I hardly recognize myself these days. Ruminating and paroxysms of despair are my norm, so is it strange, when going through a painful divorce, to work through the stages of grief this quickly? It has been six weeks since Eddie and I made the gutwrenching decision to move on with our lives alone, and once the words were uttered, I was on top of denial right away.
The part where I had to leave was definitely real, but I kept the naive, delusional hope alive that separation didn’t necessarily have to mean divorce. Because once I vanished, Eddie would begin to beat his breast, realize that he was lost without me, and somehow morph into the kind, supportive and attentive spouse I had been missing. Yes in the long run this temporarily split could even be good for us. We’d laugh over our impetuousness in the years to come, regaling our embarrassed children with tales of stubborn passion leading to mature contrition.
This phase lasted about a week until endless screaming, defiance and open disrespect made it clear that I could not stay in Fantasyland for an unlimited time. There would be no opportunity for reconciling, and even if we found an opening, the will is simply not there.
Then I spent about three solid weeks in anger. I am a hot-blooded Italian and was raised in a family of explosive emotion of all varieties. Anger has never been tough. I was mad that I am the one who has to leave the family home because my income will not allow me to stay. I have to let go of car, family, furniture, pretty much everything I have spent the last five years helping my partner build. It’s not about the money. It’s about disposability, loneliness and the struggle to start over that should have been avoided. Hell, I feel an anger flashback right now just pondering it. But I have laid my hair trigger reactions to rest. They will not change anything and will comfort no one.
Bargaining came next: time to utilize the health insurance coverage I enjoyed through Eddie’s job before divorce cuts me off. A short window to use the car that’s no longer mine to pick up new apartment essentials, run errands and visit friends and family I may not be able to get to for some time. In this stage of grief, the power imbalance in my marriage was never more clear. Out of a need to placate and survive, I became the pleading sycophant, dependent on the whims and good humor of my estranged husband to take care of business. At this stage of grief, I never hated myself, or him, more.
Two more weeks of solid depression followed, although truth be told, I had been languishing at this stage of grief for nearly a year. The stages are not necessarily linear. I lost weight, sleep, and more tears than I believed it possible to shed. I haven’t exactly cleared this phase yet and know that I may not for some time. Sadness and loss go together and I am not going to rush this one.
So what’s been left for the last week is a tentative form of acceptance. Acceptance is a tricky phase because knowing something can never be fixed is not quite the same as being OK with it. But awareness that my energies will be completely wasted in hoping for a happy ending has allowed me to start considering and planning for the future, a future of self-reliance and hard work. I am not a great fan of the dense, needlessly complex writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I have always ascribed to his philosophy that the self-made (wo)man is she who enjoys the most satisfaction. So I am all set to go with my move, every logistical detail planned to perfection. My career, the paid day job and the freelance endeavors, are starting to take off in ways I never imagined. Dating is a long way off, but I am reconnecting with friends, old and new, and feel a wider range of emotions suddenly available to me.
I feel better about myself and my prospects than I have in months, but there is a voice of doubt residing in my gray matter, hinting that I might be fooling myself. Is it possible to be somewhat ok already? Can I trust the endorphins that seem to be telling me life will actually go on?