My marriage fell apart on New Year’s Day, the day you look out over the next 365 and see potential and opportunity. After my ex-husband’s and my talk, I went to my parents’ house. I needed a moment to breathe and, if I’m being honest, freak out.
Over the next few months, my mom and dad would attempt to share words of wisdom. I listened with half an ear. They’ve been married for over 40 years, never divorced or separated. They couldn’t understand what I was going through. But one day, my mom said something that revealed a hidden reason why divorce is painful. And knowing this gave me an important tool to deal with it. Here’s what she said.
My mom said, “When you go through a divorce, part of you mourns the loss of your marriage, but a bigger part mourns the loss of your hopes and dreams.”
When you go through a divorce, part of you mourns the loss of your marriage, but a bigger part mourns the loss of your hopes and dreams.
The Loss of Your Hopes and Dreams
Wow. I needed to hear that. As a young couple with decades of marriage ahead of us, I saw a slideshow of moments when I thought about my life with my husband. Our children’s first days of school, fun summers by the pool, family vacations, groggy-eyed Christmas mornings, dinners around the dining room table, celebrations of 20th, 30th, and 50th anniversaries. When divorce came, those vivid pictures quickly went blank. The moments I dreamed of became impossible, and I don’t know if I would’ve been able to name it if my mom hadn’t said that to me.
A Dose of Reality
This was hard to admit, but what was true for me, and possibly you too, is that none of those hopes and dreams were probably ever actually going to play out the way I envisioned them, even if we had stayed married. My ex-husband and I have had some important conversations and we both admit our marriage had fatal flaws. The hopes and dreams I had were for a marriage that wasn’t really mine. I created a reality involving a different husband and a different wife.
A Tool to Cope
Divorce is painful. There’s no way around it. Nothing can take away the pain you feel when you kiss your kids goodbye for their time at Dad’s. Nothing can undo the damage done to their little hearts. Trusting and loving again is difficult. So sometimes you just have to accept the hurt and do what you can to counter it with love.
But when you accept that a big reason your divorce is painful is that you’re mourning something that never happened (and maybe was never going to happen), then you can start to work on coping. Next time you’re struggling, ask yourself this question:
Is my sadness over my divorce due to the loss of something that actually existed?
Yes? Then accept the sadness and thank God that you had that moment, even if it was fleeting.
No? Then remind yourself that it wasn’t reality and look forward instead of back.
And a great tool in any painful situation is to look around and, instead of dreaming of what could be, see what is right in front of you. I guarantee you have much to be thankful for.
Did you mourn the loss of your hopes and dreams? What do you have to be thankful for?