This is Not Where I Thought I Was Going

Endings, or How the Damage Occurs

                                                                    Horizon at Dusk                                 photo by Linda Bittle

I’m not great at endings. Even the ones that I choose are difficult. The ones that have been forced upon me have been especially challenging. I don’t know how to mourn when things end abruptly.

I was in 3rd grade when mom packed my brother and sister and I up and left dad and the farm behind. That was over 50 years ago, and I don’t think I’m over it yet. I still sometimes grieve for the simple childhood that I didn’t have and for the family that I lost that day. Besides our dad, we lost almost all contact with his father, and with an aunt and cousins that we had been close to. Those endings really hurt.

The worst part, at least for me, was that we were not allowed to express anger, or sadness, or confusion. It didn’t matter much who’s week or weekend or holiday it was. Neither parent could allow us to process the destruction of our family.  I can still hear the angry yelling as each of them in turn would promise to “give us something to cry about”.  I imagine they were doing the best they could to process their own endings. We were collateral damage.

Grief is the emotional contract of divorce. –Cheryl Nielsen

Unprocessed grief can wreck your physical and mental health. A quick internet search turns up a lot of documentation. Here’s one example: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/understanding-how-grief-weakens-the-body/380006/

The divorce – mine – brought all the feelings I had not dealt with back to the surface. I was so angry. And he wanted me to let him off the hook by being “OK” with his decision. He’d already processed. It was news to me.  So, I did what I’d learned to do in 3rd grade. I didn’t let anyone see my hurt. I didn’t grieve the loss or process the endings.

Some divorces may be necessary. Much of the suffering is not.

I forget from year to year that the weight of all that unprocessed grief will hit me again in late summer. Yes, the divorce was final in February. But this first week of August was when he packed up and left.

 I am forever thankful that we did not have children. There’s no collateral damage in our story. I’ve heard that children are resilient and will recover from the shock. I think it’s more appropriate to say that we become resilient after having survived.

I’m not generally a morose person, but this past week has been hard. Granted, there are extenuating circumstances this summer, but the depth of my discontent has been out of proportion to a story I’ll get to down the road. Life is full of losses, after all.

Now that I realize what’s actually going on I can work on yet another round of “dealing with it”.  As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered some helpful resources, which I’ll list at the bottom of this post.


If I have a platform to speak – if I could say something to any parent in the process or aftermath of divorce, this would be my message: Allow your children to grieve the endings. Help them to do it in a healthy way, or find someone to help. Let them process in whatever way they need to process. And process your own feelings in a healthy way, too. Because bad endings leave scars.

  • https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-adult-children-of-divorce-find-their-voice
  • http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/07/judith_wallerstein_and_divorce_how_one_woman_changed_the_way_we_think_about_breakups_.html
  • https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/10/01/reviews/001001.01talbott.html

8 Comments

  1. Irvina

    Very eloquently said (although eloquent and collateral damage don’t really go together). And true, every word.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Jan Cheverton

    Good and TRUE word.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thank you! I wish it wasn’t true for so many people.

      Reply
  3. Linda Barksdale

    You are a wonderful writer. Thank you for tackling the tough issues we tend to want to leave buried. Thank you for not stopping with the telling, but also offering help and hope. You are an honorable woman, LB.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Meredith Westerside

    Transparent and vulnerable sharing, Linda. Thank you for being “real” with your friends. This year I’ve been working through the devotional, Streams in the Desert, which consistently focuses on the ways God’s blessings come through the deeper hurts. Lots of healing words there as the passages refocus us to believing God’s love and goodness even in the times of pain and sorrow.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thank you! I have just downloaded it to my Kindle.

      Reply

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