Today someone made a comment on my Instagram page for my book that reminded me of where I was emotionally three years ago during the aftermath of my divorce. This lead me to clicking on her page. Her posts looked very similar to mine back then. My heart ached for her. I recognized the familiar tone of sadness. I could feel the undercurrent of grief and loss running silently beneath the words on the page.
She was questioning how to hold on to your self-esteem and self-worth when your ex-husband is quickly moving on, even wanting to marry another woman after so easily discarding you? I remember exactly what that felt like, and even though I had stood in her shoes, I couldn’t think of anything to comment that didn’t sound trite. As much as someone can promise you things will get better, it’s just too difficult to see that far ahead when you’re buried under what feels like an avalanche of grief. What could I say to give her just a small glimpse of all the good days ahead? The day when you wake up and he is not the first thing you think about. The day you realize you have found peace and value it over just about everything. The day you realize you no longer reach for your ring finger to fiddle with your wedding ring out of habit.
“My ring finger on my left hand feels oddly naked, like it forgot to put on its bra and mascara before it left the house.”
That’s the first line from a chapter of my book, Divorced and Forty. I wrote it a few months after my marriage ended in 2016, and at the time, the “phantom pains” of my missing marital appendage- my wedding ring- were intense.
I knew all about these “phantom pains” from my ex-husband, who was a double amputee as a result of military combat. He would wake up from time to time in intense pain, and say something like, “My right hand hurts.” Which would have seemed normal, except for the fact that he didn’t have a right hand.
The first time he said it, I thought he was kidding, as he always kept a great sense of humor despite his injuries. He also wasn’t one to ever complain, so I figured out quickly that this was a real thing.
According to the ever reliable web MD (as well as my ex’s explanation), phantom limb pain is a common occurrence among amputees. “After you have part of your arm or leg amputated, there’s a chance you could feel pain in the limb that’s no longer there. This is known as phantom limb pain.”
I swore it still felt like I was wearing my wedding ring some days. It was as if I could still feel it sitting there on my finger mocking me with its symbolism. I was so used to having a partner, not having one felt weird too. He was gone, and even though I was livid with him, I missed him. Of course the worst phantom pain was the old, metaphorical heart. How could someone rip your heart out of your chest and yet you look so absolutely normal? How does one carry on in the world as if everything is fine when in fact- you are definitely not fine- when your heart has been – well, ripped out of your chest. A healthy dose of survival dissociation perhaps? You’re like a zombie. The walking dead.
My message today for those who are fresh out of a long-term relationship is this -your heart will eventually find it’s way back to where it belongs.
Along with not feeling like a part of you is missing, you will stop the habitual ritual of fiddling absentmindedly with your ring finger. Then, one day, you will wake up, and you will take a deep breath, and the weight of sorrow will be gone!
My message to this woman, who I am just a few steps in front of, was to hang on and to tell her that one day, she too will be free. That bare, naked ring finger? It means- in more than one way- that you are free. Think of it this way, you are not only free from someone who was incapable of valuing the masterpiece God created you to be, you are free to.
You are free to remember…
Who you are.
What you really want.
Who you want to become.
Why God created you and what His purpose for your life is.
You were made for more. This is your window of opportunity to allow your heartbreak to propel you to your purpose.