I met my college sweetheart during college orientation and it seemed weirdly meant to be. His parents met the first day of college, and, we introduced our parents the day we moved in. We got married 2 years after graduation and started our lives together, buying a big house to hopefully one day fill with tiny humans. Over time, work hours got longer, adjusting to adulthood and the real world became harder, and neither of us were at our best. Under the surface, discord and resentment slowly built which culminated with a brutal conversation on the back porch where he told me emphatically that he didn’t love me and he wanted a divorce but didn’t want the guilt that came along with divorce.

I was initially scared to tell anyone about his desire to divorce for fear of judgment and because I didn’t know how things would shake out. What if we stayed together and this was the only thing my family and friends would remember about him for the rest of our lives? I processed his news alone for months before finally admitting to my closest friends that my marriage had imploded. I avoided telling people because I was ashamed. But, when I finally shared the truth, my counselor and a handful of dedicated women stepped into my life to walk with me through each agonizing step as I navigated hours of marriage counseling, a marriage in crisis retreat, and finally abandonment. I got the final divorce papers right before Christmas and was left to start over at 30 after my dreams had been shattered.

Throughout the process, nobody knew what to say to me when they saw me out and about. I had to relearn how to be in social settings where I would be asked about my partner’s absence. Every social interaction for years felt like work: trying to be honest and gracious without delving into the deep pain I was feeling. And, inquiring minds wanted to know – both good people and nosy people came out of the woodwork asking questions. I learned how to answer these questions to guard myself and maintain dignity. It was exhausting.

Divorce was a taboo thing until it became my reality. I was a statistic. But, it was not my identity. It was merely a dreadful season in the many seasons of life. Through the pain, my tribe showed up. They brought the meals, did the laundry, and answered texts in the middle of the night. They patiently and lovingly listened to the same sob story on repeat. They cried with me, spoke truth to me and over me, and reminded me of my inherent worth.

For many months, my closest friends, my family, and my church family were intentional to distract me on holidays, help me make new traditions, invite me to the events with their spouses, and include me in the daily life things that I was missing when my little family disintegrated. It took tremendous effort and thoughtfulness on everyone’s part, and, I’m forever indebted to them for the hundreds of hours spent drying my tears, listening to my hurts, and showing up for me.

The divorce season has ended and its bitter sting is in the rearview mirror. The trauma of the loss still appears from time to time, but, its power is much smaller now. The tears have been replaced by joy and hope as I rebuilt my life, became more confidently independent, and went on to advance my career to a place where I’m proud of my accomplishments. I more freely discuss divorce now in hopes that someone who is in the midst of the hard will know they’re not alone and they are not forgotten. God, in His providence, carried me through the despair of divorce and it’s my hope and prayer that He’ll use that to encourage others who might be facing the same struggle.

I will never forget my pastor walking out of my house one evening after a meeting and sticking his head back in the door to say, “hey Laura, you’re lovable – you are loved by God and you are lovable just as you are despite what has happened.”  I had trouble believing him in that moment. But, hindsight is a glorious gift. He was right even when I couldn’t see it or feel it.

In the years since my divorce, lots of life has happened. I have been promoted to Aunt and have relished every minute of loving on my sister’s two girls. I have traveled around the US and abroad with family and friends. I have served as a Deacon at my church, working with people in crisis needing emergency assistance and housing. And, I met the best man I know at the start of the pandemic, and, we’ve been married for 18 months. He has been the greatest gift as my partner and best friend. He, too, experienced divorce prior to our marriage and we’ve come together to share our stories in an effort to normalize divorce and be a safe place for those who are struggling as we did. Divorce royally sucks. But, it’s not the end of the story. It never has the last word.