"The world breaks every one and afterward many are stronger at the broken places." —Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)
After a twenty-six year marriage, it ended in divorce. He chose to spend the last four years alone and he recently met someone new. You'd think he'd be happy.
During our phone conversation, my friend told me he really liked this woman a lot, but he “isn’t ready.” He is choosing to retreat and be alone again.
I asked him, “Are you happier being alone?” and his answer surprised me.
“No. I don’t like being alone, but it’s familiar….it’s what I’m used to…it’s comfortable…I’m still broken, I guess…”
My friend is like a turtle, moving slowly after his divorce, giving himself time to heal and reflect. He wanted to date but never expected to have feelings so quickly for this woman. “It happened too fast,” he told me.
I wanted to ask him, “But is the answer to turn your car around and speed blindly into the sunset or would it be better to put your foot on the break and coast for a while. Catch your breath. Maybe stall in the break down lane but, for God's sake, don’t toss something away that brings you happiness.”
That’s what I wanted to say, but didn’t. The intensity of the new relationship scared him, so instead of slowing it down and staying in it, he was choosing to retreat into his cold, hard turtle shell. That’s where he felt safe and protected.
But is this healthy?
We all feel a sort of brokenness after any loss and divorce is like a death-even if you were the partner who wanted it. The transition from married to single causes stress and anxiety and entering a new relationship might feel strange, even uncomfortable for some people.
There is no time table for grief and we all grieve differently. Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., wrote the article, “Coping with Grief and Loss.” In it, they reported:
“There are healthy ways to cope with the pain. You can get through it! Grief that is expressed and experienced has a potential for healing that eventually can strengthen and enrich life. The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone. Connecting to others will help you heal.”