I’ve been having a recurring dream every night for the past few weeks. In the dream, I’m still married to my ex-husband; we are fighting and he’s getting ready to move out. I’m mad, yelling, and feel like I can’t breathe. Then my dream ends, and I wake up crying. New tears spill out and I can feel dry ones on my cheeks.
I’m not sure what’s tearing me apart more: the dream itself? Or the wondering why, when my then husband really was about to move out, I didn’t have any of these feelings?
I was ready for him to go, he was ready to go, and yet here I am a year and a half later, after I’ve settled into a routine and I’m used to him being gone, dreaming about something that never happened and feelings I’ve never felt unless I’m asleep.
Were they there and I just pushed them down? Am I feeling guilty because I never actually had these feelings and I have the need to punish myself night after night after night?
I don’t know.
There are lots of grieving stages of divorce, and I feel like I’m in the middle of one that sucks the most: I’m mourning my old life — hard. I cry at least twice a day and I’ve given up on trying to hold it in; I just can’t anymore.
I’m slowly learning that you can miss your old life and the things you used to do as a family without missing your ex enough to want to be married to them. But, it’s confusing as hell. It makes you feel you’re wading through cement and you’ll be stuck in the space forever.
It feels lonely, so damn lonely, and claustrophobic. You want help but you don’t how anyone can possibly do anything for you besides take your feelings away. And even if you did know how to ask someone to do that, you want space and time to be alone.
Unfortunately, the feelings linger and there’s nothing you can do but feel them. You have to feel the pain of missing everyone being under one roof at night. You have to face the fact that holidays, birthdays, and long weekends aren’t the same, and they never will be.
Your heart breaks with almost every memory and there’s a part of you that wants your old life back because you truly feel it was easier then, even though you were so unhappy.
I was talking to my best friend on the phone the other day asking her why this was so hard, why I was struggling so much, why “moving on” was taking so long. She reminded me I was struggling even more while I was unhappily married so this is actually progress.
And she was right; I’d forgotten about that part.
You will grieve after a divorce — even if you don’t think you will. Grief and mourning for the end of a relationship might look differently for everyone, but it’s completely normal. And as strange as it seems, it is possible to love your new life while still missing your old life.
These feelings can catch you by surprise too. One second you might be thinking about what to have for breakfast, then while shaving your legs in the shower, the pain comes; it will hit you like a nail through your finger, and you’ll wonder how you went from being happy just seconds ago thinking about peanut butter toast, to welling up with tears and feeling as if you might vomit.
There are times when you’ll be going about your business, making a grocery list and you hear a bird that reminds you of the first time your ex spent the night, or your honeymoon, or that morning you had a horrible fight then delicious makeup sex.
You love the sound of the bird because its nostalgic, but you hate it because it makes you feel like you can’t breath, and that you’ve ruined everything, and if you had only said different things, or acted in different ways, your life would be status quo and you wouldn’t be lying face-down on a sofa pillow crying about a fucking bird.
And then, you get back up again, and you are fine.
For a little while anyway.
This grieving my divorce shit is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. I’m told by others who have been through it, the acceptance stage is around the corner and my life won’t always feel so foreign. There will come a time when I’ll know what to do, and these horrible pangs that bring me to my knees will hit me less often.
I’ll breath better. I’ll feel better. I will just be better.
But until then, I have no choice but to keep grieving and mourning the end of my marriage and the way my family used to be.
I’ve tried running away from those feelings before, but there are no good hiding spaces — and in the end, I know it will all be okay and this is just part of my journey in getting to a better place. After all, sometimes the only way to get around something awful is go through it.