Divorce has been both the most painful and the most liberating experience of my life. Like the seasons, our psychology after divorce (or major breakup) shifts and changes in lumbering efforts, sporadic and moody, yet tethered to ancient forces that guide us through the process of letting go and making way.
We look out our windows and watch as the ceaseless rain finally yields itself to a day of bright sunshine, warming us just long enough to finish our sigh before the silky sun is swallowed whole again by the gray nimbus. In the months after your breakup, this is how life can feel; weeks and weeks of grays and dark matter, peppered with signs of life that wink at you and remind you that, in time, spring will come.
Divorce can be death, but within death comes the promise of new life. I am speaking of the death of the relationship as it was, yes, but moreover, I am speaking of the internal death. The one that leaves us feeling lost, or lonely, or grief-stricken, or sad. We had built a life with this person; the memories, the promises, the love, the disappointments, all of it. That story had become meaningful to us. The story of us. The story meant to last a lifetime but really only lasted its lifetime. Sometimes we need to let go of what was, to make room for what’s next. Sometimes it’s the very disentanglement from your story that creates the space to write a new one.
But here’s the thing: the extent to which we allow the weight of suffering to bring death to all that was, is the extent to which we can make peace with all that is, here and now. We can resist the psychological winter, numbing the pain and escaping into alcohol, or sex, or blame, or dating, but we can never truly outrun the pain; we only postpone it, where it takes another form or joins forces with other pains. Be brave: allow it. Accept the situation, accept the sense of loss, and feel through it. Feel loneliness. Truly feel it. Feel what it feels like to feel lost, or in despair, or unloved. We can use this pain to burn holes in the person we thought we were and make room for the rising of a new kind, a giant, one formed in the underbelly of winter, fashioned from the fires of innermost love, and one who knows the staggering width of their own soul’s resilience.
There will be death, there will be pain, it will feel confusing and scary and overwhelming, but take heart; all this shall pass. Sometimes the pain will be more than you can bear, and will you close your eyes, grit your teeth, and find something to take the edge off. And that’s okay. You deserve your kindness at these moments.
Winter will pass, and one way or another, you will find yourself on a late April Sunday packing away your winter coats and opening windows to let in spring. To those brave souls who embraced winter and allowed pain to teach them, the spring breeze will sweep through your house in determined resolve, ushering the dead of winter through the exits and leaving you smiling and pregnant with the promise of a brighter day.
To all those who have opened their windows and put away their coats – well done, the process is not easy. To all those who find themselves in the dark of winter – hold on, keep your eyes open, and let love lead you through the darkness.
The thing that unraveled you into a mess of knots and tangles was the same thing that allowed you to see all the things that you no longer want there. It allowed you to untie the knots and cut off the tangles. It allowed you to start again – this time with your eyes open.
Divorce will unravel you; the question is, will you be conscious enough to watch it?