When I woke this morning, I couldn’t remember what it feels like to be held. This may sound odd but for the past three years, upon waking, I have retained the cozy feeling of being held even though there is no one there. At first, it really bothered me and made the loneliness all the more stark. For the first several months, I would wake up and cry until the feeling subsided. But then, I just accepted it. For some reason, my sleeping self believed I wasn’t alone in bed and I let the feeling linger as I slowly woke up. It has been one of the longest remaining phantom sensations so it surprised me this morning when it just wasn’t there. And I wondered if this is what the end of missing feels like – nothing.
I have wondered when the end of missing would come. Different resources I read about divorce suggested different amounts of time for recovery – a few months, one year, two years, half the amount of time you were married. (When I heard that statistic, it made me ache for the people in my divorce recovery support group who had been married 20+ years and maybe a little more grateful for my own situation.) I wondered how these time frames were calculated and how recovery was defined. There just seems like too many variables to come up with a tidy formula.
Mostly I wondered what it would feel like and how I would know when I was “over” my divorce. At the beginning of our separation, it felt unimaginable to ever not miss him and our life together. Coming up with a picture of my life without him in it was nearly impossible. It looked like one of those photos where someone has taken scissors and cut a figure out. The empty spot is so immediately obvious and clearly defined, it’s almost like the person is still there. But as with all processes, slowly the empty space in the picture next to me got hazier and less clearly defined. Other people and interests edged into that spot until it became less stark and definite but still I noticed the hole – even if others did not.
My ex-husband cheerily reported to me three months after our separation how much better his life was without me. That he felt happier, more purposeful, and more himself than he had in years. It sounded like a vitamin or medicine commercial that ends with the tagline: “Divorce – it cures what ails you!” In that moment, with the phone clenched tightly to my ear, I simultaneously hated him and was jealous of him. Is that what “recovered” feels like – happier? more “myself”? When would that happen for me?
Three years later and I still don’t know if I am happier or more purposeful post-divorce. I think probably not but that was never really my hope in the first place. I hoped for healing and it has been a slow process and one I can sometimes barely discern in myself. But I do know I am healing and have tried to celebrate the healing where I see it. Is today just another step in healing? If so, I am disappointed. I want something more than nothing on the other side of missing.
This morning as I stumbled into the kitchen for a glass of water, conflicted about whether I felt more or less happy about this new (lack-of) sensation, the first thing I noticed were the huge peonies sitting on the dining table. My roommate brought them home three days ago and we have watched in amazement as they have opened wider and wider wondering where these flowers find even more petals to add to their already full display. Last night I joked that the peonies may just swallow our apartment whole and then we would live in a fragrant soft pink wonderworld like some character from Thumbelina. (There are definitely worse fates.)
As I stood there drinking my water and staring at those peonies that will not quit growing, I felt peace. If the end of missing feels like nothing right now, that’s ok. But it also does not mean it will stay that way. Just like everything about this healing process, I am sure I will continue to be surprised at the way it progresses. If I have not found something on the other side of missing, I am not done growing and changing. I am holding out hope that somehow, some way, my life will keep opening up wider until the beauty I so desperately want to see in my story is revealed. I hope when that time comes, I will be able to just stand in amazement.