Grief is a demanding companion. – Sheryl Sandberg, Option B
At first I was in a state of shock when I found out my marriage was over. If you had asked me how I was doing, I would have said I was fine because I thought I was fine. I wasn’t fine. I was numb. Everything felt so surreal and disconnected. It was if I was watching someone else’s life unfold before me, like in a movie or having an outer body experience. But nothing could have been further from the truth.
Little by little, reality started setting in. Some days I would feel a sense of freedom and optimism. But then fear and doubt would take over. Simple things felt so monumental and burdensome. I became acutely aware of negative attitudes and behaviors from everyone, even complete strangers. Going to the grocery store, for instance, was a chore. And then I had to listen to two women make snarky comments about me because I stepped in the wrong checkout line. (I didn’t go back to that store for a month). Or when some kid glared at me and made like he was going to do something aggressive as he walked in front of my car because he didn’t think I stopped soon enough for him. Stupid things like those began to take their toll on me.
There were times I felt like I would collapse. I felt used, disregarded, betrayed and abandoned. I felt the constant rush of a thousand emotions. Up, down, happy, angry, distraught, confident, sad, uncertain… Experiencing all of those emotions was like being a dried leaf blowing around in the wind.
I began to have trouble concentrating and focusing on normal everyday things. Thinking became difficult. Words were hard to form; hard to find. It was a constant effort. What used to come naturally to me suddenly felt very foreign and awkward. I also realized I had lost my sense of awareness for others, too; forgetting to ask obvious questions about their well being and such. It’s not that I didn’t care, I just kept forgetting. I began to stress over everything, afraid of what I was missing; of what I needed to do. I began to feel a sense of dread and foreboding, like I would come apart at the seams. I lost all self confidence. I was so exhausted – all the time.
The first day I found myself completely alone in the house was probably the worst day of my life. The intense reality of my situation hit me with such a force, like a tsunami. All I could do was sit in my living room and just cry. My heart was broken a thousand times over and there was nothing to prepare me for that. I had never felt such intense emotional grief before. Wave after wave of agony just kept coming at me relentlessly. It was like drowning, being swallowed alive.
The reality of being on my own was beyond comprehension. The reality of my life and my family being torn apart was beyond comprehension. The pain and anguish were unbearable. I couldn’t look at anything in the house without seeing the memories of what used to be my life. It was in that moment, in the midst of such exquisite pain, that I truly experienced grief and all its magnitude. And grief had taken a form. In my mind’s eye, I could see this image of me standing at the edge of some kind of light, and before me was a gaping maw of black abyss just waiting for me to step forward so it could swallow me. It appeared peaceful and quiet, almost welcoming. The terrible thing is, that’s what makes it so easy to step towards grief and to live in it. You can’t help it. It just seems to happen. So not only is it a demanding companion, but grief is an all-consuming one.
The next day, as I was driving home from having dinner with my daughter and son-in-law, a song came on the radio. I know without a doubt it was a total God thing. He was intervening on my behalf. I hadn’t heard the song before and as I listened to the words, I felt as though that song was written about me, for me. Every word hit home. Everything I needed to be reminded of was in that song. How God loves me even when I don’t feel loved. How I’m strong even when I feel weak. How He holds me when I’m just not making it and how I belong to Him when I don’t feel I belong anywhere or to anyone. The song was You Say by Lauren Daigle.
When I got home that night, I played that song over and over and over again. That song became my anthem. God sent me that song. He made sure I heard it. He made sure to let me know that I was not alone and that He was, and is, right there beside me, holding me up and walking next to me through this horrible experience. Not over it, around it, or under it but through it.
My friends who’ve gone through divorce have told me not to fight the grief when it comes but to just let it happen; to be in the moment and feel it. Honestly I don’t want to feel it. I don’t want be in that moment. And I certainly don’t want it as a companion. I just want to go to sleep for a very long time and when I wake up, I want everything to be over; new. A fresh start. Unfortunately, sleeping through or otherwise avoiding grief is not an option. It will have its demands met. And as awful as it is to experience, I know it’s the only way I can heal. Stuffing it deep down will only cause more harm than good. So I feel it. More often than I care to. Sometimes I just start to cry for no apparent reason. Emotional pain is traumatic.
I still have bad days. I still have bouts of intense and overwhelming emotions. But those days are tempered with God’s reminder of His promise to me, that He is within me and I will not fall. And what He says of me, I believe.
As a way of getting through and healing, I created a playlist of songs that remind me of God’s other promise to never leave nor forsake me. I call it my Anthem playlist. I’m sharing it in case you need to be reminded of God’s promises for your life, too:
- You Say by Lauren Diagle
- Move by TobyMac
- Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United
- Overcomer by Mandisa
- Speak Life by TobyMac
- Just Be Held by Casting Crowns
- God Only Knows by For King & Country
- Symphony by Switch
- Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman
- O’Lord by Lauren Diagle
If you ask me how I am these days, I probably won’t say ‘I’m fine’ just for niceties. I can’t. I’m learning to be realistic with how I’m truly feeling. I’m usually just ‘okay’. But I’m getting there. It a slow process still with a lot of pain and a thousand emotions running through. The upside, however, is I’m not alone. God is with me. I also have the love and support of my friends, my parents and my kids.
My kids. They have been a tremendous source of strength for me. They have been my rock. Even though they are going through their own grief with this divorce, they have been right there for me. God has blessed me with the most wonderful family and I thank Him for each and everyone of them.
I also still cling to God’s promises because His Word will never come back void.
For Your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. – Psalm 108:4