Valley Walking: The Tidal Waves of Grief

Whether your divorce came out of nowhere, or you had a slow burning awareness that it was on the horizon, emotions experienced in the early days of separation or divorce can be extremely overwhelming. For me, it was a total shock to learn of my husband’s wish to divorce and as a result, I went through feelings normally associated with trauma. I remember calling my parents to come and get me. I sat on their sofa unable to feel my own hands. My heart pounded and my words were slurred as I tried to explain what I had been told by my husband. It was like I was having an out of body experience.

In the days that followed, I experienced total numbness. I told myself, it was all a big mistake, that it wasn’t really happening. For a few days I got out of bed, showered, put my make up on and acted half human. I think that this initial numbness is the brain’s way of cushioning us from being exposed to the full reality in one single, brutal hit.

Bit by bit, the denial peeled away and I was plunged into a pit of shock and despair. I experienced what I liken to relentless tidal waves of shock, grief and panic. Each time I tried to come up for air, the waves knocked me back down with a vengeance.

If you are in the early stages of divorce, you can only take things moment by moment, hour by hour. At this point all you need to do is put one foot in front of the other, to get through each day. The reality that your marriage is ending is a momentous loss. Not only are we losing someone that we have loved, we are also losing the dreams we had for our marriage, our security, the friendship we shared, our family unit, not to mention the possibility of losing the home we have built and worked hard for.

As intense as these feelings of loss are, you will survive this!

You may feel that if you fully allow yourself to feel the pain and reality, it will overwhelm you. Those tidal waves may be coming thick and fast and everything within you may want to swim against the current, to not let it overcome you. I floundered and fought, until I got to a point where I knew I had to stop struggling against the tide and allow my feelings of loss and pain to wash over me. When I did, as awful as it was, I knew there had been some kind of release.

I would often take myself away from my family, go into another room, shut the door and sink into whatever it was that I needed to experience. I still do this when I need to. When I say ‘sink into,’ that is how it can feel when you allow yourself to fully feel the loss. It can feel like there is nothing to hold onto.

I confided in my sister that this was how I felt at times. A few days later, she handed me a package and inside was a  ‘Holding Cross’. A small, wooden carved cross which fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. She told me that when things became overwhelming and I felt like I was sinking, I could hold onto that cross and remember that I have something to hold onto, Jesus.

If you are going through this stage, please know and hold onto the knowledge that the waves will calm. In the meantime, rest in Jesus. Let Him uphold you and give you His strength and peace.



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