There is a faint but ever present layer of grief that covers everything in my life. It is like seeing the world in colors, but everything is slightly dimmed, whitewashed. There is just so much grief in divorce. You grieve for your lost partner, best friend, lover, and teammate. You grieve the future that you wanted to have together; you grieve the marriage that you thought you had. You even grieve your identify as a married person.
People have often compared the grief from divorce to the grief of the death of a spouse. I shy away from pain competitions. Ultimately, everybody carries their own burden, and you can’t quantify sorrow. Divorce or widowhood? I’m glad that M. is alive and well, and I would never wish anything bad to happen to him. Now, he is free to contribute to the world, and bring joy to the people he loves. However, he is not immortalized in my memories as the wonderful guy I used to know. The divorce made me wake up and see him in a much less positive light (a truer light?). Would I have written or thought about emotional abuse if M. had died? Probably not. Now, I have to deal with the pain that M. has caused me, because he chose to.
The fallout from my divorce involves making peace with the fact that M. of his own free will and sound of mind simply left me. Maybe in some ways the M. I thought I knew did die. I mean, my M. would have never cheated on me, or mistreated me. He wouldn’t have fought with me about nickels and dimes. He would have never chosen someone else over me. He would have never left me alone and unprotected. So my M. did die, but he also didn’t. He simply never existed.
Another thing that’s very different between death and divorce is that I don’t know when my marriage died. There is no universal tragedy that marks the day when I went from married to not married. Sure, there is an actual date when my divorce will be finalized, but that’s not the day my marriage died.
So when was it? Was it in marriage counseling, when M. couldn’t promise fidelity? Was it after he promised me the world and then took it back? Was it the day we signed papers? Was it when he slept with someone else while we were married? Was it when he decided I wasn’t his best friend anymore? Was it before all of this, the day that M. gave up? Maybe in March, when he couldn’t have that conversation with me. Was it way way before then? If my M. wasn’t real, was our marriage ever alive?
You would think that as much as I have suffered, I would know the day when I lost so much. But the truth is that I have no idea. There won’t be a single anniversary of my suffering. Instead, there are many painful days that are etched into soul, emotional scars that will take a long time to heal. Instead of one day, I get all the days when I could see my marriage crumble and I was powerless to stop it. The good news is that I’m not powerless anymore, and I couldn’t save my marriage, but at least I saved my sanity.