Falling to my knees, I cried out, "What have you done?!" My life and everything that kept me safe and secure was crumbling before me. My emotions were uncontainable. The tears burst forth like a dam that had just opened its flood gates. I can still remember it vividly. I remember exactly where I was. I remember what I was doing. I remember the day. I remember the time. Mostly, I remember the pain. I remember the hurt. I remember the helplessness. I remember the fear. It's a moment etched in my mind when everything changed. The moment my husband told me, "I've filed for divorce."
I didn't see it coming, though all the signs were there. It's just that usually it was me threatening divorce. I had wanted out before we were even married, but somehow I just kept going along with everything. I ignored all the red flags. I built a life with a man's potential. I had 3 children with him, hoping each would be the one to change his heart. I held out for 22 years, hoping he could reach the potential I saw. He could change. I could change him. I could get him to love me enough to be the man I thought he could be. It never happened. The only person who changed, was me.
That day, August 12, 2012, left a mark. I imagine if we could look at our heart and see the wounds of our life, that one would be a big, bold and bodacious looking scar. I would know it the minute I saw it. That one, it required some stitches. That one, sent me to the ER. That one, nearly killed me. I actually think it would be easier if these type of moments were physical. I think we respect our ability to heal more when we can see it, versus when it's buried within and we don't really know what it looks like.
I want you to briefly imagine you've just had surgery. Not a small surgery, but a triple bypass heart surgery. Your ribs have just been sawed apart. Your chest cracked and spread open. Your most precious and necessary organ has been poked, prodded and cauterized. You now have a tube coming out of your chest to drain excess fluids. You have staples holding your chest together. You are sore, bruised and feel beaten. What if you woke up from surgery and said "Well, that was fun, I think I'll go run a marathon now." Heck, you shouldn't even be making yourself a sandwich, let alone thinking about running. You need to heal. When it hurts physically, the pain forces you to do just that. Rest. Heal. The threat of hurting your heart again, or ripping open your stitches, keeps you immobile. It's obvious. It's real. It's able to be seen and felt. So, we respect our body and we rest. We give ourselves time to heal, to grow scar tissue and to regain our strength.
For me, divorce is pretty much the emotional and mental equivalent of triple bypass heart surgery. It's scary. It's daunting. It's exhausting. It's painful. It needs your attention. It requires rest. You can't escape it without feeling it. It requires you give yourself time to heal. It's not a quick band-aid fix. It's a much slower, pull the band-aid off while ripping every tiny hair at a painfully slow pace, kind of process. It sucks. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and I also wouldn't have it any other way.
What?! How is that possible, you ask? Well, for me, it forced me to pay attention to the pain that I had been running from for most of my life. I had, at least from the outside, a picture-perfect life, but I was miserable. I wasn't living. I was surviving. Divorce brought all the things that were blocking me from happiness right to the surface. One-by-one I started recognizing my own darkness. I ate a big dose of humble pie. I unpacked tons of buried emotional baggage. I dealt with old grief. I tended to disregarded traumas. I stopped my co-dependency and enabling behaviors. I learned boundaries. I gave myself permission to stop running. One-by-one I found the unhealed wounds that lie within me and I healed them. In so doing, I found my happy. My divorce started that process, but I was the one that got to choose what to do with it. I could let it destroy me, or I could let it restore me. For me, divorce was my dark night of the soul. It led me to the life I yearned for, but never thought I deserved.
That's how you heal the hurt. You stop running from it. You face it down. You feel it. You sit with it. That doesn't mean you wallow in it (though wallowing here and there is perfectly fine). It means you look inward. You take responsibility for your part. You tend to the anger. You stop the blame. You forgive (in-time). You respect your body. You respect your emotions. You cry (men need to cry too). You quiet your mind and connect to God. You dig deep until one day you realize, "I'm not the same person. I walked into a dark and terrifying storm and I walked out different. I didn't die. I not only survived. I thrived. I healed that wound and so many more. I'm thankful. I'm glad to be alive."
If you are in the middle of, or the aftermath of a divorce, I know the hurt. I know sometimes it feels like it hurts so much you might die. I know you feel broken. You feel lost. You feel like your whole world has just exploded open and nothing will ever be the same again. You are right. It won't be. Ultimately, it's your choice what you do with it. You could get off the surgery table and run a marathon, or you could sit quietly, push through the pain, heal slowly and get up with a new lease on life, and find your happy. I did it. So can you.
Angela Miller is an RN and Emotional Health Coach. She is passionately pursuing her calling to help people transform pain into purpose. To schedule a free consult, or for more information, visit www.soaringforward.com.