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  • Writer's picturepamradtkerussell

Feeling Joy and Grief at Ending an Old Life and Starting a New One

I was on a Telehealth visit with my therapist this week when my husband texted me.

“I sent you an email.”

The subject line: Russell v Russell (Judgment of Divorce). I opened it. Our divorce, after a lengthy 15-month wait because we had minor children, had been granted. My husband officially was my ex-husband. I was no longer married. I was no longer separated. I was divorced. I was independent. I was free.

The feelings rushed to me as I continued to talk with my therapist on a completely unrelated topic. My insides were jumping for joy. I couldn’t wait to get off the call and text and call ALL my friends.

And then, as quickly as those feelings arose, others pushed them out of the way: grief, sorrow, regret, sadness.

My therapist watched as my face started to crumple, “Oh,” she said, “what are you feeling right now?” assuming my reaction was related to our external conversation, not my own internal one.

“I just got an email saying my divorce is final,” I told her, with tears welling up in my eyes. We quickly shifted gears.

Her favorite thing to tell me is “it’s not all or nothing.” She repeated this refrain as we talked about my divorce. Of course, she said, I was going to have a mix of feelings. My marriage was great, and it was awful, and it was joyful and it was painful. And so too, officially letting the marriage go wouldn’t be completely horrible and it wouldn’t be all great.

Those emotions were layered on top of the grief of losing the marriage that had been the center of my life for the last 28 years, the center I long thought would hold till my death.

When I got off my Telehealth visit, I did text all of my friends and then later posted to two private Facebook groups.

“I just got the notice that I am officially divorced. No need to go into the courtroom. Super excited and sad at the same time,” I wrote.

The reactions were supportive, caring, celebratory.

The response that resonated most came from my friend Adrianna. “Congratulations on turning a page,” she texted.

“Ending a life and starting a life should feel exactly like that.”

It gave me hope that I was doing something right.

That night, I went to my monthly book club with a group of women who I have known for about 20 years. We toasted to new beginnings. It gave me chills when they raised their glasses to toast me.

Yes, I was sad. Yes, I was happy.

Yes, I thought, this is life.

My new life.

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