Do these questions and thoughts sound familiar? “Why me? Why would God do this to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why are others so happy in marriage and I’m not? What’s wrong with me? I’m pissed off. I can’t take any more bad stuff happening to me.” I call these the “feeling sorry for yourself thoughts” and believe me, I’m not judging. In many times of adversity, including divorce, I had these questions and thoughts.
Feeling sorry for yourself in divorce is perfectly normal, and to those people who start to say to you, “stop feeling sorry for yourself,” please know that you have the right to feel sorry for yourself, and that it is part of the healing process. BUT…and this is a big but, don’t let feeling sorry for yourself overstay its welcome.
The idea for this article stems from my recent hip surgery—my second hip surgery. I have also had surgery for a wrist fracture, thyroid cancer, and an endometrial ablation. That makes five surgeries for Jackie (and a round of radiation therapy) in the past 10 years. That’s right, 5; a number that has caused me to take feeling sorry for myself to a whole other level during my second hip recovery (where I feel pain about 15 of 24 hours a day.)
Lately, I find myself angry at times, wondering why I have had to go under the knife so often while others seem to be breezing through life. Sound familiar in the face of divorce? Well, guess what? Today, something hit me and I think it’s really going to help you, too.
I was walking into physical therapy (with my granny cane) when I noticed a man using a walker. His leg had been amputated from the knee down. That was eye-opening. I was then doing my exercises with one of the tech guys, and thinking he could not relate to me whatsoever. Till he started telling me that 27 years ago he underwent triple bypass surgery. I then heard another physical therapist talk about tearing her ACL a few years ago and how painful it was. Here’s my point.
I truly believe that you will never meet a person who hasn’t had a life challenge—physical or otherwise. All of those friends who you think have such perfect lives don’t. They might have a great life now, but maybe they suffered earlier in life. Or, maybe they are suffering now. Maybe they have some health condition that you don’t even know about. Maybe they know their husband is cheating and they haven’t decided how they want to handle it yet, so they are going about their life, acting as if everything is peachy.
Life, which is so amazingly wonderful in countless ways, is full of pain. It just is. It’s part of the journey, and I believe part of the deal you made with God before you were born. When you receive the privilege of being on this earth, you have to pay the price that comes with the ticket. That could mean anything from tragic losses to health issues to money troubles to accidents and of course to heartbreak and divorce.
I remember meeting this woman several years ago and she was, in my eyes, perfect; beautiful, kind, smart, cute husband, kids. She just glowed with happiness. When I got to know her, I found out that before she married the cute husband, she was married to a man who literally went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came home. Ever! He cleaned out their bank accounts and left her penniless with two toddlers. Try living with that.
Here’s the key. She DID live with it! Not only did she survive, but she ended up becoming very successful professionally, she raised her children, and she found love again. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her. I’m sure she felt sorry for herself for awhile, and angry and devastated and scared. But look where she is today. And you’d never know her backstory. Hers is only one story of endless stories in which people overcame adversity and ended up happier than they ever imagined.
So ask yourself, is it possible that maybe you could end up happy and healthy and people would gasp if they heard YOUR backstory? I hope you said YEEEEESSSSS!
Today was eye-opening for me. I know what’s in my control and what isn’t. All I can do is keep doing what my medical team tells me to do to heal, do whatever I can to get back to my life, and try to be patient. The rest, I have no control over. I’m not the man without the leg. I’m not the man who had triple bypass. My life sure seems like a cakewalk compared to those people. But maybe theirs does too, as they watch others around them go through worse, and focus on gratitude for what they have instead of wallowing in self-pity.
I think feeling sorry for yourself is a normal, healthy emotion that has to be felt to move forward. But I think there comes a time when you have to say “Enough, I showed myself some love and compassion, and now I’m going to display those things in a different way; through tough love. I’m going to push myself to get the help I need, to better myself, to get strong and tough and believe in myself, and to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made and for the mistakes I will continue to make.”
Would it be too cheesy for me to end with a “hip hip hooray?” That is my celebration from feeling sorry for myself to realizing that pain and adversity is in every single person on earth’s life, BUT it is almost always temporary, and if it isn’t, somehow we find a way to live with a new normal. One of the things I love so much about people is that they are strong, resilient human beings who learn how to adapt, how to survive, and how to thrive. Look at how everyone got through Covid. That’s a perfect example. And look how it passed.
Your divorce is sad. It’s scary. It feels lonely and isolating. And maybe you feel like you’ve been wronged so badly and there’s no justice. I’m sorry you have to go through that. I really am. But I promise you, if you’re willing to: stop looking back, stop asking “why me?” and stop comparing your life to others’ lives, you will find that you are healing. Who knows? You might even give yourself a “hip hip hooray” for getting out of the life you now know was toxic, and for this new life you have the honor of starting. If you look at your future through that lens, it can’t be anything but beautiful.