09/28/2015 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Begin Again: Finding Hope After Divorce

Daniel Grill via Getty Images

The day I left my marriage was one of the saddest days of my life.

Just ask the two poor souls the moving company sent to deal with the logistics of getting my sorry self out of the home I thought I'd grow old in. I opened my mouth to utter a simple sentence about which items were going and which were staying, and my grief spilled out. Luckily, it seemed these guys had dealt with this before. They offered Kleenex and water, gently placed boxes in front of me and inquired as to how they might fill them, asked the sort of yes-or-no questions that work well with toddlers.
And then, somehow, it was done.

My meager belongings had been transported from the home that my husband and I had built -- literally -- with our own hands. They had been deposited in a little rental that, although bright and clean, smelled foreign.  A not-my-home smell.

I sat there amidst the boxes, the piles of books, the furniture that looked strange in this tiny apartment so close yet so far from home. I thought about my husband and the dog I'd left to comfort him. Would they be enough for each other? Would they be okay?

Would I be okay?

I didn't sleep that first night. I turned a single thought over and over in my mind:

If I'd left because staying was killing me, why did it feel like leaving would kill me too?

In the morning, I hardly knew where to begin. I unpacked boxes, hung curtains and pictures, marveled at how such a homey space still wasn't my home. I cried until the dog and cat huddled together in a corner of the bedroom, eyeing me warily. I cleaned up, hunkered down, avoided friends, sought out work.

In time, in increments that were barely perceptible, I emerged from the fog. Solitary trail runs and beach walks with my dog were sometimes replaced by yoga classes and group workouts at the gym. Some of the words in the stack of self-help books by my bed began to sink in. I found comfort and strength. I found hope when what I wanted to do, frankly, was check out. Stick a fork in me, I was done.

Except that I wasn't.

I'm not.

If you'd told me a year ago that I would have as much laughter and joy in my life as I do today, I would not have believed it. And yet, as cliche as it sounds, what I thought was the end was in many ways only a new beginning.

It's a funny thing, life. It wants us even when we don't want it. It hangs onto us through the grief, the depression, the loss, the relentless "if only."

And if we hang on too, just long enough, one day -- before we can even realize it -- we're back.

Photo credit - R. Kuhn 'Boat Hair, Don't Care'