Divorce Diaries: Delayed Grief

Life really is a process. I’m learning as I go. I know you guys understand because we’ve all been there. In the place that’s dark and confusing. The place where you you want to spend your days lying between cold sheets with the comforter pulled over your head.

I’ve been experiencing a few of these emotions lately so I thought I would share a little of my journey with you guys. Because that’s what you do, right?  Paint your feelings across a public forum such as this?  Actually you do.  As a writer, it’s important to be real, especially in our struggles. I’ve learned that you never know who needs to read the words on the page. I’ve meet some really great friends as a result of my word-vomit. 

So today I want to introduce a new term I’ve learned. Delayed Grief. Maybe you’re familiar with it, but until now, I wasn’t.  Apparently, when something super traumatic takes place, your brain can shut down (not completely, of course, although that would explain a few things). It isn’t able to fully process the event all at once. Over time, and when the brain senses that you can handle it, you’ll begin to experience those suppressed feelings. How smart do I sound right now?  Seriously.  If you guys are going to swing by each day, I’m gonna have to start charging for my wisdom.  Just a heads up. 

“In cases of delayed grief, the reaction to the loss is postponed until a later time, even years later, and might be triggered by a seemingly unrelated event, such as a recent divorce or even the death of a pet, but with reactions excessive to the current situation.”

This was the explanation that accompanied the Wikipedia definition. Ummm… do you see the part I put in BOLD? Death of a pet. Yep, so this was me a couple of weeks ago after we had Sandy put to sleep. I kept wondering why in the world I was so distraught. Don’t get me wrong, the death of a family pet is tragic and sad and emotional but, you guys, I was a M.E.S.S.

Like, ugly cry mess. For DAYS!

After talking with several friends and my mom (AKA, my therapist) we came to the conclusion that I was experiencing delayed grief. (I’m putting the next part in bold AND all caps b/c it’s that important) I DO NOT STILL HAVE FEELINGS FOR MY EX-HUSBAND. I’ll give you a second to re-read that. Some of you who know me, might need to read it more than once so I don’t get any phone calls. Please don’t call me. This spell has ZERO to do with him. I’ve been grieving over the life I lost. The plans I made. The home, dog, and car I gave up (literally overnight) as a result of someone else’s poor choices.

When the $h*t hit the fan 5 years ago, I immediately kicked into survival mode. I had a full-time job, I enrolled in college again to switch careers and I had a 5 year old son. I didn’t have time to process what happened to me, let alone slow down and be sad.

Fast forward almost 5 years and here I sit in a really good place in life. Don’t look so shocked! I know our family dynamics are a bit (okay, a lot) dysfunctional, but things are good for me and JP these days. His medicines are sorted out, he has less anxiety over our situation, I’ve finally completed school (the education part, anyway) and have an amazing job. Now that I am at a place of peace, I am beginning to process everything that happened. I’m certainly not a blubbering mess, but at times, I do feel like I am covered in a blanket of sadness. It comes in waves and almost always catches me off guard, which is annoying.

I’ve also learned (thank you, Google) that what I am experiencing is 100% normal and healthy. In fact, it’s essential to experience growth. And contrary to the countless opinions out there that always find their way into my world, there is no time line for how long I will feel this way. People grieve in different ways. There’s no right or wrong and no schedule. I’m not really in control here. Trust me. No one I know wakes up and thinks, “Hmmm, I think I’ll feel sad today.”  That’s just silly.

A Few Things I’ve Learned So Far:

  1. Just b/c I’m sad doesn’t mean I’m not happy. Guess what? It is entirely possible to be happy and sad all at the same time. Seriously. I consider myself to be a very happy person. I don’t mope around and I laugh A LOT.  I count my blessings and realize how much I have to be thankful for. Having said that, these days, I’m the girl to call if you’re in the mood to cry a bucket of tears. I can hang with the best of you.
  2. Grieving my marriage doesn’t mean I miss my spouse.  I was happily married for 11 years. I enjoyed coming home to someone, dreaming with someone and watching endless episodes of Burn Notice and Friends with someone. There are times when I have missed being married (not many, but a few) but that does not mean I miss the person I was married to. In other words, the next well-meaning person who tells me I need to “move on,” or that “God has someone special waiting for me,” might get an elbow to the face. In love, of course.
  3. I don’t worry about what other people think. I haven’t kicked this one completely but I am rapidly getting there. Can I just tell you how it has felt the past 4 years having to live back home with my parents? Even though my family is amazing, this is not exactly how I pictured my life at 39 years old (pick your jaw up off the floor, I know I don’t look that old). Thankfully, over the past two weeks, I have made peace with this area as well. I won’t go into all the reasons why – that’s another post for another day – but I am exactly where I need to be during this season of life. Recognizing this and embracing it has lifted a really heavy burden. I feel so much lighter.

Again, it’s a process. I don’t know all there is to know and this whole grief thing is new to me. All of us have reasons to cry. Life gets hard for everybody. And while it’s important to express our feelings, and even give into them, we can’t afford to unpack and live there. Who wants to be around the guy/girl who complains, cries, pouts and is negative all the time?

NOBODY.

Forget negativity, I don’t want to be around people who live in the past! No matter what happened 4 years ago, my future looks pretty good.

I definitely don’t want to miss it because I’m stuck under my comforter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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