Divorce, at its most basic, is the loss of a dream.
It takes some of us a very long time, sometimes forever, to figure out that what we miss is not a person. Usually, when divorce occurs, the person we so admired is long gone. In his or her place is someone changed. Or perhaps it is us who has done the changing.
Regardless, the loss of a dream is difficult to absorb.
When you lose a person, he or she is just gone. And after time goes by, that sinks in. There is an empty spot in the bed or at the dining room table. It hurts like hell but you eventually must accept it or be deemed insane, chattering incessantly with someone who is no longer there. Instead, the sane among us turn to exclaim over a twist in a book or movie plot—and we stop ourselves short, realizing our other half is no longer there to comment.
When you lose a dream, unless you’re very diligent about putting it to bed in your mind—the illusion of that dream can live forever. Because you can easily think—what if? Maybe . . . Surely . . .
And all of those non sequiturs lead to dead ends.
I have been in survival mode for so long. Financial survival mode, first and foremost. Trying to keep my house, keep my children in the gifted school they attend, put food on the table. It is exhausting. And yet, I know so many of us do it. I am lucky. Degrees, talents, skills—all back me up.
Emotions tend to take a back seat when you’re working long hours and dealing with the practical realities of raising a family on your own.
But now, I’ve taken my children to visit family out east. And so, for a few days, bills and putting dinner on the table are not top of mind. We relax. We play. We are fed and chauffeured around. All of it good, sweet fun.
And yet, I feel the realizations creeping into the recesses of my mind.
I watch my sister and her husband, who have built a home their children can visit. I see holidays together, barbecues in the backyard, memories shared.
These were part of my dream for my kids. I now realize the memories shared, as a complete family, will be few for my youngest. His memories will be of a fractured family. I try very hard to create memories with the three of us—and I know he will love those. But the fractured dream hurts. For me and for them.
It is the loss of a dream. I know scores of people go through far worse.
But it hurts, nonetheless. I believe it was Kurt Vonnegut who penned: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’”
I think it is time to emerge from survival mode. If I can. Because when my children fly away into their own adult lives over the next decade, I do not want the remnants of a dream long gone to haunt me.
I thought the hurt was over. Yet it keeps coming back in tiny pinpricks, all over my life.
I realize that while I wonder where I would put someone in my life, and if I even want to have to worry about being part of a partnership again, I also love the softness that comes from a supportive backbone at home.
I was raised with family as the cornerstone. My family is far from perfect and at times drives me to the brink of sanity, but they’re there. We are a unit, like it or not.
It is hard to wake up every morning as the cornerstone of my own kids’ family unit. I am happy to be here, but truthfully, I do not always feel up to the task.
There are days I am distracted by deadlines, looming tuition bills, home repairs and the myriad daily worries of most single moms. There are evenings I cannot find the time to put a home-cooked meal on the table and I honestly would be happy with a piece of fruit. There are times I am just plain exhausted.
Dreams lost leave a gaping hole. I have readjusted my vision of family, of home, of the “necessities” in life.
When you emerge from this gaping hole, this nuclear impact at the center of your life, you bring your new vision to the fore.
I am not there yet. But I think I may, at some point, find softness again. Find the time and patience to learn another’s rhythms.
I am emerging, I realize. Ever so slowly. And I reserve the right to retreat back into my shell.
Some of us take longer to heal than others. Some of us do not wear our heart on our sleeve. I cannot stand the constant questioning at times. “Are you dating?” “Have you met anyone?”
If you can dismiss your own heartbreak so lightly, so be it.
I run a bit deeper. Blessing and a curse.
I will know when it is time to emerge fully. And I will not be rushed.
31 Comments Add yours
This was a great piece, Krisse. I enjoyed reading everyone’s replies as well. Such wisdom in you and your blog followers. ; ) I can just see the growth and strength through all your stories. Not that I wanted you to have to go through what you did – but you are a changed person from this experience and I’m so proud of all the healing and growing that you’ve done.
I understand that lost dream feeling. I hope you find rest, peace and above all healing and the strength to continue forward as you have been walking. Despite it all, there is still a lot of beauty and blessings left to be experienced in life.
everything in it’s time, and sometimes slow is all you can do and the best thing to do. i’m a divorced mom myself, my children are now all adults and married with children themselves and when people asked how i did it, i simply say, there was no other choice and so you do. thank you for reading and following my blog and i look forward to doing the same for you. best, beth
I, for one, don’t understand the mindset of wanting a divorced friend to begin dating again. Maybe because I like my own company, I didn’t get married until I was 36, and I’ve never been divorced. Take the time you need to heal and get comfortable with being a single parent. Give yourself whatever time you need to grieve the loss of your marriage. When you’re ready, you’ll know it, and you already know that.
Oh Kay, I don’t even know where to begin. Something I’m not brave enough to blog about yet, but I’m going through a divorce myself. I’ve always wanted to rush past the pain and still absorb the lesson but sadly you can’t learn the lessons if you don’t experience the pains. You put into words some of my own feelings of loss and worry over my kids. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your wisdom! No rush, sometimes it’s in our shells that we make the most progress something that most people don’t fully understand.
Oh, Stina, I am so very sorry. I know from reading your blog your road has been rough of late. The pain sucks. No other way to say it. But, I am at the stage where I know all is for the better. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but I miss the dream–not the person. And tonight, I am in my shell. Thanks for the reminder that’s OK. Wishing you peace and courage.
The phrase “I also love the softness that comes from a supportive backbone at home” says it all. When the healing is complete and you feel ready to move one, the right person will come into your life effortlessly. I wish you peace and a great life ahead.
Thank you. I certainly hope so. I understand the very human urge to rush the healing from the lookers-on, but that never works. I am always amazed that is an unlearned lesson for many. It’s one of the few that came easily to me.
I’m going to comment while I finish crying.
I have never been divorced, but I was raised by a single mother. It is different, the family memories are unique, and I will admit that every now and then I saw the longing in my mother’s eyes that you describe with your sister.
It is true, your dream didn’t work out the way you planned, but you are a light. I can feel in it your writing. You’ll emerge and shine when you are ready. In the meantime, tell those people to kiss your ass.
Beautiful, stunningly honest, post.
Oh, you always know the right thing to say:). A light. I love that. Thank you.
The loss of dreams of the intact family and being able to look back in the golden years is heart-wrenching.
I took a long time to put my dream ‘to bed’.
Another great loss is a sense of purpose. I read Madeleine Albright’s autobiography and she describes how she wallowed around for four years after her divorce, tried dating and such-like. Then she realized that it was her purpose that she was looking for, not a companion. That was when she went back to her career of academia, and later politics.
All these losses seem overwhelming and we need to break them off one by one to mourn or resolve.
You are doing fantastically. I admire you for your positive attitude.
An aha moment as I read your comment. I think the purpose vs. companion bit is what I keep trying to explain to people. Right now, I’m focused on the basics and healing, as well as what I came here to do. A companion would be lovely, but the timing doesn’t feel right yet. So many people find that a foreign concept . . .
This essay is powerful, heartbreaking, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your gifts so generously, with such candor, courage, and clarity. You, my dear, are an extraordinary woman. Wishing you joy, renewal, peace of heart and mind, wholeness — all in your own good time. xox
Thank you, Amy, for the kind words. I will graciously accept those gifts–hopefully in my own good time sped up a bit:).
This reads as both a love letter to the fragility of your heart and a testimony to the resilience of your spirit. Beautiful, Kay!
I hadn’t thought about it that way, Marie. Thank you . . .
Take your time and be the person you want to be and your kids will always admire you.
This is a painful post to read. My husband bailed out on me after barely two years of marriage — after I left country, friends, family and career to follow him to the U.S. He was remarried within a year. It hurt like hell. For a very, very, very long time.
I was lucky enough, though, to meet a gorgeous, funny, talented man 3 weeks after he left. Way too soon. But it sure helped! It showed me what a waste of my time and energy that marriage had been, (even with all the lost hopes and dreams.) I realized there are many new ones out there to be enjoyed.
I met my second husband in 2000 — six years after that man walked out. I was often very very lonely. I wanted to be a wife again and to have back-up and someone to cherish. I have no doubt this will happen for you when you’re ready.
And even then your heart might never fully heal. That’s OK too.
You hit on something I cannot explain to any of my friends who’ve not been divorced. The hole stays. Your heart grows bigger and moves on but the hole stays. A promise to love forever does not go away if it’s not made lightly.
My first husband won my heart and shattered it. My second husband is someone I love dearly but that heart-hole is in there. If you take those marital vows seriously, it is a great shock if your husband (or wife) does not. I think that trust, once broken, is never fully regained.
But you will, I am sure, find someone to love and cherish. Oddly, having had your heart shattered also reveals how much you long for that connection. Some people never even try again, and I think that is much sadder.
Your story took me back to my time of separation and divorce from my second husband. I call him “The One” here on WP because in several ways, he and our relationship fit the Hollywood/Disney/Hallmark mould of “dreams come true”. Of course, it failed spectacularly.
“Divorce, at its most basic, is the loss of a dream.” I recall the moment when I realized the truth of your opening statement. It was comforting in a way. Because it pointed to the folly of yearning for the man of my dreams when clearly he was anything but.
The loss of the dream does not begin at divorce, either. It begins long before you reach that milestone.
I thank you for this beautiful post. I can feel your hurt and momentary despair. It will pass, on your terms and according to your schedule.
You are so correct. By the time divorce occurs, most marriages have been over for some time. Something the uninitiated do not understand.
Your words are so precisely true. I just came out of a 4-year relationship. I was engaged, looking forward to start a new life, with all the duties it brings along. Unfortunately the destiny said otherwise, and we were driven apart. He´s no longer someone I ´d share my life with, but once in my life, I thought so.
I don´t have kids or anything close to how you feel or how your life is, but somehow your words made so much sense to me. Like how hard it is to wake up with nobody by your side, or no one to back you up and share you concerns and ideas about life. I do miss him, and I´m not ready to move on just yet. I need time to place my thoughts into the right spot. Hopefully we will get there. Best regards, Bruna
So wise of you to give yourself time and not rush. We all want to rush the hurtful parts–but it never works, does it?
I feel lazy of doing all that work again and somehow afraid as well of getting hurt. Somedays is just not fun to be alone. I am sure you understand me, just to have someone to watch a movie with. But I´m not in a rush. Just letting my heart heal and taking a step at a time. =)
I remember feeling very ‘orphaned’ when I was a single parent and very marginalized from the rest of the world. You describe the mess of feelings very well. I was a single parent for six years then became a married parent again. I had learned how to carry on by myself but it was great to have a partner again.
Jan, it’s so reassuring to hear stories like yours. Some days, I can imagine it and other days, it seems a pipe dream.
When I was a single mom, living with my 5 year old in an upper flat in Milwaukee, a colleague who was a palm reader (no joke and I don’t even believe in palm reading) read my palm and told me I’d get married again and end up having four children. I laughed it off. Second marriage now in its 31st year with four adult children, four grandchildren and a bunch of new traditions and dreams. Life takes you in crummy places and pretty nice ones. The ache you have – it’s only for now.
Thank you, Mark. Kind words much appreciated . . .
Hang in there, Kay.
You are very strong, very wise.
But if you didn’t feel hurt, you wouldn’t be human. And a lost dream is a big hurt.
The day will come when you will look back and recognize this as the growing period that it is. And the hurt, though remembered, will lessen. It seems to me that you are doing everything to lessen it for your children.
At your time, at your speed, Kay. You know best, demonstrated with each story.