Since being separated from my husband, I have been working diligently to keep from experiencing grief. Keeping myself busy at all times except when I am too exhausted to move has been my method for accomplishing this. And then I took a week off and all of my efforts to suppress my grief were overtaken by what seemed to be some outside force that wouldn’t allow me to do it any more. The outside force was really not outside of me at all. It was the small voice inside of me that no longer wished to be silenced.
This week I am gaining some perspective about why I tried so hard to keep those feelings hidden inside of myself. This effort at suppressing my feelings seems to be linked to what I perceived to be other people’s expectations of me and whether I felt I had the right to grieve. Upon further reflection I realized it is much the same experience I had after my mom passed away several years ago. I didn’t think I had the right to grieve what I had classified as a bad experience. Because my mom was unable to express her love for me and often treated me poorly, why would I want to grieve her loss? It was confusing to me and certainly based on the comments from many people, it became the awkward, unspoken question. It was hard for people to understand that I would grieve a loss like that, when there was also a sense of relief at not having to deal with the struggles caused by her untreated mental illness any more.
Now I find myself faced with the same question once again. Grieving the loss of a relationship that caused a lot of pain for me seems hypocritical. I don’t feel I have the right to be sad, especially because it was I who finally said I’d had enough and initiated the split. This is reinforced by well-meaning friends and family who point out how unhappy I was in an effort to support me in overcoming my sadness.
It is strange how one can become attached to a spouse or parent who is unable to be what one wanted them to be. This kind of attachment is very difficult to break, because it involves letting go of one’s hope for that person. It feels like giving up and apparently I don’t let go or give up very easily. Grieving this kind of loss is complicated because not only am I grieving the loss of someone who has been at the center of my entire adult life, I am also grieving all of the unfulfilled expectations I had for that person.
When I read my daily reading (see below) from a support group called DivorceCare yesterday, it suddenly made sense that I have been experiencing the process of grief for the past year and a half. I didn’t want to admit it because I didn’t think I was entitled to have those feelings. It helps to know that there is not a time limit on grief and to understand that as I go about my day there will be little reminders that flash before me like giant neon signs, reminding me of my loss. It helps to know I too, have the right to grieve.
The process of moving on after the loss of my 30 year marriage is like learning to surf. I watch for the next wave to come in and struggle to coordinate my efforts to get up on the board. Sometimes I experience the elation of being able to ride the waves into the shore. The rest of the time I spend looking for the next wave that I can trust and figuring out how to manuever myself onto the board to catch the wave. Sometimes I just float in the water until I can regain the strength and will to try again.
Daily Reading – Energy Distribution
Ideally, the amount of energy you expend each day is equally balanced across the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of your life. But during and after a separation or divorce, your energy distribution is much different. As much as 85 percent of your energy can be diverted to dealing with the emotional upheaval, leaving only 15 percent to deal with all your physical, mental, and spiritual demands.
“Emotionally you’re spinning,” says Dr. Jim A. Talley. “You are going round and round. It’s like you are running your engine wide open, but you’re in neutral and not going anywhere, yet you can’t shut the motor off. Eighty-five percent of your energy is being consumed in the whole emotional area. That leaves you 5 percent mental, 5 percent spiritual, and 5 percent physical. Mental difficulties include the inability to make decisions. Physically, you are totally exhausted. Spiritually, you have a loss of faith; you are not sure God exists, and you’re not sure if you even care if He exists.”
The emotional turmoil, the mental fog, the total loss of energy, and the questioning of God are to be expected. You don’t desire any of it, but you have it, and your feelings and thoughts are natural.
“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:6-9).
God, I’m wiped out. Help me to acknowledge that my feelings are completely normal, and give me the energy to turn to You for help. Amen.