When I was 27 years old, I got married.
I was divorced by my 30th birthday.
While I was the one to request the divorce, it was the most devastating time of my life.
As I drowned in grief, I did what any 20-something would do: I Googled “divorce recovery.” What I found only added more sadness and heartbreak. I discovered that everyone in the world seemed to get divorced while they had children. I found no experiences about what it’s like to be divorced without children. The information I found all seemed to be from women who had to go through divorce as mothers.
As I slowly found the courage to let other people know that I was getting divorced, this is the first statement of comfort that was usually offered: “Thank goodness you didn’t have children!”
If you want to make someone feel like they’ve been stabbed in the heart, absolutely say this to them.
In the months following separation, my heart was broken with sadness over the loss of my marriage—and the agony of knowing I would not have children with this person only made it worse. I lost a beautiful dream I carried in my mind since our engagement.
There seems to be a consensus that if a couple gets married and then divorced fairly quickly without children, they should consider themselves lucky.
They should feel lucky that they didn’t “waste time” by going through pregnancy, childbirth, and everything else that goes into parenthood.
They should feel lucky that they didn’t bring children into a family that isn’t going to stay together.
They should feel lucky that they didn’t traumatize future children.
They should feel lucky they won’t have to “be stuck” with each other by sharing custody and attending kids’ graduations together.
They should feel lucky that the divorce isn’t drawn out as long and isn’t as costly.
It’s almost as if you aren’t really divorced if you haven’t had children. It’s as if you shouldn’t be as sad for as long.
The truth is this:
Divorce is grief. It is the death of a person who is still alive, and the pain of grief does not discriminate. When there are children involved, it is a different kind of pain than when there are no children.
With children, you are forced to look at your children’s saddened eyes. When you don’t have children, you are forced to look into your own eyes with a deep, aching loneliness.
To all the women who have experienced divorce and had no biological children with their spouse: your pain is valid and you do not have to feel grateful for any part of it.
Give yourself permission to grieve all parts, including the children you didn’t have the opportunity to conceive.
Give yourself the compassion and space to feel all the emotions that arise, even (perhaps especially) the ones that oppose the viewpoints of those around you.