9.6 Editor's Pick
July 12, 2020

How Divorce Broke Me—& Made Me Whole.

This is what divorce looks like.

I never wanted to see its face on mine.

As a child of divorce, this was on the top of “sh*t I will never do” list, and now it’s on my list of “things that must be done.”

My hair is unbrushed. I’ve showered, but only managed to put on a bathrobe because the thought of putting on clothes means that I might actually have to go somewhere and see someone—and that feels damn near impossible.

If someone sees me right now, they might see all of my insides, because I have cracked wide open, and what’s below the surface isn’t pretty.

My eyes are swollen shut from crying. I’ve cried myself asleep and awake for what feels like an eternity. I feel like I’m crying through life right now.

Each tear mourns what I thought could have been—what was, what is—and everything in between.

I cry for the children I thought we would raise together.

I cry for our dog—repeatedly.

I cry for each vacation we took.

I cry for every laugh, every touch, every fight.

I cry for the girl I was when I met you who was blinded by love and filled with so much hope—because I want her to return, and I fear she might not.

I cry for every time one of us didn’t speak up—and for every time we did.

I cry for all the ways we tried—and the ways we didn’t.

I cry for all the people I won’t see—and the moments I will miss.

I cry for your pain. I cry for my pain. I cry for our pain that we will never share.

Mostly, I cry for the truth. The truth that says sometimes you love yourself—and someone else—too much to stay in something that isn’t serving either of you.

I cry to release the old pain. I cry to heal what is here. I cry to become who I will be.

I cry.

I cry. 

I cry.

Because I never wanted to see this face on mine.


As a writer, yogi, hiker, and avid traveler, I thought I would pack my suitcase like Elizabeth Gilbert and Eat, Pray, Love my way through divorce, or perhaps I would walk my way back to my truth like Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

Instead, I unglamorously moved home to live with my dad during a f*cking global pandemic. But this was the stillness that forced me to stop running—and it is here that I met myself.

Like so many millennials, I am a child of divorce. Growing up, I never pictured my wedding day. While my friends daydreamed about theirs, I hid behind statements about how I was unsure if I believed in the institution of marriage.

It is not that I do not believe in love—on the contrary, I am a hopeful romantic. I saw the emotional upheaval of divorce, and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

And yet, I remember exactly what I was wearing the night my former partner and I sobbed in the kitchen because we both knew it was the end—for real this time. I can still recall the exact words I fumbled over when I called my parents individually to tell them I was moving out. I can feel how my heart actually hurt the day I had to say goodbye to our dog.

The palpable combination of pain and hope I felt when I received court documentation reinstating my maiden name still lives in me, and I am slowly watching frayed loose ends mend together the more I learn about healing generational trauma.

And yet, I wonder, how did I end up here?

Perhaps we need to endure the things in life that we meet with the most resistance. Perhaps it was my shying from divorce’s pain in my childhood that made it appear in my adult life. Perhaps this was what I needed to heal and become whole, or rather, to see myself as whole, because I spent most of my life believing I was broken. Perhaps it was all of these or none.

I married too young. Not that 26 is too young to be married. I mean I was too young in the sense that I did not know myself yet. I was looking for someone else to complete what I thought was an incomplete puzzle

My former partner is not a bad person. In fact, he is a great human, and we shared a great deal of love. But our life together was not congruent.

When we met, I believed I found someone to run wild with. What I did not recognize at the time was that I had found someone to run from myself with, as he, too, was familiar with running.

There was so much pain, grief, and shame from my teenage years that I had not faced and was too afraid to. He appeared to see me, and love me, regardless. He chose me—and I chose him. We still did not have the tools to choose ourselves.

During a yoga teacher training in 2018, I was handed a metaphorical mirror to view all of my light, and my darkness, with compassion. I began to process my past hurts, step into my authentic self, and advocate for a life I wanted to live. I saw myself as whole, complete, competent, and worthy for the first time in 28 years. This space of inner knowing and connectedness made me crave the same in a partner, and he was still running.

So I waited. And he waited for me not to wait for him to be someone else. And I fought. And we fought with and for each other.

And then, I started fighting for myself.

I started fighting for the things I wanted in my life; I started fighting for the woman I wanted to be; I started fighting for that other part of a person I was looking for in a partner, and what I found was her in me. 

There are no rules for when to stay and when to leave. There are no rules for how many counselors to try or how many months to spend crying through life. There is one thing that I trust—and that is intuition.

They say in love, “When you know, you know.”

The same is true for divorce. 

Just like no two relationships are the same, neither are two divorces. It seems the only common denominator is pain—a painful unraveling of your entire life. Divorce is the death of your shared past, present, and future without the funeral. This brokenness is something that I cannot discover the words to describe.

But what comes after this brokenness is a powerful piecing together when we are willing to fight for ourselves.

The healing process is delicate and messy as hell. There is no after photo, because there is no after—just a continual progression to feeling complete in myself.

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Julie Strittmatter  |  Contribution: 2,485

author: Julie Strittmatter

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