The first holiday without your kids is just plain hard. I spent Thanksgiving 2013 at my parents’ house on their couch (my grandparents were living in their guest room), and I remember waking up in the middle of the night with an overwhelming sadness and a sense of sheer panic. I wasn’t used to being away from my boys, especially not on a major holiday that’s centered around family, thankfulness and gratitude. I felt such a deep hole in my heart. I laid awake at night and pondered, “How did this happen? What brought me to this place?”
I made it through November and then on December 4, I nervously drove to the courthouse just ten minutes from my house. My FH (former husband) and I chit-chatted as I anxiously waited for the judge to appear; her job was to officially dissolve marriages. I don’t remember what we discussed…something about the house and maybe the boys, I’m not sure. I was having a hard time breathing much less thinking.
The couples were called to the bench in alphabetical order. The first had a last name that came before ours, maybe Andrews or Armstrong or something along those lines. When it was our turn I was struck with an overwhelming sense of grief, teetering on the verge of tears. I felt that I briefly abandoned who I was by agreeing that my marriage was irreparable. I knew that wasn’t true. I had experienced a miracle in my family as a child when God healed my parents’ marriage. I knew restoration was possible and I had always hoped for a day of reconciliation, a day where things would shift for us. But that day never came and I don’t think I properly processed or emotionally prepared for this day when we would flush a 16-year marriage down the toilet at the Douglas County Courthouse.
After she dismissed us we walked out of the courtroom. I stared straight ahead as my eyes started to release the stress and sadness I had been carrying. My FH tried to say something to me, but he was extending kindness and friendship that my heart was not ready to receive. My goal was to make it to the ladies’ room before I totally lost it, so I picked up the pace and held it together just long enough to crash through the door. I ran for the largest stall, locked myself in and buried my head the corner. I was shaking uncontrollably as I tried to reassure myself that things were going to be okay.
When I emerged he was gone. No one would have expected him to wait. His car was no longer in the parking lot and I was alone. Alone there in that moment and alone in my thoughts.
Three weeks later I was driving from my parents’ house back to my neck of the woods where my former husband and I had decided to take the boys out to eat on Christmas Eve. As I was driving I got a call from a dear friend who I hadn’t spoken to in some time. We caught up, laughed, told stories. The topic of my FH came up and for some reason I blurted out, “Is he seeing someone?”
I’m not even sure what led up to that question, I kind of doubt it was anything blatant from our discussion. It was possibly a hunch I had been feeling and it maybe just came out while we were talking. And then, to the surprise of both of us, I asked this question, “Is he seeing her?”
It wasn’t really a question to my friend, it was more of a rhetorical question. We said goodbye a few minutes later and I had about ten minutes left on my drive. I realized in that moment that God was foreshadowing something really heavy that I was able to start processing as I made my way to the restaurant.
After dinner we went back to my FH’s place where the boys opened gifts and then disappeared to play a new video game. My FH and I made small talk for a few minutes and then the words were spoken. He told me he would be exploring a relationship with her and they would see where things went. I was in shock but not completely taken off guard, because God had gently opened my heart to this scenario earlier that night. A short while later the boys and I loaded up in my car and made the drive back to my parents’. I didn’t sleep much that night and when I woke up Christmas morning, I was engulfed in a full-on depression.
If I remember right, I didn’t share anything with my family until the next day because I didn’t want to put a damper on the holiday. I kind of floated through Christmas…I remember preparing food in robotic fashion and trying to push my pain aside so I could enjoy time with family. I desperately needed them.
A week-and-a-half later my friend and her family invited me the annual Stock Show. It was so nice to get out of the house to have some fun with friends, laugh, and eat some good bbq. At some point that night my brother texted me about an inquiry that had come in for one of our vacation rentals. The potential guest was a single mom with three boys who had lost her husband. She was wanting to come to Colorado for the school year to give it a try. She was wondering if I would consider a longer-term lease.
My brother knew I was in a fragile place where I wasn’t able to process this information, so he asked if he and his wife could follow up with her and I agreed. They called her the next day, then they called me to fill me in. My heart was racing as heard the news. My mouth was dry, my palms wet. As my sister-in-law spelled things out for me, the weight was so heavy it felt like a 150-lb boulder had been dropped on my head.
She told me that the woman who was trying to rent my house was the same woman my FH had mentioned on Christmas Eve.
I did what any hurting ex-wife in my situation would do: I fired off a heated email to my FH and to her. And I marched into my counselor’s office that week and read it out loud, fishing for some good old-fashioned empathy. I believe the conversation went something like this (M = me, C = counselor):
M: “I pushed ‘send’ and then I shut my computer and ran to the other room.”
C: “Did it make you feel better to write and send that email?”
M: “It sure did.”
C: “I’m glad you got that out of your system. Because I wouldn’t recommend doing that again.’’
As she was speaking I had instant sender’s remorse. I knew exactly what she was saying…
…That sending a scathing message wouldn’t produce anything positive.
…That responding out of hurt and pain wouldn’t get me the sympathy I was so desperately wanting.
…That me being rude and angry wouldn’t change the reality of what was going on.
She offered me tough love with a healthy dose of truth and insight. She said only a few words but they spoke volumes. And I got it. In that instant I understood that me sharing my heart and feelings was putting myself in a vulnerable place with someone who was no longer entitled to those sacred things. And I never did that again. I cried, wrestled with my feelings, scribbled down my thoughts and felt sorry for myself (more days than I care to admit), but I never put myself out there like I did on that day.
I also started to accept the new reality, that my widowed former sister-in-law and her boys were moving to Colorado to be closer to my FH. A few weeks later, they arrived. And my counselor presented me with my most difficult challenge yet; she suggested that I take the first step of reaching out by extending the olive branch. She encouraged me to go over and welcome her to my town. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I was the right girl for the job.
Did you like this post? Please follow my blog and share on social media and with friends who could use some encouragement. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need to hear. It’s my way of paying it forward.