sensible, balanced, and that I feel fully at home in it.
I will have “moved on”.
But I will never “get over it”. The scars will fade but they will never vanish. I will never be the same woman I was 2 years ago. The intervening events can never be erased from my history and their effects on me and my circumstances are indelible. There is no going back, no possibility I will “get over it” and revert to who and how I was before. But if I am careful enough, prayerful enough, and brave – I may eventually become someone different, someone I can be proud of. I am hopeful that, like a kintsugi vessel, my ugly breaks will one day be rendered beautiful joins.