Divorce Broke My Heart …And Guess What I Found in the Wreckage?

When divorce destroyed Mary's marriage of 18 years, her heart broke. ...But so did the walls she kept around it.

My heart was broken, shattered into pieces I thought I could never put back together. After 18 years of marriage, my relationship with a man I had spent 21 years of my life with was over. Papers filed, divorce signed off on, I moved out of the home I had shared with my ex for the 9.5 years we’d lived in Boise.

I stood in my new house—closed upon just a mere 3 days prior—and looked around. My wonderful friends had helped me move, ensuring my relative peace and safety. But now I was alone. For the first time in my entire life, I was really and truly alone.

I didn’t cry. I was still too ticked off at my ex for our morning argument over who got the flatware. It was eerily silent and still. No TV blaring (he kept that). No one talking. Only the sound of my breathing. I was numb and it was time to face reality.

I was nearly 40 and had recently re-broken my heel (twice in one year). I was newly single and utterly lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was free, but felt misplaced.

I sat on my couch and journaled my ramblings.

It’s Friday the 23rd. My heel is broken, my period is starting. I am cramping, frustrated, and wondering the lesson in all of this. I have so much to do, but all I want to do is sleep and rest and read novels in my new house on my couch. I hope the Aleve kicks in soon. I know I need to do some serious introspection and clearing because I don’t get what’s going on here. Goddess, what do I need to do to heal?

I heard a voice inside me say, “Rest and let things happen and unfold. Don’t force or rush.”

Of course, I didn’t want to hear that, so I promptly ignored my asked-for advice.

Two and a half months later, my doctor fired me. I wasn’t healing—head or heart. I was stuck in a rut, a “comfort zone” that was keeping me from moving forward.

My doctor sent me to a specialist who put me in a cast, making me even more immobile, forcing me to rest more and allow myself to heal. I still fought it until, finally, the weather forced me to stay inside and rest. (Snow and crutches don’t mix.)

Three months into my journey to heal my heart and heel, the Universe took pity on me and sent me a friend.

He told me: “To truly ignite your passion, you have to be willing to take a risk. Be it emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. By opening yourself up to a new experience, you will find yourself.”

He was right.

He made me realize that I couldn’t hide inside forever. That my “safety net,” my “comfort zone” was what was holding me back.

So I opened up my heart and allowed the world in. I got real, vulnerable. I put it all out there for the world to see.

And you know what happened? I started healing—body, mind, and spirit. By Christmas, I was out of my cast and in a walking boot. By the end of January, I was out of the boot and in walking shoes. Six weeks later, I got cleared to run for the first time in a year and a half.

And as I healed my body, I began to heal my mind—to look deep at old wounds. I realized that I had an eating disorder and had been in denial for 23 years. That was ironic, since as I am a Psychology professor and disordered eating behaviors/attitudes are my research area. Sometimes we really can’t see what’s looking back at us in the mirror.

So, I began to heal my eating disorder. And as I healed my disordered thoughts and behaviors, I opened my heart a little more.

And I discovered that the reason I had kept my heart walled off for all of those years was fear of getting hurt. If I don’t let you in, you can’t hurt me. No wonder my ex-husband was so exasperated with me!

So I opened my heart up a little more, got a little more vulnerable. Got hurt. Got hurt again. Cried until it seemed my tear ducts were dry.

But all through that, I kept my heart open. Yes, it hurt. Living heart-open is always a risk, but it’s a risk I am now willing to take.

I go back to what my friend told me.

To truly ignite your passion, you have to be willing to take a risk. Be it emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. By opening yourself up to a new experience, you will find yourself.

When I opened my heart, I found my passion.

When I opened my heart, the Universe stopped sending Cosmic 2x4s my way and replaced them with gentle nudges to keep me on my path and stay true to myself.

When I opened my heart, I learned how to love—even, and most especially, myself.

When I opened my heart, I healed—mind, body, and spirit.

When I opened my heart, I found myself.

I call 2013 the best worst year of my life. I thought I would never be able to put my heart back together after my divorce. But what I realized is that I had to let go of the pieces that no longer served me in order to rebuild my heart and make it strong, healthy, and whole.

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Mary E. Pritchard

Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Boise State University as well as a Holistic Health Coach specializing in serving women, virtually and in-person, at www.EmBodyHeartandMind.com and www.AwakeningtheGoddessWithin.net. Her holistic health practice is dedicated to empowering women in healing their hormonal health naturally and reclaiming their Feminine Power. She is pleased to offer free resources on both sites, including two free ebooks: 9 Signs Your Hormones are Out of Balance and What to do About It and 10 Signs Your Inner Goddess is Calling You and Tips for Answering this Sacred Call.

6 Responses

  1. This lessens my shame a little bit more. I’ve worked as a substance abuse/mental health counselor for many years, yet after my divorce from a 20 year marriage, I ended up in a really unhealthy rebound with an active, paranoid alcoholic. Thankfully it only lasted a year, but it was a year of hell with my emotional stress affecting my physical health. I had to learn to love myself again. The grief of divorce can be powerful, but so can loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to be open to love that heals.

  2. Yve says:

    LOVE THIS! Beautiful and insightful article, beautifuuly written… <3

  3. Marie Benard says:

    thank you for sharing your story! It’s often the things we’re guided to teach or help others with that are plaguing us as well, whether we realize it or not!

  4. Llinos says:

    I can just picture such a beautiful heart and light. Wonderful. Thankyou Mary for sharing your story.

  5. There is something so real about this story, Mary. I, too, was a mental health professional with questionable mental health. It’s funny how our minds protect our hearts. It’s almost like an abusive relationship.

    I am so happy that, after divorce broke your heart, you ripped it open even more. That takes a special kind of courage and a special kind of love – for yourself and for the world that you’re changing just by being you.

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