“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.”
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.
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:
- After surgery, take care of your own gaping wounds first;
- 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.