death, divorce, comic books and oxygen

Getting a divorce can feel like the grief after someone dies

Recently I wrote a post comparing marriage to marathons.

After further analysis (which typically happens mere moments after a I click “publish” on a post) of that analogy, I realized that it wasn’t a very accurate comparison, mainly because in a marathon, there is one runner following one specific goal, yet in a marriage, there are two people whose pace, stride, and end goals can and, more often than not, do change through time.

Back in January, my husband told me that he “wanted to see what life was like not together.” In June, we were separated.

I was blindsided by his claim and not remotely ready for it, though I’m not sure anyone is ever ready for such news. The marathon I thought we were running together became something else entirely. Yes, we had hit that 23rd mile bonk, but it was also a fork in the road where the path we had been traveling on together for sixteen years was suddenly split into two.

The shock I felt upon learning that my marriage was at risk was reminiscent of how I felt thirteen years ago when an oncologist told me that my dad had a grapefruit sized tumor in his stomach and that he only had a few months to live.

Life as I knew it, in both situations, took on an almost comic book quality–surreal, strange, sardonic. Words like cancer, separation, death and divorce–how did they, in a split second, become a part of my lexicon? I fought them off like crazy, those ugly, malignant words. I refused to let them into my space, so instead, they hung above my head like a comic bubble, next to words like, Pow and Blam–like sucker punches to my gut.

The similarities between watching my dad die and watching my marriage fail are many:

The roller coaster of emotions.

Sadness, helplessness, loneliness, anger, fear, regret, doubt, devastation.

The wonder.

Will I have a dad tomorrow? In a week, a month, a year?

Will I have a husband tomorrow? In a week, a month, a year?

If not, how will I survive? 

The dealing with friends and relatives not knowing what to do or say.

The choosing of chardonnay over clarity.

The random break-out-into-tears sessions that come out of nowhere. 

The sudden emersion into a club I never signed up for and never imagined I’d ever join.

Many couples who battle marital issues survive the rough patches and many people who are diagnosed with cancer survive.

But, in both situations, many don’t.

Recently I read a post by a brilliant blogger, Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary, who delicately described a variety of human struggles, including death and divorce, and wove them into one brilliant post about one basic necessity: oxygen. You know, that thing we all need to survive.

When things are going well, we might take our oxygen intake for granted. Yet when life sucker punches us, we might gasp for breath, and wonder when and from where the next breath will come.

Currently I don’t know the fate of my marriage, nor from where my next breath of oxygen will come, but, I have faith. As I do with most situations in life, I have faith that whatever happens, whatever marathon I am running, whatever comic strip I find myself in, I will make it through, one way or another, and I’ll be one bad ass super-heroine ’til the end.

Dealing with separation and divorceIf you are going through a divorce or even a rough patch in your marriage, please read this awesome post by my girl Heather Love of The Third Boob on 10 Tips for Surviving Divorce With Young Children.



  1. 1
    Rachel says:

    Hugs Mary xo

  2. 2

    I love you my dear friend. You have put up quite the fight these past month and no matter what happens I am here on the side cheering you on. xo

  3. 3
    Holly Turville says:

    Oh, Mar…. I am here for you. xxxooo

  4. 4
    Suzette says:

    Oh, Mary! So sorry to hear this. Hugs!

  5. 5
    tracy says:

    I’m so sorry – thinking about you. xo

  6. 6
    Sandi says:

    You are a beautiful, strong, amazing woman and I wish nothing but the best for you.

  7. 7
    KathyCash says:

    Mary this post made me cry – so brave, and so honest. Sending you lots of oxygen (and maybe a little Chardonnay)

  8. 8
    Chelsea says:

    Love you, Mary!!!

  9. 9

    Oh Mary – so sorry to hear! You are a strong lady. I’m not good with words – but lots of love to you and your girls <3

  10. 10
    Elizabeth says:

    Well, dammit!
    Yes, you will make it through. Yes. You will.

  11. 11
    Carole says:

    I’m so sorry, Mary. You are awesome and he’s crazy – that’s what I think.

  12. 12
    Sean says:

    I hear you and understand. Still going to send you unicorns.

  13. 13
    Kalpana says:

    Mary, hugs to you and your girls. I’m with Sean. I’ll be wishing you unicorns and rainbows. ❤️❤️❤️

  14. 14
    Laura says:

    You are so brave to put this out there….
    Oxygen; one. breath. at. a. time.
    Love you

  15. 15

    Mary, I am sending prayers out to you and your daughters! I hope you are surrounded by love and comfort during this most difficult time. Tomorrow is a new day! One foot in front of the other…some days that can be enough :)!

  16. 16

    WHATEVER happens, I know you’ll come out the other side having sprouted a new pair of wings to soar.

    I’m very sad to think of you going through this right now, and hope there’s a peaceful, strengthening, and soul-buffeting resolution to it all.


  17. 17
    Meg says:

    Mary … I am so sorry. I’ll be praying for you girl … xoxox

  18. 18
    Leslie Nash says:

    So sorry Mary, life throws some serious curve-balls. Thinking of you!

  19. 19
    Jenn G says:

    Wow I really need to see this. Thanks so much for writing. There are days when I want to scream from the rooftops because I am so angry but I have these two beautiful children to focus on and I know that being kind to the man who has caused me so much hurt and pain is the right thing to do, even when it feels so completely and utterly the wrong thing.

  20. 20
    Karen says:

    You are one of the strongest people I know. You have the support of your family and friends (and oxygen

  21. 21
    Laurie says:

    My dear sister. I love you so much and know that you will get through this. My heart hurts for you as I know you are struggling. As I have said before I know that everything happens for a reason and will work out the way it is supposed to. I am here for you !
    Love and light

  22. 22
    Alisa says:

    I can’t wait until a year or so from now, when we’re talking about how fabulous your life is and how happy you are that all of this is behind you. (whichever way that turns out to be) In the meantime, you have my love, support and a drinking buddy, always! Love you my friend xoxo

  23. 23
    Chris Nelson says:

    You are amazing. Thank you for sharing. Hugs to you Mary! xoxoxo

  24. 24
    Lauren says:

    Sending you love and light and understanding. Life throws curve balls and we fall down. You have an army of friends to pick you back up (me included) so please ask for help when you need it. The only thing I can say for sure, is that time will heal some of the hurt and happy does come back. xoxoxox

  25. 25

    Fuck cancer. Fuck divorce. I hate it that you’re going through this. On the flip side, you’ve written your own amazing piece on the correlations between the two. My marriage has been tested and I am here to hear you if you need someone to tell the same story to again that sometimes you’ve already told too many times. Mary, for reals, I hope you’re talking to someone. I remember going to counseling after my dad died. Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone you don’t know so well. My number is on my website. I totally screen my calls, but I would for sure call back. Are you getting enough air right now? That feeling of drowning…. fuck that too.

  26. 26

    You ARE a bad ass super hero! Sending love and light from Virginia as you navigate the POW!’s and the possibilities ahead. I love you.

  27. 27
    Alicia King says:

    I glanced at this on my phone yesterday, then got called into a meeting, thinking, “No, it couldn’t have said THAT. I’ll have t read it tonight.” Well, damn. It DID say that. I guess I must be one of those awkward friends who doesn’t know what to say, because anything that comes to mind is either pithy, morose, angry (guess where that’s directed?) or a Les Miserables reference. All inappropriate, or at least inadequate. Let me just say I think you’re fabulous, a prize, and your girls are so lucky to have you. I wish you the best, and I know this will resolve into something amazing. I just wish you could skip the transition part. xoxo

  28. 28
    laura says:

    you are so right on in describing those moments where you have no idea where that next breath is coming from, you just do what you can to breathe in, and then out.

    I haven’t checked in on you lately, but you’ve been in my thoughts often. You have an amazing strength and flame inside of you, even on days when it’s hard for you to see yourself, it’s always there. I believe that no matter where this fork in the road has directed you, and where it ends up, you will still and always be an amazing women and even stronger. <3
    This is a great post Mary, and I commend your bravery for sharing it.

  29. 29
    Haylz says:

    It doesn’t really help me write this when John Legend is playing in the background. “Don’t Say Goodbye” Just heard Stevie Wonder before singing “Superstitious”… forever will that New Years Eve be etched upon my mind and I’ll be reminded each time with that song. You know how much I love you, the girls and even the one who needs a few punches. (Verified on group text) Glad you wrote this Mar. Love you to the butternut store and back again!! xoxo

  30. 30

    My divorce was the best thing that happened to me. I know you don’t see it now, but I am so deeply appreciative of my ex-husband. I’ve written extensively on this because divorce is not a death but a re-birth.

    • Mary says:

      I love the notion of divorce as a re-birth and would love to read some of your posts. Send them to me, will you please?

  31. 31

    I’m so sorry Mary. Take care of yourself.

  32. 32
    Carolyn West says:

    It’s true… I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry you are dealing with this, for your sake and the kids. Stay strong and positive.

  33. 33
    Abby says:

    You are a superwoman, through and through. Thank you for this insightful post. I really love the concept of oxygen. So true.

    What you are describing, the myriad of reactions to your father’s diagnosis and your separation with your husband, it’s grief. Grief and loss. I think about them a lot. Personally, and when helping my therapy clients.

    What I am taking home from your post (thank you) is the reminder to breathe. Many, many years ago, after a friend was killed, I received the advice to breathe from the solar plexus. To expand the chest. Most of the time I advice people to breathe from the abdominals, as that triggers relaxation and reverses the stress response. But for grief and loss, there is a benefit to expanding the chest, filling with air and light, and opening the heart.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you for this, Abby. Yes, grief, ugh, it comes in many forms. I love the notion of breathing from the chest and letting light in that way. I have a “just breathe” plaque in my kitchen, that my husband gave me, ironically, and I look at it many times throughout the day. : )

  34. 34
    stephanie says:

    Hi Mary,
    I’ve never posted a comment here before, but this post of yours hit me and for some reason I feel compelled. I found your blog through a friend a while back. A good friend of your husband’s. We all went to high school together and I was good friends with their core group of guys. I went to UCSB the same time you did, was in a sorority as well. As I read more of your blogs and posts I kept thinking, this chick is awesome! She’s funny and witty and so honest. There’s something about the way you write and the things you say that automatically makes people feel like they’re friends with you even if you’ve never met. I kept thinking, next time I’m back in SD, one of these times, or at the next reunion, I’ve got to meet Mary! I totally want to hang out with this girl! I’m really saddened by this post. Not because we may never meet, but because for some reason through that association factor, I felt like I already kind of knew you. And I’m bummed for you because divorce does suck. Its lonely and its a shitty rollercoaster to ride. And no one wants to see a friend go through it. But you know what? You’ll be ok. Even when we think we won’t. We get there. With a whole new bag of wisdom and perspective. And I have a feeling you’re surrounded by some pretty amazing people who will be cheering you on. Keep being kick ass, Mary. I know you have two perfectly good reasons to keep shining. Shine Mama, shine! Oh and don’t forget – boxing is Excellent therapy! ;)

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Stephanie, for this comment! I’m glad to have you as a reader and I am grateful for your positive comments about my writing. I am looking forward to peering into that new bag of wisdom and perspective. I feel it slowly coming on. And boxing?!?! Excellent idea. I used to do kickboxing pretty frequently. Maybe I should go straight to boxing! : ) Cheers!

  35. 35
    Paige says:

    This kills me. I’m so sorry. I feel for husband in that I know we all only have one life to live. I mean, everyone should search for their bliss and it’s never too late. If I were his friend I would understand his need.
    But if there is one thing I know from being with Patrick for 18 years the first and foremost requirement to working through difficulties is not to bail. My sweet friend, I feel for you so deeply. This kind of uncertainly is torturous. I’ll be thinking about you daily.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you, Paige! Yes, I think the uncertainty is one of the hardest things about situations like this, but that’s what life is all about and it’s what makes us who we are. Off to search for my bliss. : )

  36. 36
    Ali says:

    Sending you some big fat smooshy hugs, Mary. Always thinking of you, and wishing for a positive outcome. Love and warmth headed your way.

  37. 37
    Alli says:

    I’m sorry that you are having to go through this. I have quite a few friends going through this and know (and seen) some series badass strength through it all and I’m sure you will be no different! Sending hugs & wine!

  38. 38
    Tracy says:

    Oh Mur… I’m so sorry to read this. Times like this I wish I weren’t so far away so I could give you a big hug and share a bottle of wine with you. I know what a shitty situation you’re in…but however it turns out, you will survive and grow and become a stronger, better woman. Thinking of you my friend… Hang in there, hopefully I’ll catch you my next trip home. xoxo

  39. 39
    Sherri says:

    I’m truly sorry to read this. I wish you only the best. Sometimes, words of wisdom just won’t help in any situation, because even though one can empathize with you, only you really know what you are going through. Again, I can only say I’m sorry.

    This post proverbially sucker punched me. It’s raw. I have been fixated on it for days and it got me to thinking, (even though I have weathered two divorces) if my S.O. told me he didn’t love me anymore, do I have it in me to reinvent myself…again? More importantly, could I live without him? I can’t answer either of those? And that is a scary thought.

  40. 40
    trish donnelly says:

    Mary, your writing makes me feel warm and happy to be alive. Happy to know a strong and gorgeous woman like yourself, happy to be part of the female race, happy to know that we are all human beings in this, suffering excruciatingly painfully TOGETHER. Know that our pain will have equal and opposite amounts of pleasure in the future. Guaranteed. I see you being interviewed by Oprah on SuperSoulSunday talking about you multimillion dollar book deal :)

  41. 41
    Lisa says:

    Mary I’ve been thinking of you ever since I read this post and am so sorry you and the girls are going through this crap. You’re strong and a great mom but I can only imagine it must still be hard. Thinking of you three and sending big hugs your way. And I have a glass of wine at the ready whenever you’re up for GNO! xoxo Lisa

  42. 42

    What an awful internet friend I am that I am months late to offer some words … having been blindsided onto this rollercoaster ride myself, I wish I was there for a hug, a chat and a bottle of Prosecco or two xxx

  43. 43
    Kat says:

    How in the world did I miss this?? So beautifully written and so many big hugs to you Mary. I wish I could bring over a few bottles of wine and lose clarity with you for a bit.

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