No one tells you how to get a divorce, you know? Sure, there’s books on how you should handle things but no one tells you how to divorce because it’s not an experience that can be taught.
After almost a decade and a half I called it quits on my marriage and over the last year and a half I have been going through the process of divorce.
Dismantling a structure you painstakingly built over the better part of your youth, alone, is an experience that changes you on a molecular level. Think I’m being dramatic? Talk to a divorced person.– Dylan Sawyer
For the better part of this year I had been able to carry on, convincingly enough, like my life was unchanged. I got promoted. I got a few raises. Took some online classes. Hung out with friends. Dated, A LOT. I did some travelling. I Immersed myself in an alternative form of spirituality via tarot cards, and a few other things. On paper, it was a pretty stellar year for me in the arena of spiritual development and career growth. To all who passed me on the street, I was another black girl creating magic and making it look easy!
In reality though, I was doing all that I could to distract myself from the humiliation and hurt I felt behind my failed relationship and marriage. In between all of those amazing life enhancements I relied heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms to help carry me through the quiet storms. What the world didn’t see was the dark parts of how I was handling it all. I just kept telling myself, if I focused my attention on… anything other than the fact that I was getting a divorce honestly, I’d just look up one day and it would all be over, and I’d be no worse for the wear. And so, that’s what I decided to do. I faked it. Drunkenly.
The divorce train had been chugging through my life at a manageable pace and for a while, I had managed to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. And then, I was delivered the final decree from my ex. The moment I received those signed papers back from her I looked around and realized, that what I thought was the end of the divorce process, was actually the beginning of a new stage of it. Sure, the paperwork represented the end of the marriage, but a divorce is so much more than that, isn’t it?
When my ex and I first decided to split, she moved into a new place and left me in our familiar space. I think in both of our heads we expected to get back together because we had spent so much of our lives with each other. It just didn’t make any sense that we wouldn’t get back together. When she moved, she took the things that were pertinent, clothes, shoes, natural hair care products (they aren’t cheap). She sorted through our movies, video games, and shared memento’s from over the years. She had free reign to take whatever she wanted from our marital home, because we were getting back together, right? What I didn’t realize then, was that she left everything that served as a reminder of us. When she left, she didn’t take so much as one photo of us with her. She left behind all of the memorabilia of us and the life we had built together. Everything was right here still in the apartment with me. The cards from birthday’s and special occasions throughout the years, collected paper work that marked our years together, gifts I had given to her, and gifts that were given to us, really all of the seeming insignificant things that you accumulate over the course of a relationship, were left behind.
To be fair, at the time of our split, I don’t think either of us thought much of those things. All of the focus was on putting space between us to re-collect ourselves. We were just separating from each other to get out of the argument loop we had been stuck in for years and finding a way back to each other, right? When we first split, I clung to our old wedding photos, I dug up old greeting cards and love notes and posted them around my house. I surrounded myself with all the good memories from our relationship. But as the months rolled by and the signs grew clearer that we weren’t getting back together, I started to go blind to the knick knacks. At one point, I even remember turning all of the photos with us in them towards the wall. I took the cards down from the bookcase. I stopped noticing all the little things around the house that reminded me of us. But the day that I received the final decree everything seemed to glow bright and echo loud. I began to feel like I was being suffocated. Like a ghost of our relationship was sucking all of the air from the room and I had no way of escaping. Suddenly, all of those pictures I had stopped noticing months ago, the boxes of paper work, old stuffed animals, and hell even our marital sex toys all felt like a weight against my soul.
Once I absorbed the shock of actually receiving the final decree, which shouldn’t have come as any kind of surprise to me since I was the one who asked for the divorce. I initiated the process. I paid for it. I drafted the paperwork. I submitted to the court. Receiving the final decree shouldn’t have been something that knocked me off my feet but it did and here’s why:
I looked around my home and realized that I had been left to deal with yet another situation regarding our relationship all by myself.–Dylan Sawyer
I looked around my apartment and the first thing I said out loud, once the magnitude of what had just happened started to settle in my mind was, “What am I going to do with all of this stuff?” This became the burning question in my mind. Do I just throw it away? Store it away in a box and travel it around with me as a reminder of my failure? Should I put it in storage and throw good hard earned money at it every month, effectively becoming an expensive monthly dose of depression?
I asked my friends for advice, nobody had an answer. I went to Google, there were too many answers and none of them seemed, right. I watched movies, read articles, hell I even went down the rabbit hole on Reddit for a strong few hours and nothing felt right. Shit, nothing felt right for days.
Before and during my marriage, I remember watching movies and T.V. shows where the recently divorced woman’s friends threw her a divorce party. These party’s were where they destroyed the memento’s of their married lives, by way of paintball guns, and shooting up the wedding dress with high powered rifles. I was always so judgmental of these scenes. I even remember telling my now ex, after watching a particular episode of Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce where this was the theme, that I would never do anything so childish. That I value every memory we made, and that it was crazy to me that women actually do this. Hmph, little did I know.
Still unsure of what to do with all of this stuff, I text my ex telling her I was going to take care of it all, see to it she got her half of the memories, I’d forward her copies of important paper work blah blah blah, all of which she was too happy to allow me to do all the leg work on by myself. Even throwing in a request for me to do extra work. After I sent those texts though, I sat. I pondered. In those days of processing, I started to grow angry. Nothing had changed between us and the nonchalant way that she chose to handle resolving our final affairs was true to brand for being one of the reasons for the split. Me playing superwoman again and going above and beyond to care for her needs was not going to happen again. After all, if she wanted any of it, or cared about any of it, she would have taken something, anything with her when she initially left. It was so obvious then, but I was too clouded to even pay attention.
I can’t say, that at any point in our divorce process was I angry. Hurt, sure. Sad, of course. but I can’t say that I ever reached a point of anger until I realized it ended the same way it began. It wasn’t until I got angry that I knew what to do with the stuff. I decided I would get rid of it all however I wanted to. I couldn’t make the decision before that point because I wasn’t taking me into consideration. I was still stuck in the pattern of people pleasing which lead to my feet being frozen. This divorce was about choosing me, and to this point I had forgotten that fact. With my backbone returned to its rightful place, I sat down with myself and asked the same question again. “What am I going to do with all this shit?!?” Simply tossing things into the trash wasn’t good enough.
I sat, boiling in anger. I replayed all the times. All the things. All the ways. My skin grew hot to the touch. Tears began to stream from my eyes as I recounted all the reasons why I ended up in this situation and that’s when the answer became clear.
I had to set that shit on fire.
A good best friend is good to come by….
I called my best friend and shared with her my thoughts. Her dad recently built a fire pit out of old 18-wheeler rims and it was sitting in her back yard just begging for the opportunity to be lit. After sharing my plan with her, she was immediately on board without so much as a single question. I made the plan to go to her house right before the solstice and we made the night a ritual of sorts.
Five pounds of snow crab and shrimp, three bottles of wine, a fire pit, two cats, and 13 years worth of memories to include my wedding dress all present, my best friend and I celebrated. We cried, laughed, ate, and burned our way through the process of letting go and guess what? I get it, now. I get what those women had to release by letting go of their attachment to things they had placed emotional value on during the course of their relationships. I thought I was above it, but I’m not. And I’m not quite sure that any of us are, or should be.
I say all of this to say, that while no one can really tell you how to divorce, or what to do with the stuff, any decision you decide to make is the right one for you. As for me and my house, that meant setting a bunch of shit on fire while crying over a fire pit getting wine drunk in my best friend’s back yard and poorly singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Have you gone through a divorce or relationship where you have found yourself in a similar position? How did you handle it and what did you decide to do with the stuff? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or feel free to reach out to send me a message on the community page.