Part One:  Clockwork

The Need For Expression

I.  The Beginning

I Loved her.

I loved her.      I still love that fine woman.  Even though she is now my ex-wife, there will always be a special place in my heart that belongs to her.  I wish her the best‑‑most sincerely, the very best. 

She was hurt.  I hurt.  The divorce hurt.  How confusing.  I dedicate this work to healing:   hers . . . mine . . . all who have had a BrokenHeart.

At the first, in a moment, I plan to sketch the mechanism of grief peculiar to divorce, using the mechanism of a clock and a comparison with amputation:  chapters I-II.  Then in chapters III-XII, I chronicle my pathway through the Black Forest of grief in divorce itself, a difficulty cut pathway through a forest of imposing trees and underbrush.  Then in chapters XIII-XV, we look at the mysterious and feared Black Forest itself, that in a fashion looms large and intimidating in most families.

It seems fitting to start somewhere near the beginning, like, once upon a time.  When love was confusing, free, and full of fantasies.  Where reality was conveniently denied and feelings seemed uninhibited.  In a place where communication seemed like the meeting of mutual needs and conflict was absent.  A dream-come-true began to unfurl before our eyes.

Naive children?  Blurry-eyed adolescents?  Not us.

I had worked hard through over a decade of higher education.  She was successfully negotiating a second career and was a successful mother of two.  We had both accumulated some mileage.  With the mileage and through the scrutiny of our doubts and fears, we believed we had screened those precious moments with enough insight to weed out our delusions.

The season was springtime.  Such a sweet love.  In the springtime of this love, we chose a song.  I punctuated the lyrics and gave it to her among the several poems I would later write.  The song's name:  "Masterpiece" by Atlantic Starr.  Here are a few verses.


        A picture perfect painting--that's what our love is.
        And--yes--I need you so. . . . 
        And now I know,
                I've found a masterpiece in you;
                        A work of art, it's true;
                                And I treasure you--My Love.


A beautiful song sung with such a wonderful melody.  She loved it.  I loved it.  Each time it aired on the radio, we would sing it to each other. 

In the courtship months that followed, our love grew.  Could this be real?  I wrote many poems of the sublime feelings I had for her.  One of the first poems I wrote to her will follow.  I wrote other poems of our love that cannot be shared.[1]

In her kind and gentle and varied ways, she showered me with love.  Truly, I loved her because she first loved me.  She loved better.  At the time, anyway, we seemed to be in love‑‑the both of us.  So we risked marriage to share our love more deeply. 

We both had doubts.  Fears.  We had experienced turbulence in life.  Both of us feared rejection and the resulting brokenness.  Nevertheless, we proceeded to the altar.  Arms burdened with fears.  Feet shod in risk.  Hearts full of high hopes and a dream. 

We married.

In the pledge of marriage, we invested our heart and soul.  We cherished the endearments in mutuality.  We began to build the scaffolding of commitment.  To each other we gave intentions and meaningful touches and gestures and gifts. 

All of our inner beings had been donated toward the future of a mutual and treasured love.  We had found our long-sought-after love.  All the intimate and warm caresses.  This treasured love was meant to grow with each moment.  Meant to build upon each heart-gift.  Meant to point toward a future forever.

We were not children infatuated with another new exploration.  We were adults‑‑in caution‑‑consciously and constantly throwing ourselves at each other.  We held each other and looked to the future with all of the accumulated wisdom and understanding that we could muster.  A strength affirmed here, a weakness covered here.  Together . . . how could we fail?

The intensity was blinding. 

Love was meant to grow forever.  This "once upon a time" was going to have a happy ending.  This was the beginning of a "never-ending story."  We were planning our move to the banks of Snowy River. 

More than a dream, our love was the real live fulfillment of the dream.  So much better than the dream was the reality.  With each fulfillment more dreams appeared.  We were in the midst of an escalating fantasy.  Sometimes we were in disbelief.  Hand in hand, we proceeded onward. 

Our relationship promised only fortune. 

Crash & Doubt

When the dream crashed, it crashed hard.  Hurt a whole lot.  Hurt way down deep.  The crash choked the spring of life.

She doubted if I loved her‑‑doubted if I had ever loved her.  I doubted if she had ever loved me.  The pain ran so deep.  The love that we had caressed, that had brought us to the altar‑‑we began to deny the love that had made us mushy.

A whirlpool of sorrow compounded our pain.  We both struggled.  We lost a great love in this separation, and we experienced the natural pain of separation from a loved one as in a death.

Yet to that natural grief and common pain in the loss of a loved one, there was added another even more complicated loss.  We doubted the mutual love.  Each of us had not only lost a loved one, we had seemingly lost the treasured love that we had thought we had found and secured with marriage.

We began to wonder about the credibility and the integrity of the love itself.  The very question of love's validity added extra weight to the already great and natural burden of grief in separation.

Beyond the natural grief, in the doubting of love's validity, severe rejection shot our communication to hell.  Henceforth almost every interaction between us complicated our sorrow even further. 

I grieved the loss of a loved one, and I also grieved the loss of the long sought and treasured love itself.  Added to that, I was tormented by an inability to communicate the grief and sorrow of those two losses.  I was tormented by an inability to communicate my grief to the loved one who had gone.  The very one I lost was the one I desperately wanted to talk to.  The very one I lost was the one from whom I wished to get strength, for I wanted to communicate to her how much my loss of her affected me.

The grief and confusion was almost unbearable.

I grieved the separation, but I also felt discarded.  Not only discarded, but my own feeling, my own inner experience of love was being challenged.  I felt love for her, but "no," according to her, "I did not love";  she doubted the integrity of my love.  Likewise, she said she loved me, but I doubted the integrity of her love. 

We challenged and denied each other's inner-soul experiences.

Her questions attacked my understanding, attacked my inner feeling and sense of reality.  She doubted the validity of my inner feeling of love for her.  I doubted her inner feeling as well.

What kind of combat could be more severe?  The center of our souls and the ground of our existence as individual persons were only as secure as our perception of reality.  Now, in the throes of pain and sorrow, question and doubt pummeled the perception of love itself.  If I chose to believe the one I loved, then I had to deny my inner voice, deny my own self-perception.  If I believed her, then I would have to deny my love for her.  If I believed my inner voice, I would have to challenge her doubt of my love.  The same was true for her.

Our mutual love had become life-giving.  Now‑‑in the separation and confusion‑‑love's existence became a lie, a misunderstanding.  The realized dream fizzled in the darkness, and darkness won.  Hope struggled against reason, and hope lost.  Our mature and honed scrutiny interrogated our vows, but the questions only yielded more confusion. 

Stranded.  Abandoned.  The one I loved questioned my love, my experience of love for her.  In her questions and doubts and challenges‑‑on occasion‑‑I was only a breath away from utter self-doubt.  In the face of her doubts, I questioned my own integrity, my own worthiness, my own sense of reality.  Too many times I came short of comfort.  Her questions led me to questioning myself.

For her too I suppose.

In my loss of her, I lost part of my inner self. 

I did not like that.  I wanted to deny the pain and confusion.  I wanted to blame her.  When not wanting to blame her, I wanted to totally blame myself as an unworthy, debased, deluded, and inadequate man.

Our marriage crashed.  It crashed hard and hurt a whole lot.

Pendulums of Pain & Hope

I could have crashed.  A couple of times I felt like I had crashed.  Very tempted I was to go in one of two directions.  First, in one direction, I was tempted toward a settlement in angry bitterness.  Secondly, in another direction, I was tempted toward a collapse of a self-worth.  One or the other.  I think that my younger self would have totally crashed.

I survived and maintained hope because I had survived many prior losses over the years.  In this great loss, too, by God's help I would survive.  There was one verifiable reason.  Because of the hard-driven mileage, I could look back and remember some prior losses.  From the span of years, I had survived those many and varied losses (I think?) or at least arrived at some kind of resolution.  I was acquainted with grief.  A real hope of survival existed because of several previous losses and subsequent survivals.

Though a survivor, I had not arrived yet.  The temptation to settle in angry bitterness or self-doubt still battled against hope and healing.  My empathic understanding of her and so many other friends were being exponentially expanded.  My love of her and grief in loss informed as every loss does, but this time there was a difference.

Though no previous loss can compare to this (as none of the other losses can ever compare), I had accumulated some mileage.  I had lived years alone, single, and frightened.  I had been hit.  I had bled.  In body and soul, I had been torn. 

Though I was scared, I was still walking.  I was still alive.

Though difficult to describe, in such loss and rejection, two kinds of emotional pendulums seemed to be at work:  one of pain, the other of hope.  As I began to see my emotional extremities, I saw my moods swing wide.  As the pain worked itself out of my veins, the pendulum of pain swung between a collapse in either angry bitterness or in a debilitating sense of inadequacy. [2]

Between the above and the following was an agonizing period of time.  I did not remember how much time.  I seemed to have been caught in an emotional time warp unlike any I had ever encountered.  I thought I had been a around.  I thought I knew myself.  I thought I had emotional stamina and vigor.  The new and painful loss forced a continual swing of soul between bitterness and inadequacy.  What a wretched man I was.  Between the above and the following, I questioned whether I would ever heal.  Was I going insane?

As I struggled‑‑and I struggled, the pain slowly worked itself out of my veins.  The pain worked itself out through my experience and through my expression.  In order to deal with the confusion, I chose to personify the pain.  The pain itself seemed to take on a life of its own.  As I encountered that awesome beast, Pain, I found that Pain worked itself out of my troubled soul as I was able to both experience the beast and express the beast.  As I experienced and expressed the beast, Pain, another emotional pendulum finally began to appear.

As in the course set forth later in this book‑‑the pendulum of hope appeared and swung as wide as the pendulum of pain.  Slowly at first, yet those glimpses of hope provided energy.  As I was able to view and increasing feel the pendulum of hope, I began to see the two sides to which hope swung.

To one side, the pendulum of hope swung toward a living confidence based on the experience of previous successes in severe losses.  Toward the other side, the pendulum swung toward a future place of resolution and healing, a healing akin to the healing resolutions of previous losses.

When in the throes of the beast, Pain, the pendulum of pain appeared to swing in isolation.  There did not seem to be any hope at all, no relief to the suffering.  As the pendulum of pain swung, there seemed to be no escape from either bitterness or inadequacy.  This was agonizing.

With time and healing, through experience and expression, the pendulum of hope began to swing.  As healing progressed, the pendulum of hope eventually eclipsed the pendulum of pain.  But only God knew why hope took so long in coming.

The largest question for anyone in deep grief from a divorce is this:  Will I make it?  Will I survive my lonely encounter with the beast, Pain?  Will I survive the heart-wrenching swing of the pendulum of pain and overcome the emotional extremities?  Will I overcome the bitter anger or deep inadequacy (or whatever your particular extremes were)?  Or will I stop short and get stuck in one mode of despair?

How long will it take before the pendulum of hope begins to swing?  Much more, how long will it take before the pendulum of hope eclipses the pendulum of pain?

Will I ever get beyond all this?



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  I can finally say, "Yes."

[1] The rest of the poems reflect various stages of grief, maybe your grief too.

[2] You may have found other words for the pendulums and for the sides to which they swung.