If there was one thing in my life I knew for certain, it was that my wife and I were going to be together forever. That was until Christmas Eve 2014 when suddenly my life was turned upside down and the previously inconceivable idea that we wouldn’t be together, became a reality. This solid structure we spent years building together suddenly came crashing down.
At the time of events, we’d been married for 8 years and together for a total of 15 years — 40% of my entire life — and it was near impossible to imagine life without her. During the first twelve months of our separation, I had two recurring visuals. The first was of myself running shirtless, feverishly as fast as I could, down the sidewalk of a crowded Los Feliz Blvd, through concerned and confused onlookers walking three abreast, to where I don’t know. The other visual was of myself trying to keep afloat deep in a wild river, desperately trying to pull myself upstream over jagged rocks, until I realized that my attempts were useless and that it was time to let go. Surrendering, the raging waters led me down to a calmer, winding river taking me where I’m meant to be.
In addition to attending therapy on Friday afternoons, I read articles about separation, divorce, change, how to cope with loss, and how to move on. I read how many divorced men isolate themselves and become more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes than married men. More troubling, I read how divorced men are also more likely to commit suicide than married men.
I discovered articles from others who’d been through a divorce who shared how no matter what, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, you will survive this. There was a period where I honestly wasn’t sure that I was going to be one of those who’d get through this. I knew I had a choice either to sink or swim. I thought about those who get stuck, those unable to turn their life around, and the very fear of drowning from this provided me with enough motivation to swim to the top.
I was determined to not just survive but harness the energy to inspire change and experience the wisdom that grief offers, and hopefully to later help others.
What I’ve learned over the past two and half years is that grief takes time and it goes through various stages and in various phases. There is no fast-forward button. You need to be present, you need to be kind to yourself and you need be patient. You will slip up every now and then, be it through ruminating over events or perhaps escaping through bad habits like drinking too much, but you need to stay determined that you will get through this.
Initially, all you’ll want is either for your life to miraculously go back to how it was — whether those times were actually good or bad — or you’ll want to magically come through the other side, land on your feet, and move effortlessly into your new life.
The fact is you can’t speed through the stages. In an attempt to understand and reconcile why and how you’ve been forced to go through this grief, there will be times where you will “make sense” of your grief because it has now perhaps led you down this new path that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. It’s only natural that we try to make sense of events. There’s nothing wrong with this; in our grief we need something to hold onto — we need to know that this hurt is not in vain. The truth is, even if our separation or divorce awoke something in us and led us down a new path, it’s important to be know that our new path we’re on won’t always be an easy, straight line. There will be uneven surfaces, you will walk two steps forward and one back, and the path will get obscured or lead you to what appears to be one dead end after another. But you have to trust and believe you are on the right path and you just need to keep walking.
Life after separation or divorce is a journey. It is a journey of discovery and rediscovery. Healing from your loss doesn’t mean you no longer feel sadness when thinking about your ex, the memories and the life you shared together, but learning and growing from the experience to bring you closer to yourself.