Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shedding Tears and Finding Hope at a Wedding

View from a lighthouse in Edgartown
Last Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining on Martha’s Vineyard, a preppy, swanky island off the coast of Massachusetts. I sat on a hard pew in a Catholic church among my old crew from high school, waiting for Maureen, one of my oldest friends, to walk down the aisle.

The music transitioned. The parents of the bride and groom. The flower girls. The maid of honor.

My stomach was slowly starting to knot.

Then Maureen, on her father’s arm. They glided down the aisle as the music swelled. She was beautiful, and not because of her gown. She was full of joy, optimism, dreams, thanks to her love for her groom, Jason.

I once felt that way. Now I was sitting here alone (and without tissues, dammit).

The readings from the Book of Whatever began and the knot in my gut moved up to my throat. Max and I had a Catholic wedding. We had readings from the Book of Whatever.

I couldn’t sit there anymore. I had to leave.

I slipped out of the church into the sunshine and hurried across the street to a bench. The tears welled in my eyes as I thought about five years ago, when I was engaged, so full of hope for my marriage.

Look at how that turned out.

I hung my head. Five years ago I was preparing to walk down the aisle on my parents’ arms, and today I sit here divorced and alone. What bullshit!

Then, I told myself it was also bullshit to sit here wallowing. Shake it off, Kat, and get your ass back inside.

I did it. I was in time to hear a few more words from the priest before Maureen floated back down the aisle, this time on the arm of her beaming new husband. They were so happy. Though I still ached a bit, I am so happy I didn’t miss that moment.

So then we headed to the reception. It was at a picture perfect golf course. I mean, you wouldn’t even believe how lovely everything was. I grabbed a glass of champagne and smiled to myself. I figured I was in the clear since I’d already gotten weepy at the church, so time to just enjoy this celebration.

Of course, I was wrong. 

Divorce just loves to throw a brick at your heart, particularly when you’re not expecting it.

After my friends ate every miniature shrimp, spanakopita, and bacon-wrapped somethings at the cocktail hour, it was time to take our seats under the tent to welcome the families and the newly married happy couple!

There I was, clapping away, a happy woman cheering for my dear friend and their elated families, when the first dance song started. Of course, it was my first dance song, "Can’t Help Falling in Love." Of fucking course.

I turned to one of the girls at my table and blurted out, “I’m leaving!” and ran out of the tent onto the golf course.

As tears blurred my vision, I found a bench as the sun set. This time, the tears weren’t gentle. They were forceful. Just like at Nora’s wedding, I started sobbing, that icky gasping kind of crying that adults rarely do. What the fuck?!  This is my third wedding since I got divorced! But I guess I’m still not used to going to weddings without Max. We went to soooo many weddings in 2006-2008, and we traveled for many of those – Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and the list continues. And further, Max had always wanted to go with me to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. We actually had a trip to Nantucket booked for December 2010, but he was so sick with depression we had to cancel the trip.

Breathe, Kat, breathe.

I pulled myself together and went to the restroom. Shockingly, my makeup was intact. (Thanks to 2010-2012, I am quite skilled at crying in public without smearing my makeup.) Again, I took a deep breath and went back to the reception.

I had a wonderful time, dancing, laughing, and drinking champagne. I left my tears on the golf course.

But, there was one really special moment I didn’t see coming.

When I stepped off the dance floor to kick off my high heels and chug some water, Maureen’s mom (whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in over a decade) approached me.

“Kat, I know that life has dealt you a tough hand. But, I really want you to know… it gets better.”

I was stunned. Maureen’s mom was divorced prior to marrying Maureen’s dad, something that we have never spoken about. It was so thoughtful (and vulnerable) of her to reference her past pain to give me hope. Afterall, this was her daughter's wedding day!

For just a moment, we talked about divorce without actually saying the D-word. I confessed to her that I don’t understand why I had to go through the heartache, but I know that I will someday.

“Yes,” she assured me, “you will eventually.”

This from a woman who has been remarried for nearly 40 years. This from a woman whose brand new son-in-law is on his second marriage.  Both unions truly give me hope of finding love again.

I believe her. Someday I will understand my heartache. And with each passing day, divorced life does get better.

If you are divorced, do you feel that you understand why you had to go through it?


  1. Oh Kat. My heart is breaking for you on this one. I have been there. It was actually the third wedding I went to post-divorce that was the toughest for me. The first was one of my best friend's weddings - I was a bridesmaid and she was a high-maintenance bride (she knows it too which makes it ok) so I was so busy that I didn't have time to get emotional. I also over-prepared for that one, seeing as it was my first wedding post-divorce. I made it through the second one with flying colors. It was in London and it was a small group, and I was once again a bridesmaid, though this bride was wonderfully laid back. We had so much fun. Plus, I had a fantastic gay man as my date. We shared an Air BNB and even saw Pippa Middleton on the street! But the third wedding, that was the one that got me. It was in Belize, and it was a huge wedding, about 350 people. And I was the only woman there over the age of 25 and under the age of 55 who was alone. Here I was, in paradise. I stayed in a beautiful room at a beautiful resort, and I've never felt more alone. All of my friends there had a significant other with them. Watching them go for sunset strolls on the beach, hand in hand, was bad enough. Even though I knew that some of them were not happy in their relationships, at least they had someone in that moment. I didn't. But the worst was the night of the wedding. I just couldn't do it. And then I was so heartsick that I got physically ill. I had hives, my face was swollen and I felt like I had the flu. I excused myself before the cake was cut and the dances took place because I just couldn't handle it. I cried myself to sleep that night. The next day I just told everyone that I had had an allergic reaction to the food, but I have no food allergies. My body was just rejecting the experience.

    Here's the thing. In response to your question, I do feel like I understand why I had to go through it. I was a different person when my ex and I got together, and so was he. We were in love and it was beautiful and I really believed every word of my vows. But our lives just needed to go in different directions. And ultimately, he didn't love me just for who I am. He loved me conditionally. He loved me as long as I was the woman he wanted me to be. But I'm not that woman, I'm me. And that's okay. My ex has been dating someone else for about a year and a half and I am sure that he will propose to her soon. To be honest, I couldn't be happier for him. I don't know his new gal but from what I can gather and from what people tell me, she seems like the right fit for him. In his heart, he wanted to love someone like me, but he just wasn't capable. It doesn't make him a bad person, it just makes him the wrong fit for me.

    Looking back on it all, I'm glad that he was a part of my life. Maybe we should not have gotten married, but I am glad that he is a part of my story. He helped make me the woman I am today, and I honestly can't think of what my life would be like if he hadn't been a part of it.

    It's important to understand that making peace with a situation doesn't necessarily mean that you're completely shielded from being overwhelmed with sadness in situations that are difficult to be alone in, like weddings. It's just a part of life. Don't be too hard on yourself.

    And I'm glad you had that moment with Maureen's mom. I've had similar moments, and I find that her perspective is the right one. We've just got to hold on to it.

    Mustang Sally

  2. When I look at my husband and children, I know why. And I wouldn't change a thing. Well thing. If my ex could be less of a dick now that would be better. But otherwise, life is good. And it will be for you too one day my dear. I know it.

  3. Yikes, crazy how your body can physically respond to something that is completely emotional! I can imagine the situation you were in... that is really rough. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, but I really believe moments like those make can make us stronger and kinder. And you're right, making peace with something doesn't mean you'll never shed a tear about it again.
    Thanks for reading -- so good to hear from you!

  4. Oh Kate, I'm so sorry. Our timeframes are remarkably similar. I'm so touched that you've connected with my words. And yes, WRITE! It's just amazing how much this blog has helped me heal... best therapist ever. :) If you're on Twitter, find me and say hello! @1styrdivorce

  5. Yeah, you have a new partner and babies! That would certainly help me understand the madness. but, I'll have some version of that eventually...
    As always, thank you for reading and for supporting me!

  6. I definitely do. I would not be the independent person I am now. Would I put my kids through it again? Hell, no.

    This post is timely as I'm about to attend my brother's wedding this weekend. Alone. I'm dreading it.

  7. I welled up a little when I read your post. I can relate. I am a person who denies the fact that the divorce still hurts me.
    I love the fact that your friend's mum talked to you a little. I think it's important to hear some words of encouragement from an older, wiser person.
    I have no idea why I had to go through it. Maybe my destiny was to live in Thailand, teach kids and show them that English can be fun. Maybe I will find my next love here...maybe I have found it already. I think that everything happens for a reason, so there must be a reason in my divorce- I will find out what it is one day.

  8. Can't deny that this post made me tear up. I have attended 4 weddings since my separation/divorce 2 years ago. The first one was within 1 month of our separation and I had to go home after the ceremony to have a complete and total breakdown. I'm talking sobbing so hard I couldn't breathe (the same hard crying I had been doing intermittently since the separation).
    The last one I attended was the wedding of my boyfriend's college friend in early September. The bride later told us how grateful she was that we came, acknowledged how difficult it may have been for us (having been divorced) and then said how glad she was that we found one another.
    I think that each new skill, new experience or adventure I have is evidence of why I had to go through a divorce. There's so much living and personal growth I would not have done if I was still with my ex. So, in a way, I'm grateful for it happening even though it still hurts from time to time.

  9. I have been divorced for 18 years and with my current hubby for almost 18 and married for 12 of those years. I absolutely see why I had to go through it, well maybe not so much his cheating, but I learned from who I was and the part that I played. I simply saw things within myself that might not be such appealing characteristics to have. I most definitely gets better. Thank you so much for sharing on Meandering Mondays and have a great week!

  10. Whew, that would be tough to go to a family wedding stag after divorce. I hope you did OK.

  11. I very much relate to the way you think. I try to create meaning, particularly in painful situations where it might be easier to just be bitter and pissed off.
    As always, I appreciate your reading and commenting!

  12. Oh wow, I could never deny that my divorce hurt! Because IT DID. But it's amazing how much better I am now!
    Yes, you (and I) will sort out the meaning. And in the meantime, savor the amazing work your doing with kids!

  13. That is very kind of the bride to have thought of you. As I'm sure you remember, being The Bride is such a whirlwind as the wedding crap takes on a life of its own.
    Yes, i too feel that I'm growing in ways that simply would not have happened if I were still with my ex. We can be very grateful for that.

  14. Yeah, it's hard to take a hard look at yourself and admit and own some of the crap you did wrong. But how else will we better ourselves for the next relationship?

  15. Paula Reed NancarrowMay 30, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    Lovely piece, Kat. Glad you seem to have dropped the Facebook login thing. ;-)

  16. Thanks for reading!
    Nope, the Facebook login is still in place -- perhaps you hadn't logged out of Facebook when you visited. I know, it's annoying, but i had to do it to keep away nosy people from my real life. :(