Twenty-Five Years and CountingJan 21, 2024
We're privileged to share the narrative of Lynn Heath, as she takes us on a reflective journey in her blog post, "Twenty-Five Years and Counting."
In her blog post, Lynn shares her journey through the simultaneous loss of her job and marriage. Two decades later, she reflects on the transformative path that emerged from unexpected beginnings
On the same day, I got fired from both my job and my marriage. Neither event should have been a surprise, as I had hung onto each of them too long. But it was still a one-two gut punch to find my divorce decree waiting in the mailbox when I got home that day. My dad told me, “It hurts like hell now, but you’ll come to find it’s a blessing in disguise.” It did not feel like a blessing.
Twenty-five years later, here’s a look back at what helped me survive year one:
My friends gathered around. Some wanted to divorce-proof their own marriages by figuring out what I’d “done wrong,” some were looking to their own exit strategies, but many offered support. I filled my mantel with their gifts and cards. My shaky sense of self-worth needed the affirmation that rejection by my husband did not make me unlovable.
I got busy. The director of a nonprofit where I volunteered called to say, “I know you never wanted the commitment of a paid job here, but I’m hoping now you’ll reconsider.” It was an easy re-entry into the working world after years of being home with the kids.
I found new pathways. Pre-divorce, my social circle was other moms who were free during the day and at home with their families at night. When my new schedule made that impossible, I made it a point to try new classes, professional organizations, social groups, and activities. I scattered a lot of seeds, and eventually some took root.
I joined a church. I’d avoided church for a lot of years, for a lot of good reasons. Walking to my car one day in the dark, I passed a church lit up like a beacon. It was full of people dancing, and inside I found a community of faith and support I could commit to wholeheartedly. I desperately needed community, and that’s where I found it.
I embraced my new beginning. It hadn’t been my plan, but it was my life. I was taught to achieve, to solve problems, to wrestle them to the ground if necessary. I bought a new bed and made a new quilt to sleep under. I asked friends to send quilt squares representing new beginnings and made a second quilt with them. It has flowers blooming, doors opening, adventures underway, a sunrise. I made a square that has an envelope with a pink slip in it. An ending as the beginning. At the bottom, I sewed “& SHINE!” in big letters to remind me that, while rising is not optional, what I do with the day is up to me.
Other stuff happened. It’s hard to maintain the level of misery I experienced in the first few months. I had centered my life around one person, catering to his needs, whims, demands. His departure made room for other things, some good, some not. As each new experience entered my life, there was less bandwidth available for that intense grief.
I accepted that grief never ends. We were together for over thirty years, and we have three children together. I stayed in the marriage because I believed he was better as a father within the marriage than he would be outside it. I stayed in the divorce fighting for the needs of our children. It was the children who kept me connected, and in the end, it was the children who let me leave.
I say “children.” My sons are in their forties now. Each of them is married, with two children and a strong partnership. They are both great dads, and they have each made peace with their own father. They know what he can and cannot give them. They are generous in what they offer him. I don’t feel a need to advocate for them, and they’ve made it clear they don’t want me to.
It was different with my daughter. She died at 34, actively trying to build a relationship with her father and still unresolved about our divorce. As she struggled to redefine her relationships, she kept me locked in an unhappy triangle.
Catherine’s death leaves me forever changed. It opened a black hole of grief, which seven years later still threatens to swallow me. It also severed the remaining thread connecting me to her father, a freedom long in coming. Like any deep grief, it opened a space for growth. I joined a grief support group, eventually becoming a facilitator and presenter.
Being denied the opportunity to mother my daughter, it seems I’ve turned my energies to mothering the world. Like any mother, I know a band-aid won’t fix anything, but I do what I can to help people move through grief. It is not always a blessing in disguise, but it is surely a new beginning.
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