It’s been four months since my husband left and I’m wondering if it’s unseemly to feel so cheerful already? Shouldn’t I still be in mourning?
I was chatting to the mum of a school mum at a Verducci party last week and she said she was a mess for 15 months when it happened to her.
According to Wikipedia in the Georgian and Victorian eras mourning looked like this (granted, it was in the event of death, but I don’t think divorce was terribly common back then so I don’t know how they handled it): “Widows were expected to wear special clothes to indicate that they were in mourning for up to four years after the death, although a widow could choose to wear such attire for the rest of her life. To change the costume earlier was considered disrespectful to the decedent and, if the widow was still young and attractive, suggestive of potential sexual promiscuity.”
Even now: “In areas of Russia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain, widows will wear black for the rest of their lives. The immediate family members of the deceased will wear black for an extended period of time. Since the 1870s, mourning practices for some cultures, even those who have emigrated to the United States, are to wear black for a period of at least two years, though lifelong black for widows remains in Europe.”
According to Psych Central, mourning feels like this: there are the five stages of loss and grief after the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human or animal. They were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
1. Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
(OK, to be honest, I still can’t believe it’s happened. How can it have happened? Not possible. But it has.)
As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge.
(I’ve dabbled with fury on and off for months, but two weeks ago my anger started to burn cold. Cold anger is a very different beast to distraught anger. Much more therapeutic in the healing process.)
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–
If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
(I sent Husband endless links to articles on divorce and saving marriages. I told myself he’d realise the terrible mistake he’d made. I imagined what I would do when he did. I had to believe he’d come to his senses, especially since he still “likes” me and we have two kids together.)
Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.
(Fortunately I seem to have avoided this one and stuck with garden variety sadness, alleviated by long walks, laughter with friends and lots of loud music.)
Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.
(Am I really at this stage? Or is it too soon? Time will tell. But the only reason I’ll be wearing black is because it’s slimming.)
Of course it helps that Husband totally incensed me a few weeks ago. That made it much easier. I had a Monday night deadline to respond to my overseas job offer and sent a message that afternoon asking him to call to discuss it, but he was too busy … drinking in a bar … and said he’d give me a buzz at 8am the next morning instead …
(The same week he told me it would be too emotionally difficult to stay in the family home to mind the pets while I went away for the weekend.)
Thanks for nothing.
But it was a defining moment. Sure, we’ve broken up. But it’s my LIFE we needed to talk about. I thought that 23 years together might be enough to spare a few minutes to discuss the hobbled future I need to create as a single mother.
And that’s when poor deluded me finally realised: he’s not my partner anymore, he’s not my friend either, he’s just my co-parent.
Which means it really is time to move on … and hopefully up …
Song of the day: M People “Moving on up”