Today, I’m going to share the testimony of a lady who felt that she had no choice but to divorce her husband. She describes in vivid detail the phases of grief that were experienced while she was still married. She was grieving over the death of a relationship as well as the dream of the relationship. Look very closely and you will see all of the elements of grief in her testimony. I wanted to share this particular story with you because it is another very good example of the uniqueness of grief. I am trying to give a variety of illustrations of how a person can experience grief.
She began the grief process before the relationship ended, she went through all of the elements of grief while still in the relationship. This is not the expected way to grieve but this is the path of grief that she traveled. Shock/disbelief, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression and acceptance/hope are all very real elements of her story.
The story begins:
“Did I know death? Yes, I knew it. Although I had only buried one loved one into the grave or rather witnessed the burial. Death was very familiar to me in other ways. Death to the relationship with my father at a very young age. Death to the two babies I aborted before I believed in God. Death to the dream of having a fairytale home to grow up in. Death of the short lived relationship that had produced my first born child. Yes, I knew death.
Grief was a word that was foreign to me. I did not know what it was and certainly did not know that I had ever grieved. But now that I look back, my life had been an open book of grief.
He danced into my life one night. Yes, literally. I was at my favorite country western dance hall It was during the ‘80’s when the Urban Cowboy phase was rushing through Texas. Everyone wanted to lay claim to being a cowboy or cowgirl. I was dancing and he started staring at me while I was dancing and he was dancing with another girl. That should have clued me in but I was ripe for the pickin’. I was looking for the “man of my dreams”. The one who would save me from my misery.
To my elated dismay he actually chose me and we quickly became an item. We drank a lot and I had more hangovers that first few months in the relationship than I had ever had in my life. But I justified it by telling myself that we were just having fun and that he was my soul mate. We married exactly one year from the day we met.
His philosophy was “Work hard, play hard” and he did both.
I soon learned that he expected me to keep up with him. If I couldn’t it would make him angry. Sometimes he would try to drink at home and it scared me because unless I drank with him he became unreasonable and explosive. Sometimes it did not take alcohol to make him explode. The actual abuse of me had begun verbally before we ever got married and escalated into physical abuse very quickly after the vows were exchanged. Sometimes he would just not come home from work and would come home in the wee hours of the morning drunk and volatile. I quickly learned that if I pretended that I was asleep, he would go to bed and pass out so that was what I would do keep my heartbreak to myself.
Children started coming along and after his first child was born (my second) I told him one day that I would no longer allow him or anyone else to drink in my home. I did not want to raise my children that way so he complied and miraculously respected that boundary. He would even try to stop drinking at times, but the rage issues still remained and he would try to replace the alcohol addiction with other more distasteful addictions if you can imagine.
I became a Christian when my third child was born. He tried to live the Christian life, those years were the happiest times of our life together but they did not last. When the addictions started back I tried to bargain with myself by giving things up, like all of my family, my friends, my church and my oldest child. I kept thinking that if I just gave this person or that person up that things would change, but they did not. Things only got worse because he gained more and more control of my life.
I am not sure exactly what happened but about 10 years into the marriage I started getting more and more depressed and a cycle of overwhelming depression started becoming evident in my life to me. I would become angry at people who had no real connection to the type of anger I was releasing on them like the grocery store clerks, people just driving down the street or my kid’s teachers. I started thinking about how much better it would be if he died. I knew that I could not die because my three youngest kids needed me. One morning I started crying and could not stop, I stayed in bed and he got up and never asked me what was wrong. I cried almost all day long. I laid there and begged God for help. That was the day that the relationship with him died in my heart and God started lifting me up so that I could survive.
God brought someone into my life who introduced me to Al Anon. Step by step I started getting stronger because God was strengthening me. I started going to Al Anon because it was no longer a matter of pleasing my husband it was a matter of my own survival for my children’s sakes. I started telling him no when he wanted me to do ungodly things with him (and yes there are some things that a husband can ask his wife to do that are ungodly). With each no that I firmly told him, there was more finality to the death of the marriage. I started going back to church.
His drinking continued, the physical abuse stopped but the verbal abuse continued and was often worse than the physical had been. One day, I had the flu and had forgotten to pay our water bill. The water was turned off. He was so verbally and emotionally abusive that day I finally knew that I had to get out so that I could be a better example for my children. (Notice the decisions were never for me but for my children.) I secretly made an appointment with an attorney to find out what my rights were. Then I planned what my budget would look like when I divorced him. I also took some classes at the local community college to brush up on my secretarial skills with him protesting. A few months later, I moved myself and my children temporarily to a shelter for victims of domestic violence and he was served with the divorce papers that day. Miraculously, I found a job as a legal assistant very close to home that same week that I was at the shelter.
I never went back to him and never allowed him back into my heart although he tried in many ways to manipulate things in his favor. It was such a relief and after the papers were finally filed and the divorce was final a few months later, I never looked back. I was finally free of the control and oppression. I have wondered a few times why I did not grieve very much after I filed for divorce but I understand now that my grief took place during the marriage starting somewhere around that day that I laid in bed and cried all day.”
This is all I am going to share for today. I understand that God does not advocate divorce but I also KNOW God does not want anyone to live under the type of oppression that she was living under. I personally would never advise someone to divorce their spouse but I also refuse to condemn them for doing what they decided that they had to do.
My purpose for today is to share another example of grief. A couple more testimonies and then some more of my own thoughts about the grief process.
Thank you so much for your patience in wading through this series with me.
Love to all,