Do I have a right to grieve the loss of dreams I was never promised?
As my marriage withers to an unceremonious end, that's one of the questions with which I now wrestle. Depending on the day of the week, I waffle between mourning the dreams that will now never be realized—feeling at times justified and at other times guilty for what could be perceived as entitlement—and feeling pretty grateful for the life I've led.
The days my emotional boat stays afloat, I'm grateful for all I've enjoyed. My physical needs have always been met. I share life with three incredible kids. Now 12, 13, and 15, I marvel at how remarkable each one is. (They're actually sort of delightful.) I was afforded an incredible education. Professionally, I love the work I get to do as a writer, editor, and speaker. Many days I do it in the comfort of my pink and green polka dot pajamas. I have steadfast friends who've walked with me for decades and ones who've joined the journey and supported me during this most recent bumpy season.
The days I'm sinking, though—the days when I'm pushing a grocery cart toward the checkout line and am suddenly gripped by a sadness that takes my breath away—I do mourn the future I'll never see.
I won't press shoulders against my husband as we sit together in a pew when our kids get married.
If and when grandkids visit, I won't turn to my husband and recall the way the baby's father also did that funny crawl with one knee and one foot, or how her mother also used surprisingly big words that no three-year-old should know.
I won't celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with someone who remembers me when I was 23. And for that matter, I won't whisper and giggle with someone beside me in bed about how crazy it is that we're those old people that our grandparents used to be.
On my difficult days, I grieve that I won't share life with a partner who's shared my life.
The bigger picture
Yet as someone who cares deeply about the suffering of a larger world in need, I'm aware that the death of my Norman Rockwell fantasies aren't as tragic as they feel. In a world where mothers struggle to feed their babies and fathers' strong bodies are attacked by cancer, I haven't forgotten others who suffer.
And, in fact, this season has softened my heart to many in my own web of relationships whose lives have also not unfolded the way they'd once imagined: