I remember reading a quote from him when I was younger. I’m probably coming across as super snooty right now with my talk of philosophy. You might even imagine me wearing a plaid jacket with reinforced elbows and drinking tea from a tiny cup, pinky raised high in the air. Does it make it any better if I tell you that I read this quote in a graphic novel (The Crow), and I was clad entirely in black at the time?
Anyway. The quote is: “Of all the ways to lose someone, death is the kindest.”
I thought it was pretty cool when I read it as a college student, but it took on new meaning during my divorce. There were so many nights that I laid in bed wishing that my ex had just died. I know it sounds harsh (or perhaps you’ve wished much worse on yours), but I didn’t mean it that way. Let’s say that your spouse died on July 8, 2008. Their life and any potential future with them ceases as of that date. They just don’t exist anymore. Of course, this is devastating and not to be minimized. Imagining a life without them is likely unbearable.
But there is one thing that you don’t lose with the death of a loved one… memories. You still get to look back on your first kiss, your first weekend away, and the life you’ve created together, with joy. You can remember the good times. And often, those good times are what helps you through the mourning process. Those memories are what you reflect on when the pain threatens to suffocate you.
Then there’s the shit storm known as divorce.
Maybe he initiated it, maybe you did. Doesn’t matter. Not only is the future you anticipated about to be rewritten, somehow, the past is magically changed. That first kiss, as sweet as it may have been, is now tinged with pain. That first weekend away and the life you built together, now carries an air of uncertainty. “Did we ever truly love each other?”
If infidelity played a part in your breakup, the uncertainty is even worse. Now, you view every memory through the filter of “Was he faithful to me then?”
How do you get past this? How do you move on with your life when everything you’ve known to be true, suddenly isn’t?
Well, it’s too late to kill them. So you’ll need to do all of the work internally. Here are a few techniques that you can try.
– Repaint the pictures and rework the stories in your head. I know this sounds a little bit crazy, but our brains are super powerful. Just think about how many times you’ve convinced yourself of something (“I’m fat”, “I was a loser in High School”, “Car surfing is a great idea”), now you just need to use it for good and not evil. You can still have that amazing honeymoon memory, you just need to recast the leading man (may I suggest Channing Tatum?). Fun was had on your trip, that should be enough to hold the memory in a good place.
– Focus on the time before your partner (we will call this BP). As most people don’t marry their kindergarten sweethearts, you probably lived many years without them. You probably have some pretty good memories from before they entered your world. Focus on those and remembering who you were BP.
– Give it time. I couldn’t do it right then, but years later I can look back on my marriage, laugh at the good memories, and delight in the experiences we had together.
Dealing with the loss of a partner or spouse, and the associated memories can be debilitating. Thankfully there are ways to overcome the grief without wiping your brain clean. There will come a time when you can let go of the anger, the hatred, and the disgust. Your memories aren’t lost forever.