Okay, hear me out here. Having had experience in both the world of divorce and the world of cancer, I assert that the two experiences have many commonalities.
I'm speaking from first-hand experience about the cancer world, having spent the past eight and a half months in that realm.
As for divorce world, I've also been divorced, although my experience with divorce wasn't as devastating an event as could be compared to a life-threatening disease. Fortunately, my ex-husband is a very kind person and our divorce was not ugly. However, I've spent more than the past 20 years working in the field of divorce litigation. In the process, I've picked up more than a thing or two about its effects on a person.
Here are some of the common factors as I see them:
The news, whether it be "You have cancer" or "I want a divorce," often comes as a sucker punch to the gut. Oftentimes this is the last thing you expected to happen. And from the moment you hear the news, your life will never be the same.
You rarely think that either of these things will ever happen to you; these are things that happen to other people.
Whether it's cancer or divorce, a common reaction is to immediately start to rally your troops around you. You call your closest family and friends and break the news to them. Having to tell a child or children requires special sensitivity, as their worlds will be rocked as well.
You then seek out the best professionals to guide you through, whether it's the top divorce lawyer in town, or the best oncologist.
You are, more than likely, scared shitless by how this news will impact your future. Finances come into question. Fears of being alone.
And not to compare all divorcing spouses to malignant tumors, sometimes the comparison fits. You might have ended up married to someone who became more and more diseased as the years went by. And perhaps you turned a blind eye to the symptoms until they became too unhealthy to ignore. But now the tumor is staring you in the face and you have no choice but to do something about it.
The process of eliminating the tumor/spouse may be arduous, expensive, frightening and difficult. But you start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. You form new friendships with others who have gone through similar experiences. You start thinking about how life is a gift, and how you're going to make taking care of yourself a priority. Your whole outlook changes.
Once you've eliminated the unhealthy entity from your life, you realize that you had been feeling bad for quite a while, but had just come to accept it as your "normal". Only after having stepped away from the bad situation do you realize what "good" really feels like. You start to breathe more deeply and better appreciate your surroundings.
And once you've been through it, cancer or divorce, you're forever a survivor.
The main difference between cancer and divorce is obviously that cancer can kill you. Although sometimes divorce can be so painful and difficult that death may seem welcome when you're at that rock bottom place.
So what's the point of this comparison? Why am I telling you all of this?
The point is that, more often than not, it gets better. And you are usually better, stronger and more independent after the experience. You are free, and you have a new appreciation for life. You try things you might not previously have tried. You're more outgoing. You take more risks. You're more grateful.
And you might even say that the experience was the best thing that could have happened to you... if you don't die of course.
It's all in how you choose to look at it.
And you may feel that you have grown to love that nasty ol' tumor that you've carried around so long, so much so that you think of it as a part of you. Well, it turns out that it was sucking the life right out of you.
And you deserve better than that.
Photo via Brooke Kelly