Tag Archives: marriage

divorce vs. death

This post got me thinking about death and divorce.  A widow feels insulted that divorced friends are comparing her loss to theirs.  It seems wrong to the widow. The divorcee often leaves the relationship voluntarily.  Their former spouse is still alive, able to live his/her life, be a parent to their children. How can the losses be on the same magnitude?

Well, I feel I can comment on the issue, since in the last 5 years I lost the two most important people in my life.  My first husband to drug abuse and my mother to lymphoma.  The difference is, my ex is still alive (I think). My divorce was a death to me in every other way. The person I married was replaced by someone else entirely- someone with whom I could not continue living with any degree of physical or emotional safety.  The divorce was merely a symptom. He was lost to me, and to himself.

The experiences were similar. A lifelong agnostic, I fervently prayed for a cure for both my mother and my husband.  But there was nothing I could do in either case to save them.  I was helpless, and I lost them both in the end.

I sometimes wished during the firestorm of the last months of that marriage that my ex were dead. This might sound like blasphemy to a surviving spouse.  But I felt at least if he were dead, I could have grieved the loss of our relationship with remembering happy memories, rather than the arguments, the lies and the pain. But later, I felt differently, and today I’m grateful that he is alive, and hope that he is happy and at peace.

One divorce may be tidy and amicable while another leaves the family shattered. One death may devastate while another comes as a relief. Every loss is unique, yet the fact that we, as humans, are here on earth, united in our suffering and trying to find our way in the world can bring us together.  But only if we let it.

looking back, way back

There are only a few hours left in 2011.  December has felt unmercifully long, and yet I also feel hesitant to plunge into the first month, the first year without my mom.

New Years Eve, 2004
December 30th was the anniversary of my first marriage, which was brief and came to a painful demise.  Out of respect to husbands past and present, I will say little about the relationship, but my recent experience with grief has moved me to a deeper understanding in what happened with my ex husband.  See, he lost his father, who was nearly the same age as my mother, while we were still married.  Both died in December– my father-in-law suddenly, on a sidewalk, while out running on an unusually warm day in Minnesota; my mother slowly and peacefully, in her own bed, on a cool, rainy day in Arizona.    
One of the often-repeated arguments at the end of the marriage involved my ex-husband accusing me of not understanding his grief– “I just lost my father!” I had a full repertoire of responses, some of which were far from compassionate.  I think once I actually snarled “I don’t give a shit!”   To be fair, he was making choices that were incredibly hurtful and destructive to both of us.  But in the end, he was right about one thing– I didn’t understand. I knew he was hurting, but also thought he was using grief as an excuse for his behavior. Maybe he was partially.  But not entirely.  
Well, I get it now. Even if I had understood back then how it felt to lose a parent, it wouldn’t have changed the course of events that brought us to where we are today– not married to each other.  But maybe I would have been a bit nicer to him.  And that would have been, well, nice. 
I feel Mom is helping me go deeper in my healing from that old loss.  This understanding doesn’t change the past, but looking at it from a perspective of more clarity and compassion dispels whatever old angers might be lurking there, so I can be more happy, more content, more trusting, and move forward in life with lightness and hope.