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Two Years Post-Divorce and Still Grieving: How to Help Your Friends Understand

My husband was my family for many years, and now that is gone too. So, my friends are my family.
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Single or divorced woman alone missing a boyfriend while swinging on the beach at sunset
Single or divorced woman alone missing a boyfriend while swinging on the beach at sunset

I am one of the first of my friends to get a divorce.

At only thirty-one-years-old, I told my husband I needed to leave our marriage in order to be happy again. I fell in love with him when I was nineteen, and when we said our vows four years later, I believed with all my heart that we would be married forever. As I've learned, signing a marriage certificate doesn't guarantee marital bliss or personal happiness, or anything really except that if you ever do want to leave this marriage, you will have to go through a painful legal process to do so.

I've learned that there is a guarantee in divorce, however, and that guarantee is that it will hurt.

It will be harder than you ever could have imagined, and just when you think you're rounding a corner, a Divorce Landmine will go off--seeing your ex's new wedding photo, for example--and you are right back where you were when the whole thing began: crying in bed with the covers over your head and feeling like you need someone--anyone--to hold you while you cry.

It's been over two years since the initial split from my marriage, and while I am truly happy most days now and have learned to allow grief to pass through me when it needs to, those landmines still go off. And because I loved my former spouse so deeply, the pain is still unbearable when it strikes. This morning, after seeing the aforementioned photograph on social media, I almost stopped a stranger on the street who was washing his truck to ask him to hug me.

I'm serious.

I just needed a hug. I had cried alone in bed all morning, and I needed someone to physically put their arms around me and let me cry.

I am the only child of two parents who love me, but who are not emotionally or physically present for me. This has been the case for some time now, so I've developed a tough skin in order to survive on my own.

My husband was my family for many years, and now that is gone too.

So, my friends are my family, and while they are true, loyal, and loving, they are not a husband. They are not a mother or a father. They have their own families to attend to, their own problems to handle. And since many of them have not experienced the trauma of divorce or the devastating effects of a deep depression (I hope they never do), they may not fully comprehend the depths to which I plummet after a Divorce Landmine goes off.

Quite honestly, I do not want to take them with me to the dark side--I sure as hell don't want to be there, so why would I drag these dear friends down with me?

In my memoir, Meet Me in Paris, I have written openly and honestly about this dark side...and about the light that can break through beyond the grief. Because there is light. The storm will pass. I am living proof of this.

Healing can be a beautiful process, which, if you allow it to, will transform you in amazing ways.

In the meantime, when a Divorce Landmine goes off, we need help from our friends and loved ones.

For those dear friends and loved ones who aren't sure what to do for your depressed, divorced friend, I've written you a poem. I hope my words will help you to understand us divorced messes a little better, and to know what you can do to help.

The Next Time

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the person she has loved for sunrises and sunsets, for starry nights and stormy skies and every moment in between...Act as if she has just told you that this person has died...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the person who has loved her at her best and at her worst, who has been her everything for too many days to count...Act as if she has just told you that this person has died...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that she is about to enter the most intense grieving period of her life, and that a part of her has died too...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that even if says she is okay, underneath her smile, your friend is drowning in loss, your friend needs your help...

Because she is grieving a death
A death she may have chosen
A death he may have chosen
But it is a death, nonetheless.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that depression may strike, and depression is a beast, it's a killer. And when she reaches out to you, you must go to her. Drop your plans, get in the car...

And go.

Go again, and again, and again, because she needs you, even if she doesn't want to admit it.

Because there are days when she doesn't want to live, even if she doesn't want to admit it.

And because one day, you will lose someone you loved, whether through a divorce, a death, or both...

And you will need her too.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

The best thing you can do is hold a space for her to grieve, without telling her why her life is so fabulous and why she should feel good.

The best thing you can do is hold her and let her cry until the storm passes.

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