Navigating Life's Storms: Divorce and Other Loss
It is accepted wisdom to say that the Top Five Stressful Situations people face include the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, major illness, and losing one’s job. All of these situations are very real vexations on the soul and require different strategies and tactics to overcome. They also can come in bunches because that is how life goes sometimes—when it rains, it pours.
When we are confronted with the most serious challenges that life can offer, the stress can become darn near unbearable. There is pain, and then there is pain. Certain emotional traumas can be so debilitating that they sap your energy and make it seem as if even breathing is struggle. These are the times that test our strength, our faith, and especially our resilience.
I learned a lot about divorce through direct experience because my parents broke up when I was a teenager, and my own marriage dissolved after ten years. Both cases were devastating, though in different ways. First, there is no good time for a divorce from a child’s perspective. If they are young, there is a profound sense of loss which may seem almost ethereal because one can never tell what might have been. For teens like myself at that time, it was brutal because the foundation of my life up to that point was shaken and then torn apart. It was very hard to reconcile the love I had for my parents with the idea that we would no longer be together as a family. The break-up of my own marriage? Well, that was worse.
I had waited until my mid-30s to marry because I wanted to find “the right woman” and believed in the ideal of marriage being “‘til death do us part.” I had never seen a more beautiful woman in my life than my now ex-wife on our wedding day, and I was never happier than the day I held my daughter for the first time. To have all of that torn away from me due to irreconcilable difference remains painful to talk about, let alone write about. There are no “one size fits all” answers for this stuff, so I will share a few thoughts and hope they resonate with you.
My lowest point came the day after my ex-wife’s birthday and the day before our anniversary which was two days later. All of the pain and suffering that I had been holding at bay over the summer months through exercise and hustling to find a new job—remember I said these things can come in bunches—came flooding down upon me. The actual moment was tragicomic because I saw myself in the mirror as I was crying hysterically, and had this epiphany: “Wow, I look worse than I feel…and I feel like S***!!!!” The fever broke at that point and I was able to begin my own process of recovery.
You must find activities to channel your energy in a positive way because alcohol, drugs, and chasing sexual adventures are not long term solutions. I went to the gym…a lot. I was swimming 1-2 miles a day, four times a week and spent a great deal of time with my Frisbee Friends, just waiting for the weekend so I could spend time with my daughter, The Best Girl in the World (TBGITW). I continue to believe that focusing on physical fitness saved my life because my exercise routine helped stabilize me and was a meditative practice as well.
Equally important was my network of friends and family. These people listened to me when I was consumed by darkness, pushing me when it seemed that I had lost the will to keep pressing forward, and they held me close when nothing else would work.
Most important for me was the love I continue to share with TBGITW. We were together for 52 of the first 100 weekends after the break-up because I knew from my own experience, that she needed to KNOW that Dad would always be there for her. To this day My Girl by the Temptations makes us both happy…though it does occasionally bring a tear to my eye.
So when the going gets tough, just remember: You are NOT alone. There are people out here who care and want to lend an ear, even if it just to check-in and see how you are doing.