Grief Schizophrenia

I sit on the floor of my closet, sifting through a decade’s worth of souvenirs from my failed marriage. I sunder precious memories from the chaff as quickly and efficiently as I can, placing them carefully in a pretty wooden box. To stop is to dwell, is to sink in the swamp of sadness.

Someday, when my life isn’t blowing up around me, when I’m not so fucking fragile, I’ll open Pandora’s box of nostalgia and pain and examine each relic inside.

—Wedding vows, printed on 5×7 paper and assembled in a small binder.

—Cards from flowers Husband sent me, because it was a Wednesday and he felt like it, not because it was Valentine’s Day and he was obligated.

—The shoes I wore on one of our first dates, shoes that strolled down the street as I reached out, tucking my arm in the crook of his elbow. Everything changed on that date.

Tears well in my eyes. (Quickly, into the box with you, shoes.)

—A picture of us from that first heady year, both lighter in body and spirit, yet to be burdened or crushed under life’s weight.

—A love note, typed, printed, and signed. A note professing love so monumental and fierce that when I received it my heart swelled, pained and pushing against the cage of my chest. The culmination of the note is nothing more or less than one soaring, devastating declaration.

You are all I need.

A note now and forever sullied with the pain of hindsight. The sentiment rings through our past with its sincerity and pulses now with its falsehood. Remembering we once felt this way almost breaks me again. I’m choked by the everything and the nothing between us now.

You are all I need.

Of course this is the moment Husband walks into the bedroom, intruding on my memories. He doesn’t notice my tears, my hunched shoulders, my shaking hand holding the printed note. Instead, he talks (and talks and talks) over the details of the separate lives we are now building. True to form, he has so very many words and I shrink away from them all.

I am having a fucking moment here and he can’t shut up long enough to allow me to experience it. I push the note into the box and throb with anger and frustration. Even now, when all the dust hangs between us and there’s nothing left to settle, I can’t have this. I can’t get what I need.

You are all I need.

How strange, to have so many disparate feelings coexisting within this battered heart. I am astonished at my capacity for it all. It’s a marvel that I’m still standing amidst the conflicting feelings—all swirling, biting, attacking.

Love and loss and anger, all vying for the spotlight. I long for him and want to push him away.

I am devastated, the remnants of our love story mocking me at every turn. What fools, our past selves—beautiful fools full of passion and devotion. The sheer scale of loss overwhelms me.

I am heartbroken, I am feeble.

I am grief so profound death is its only comparison.

I am full of anger that leaves my muscles sore, anger that ignites and burns its way out of me like nuclear missiles, seeking targets for destruction. All the words and choices and slights of our marriage play over in a loop in my mind.

I’m pressing on, like a damn soldier.

I am hope—the future is a blank slate, a great adventure, wide-open and free, waiting to be explored.

I am fear—the future is an endless, unknown void. The comfort of our couplehood disintegrated in front of me, taking with it a chink of my identity.

I am strong. The power in making a decision for myself, without consulting Husband, zings through my veins.

I am scared.

I am brave.

I am all of these and I am none of these.

Emotions saturate me like a washcloth, until the fibers hold no more and everything drips, drips, drips. I am bursting, my feelings wrung out, pouring down the drain.

I’m empty, void.

Love finds me again, hesitant and bright, pouring from friends and family, felt all the more keenly in the tangle of darkness. Fierce joy wells up within me and suddenly, I’m full.


10 thoughts on “Grief Schizophrenia

  1. My first reaction to this is WOW. So many memories in that treasured little box to a life that is no more. So many vivid raw feelings. And then there is that mixture of hope, fear, and determination swirling around…and the husband as a reminder why that part of your life is resigned to the past. I’m so sorry you are going through this, but know this….you will be stronger, free, and happier for having lived through this. Divorce is a bitch. But then, life will reward you for your strength. The lessons you take from this point in your life will prepare you for the future. You write so beautifully, and your pain is poignant. I just want to give you the biggest hug. Life is all about changes…nothing ever stays the same. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.


    • All that you said there? Thank you. Divorce is a bitch. And one of those swirling thoughts/feelings rambling around is exactly what you said; that in the end, change is often a good thing. I’m looking forward to the future, though there’s a lot of mucky stuff in the way before I get there.


  2. You wove memories and emotions into the objects you described really powerfully – when you wrote about the love note, the love inside it came out in words. And the heartbreak of the disconnect between that love and the present.

    I hope you get the space you need to separate yourself from the things and memories that make you feel empty. Keep filling up with joy wherever you can!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love “True to form, he has so very many words and I shrink away from them all” and “Even now, when all the dust hangs between us and there’s nothing left to settle, I can’t have this.” Also, I thought it was clever of you to inventory the memories in the box AND the emotions you are left with. The comparison was the emotional conflict in your essay for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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