As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I’d offer the more uplifting story of how I forgave myself after my divorce. You might wonder how anyone whose spouse has lied, cheated, and left could feel any kind of guilt over divorcing that person, but I can tell you it’s definitely possible.
My biggest source of guilt came from not having been able to keep my family together. It takes two to tango, and so obviously I had done something wrong, right? My daughter, who was 13 at the time, spent literal months in her room crying. My son, who was 9 and has autism, didn’t understand why his dad didn’t live with us anymore. They didn’t get the “divorce talk” from both of their parents because their dad wasn’t here. I was heartbroken and doing the best I could. Some days, I know that was pretty piss-poor.
I felt stupid that I had chosen a spouse who would end up treating me this way. It was my karma, I thought. Surely, I deserved this. I beat myself up for having gained weight, for having indulged in too much alcohol, for not having always and consistently told him how proud I was of him. At one point, I was beating myself up over having cut my hair short. Anything and everything is fair game when you are abandoned. You tell yourself you are worthless, a nothing. Because if you were worth something, the person who has promised to love you most in this world wouldn’t treat you this way.
ALL manner of things go through your mind when you’re going through a life-changing emotional trauma.
But I told you this would be uplifting, didn’t I?
For me, the best thing to do when I am mired in any kind of depression or stagnation is to TAKE ACTION. I got myself to a good therapist who helped me see that someone else’s choices are their own. I learned that it wouldn’t matter whether I was the world’s most amazing woman. When someone wants to leave, they go. HOW they do that is up to them.
I helped my son navigate “residential time” with his dad. That was hard at first, but it got easier as time passed. I helped my daughter, who understood everything that had unfolded in front of her during her most formative years, navigate her feelings. I honored her wishes and supported her voice. Sometimes that was extra heart-breaking. I did it anyway because she needed someone to hear her. My children love their father. They know I loved their father. That’s a win as far as I’m concerned.
I thought for a while about packing the three of us up and moving back to my home state of Florida. And then, I thought better of it because my kids have a life here. They didn’t need any more upheaval or massive change. And frankly, neither did I. I was exhausted. So I maintained stability for them. My daughter thrived academically. My son made advances with his autism therapies. We had our holidays and birthdays and vacations as a threesome. We talked a lot. We hugged a lot. We figured out we were going to be ok.
My home was finally at peace.
It was in that peace that I started to forgive myself. I forgave myself for being fat. I forgave myself for drinking too much. I forgave myself for not always knowing just the right thing to say to my kids. I forgave myself for not being able to save my marriage and keep my family together. I forgave myself for feeling like shit for a long, long time. I forgave myself for simply being human. I spent days, weeks, months, and years forgiving myself. Hell, I’m still forgiving myself. Some days, it’s really, really difficult.
When someone tells me I need to forgive, believe me, I understand forgiveness. I understand that it’s more than just words, and that it’s a shit ton of work. I understand that it’s hard-earned and takes time. I also understand that what other people think I should be doing is their business. And if they’re busy worrying about what I’m doing, they must be pretty bored.
I’m not. I’m too busy forgiving myself and moving forward.