After my ex’s unfortunate revelation about the state of our marriage, I knew separation was the right choice for me and my boys. I expected to feel some intense feelings. I knew things were about to get heavy. I am a truth teller to my core and I was all, OK, I have my comfy pants on, tissues at the ready, and some frozen Girl Scout cookies — bring on the feels!
I expected sadness. Darkness. Shame. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Heaviness. Perhaps some relief. I anticipated hard moments to come, like parent-teacher conferences. Holidays. Weekend swaps. I knew those were going to be tough, so I got to work and Googled all the possible ways to handle them, bookmarking relevant sites and taking mental note on tips.
I. Was. On. It.
But then came the moments that were complete surprises, now awkwardly frozen in time like snapshots of the past year of my life. If you are in the midst of a separation, please allow my blind-sidedness to shed some preventative light for you; these things might still happen, but at least you’ll know you’re not alone.
1. The Retainer Check
I wrote a retainer check to my lawyer on a Winnie-the-Pooh check. It felt ironically whimsical, hilarious even, and I instinctively turned to my husband to laugh at how ridiculous that was — but he wasn’t there. Oh, right.
2. The Courtroom
I stood alone in that courtroom filled with formality and ugly flooring, held up my right hand and started to be like “Judge, how much truth are we swearing to right now? Do you want to know what I am excited about? Afraid of? Secretly hoping will happen?” Turns out he just wanted to know the details pertaining to the reams of paperwork in front of him. My whole marriage, boiled down to reams of paperwork.
3. The Doctor’s Office
The unsuspecting and kind nurse asked if my emergency contact was up to date. I was floored. Frozen in place. How much to tell? Could she hear how hurt I felt? Could she see the shame at his cheating all over my face? I stage whispered through the glass “No, please change it. To my Dad.”
4. The Unsuspecting Colleagues
The worst are the colleagues I don’t see often enough for them to know all the day in/day out stuff, but who do know me well enough to be all “How’s your husband? What are the kids up to? What’s new?” Eeep. It’s actually less awkward for me in the re-telling of the story than watching their faces as realize they just totally put their foot way into their mouths as they begin to back away slowly. It’s not awesome.
5. The Cat Adoption Lady
Sometimes when you separate, you do things like adopt a 9-year-old cat with a special diet who walks with a limp. This might be the very best decision you could make, as said cat brings immeasurable joy to you in a time of uncertainty, but there’s also the matter of the application. The form that asks about marital status, people in the home, and timelines regarding financial stability and the like. It’s hard to exude stability when you say “No, he moved out last week, but yes, I am completely prepared to take on another living, breathing creature.”
My separation surprises have been both funny and sad. The weight of what you’re going through hits at unexpected moments, but I can assure you, it passes. And as many times as I’ve had to have these awkward exchanges, I’ve gotten just as many me-toos, and yeah-I’ve-been-theres from the person on the receiving end. As with everything, if I am truthful and vulnerable, I receive the same in return. This is not your greatest moment, but I promise it’s also not the worst and you are definitely not alone. The best you can do is be prepared to set the tone — and laugh a little too, because sometimes that’s actually the only option.
This post originally appeared on Divorced Moms.