I know the pain of divorce. Maybe not your pain, but certainly my own. Plus, having professionally witnessed hundreds of men and women go through love and love lost, I know how deep the wounds can go. With divorce we suffer a death that begs to be grieved in order for us to emerge whole.
But how long do you allow yourself to grieve? I had a client whose marriage broke up after 20 plus years. There were many problems within the relationship, but the straw that broke the camel's back was his epic cheating. It had gone on for years but she hadn't a clue. This type of betrayal brought its own level of pain and shame especially since everyone around her assumed she knew and was simply turning a deaf ear. Now, years later, her thoughts and sentences are still peppered with news of his infidelity as if it happened yesterday. She is trying to come to terms with the break-up of her marriage, and in many ways, the life she believed she had. To this end, some of her friends have forsaken her unable to deal with it. They judge her lack of moving on believing she should just get over it. But how do you get over major betrayal like that? How many of you could just move on after discovering your partner had been openly cheating and you were the last to know?
How do you begin to heal? First and foremost you allow yourself the deepest grieving possible without setting a limit on the amount of time nor amount of tears you are willing to shed. Time alone will not heal all wounds. A heart left unhealed, no matter how much time goes by, can never bring you true love; the kind of love that respects and is kind and demands your attention in the best of ways. With time you may hurt less but your odds of attracting love that allows you to feel safe and cared for and gently urges you to give your all will be seriously diminished.
Our society beckons us to move on. Friends, with the best of intentions, offer up their kindest wishes for a speedy recovery as if we have simply taken a fall and broke our arm. We say things to each other like; this too shall pass, and before long you'll forget you were ever married., as if we can erase years of our life. While I'm no fan of pity parties we tend to forget that grieving and understanding comes in layers.
Nobody wants to stay in pain one second longer than necessary. But, there is a greater truth here. If we don't give ourselves the proper time and direction to heal, we will move on too quickly. We then become fearful of who will be the next one to leave us in pain and suffering. And in an effort to end our suffering, we try to bury our hurts and bruises deep inside and put on a brave face. Months and often years down the line, we then start to wonder why our relationships are not working out.
My work in this world is to help people open their hearts to love. Sometimes it is about learning how to better love another person but it is always about learning how to better love ourselves. Attempting life with a less than open heart just doesn't work. It not only affects our intimate relationships, but also those with our children, families, work and overall expression in the world. The wounds of divorce, whether it our choice or not, can leave us broken and in a deep state of protection. We may tell ourselves our hearts are open and ready to move on but attempting life with a less than open heart is like trying to jump off a mountain with your foot tethered to a stake. You'll feel as if you're flying but somewhere in flight, the rope begins to tug at you. In life that rope is often invisible and made up of wounds and hurts that keep us stuck.
Women often tell me of their frustration that men move on so much quicker after a divorce. While this may be true, I also know from my work with men that they often wish they had given themselves more time to heal before filling their lives and bed. To allow yourself this grieving - a kind that soothes the places that hurt--tells yourself that despite what has transpired you are valuable and as corny as it sounds, that you did the best you could. That is real grieving. Your goal is to eventually get to the place where you forgive yourself for any judgments you may be holding against yourself for the relationship not working out the way you planned.
Don't rush the forgiveness. Some days grieving looks like getting really angry and allowing yourself to express it. And don't be surprised if your anger and frustration centers on issues outside your divorce. There is a hidden gift in grieving our divorce. It allows us to go back to earlier hurts and wounds. Wounds do not exist in separate pods within our body. They pile upon each other forming a mass that can only be dissolved by the application of more and more compassion and loving.
The Chinese have an expression, if it takes ten years to build a mountain, then it should take another ten to tear it down. No one knows how long a proper grieving should be. It often tests our family and friends' ability to be in compassion and understanding with us. Be careful not to judge them for their lack of understanding of your process. As you ask them to accept you're grieving, accept them for their inability to stand by you during this time as hard as that can be. Instead of labeling this as betrayal, use this as an opportunity to love yourself even more.
Ultimately, no matter what advice you are given, how long you grieve and how deeply is up to you. But I offer you this. Don't let anyone take this rite of divorce away from you. Remember no one has yet to drown in their own tears.