April 29, 2019

Life After Divorce is more than just Changing your Relationship Status.


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I was arrogant to think that grief could be avoided.

I am grateful for all that I gained by leaving my marriage: authenticity, creativity, freedom, safety, purpose, spirituality, lightness, and laughter.

But the process is far more complicated and emotionally complex than I had wanted to admit.

I cannot deny that I also lost a ton. No longer with a husband, beautiful home, and loyal pet—the landscape of my daily life has forever changed. For the first time, I recognize just how much privilege I had as a married woman, living in an affluent neighborhood, with a widely revered image of success.

These days my emotions seem to have a life of their own. I’ll see someone in my apartment development walking their adorable little dog, and I’ll be hit with a tide of longing and tears. I’ll be struggling at the park alone with my two young daughters, and will become almost hyper-attuned to the nuclear family a few feet away. Hearing their sweet conversations and observing their wholesome interactions, a scary thought will enter my consciousness:

What have I done?

Or just recently, I had a bit of a health scare and found a few lumps on my body (it’s nothing, thank goodness), but I had to fill out some paperwork at the doctor’s office and I couldn’t help but wonder: Who is my emergency contact now? Who is the right person to take me to surgery in a few weeks? I know I have an abundance of love and support in my life, but I’ve always envisioned a spouse or loved one being there for me during a time like this.

So what do I do now?

I spent a few weeks carrying a quiet, destructive pain in my heart, and I begged the universe to help me.

Luckily, I am finding the balance and perspective I asked for and here’s what I’m accepting:

I’m human and flawed.

I consider myself to be a deep and simple person, but I can’t deny that I became acclimated to a materially-comfortable lifestyle. When I felt emotionally depleted, I could online shop and achieve a quick boost to my mood. When my existence felt suffocating, my spouse and I could plan a lavish vacation, or look at newer, bigger homes; tasks that would disguise themselves as freedom. Not only were these quick fixes convenient, but I got a ton of validation from friends, coworkers, and even strangers by flaunting an expensive outfit or sharing pictures from exotic locations. It became easy to feed my starved ego with all of these temporary, external fixes. Though I feel guilty for how I coped, I finally recognize the humanness of my errors and can forgive myself. I’m ready to live authentically now.

Staying grounded is an ongoing practice.

Achieving internal balance takes effort. When I left the unhealthy environment of my marriage, I thought the relief I initially felt would snowball into a more constant state of bliss. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Through meditation, therapy, journaling, dancing, walking, and stretching I am laying down the foundation upon which I can rebuild my life. It was never just about changing my relationship status. I have to experience and perceive my life in a radically different way. I didn’t expect this to feel like work, but I’m beginning to understand that all things in life that are worthwhile and sustainable require commitment and maintenance.

Being uncomfortable is necessary.

I had a pretty powerful epiphany once the grief settled in:

I have a real problem with feeling uncomfortable.

Feelings like despair, anger, and fear played an everyday role in my life while I was married. Though intense and painful, they were familiar and provoked predictable reactions. When I was angry, I could yell (though I rarely did). When I was sad, I could cry (I often did). When I was scared, I could run (I finally did). These emotions, though oftentimes awful, allowed me to focus outwardly and avoid any real introspection.

Now that I’m out of the marriage, being uncomfortable has replaced some of those bigger emotions. Without the tears, rage, and running, I’m left to look at myself—the real root of it all. As my life is flooded with new people, places, and circumstances, the uncomfortable feelings come bubbling to the surface regularly. Instead of hiding, I’m learning to lean into them.

I ask myself daily: What are these feelings trying to teach me? And am I being the best version of myself that I can be?

If I listen carefully enough, I’m being guided to trust myself more, take the right risks, and fully embrace my own power.


Are you avoiding grief?

If you are, I understand if it feels like too much to take on. But trust me, grief is exactly what you need right now.

Please join me as another flawed, grounded, and uncomfortable human on this beautiful journey.



Image: Zoey Ray

Image: Tomáš Petrů / Flickr

Image: elephantjournal / Instagram

Editor: Julie Balsiger

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Benedicte Colonna de Lega May 25, 2019 12:54pm

I can relate to many aspects of this… Starting over is scary, and difficult. And there’s the added guilt of being the one who decided to leave the marriage, especially putting my kids through this, even if I am convinced it was the right choice.

leckey May 25, 2019 8:23am

It wasn’t the divorce that crushed me, it was the relationship after. The one where I figured I’d healed, and was capable of a relationship. Along with losing the relationship, I was also in a community I loved, and so the double grief.

Unlike you, my life isn’t flooded with new. I’m part of that age bracket that moves into “invisibility.” The community I loved, and I thought cared about me? Not a single effort to reach out to me. I moved out into a tiny cabin, by myself, with damn near nothing.

I know in my bones that nothing is permanent. Right now it’s a lot of solitary sadness, so until this changes, that’s what I’m living with.

Susan May 20, 2019 2:12pm

Well said! I also made the difficult journey from the “big house” and from all appearances the “great life”. But it wasn’t real nor happy. I, too, avoid grief, and have a hard time feeling the uncomfortable feelings. Blessings to you.

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Zoey Ray

Zoey Ray is a single, working mom of two toddlers. She works on the college level, and helps students embark on meaningful, purpose driven careers. Much of Zoey’s work is focused on women’s leadership. She is committed helping others fully realize their values, gifts, and strengths as they move forward in love, career, and spiritual development.