Acceptance / Adaptability / Moving On / Relationships / Staying Positive

Divorce: Prepare for Surgery MASH-Style

“Scalpel,” commands the divorce lawyer.

“Scalpel,” confirms his paralegal, handing him the knife.

“Sponge,” demands the lawyer. “Sponge! Sponge! Sponge! Damn . . . watch out y’all; we have a bleeder.”


M.A.S.H. Site (current day), Malibu State Park, CA

M.A.S.H. Site (current day), Malibu State Park, CA

Divorce. It cuts like a cold, steel knife. It cuts your life and everyone around you. If you elect surgery, you have been in pain for so long that you almost welcome the first incision. If you haven’t elected surgery, you kick and fight, even as they strap you to the operating table. Either way, you bleed. Profusely.

The scene of a divorce is a M.A.S.H. unit where they never take out just the area that’s creating a problem; they butcher out huge chunks of surrounding areas in the interest of time. Your family-in-law, your friends-in-common, your children-in-common, even your own children, family and friends. Everyone in your life is affected.

When it’s time to heal, not only are you left to tend to your own wounds, but those of everyone around you. If you’re oblivious to that fact, you damage important relationships. If you’re aware of that fact, you feel the burden of responsibility to heal your loved ones in addition to yourself at a time when it’s probably most important to “first tend to your own gaping wounds so you can be of use in assisting others.” And yet, tending to yourself can feel selfish and even SEEM selfish to those around you who are hurting too.

Divorce is the choice of last resort. As with any surgery, you shouldn’t elect it unless you’ve exhausted every other option. Not because that makes you a better person but because once surgery begins, your life will never be the same and it is never as easy as a “one-hour surgery and you’re on your way.” Everyone has to heal after surgery, those who went in unwillingly and even those who elected it in the first place. Nobody gets to walk away without bleeding.

M.A.S.H. Site in 2012... same as it ever was

M.A.S.H. Site in 2012… same as it ever was

I remember when my parents divorced. We “children” were all adults at the time, but the family was changed forever. Everyone saw it coming. The symptoms exhibited themselves throughout the years, like a virus re-surfacing every so often. And yet, some of us (clearly now, in hindsight) in our own selfishness would have elected our parents just deal with the discomfort in the name of keeping the family together or, at the least, so as not to impart any discomfort on us, the potentially affected.

That, in itself, is enough to alter the family dynamic permanently. Throw in opinions about who was at fault, even potentially the children** and it can become a bloody mess. (**We all know by now children are rarely, if ever, the cause of divorce. They might at best be a catalyst for what is bound to happen–nothing more.)

Years after my own divorce, I still continue to heal. I once heard about a mathematical formula to help one figure out how long it would take to fully heal–approximately one-half of the length of the marriage itself, so a 10-year-marriage would take 5 years of healing. According to the math, I’m well on my way. Yes, the wound is mostly closed, but I’ve had to deal with parts of it re-opening through the years, the accompanying stench of ghastly infections, and oh, yes… guilt. Guilt for my part in the divorce itself and guilt for the pain inflicted on those closest to us, the former couple.

You may find this, too. Relationships you formed as a couple will take a hit as your couple status changes. Not only will you not fit the “couple” model integral to key relationships, but your “couple” counterparts might struggle with maintaining relationships with one of you, both of you, or neither of you. Friends and family, even within their own homes, might have opposing allegiances in whom they most support.

Divorce also cuts you away from your cozy, comfortable financial status. You can fall from riches to rags before you finish counting backwards from 100 to 1. Add that to the mix in who you can hang out with afterwards and what you can afford to do, and well, let’s just say it’s challenging to keep the status quo.

Like a missing limb, I sometimes mourn the loss of vital, robust relationships that have been severed or mangled due to my divorce. I can still feel their presence but they are not really there anymore–not in the same way they used to be. I long for them as they once were. All I have now is a prosthetic and well, it’s just not the same. I’ve had some days of deep sadness where all I’ve wanted to do is say to everyone close to me, “I’m sorry for letting you down, for changing your world or at least a part of it.” In the deepest moments of sorrow, though, it is me that I’m trying to console.

With any unpleasant and potentially traumatic life-changing surgery, there is always the potential for permanent scarring. It’s almost inevitable. But even the roughest scars can smooth out over time. If you find yourself having to go through surgery, first and foremost, I offer you my prayers for as smooth a process as possible and quick healing afterwards. Beyond that, I can only offer two pieces of advice:

  1. After surgery, take care of your own gaping wounds first;
  2. After you’ve allowed yourself to heal a bit, then–and only then–turn to those in need around you and see if you can be of any help. Sometimes you cannot and you will have to come to terms with that. Everyone has their own road to travel and yours is no less important than those around you. Be kind to yourself.
What road will you travel?

What road will you travel?

19 thoughts on “Divorce: Prepare for Surgery MASH-Style

  1. Well written and wise! You also addressed a piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked in the grief process in general, the fact that the person going through the crisis is often the one called on to console others. The same thing happens when a loss of a loved one occurs, (because what is a divorce if not the loss of a loved one and a death of a way of being in the world?) the “widow(er)” must prop him/herself up to make it through the ceremony (the legal surgery) and often it isn’t until much later in the game that the shock wears off and the real healing begins. Blessings to you as your journey continues and your wounds continue to heal. Here’s knowing new life and fresh joy continues to beckon and astound you around every bend!

    • Thanks! I stumbled upon that one revelation in the process of writing this post. Yes, there is a direct parallel to the death of a loved one. Grieving is necessary in both. Even if somehow “we were ready for it” and “it was time,” there is a process we must go through before we can truly rise again. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to make such thoughtful comments. Blessings to you as well.

  2. What a great post and so true. Hopefully post-surgery you have someone there to help you through the healing process. It can be so lonely otherwise. Glad you are on your way to healing. I just read somewhere recently of a Rumi quote……Wounds are where the light comes in…..and I liked that image. take care

    • I love that quote… love the visual. Once a year, I hear from my ex. It always upsets me and yet I feel its part of the healing process to deal with it. I continue to wish him well but know that my path is clearly different than his. It’s not for me to judge him but to simply provide him encouragement to move in a positive direction. It upsets me now as it did then because I always wish more for him. I suppose with your quote in mind, there is great opportunity for light to enter. That’s a comforting image indeed.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  3. Fantastic post. I had never heard of divorce described in those terms before but the analogy to surgery is so real. You are also correct in being expected – even through all the pain – to be the one to “fix” others who have been part of the fall-out. I need to take your advice to fix myself first.

    Here is hoping that things area going OK with you. I hope things have settled down on the employment front.

    • Thanks. My mind works in mysterious ways. 🙂

      The longer we put others first, the longer the pain stays with us. The longer we deny our own pain, the deeper our wounds get. We HAVE TO face it head on. We HAVE TO dig in with our own hands and scrape out the infection, as painful as that is. Otherwise, its a long, drawn out process that seems to eat us up inside and keep us from achieving anything truly positive in our lives. A sense of happiness will forever elude us if we don’t do what needs to be done.

      Things are so much better for me these days in comparison. The employment challenges remain. I finally got some part-time work 6 months ago but ultimately it was an extremely toxic environment that changed who I was 3 days a week. It was doing more harm than good, so I chose to let it go. I am hopeful that in pressing forward, I’ll be able to see better opportunities as they present themselves. Thanks for asking!

      Thanks, too, for stopping by. I wish you well on your path to healing.

  4. This is a wonderful way to describe divorce, accurate and very true. When my parents divorced my brother and I had very different reactions, in retrospect I should have been more sensitive to his mourning but we were both young and not very good at caring for each other. My previous divorce was so terrible with a long separation prior, I did my healing long before the papers were signed. He on the other hand never believed I would actually divorce him, something inside of him broke apart and made him fight. It made the divorce terrible for all involved, sending ripples throughout the family.

    This was fabulous.

    • Thanks, Val. I had reservations about posting. I don’t like to dwell too much or too often on the heavier issues, but then I consider that perhaps someone might benefit. I sat on this one for a month before posting. I’m relieved that people can relate. Again, I find it helpful myself when I know others have been in the same situation and survived. Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well.

  5. Very thoughtful post that you have used wonderful imagery to convey. The idea of fixing one’s self is generally difficult, as it is much easier to identify the problem and possible ‘fixes’ in others. We tend to forget the need to take care of ourselves first so that we can be at our peak when helping others.

    With that said, I wish to thank you. I thoroughly enjoy reading them and I am sure that any reader that happens to stumble upon your blog can find wisdom that may help in their life, not necessarily at time, but eventually. This is all due to the care that you take as you approach each of your postings.

    Be well

    • Thank you so much, Deb, for your thoughtful words. I agree that it’s difficult to recognize our own need for help. Unless we literally catch our image in a mirror and suddenly don’t recognize that person, it is hard to know when it’s time to get help. Sometimes we have to wait for the folks around us to “be our mirror” and let us know when and if we have changed for the worse… and then, of course, we have to be open to listening. It is often said that the first and most important step to healing is to acknowledge that we need healing.

      As to your final comments, “You’re welcome!” Thank YOU for being a steady reader! I do take great care in writing each post. I make a concerted effort to broaden the scope of each post to include several scenarios–thinking about as many people and situations as possible when I consider each topic.

      I also feel it has some purpose. I figure sometimes we could use a little help in the self-awareness arena. I think most of the time we have the answers within us already; we just need to dig in a bit to discover them. Even if we feel we are squared away, we may need to understand other folks a little better and the struggles they may be going through. Empathy. Compassion. For others. For ourselves.

      Peace. Be well yourself!! 🙂

  6. Dear Sue,

    For this particular post of yours, I can relate just like you can talk about your personal encounter with Hilary C.

    I wish the formula could work for me cause mine lasted 6 years and it’s been 5 years since I left. It’s however true am no longer where I was back then, and even physically I have sweated it out from 115kgs to 76.3 kgs (weighed this very morning). I now live with the kids I left behind and suffered a 4 year estrangement from them, and etc etc. Their dad still doesn’t want to even hear my voice not to talk of face me for whatever.
    Thank you so much for sharing this, for relating it so aptly to a surgery, and for stating it of fact that some relationship may never be redeemed and you have to be your own priority…

    Stay well …

    • Dear Marie,
      First and foremost, thank you for being so candid and vulnerable in sharing what you have here. I’m humbled.
      About that formula, I wrote this post in 2013 and have to admit that I went well beyond the number the years it suggested. I categorize that, though, as the continued reopening of an infected wound . . . it’s been less severe than the initial wound, but still is painful from time to time, just less often than it used to be. Your situation involves an estrangement from your children, though . . . that’s like having multiple surgeries all at once.
      I’m so sorry you have suffered so much, Marie. It’s true that some relationships may never be redeemed. And that’s okay. Not every person we meet and bond with is supposed to be with us forever. As the sentiment goes, some are just for a particular season or reason.


      • And you know Sue, it’s like destiny playing me a very difficult had because same scenario when I was 13 and mum left and had to fight for us and all… Ha Sue, we are all just trying our best really. Happy Sunday and blessed week ahead

      • Some say it’s karma; others call it other names. In any case, it all boils down to life lessons we must learn all on our own. And, YES!, we are all just trying our best. It’s all we can do, and it’s something we ALL have in common. WE ARE most definitely NOT ALONE in that common quest to simply do our best. Happy day to you, too!

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