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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Emptiness and Ache of the Everyday Life after Divorce


Silence can be deafening.  Empty space can seem huge.  Hurting can be agony.  And “alone” can feel like total isolation.  Even though the marriage left behind may have been far from perfect, may even have been downright awful, the resulting experience can be overwhelming.  Especially during the days when my children were at their mother’s home.

I remember how silent my house was after the divorce, walking in and finding the only noise I heard was the noise I made myself.  The dog that used to greet me at the door was at the other house with the children.  The cats were in the children’s rooms.  The children were at my house, but only sometimes…I now had to take turns seeing my own kids.  Weekends seemed to last for months.

If something was going to be cleaned, I would have to do it.  Alone.  If something was going to be made for supper, I had to do it all myself, and then eat it alone at an empty table.  If I was somehow injured, I would have to wrap it myself.  After a minor procedure at the doctor’s office, I would be driving myself home, alone.  If I wanted to go to a concert or movie, there was not automatically another adult to enjoy it with, or with whom to discuss the options.

Instead of feeling like a haven or refuge, my house felt like a cave, or prison cell…at least in those first months after the divorce. 

The bed was much colder, and the space way too big.  To the point that I often simply slept on the couch instead.   The sense of loss and emptiness was strong in every room.  The conversations about how the day went were no longer existent.  The sharing of a meal, or comments upon the flavor of the food had ended. 

After nearly two decades of shared space, the space belonged entirely to me…space filled with things, but often not full of people.  And all the things had their own power to conjure up memories, even the most joyful of which would bring tears for the loss.  Some things were simply best kept in boxes.  Some days, even the calendar on the wall would prompt memories that reminded me of days gone by and opportunities now stolen. 

When the kids were with me, of course, it was different.  Then, I would do my best to make the house a friendly home for them, cooking meals or doing things I knew they would enjoy.  Not because I was trying to dazzle them or win their love, as is sometimes claimed about single dads.  Because I relished what time I had with them, and mourned the time I did not. 

Even though there was shared custody, and the time with children was pretty evenly divided, the time apart was extremely long, extremely lonely.  Helping with homework was no longer an every day event.  Packing a lunch or seeing them off to school was suddenly a treat. 

Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences of life, especially for those of us who do not believe that divorce is really the answer, at least not for us, that there are better alternatives.  These images are just a few of my memories from the early days of divorce.  It is a far cry from where I am now in life, but it wasn’t back then.  I could say that it does get better over time, though I will readily admit that the aching hurts subside.  I don’t know that it is so much that it gets better, as it is that one adapts and moves on, or that the process of recreating one’s life and future brings a new chapter with its own joys and meanings.  

The emptiness I felt around me during my divorce and the aching within are now long in the past, a stage of my life I am glad to have far behind me.  I know that the new chapters of my life have great meaning for me, a greater joy, and that I have no desire to return to different days.  In fact, the precious experiences of my current life are far beyond anything I would have imagined back then.  But I also know that in my life, there has been a great loss, and a great deal of pain, that entered my life through the process called divorce.

So take courage, if you are in the throes of divorce.  There can be a future that is good, even if you cannot see it or believe it now.  And the hard things in the midst of the process are only for a season.  Though their memory remains, the pain they bring does subside, and God can bring a fresh tomorrow in his own good time.  


  1. Thank you. I really needed to hear these words and the encouragement. I didn't know what to call the feeling except for "emptiness" that's how I made it here. I am also female, so it is a bit comforting to know that perhaps my ex is going through the same thing too. He might really just miss our son, not simply trying to hurt me. I needed the perspective.

  2. I'm glad it spoke to you. It is truly a difficult experience. And as my current wife reminds me now and again, one never knows exactly what another person's experience is like, or what God might be trying to teach them. Hang in there.