My Trauma of Divorce
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My Trauma of Divorce

My Trauma of Divorce

Divorce feels like the death of something once so precious and dear.

by

An excerpt from the author's memoir, The Map Seeker: One Woman's Quest. .

The day I walked out of my former husband's apartment, I knew I would never return. All I wanted that day was to live a normal life.

After I received the official paperwork of my get I left the beis din in Jerusalem with the rebbetzin. As we walked along the sidewalk in the sunshine she talked about how fortunate I was to have just witnessed an open miracle; "You're free," she said, stopping to look at me. When I turned to look at her, I saw my former husband walking parallel to us on the other side of the road.

Who is that man? I said to myself. He was once my husband and now he is a stranger. I don't know him -- I don't think I ever really knew him. If I had, I would not have married him.

 

I am not the same person I was early this morning, last week or last year. I am now a divorcee.

 

We walked on and while I listened to the rebbetzin talk about her plans for the day I felt myself going numb.

Oh my gosh, I said to myself. I am back at square one; I am single again. The reality hit me so strongly I stood still and shook myself to make sure that this wasn't a bad dream.

Who am I? I said to myself. I am not the same person I was early this morning, last week or last year. I am now a divorcee.

Tears streamed down my face as my friend led the way forward.

 

***

I felt like I was a damaged person and I needed to heal myself. How would I do it and how long would it take?

 

A few hours after my get I sat with a dear friend of mine in a restaurant; she insisted on taking me out for a fruit shake -- she didn't want me to be alone at home. She also felt we had something to celebrate; I was free, and what a gift that would be -- when I woke up from my traumatized state.

"Here, take this," she said, passing me an envelope.

I opened it and shook my head.

"I can't take this," I said, feeling a flush of embarrassment rising.

"You left with nothing -- just the clothes on your back. Now you have something. My husband and I want you to have this until you get back on your feet."

There was a considerable amount of money in the envelope.

"I will pay you back when I have saved money from a job," I said.

"You don't need to," she said.

I looked into her face and saw genuine friendship and I cried.

I had gotten myself into the marriage -- God pulled me out -- my friends were there to pick up the pieces with me; maybe I would make it, maybe I would get over this, maybe I would get married again and have a normal life, like my friends -- maybe I wouldn't.

There are no guarantees after a divorce.

Sunday morning, three days after I was granted a get, I was up at 5:30 a.m. After davening I paced my room in the home of the the Horowitz family, the son and daughter-in-law of the Bostoner Rebbe, who had sheltered me before my get and offered me a place to live afterwards. As I walked up and down, upsetting, fragmented thoughts turned over and over in my mind until the clock showed 6:30 a.m. and I took an hour's bus ride.

I walked along the pathway wheeling two large suitcases. I saw women hanging wet laundry, looking down from their patios, and children passing by, their lunch bags swinging against their knees. These familiar signs came into focus as I entered the home I had shared with my former husband for less than three months.

It had been arranged that my former husband would leave the apartment at 7 a.m. so I could go in and take my belongings. Three friends had agreed to help me pack and would be meeting me in an hour. An hour: all the time in the world to deal with what was in my heart in the aftermath of the storm.

I stood in the living room, in the stillness of a noise that had suddenly silenced inside of me. I looked around carefully looking for any changes but everything was just as it had been seven days ago when I had walked out at 12:40 p.m. on Hoshanah Rabbah.

I went into the kitchen; the chicken, potatoes and sweet potatoes that I was cooking for Yom Tov were still in the oven. The knife and the cut up vegetables were still on the cutting board. The sukkah was still standing and the Talmud was open on the table.

I walked out into the sukkah, and my heart trembled; the seedlings in the plastic trough had been green plants when we put up the sukkah. I had planted them the morning after our wedding, and now they were in full bloom -- orange, red, and pink flowers bursting with vitality. I stood rooted to the spot and sobbed.

What a shame, what a waste, what a mess my life is now.

I continued walking around the apartment. I stood before my former husband's long black silk coat, the bekeshe hanging in the guest room. I looked at the fur-trimmed hat, the shtreimel, he had donned before the chuppah, now on the bed, still elegant and new. I ran the tips of my fingers down the silk and then across the fur and cried.

Death -- that is what divorce feels like -- death of something once so precious; a loss of something once so dear. That is what our marriage had felt like for a fleeting moment until darkness descended and it was difficult to see the light of anything good and right.

On the mantelpiece in the living room was an envelope: "Dear Leah..."

I read the words and my eyes started raining tears of salt water -- I was mourning something that had held so much promise but was rotten to the core.

 

Divorce rips your heart and soul out -- washes them clean and replaces them with a tag attached; fragile, handle with care.

 

Divorce rips your heart and soul out -- washes them clean and replaces them with a tag attached; fragile, handle with care until the due date -- the date you are ready for reclaiming -- reclaiming by their true owner -- the true intended of this precious person.

Divorce is God's way of saying -- your mold is too small, I am going to smash it, break it, destroy what I gave you, and then you will have to rebuild it stronger and better and why not a bit bigger, and when you have done your job, I will do mine -- I will fill your new vessel with so much blessing it will overflow into all areas of your life.

But first you have to take your heart and soul out. Cleanse them -- do teshuvah; make changes in yourself and your life and promise not to repeat mistakes. Then you have to get your resources together and rebuild a vessel befitting the clean heart and soul. And then you will be ready to reassemble yourself, and when you have done the work that I want you to do, then you will be ready to stand before your other half from Heaven -- your true soul mate -- and he will recognize you, and you will go the chuppah again and become one again -- just as I wanted it to be in the first place.

One hopes this will happen to you but it is not always the case. Many people don't get re-married after a divorce. Many people don't want to do the work they have to do to merit marrying their true soul mate. Many people marry again only to divorce again -- the cycle of error, disillusion, destruction and pain repeats itself and leaves its mark on the mind, heart and soul of a person.

When I was divorced, I vowed to be obedient to the words of my spiritual advisors, two of whom had offered me private counseling to work through the trauma, help me work on weaknesses in my character and to learn better positive thinking skills.

I also forgave God; initially I was angry with God when I woke up from the stupor of my situation. How could God have let this happen? It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that God didn't let it happen -- I did. God didn't make the choice for me to marry my former husband regardless of the warnings I had noticed early in the dating process -- which I felt, afterward, was God talking to me; it was me. I had been a bad listener.

 

Excerpted from The Map Seeker: One Woman's Quest by Leah Kotkes (Israel Bookshop Publications). This, the author's first book, vividly portrays a spectrum of true-life ordeals along with the author's ability to transform them into spiritual and tangible opportunities and discoveries.

 

From May 7 -26th Leah will be in the US, Canada and England giving meet the author talks and writing workshops; contact leahporetsky@yahoo.com for details and reservations. See her meet-the-author and workshop schedule at www.leahkotkes.com .

 

 

Published: May 9, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 39

(37) sokina, December 12, 2013 7:34 AM

trauma of divorce

Thank you, for being so open about your experiences. I haven’t felt comfortable blogging about it myself but I love your words and I am excited as I travel through and am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I guarantee it. Also, here’s a book I found very helpful and you might find this useful: “Rising from the Fall”

(36) Anonymous, August 30, 2011 4:20 PM

Recent Divorcee

I recently returned home from a two month trip to the states after my divorce in June. I find myself wandering around, most days, on shaky ground. B"H, I have come to terms with everything but there are days where it seems so hard just move. Over the summer I found a little more faith and am now travelling, what I feel, is the right path finally. My love of Hashem has blossomed and my emunah has strengthened beyond words. This article/ excerpt is just the right boost to help when I'm feeling down. "Divorce is God's way of saying- your mold is too small, I am going to smash it, break it, destroy what I gave you and then you will have to rebuild it stronger and better and why not a bit bigger, and when you have done your job, I will do mine- I will fill your new vessel with so much blessing it will overflow into all areas of your life." I just had my twenty-second birthday and my wish is to be able to accomplish the work required of me now and be zoche, im yirtzah Hashem, to receive all of Hashem's blessings and His graciousness. Thank you!

(35) mm, June 28, 2009 2:34 PM

pain

ive been divorced for nearly three years now..i am 25 with two young children...my pain is still strong and has not gone away...i am contstantly working on myself in every aspect of life..i am lonely and feel a constant pain at the pit of y stomach...will i ever heal from my broken heart that was just broken once again by another....i am no means angry at g-d but nevertheless i want one day without pain!! thank you for reading

(34) Wishes well, May 16, 2009 4:27 PM

free advice and musings

Re. the first poster who wrote "true soul mates are very, very rare in this life". I believe this comment is not correct. I was taught that Hashem Himself makes shidduchim. If you want to marry a soul mate then ask a great Rabbi how to merit meeting them. By the way, a soul mate will not have wings on their back - they will - thank God - be human like you. It's worth dwelling on that - they won't be your idea of flawless perfection, they will be a work in progress too. The Chazon Ish z'l was a very great Rabbi who advised that a girl who would be a good match is one who is good at honouring her parents. I don't know what the Chazon Ish mean't, but I believe there is a lot of depth in his advice. We have to realise we have lived in a turbulent century. A lot of very difficult events and changes happened in the last hundred years which traumatised a lot of people. For example my parents came from totally different countries yet both were refugees at a young age. A lot of parents did not resolve their personal issues and problems and this severely affected their parenting abilities. It is probably good to look for someone who ideally has a good, friendly, warm and healthy relationship with their parents. Alternatively at least look for someone who is willing to work on their issues and seek to resolve them to become fully functioning and happy. It is also worth bearing in mind that a lot of emotional problems have been depression in disguise. Fix the depression and the emotional problem may go away. Note well - there are many, many approaches that can be tried for treating different kinds of depression, not just anti-depressants. For example I know someone who was surprised to find that when he took snuff he wasn't depressed. After researching snuff and being satisfied it was relatively safe (it's completely unlike cigarettes), with his wife's agreement he decided snuff was better than being depressed and he has continued to take snuff and be a much better husband. When I read the article above I was shocked that they had sadly divorced so soon. Life is not an endless date. If you think about it the first years of marriage have probably been very challenging for most people. After all for many it's the first time they fully live with someone to who and for whom they take responsibility for money, health, children, religious life, work, where to live, in-laws etc, etc, etc. There's a lot of big challenges here. Don't expect it to be a smooth easy ride. Expect a few (or more!)dramatic ups and downs and be pleasantly surprised when the good 'smooth ride' times come. I think of marriage as a great vintage wine - the first years are rough, then usually as things settle and get worked out, where negative things are reduced and good things become more expressed, then it gets better and better. I believe some truly great wines take five years to settle this process, and why should marriage which is so much more complex be quicker? I guess that a great Rabbi will include in their advice that one should pray (ideally with tears) heartfelt prayers regularly. I am not a great Rabbi but I feel I can recommend that if it is easy for one to do so one can try saying the prayer for a shidduch of the Chida z'l at the grave of the Chida at Har Menuchot in Jerusalem. For those in England I have heard that going to the grave of the Shotzer Rebbe z'l with three candles and following the late Rebbe's instructions has helped many with different kinds of requests in all sorts of ways. Also it is worth bearing in mind that as God is the ultimate matchmaker, He is also very interested in seeing you growing in happily and joyfully observing as much of his Torah as you are able to. If you feel able to then it looks good on your heavenly CV to do even just one extra mitzvah that you enjoy even just once. The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird is a particularly good one to do - this mitzvah is known to be a powerful segulah for a number of things including finding one's shidduch. To learn how to do the mitzvah see the book on the mitzvah that was recently published by Feldheim. If you want a very quick guide to the mitzvah here it is according to some opinions: find a nest of a kosher bird which has a kosher bird sitting on it, approach the nest at night (mother birds nest at night) having in mind that your every movement and action is to fulfil the mitzvah, if the bird has not been scared off then do something to cause the bird to leave like making a noise, now acquire the eggs or young by picking up the eggs or young in the palm of your hand or raise them about half a meter. Congrats - you've done this rare wonderful mitzvah and you can put the young or eggs back (the mother usually returns) and wash your hands with soap.

(33) Anonymis, May 15, 2009 10:14 AM

validating my own needs

CBI-I could not agree with you more on the importance of recognizing my own needs and accepting that I am entitled to have needs. After being divorced for many years I am now beginning to consider the possibilty of remarriage, but sometimes I feel as if in order to do so I have to be prepared just to give and not to receive, I feel guilty about wanting to get something out of the marriage. I am in conflict with myself as to what rights I have to want to gain & not just give. Of course it is very lofty to only want to give without any gain, but I am not on that level & sometimes feel guilty about it. Other times I feel that I deserve to want to get too, not instead of giving, but as well as. Until I sought out these thoughts I know I have to put any thoughts of marriage on hold. I hope I am not too incoherent.

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