A preamble of sorts: As I talk about the very personal story of my divorce, there are times when I refer to the pain brought on by my ex-husband. Please know that I have several of my own mistakes to own and while I talk about how his actions affected me, I also understand that some of my actions were not honoring to our marriage covenant and caused damage to our relationship.
Grief took me by surprise the other night. I had been in bed most of the day, fighting some sort of virus or sinus infection. I only had one thing I HAD to do that evening: attend my boys’ school Christmas concert. I hadn’t given it much thought, other than the slight dread that I would be walking in alone. The boys were with their dad, and although I have many dear friends from their school, it’s usually an event where people sit with their families. Most of the time, I am fine going to events alone.But this event was different.
This was a triggering event.
Several years ago, when we were still married, my then-husband confessed some things that shocked me. Shocked is putting it lightly. Devastated is more like it. That evening, years ago, marked the beginning of a long road of pain and suffering in our marriage. Perhaps the beginning of the end. So every year on the evening of the boys’ Christmas concert the thought crosses my mind that this is the anniversary of the night my world was turned upside down.
The first year after his confession was the hardest. After that, I have tried to focus on the boys and the beautiful celebration of Christmas rather than the memory of that one night.
Until this year.
Maybe it was because I had been sick and my emotions were a little more fragile. Maybe it’s because of the financial stress I have been feeling as my ex-husband and I are finally resolving the financial aspects of our settlement agreement. Or maybe it’s because he has a serious girlfriend who spends more and more time with my boys. Or because he talks of how God is speaking to him now and I wonder why God didn’t scream to get his attention when I was pleading for him to come back to me. Or why he didn’t listen if God was, in fact, screaming.
All of those factors contributed to the anguish I felt as I headed out the door for the concert, but the catalyst that began a series of sobs came after I reached in the mailbox on my way to my car. I hadn’t gotten the mail in two days, and I was running a bit early so I went back inside to open the Christmas cards I now held in my hand. One was from my ex-husband’s sister and her family. It was sprinkled with photos of her and her husband and two beautiful children. My brother-in-law, niece and nephew. Or is that ex-brother-in-law, ex-niece, and ex-nephew? Divorce shatters more than just the immediate family. Even as close as we were, it is hard to know where the line is. Where loyalty stands. Where your place is in this new dimension. And because it’s been so hard to define these things, we’ve put our relationship on hold. I’m not convinced it’s over, but it has certainly changed.
And it feels like another heart-wrenching loss.
I glanced through the Christmas card and skimmed the letter. Tears started burning my eyes as I stared at the faces of her sweet children. It dawned on me that it’s not the little things I no longer hear about, it’s the big things. The things that even a minor friend might know – like vacation destinations or job changes – were all unknown to me. The loneliness that I anticipated in going to the concert alone was palpable now.
I was an outsider.
Now it was time to leave. I had just a few minutes to drive through a fast-food restaurant drive-through and get to the show. By now the tears were making a steady stream down my face and I needed to talk to someone who knew me. Someone who knew my story. I called my friend Stacy first and asked her to save me a seat so I could take care of myself the best way possible – by seeking out love and support of a dear friend. Then I called my friend, Michele, who has known me since 8th grade. I could barely choke out the words to ask if she had a few minutes to talk. I told her about the triggering event, about how I couldn’t believe it was hitting me so hard, about the card and feeling lonely. Michele listened.
Then she prayed.
When I pulled up to the school, I felt better. I still felt the gnawing ache in my heart but I felt strengthened by prayer and friendship. I walked in to the auditorium and immediately saw my ex-husband. But it was Stacy I scanned the crowd for. I saw her waving from the back corner. I made my way over to her after saying a few hello’s and took my seat.
Even as my wounds were opened and the tears fell, I knew it was all in the name of healing. I knew it by the sounds of my sobs that forced their way out of the deepest parts of me, the parts that have yet to be restored. I knew it by the genuine laughter that also came out of the deepest part of me, as I watched the little girl with the exaggerated hand motions sing loud enough to drown out the rest of her classmates.
The sound of pain mixed with joy: that is the sound of healing.