I was talking to my spiritual director about the “deep well of sadness” that occasionally surfaces since being asked to leave my former employer (eighteen months later). She said, “It’s like you’ve been through a messy divorce.” No words ever felt more true or helped me so much.
It is like a messy divorce. When you’ve been connected to someone or something a long time (okay, my entire adult life) you are very intertwined with them: you have the same friends, you share kids, all of your best and hardest times involve these folks…how do you separate that? I mean, I hear myself still saying “we” when I discuss this organization, as in “We got a new president!!” Really? It’s time to move on.
Since I (thankfully) have not been divorced from a marriage, I chose the “phone a friend,” option for help. My friend has some fantastic ideas to help me begin the separation process.
- First, she said, it’s important to name your feelings. Sometimes all the feels get mixed up and it’s hard to discern what you are actually experiencing. Name them: Am I sad? Am I mad? Frustrated? Angry? Furious? Bitter? Hurt?
- Second, look at the divorce from the other person’s perspective. If he/she was explaining why you broke up, what would they say? Be honest, what parts of what they would say are true? Then, you might need to forgive yourself for your mistakes or make amends.
This was a really helpful step for me because I tend to think I was the one who got “left” in this relationship. I felt like I wanted to stay married, but they divorced me. During this reflection exercise, I realized that the things they would say were true. We had a long term, beautiful relationship, but we began to see things differently, they drew a line in the sand about a policy, and I was clearly on the other side of that line. I can own that. I’m the one that changed, not them. And, in retrospect not only is that true, but I’d do it again. I don’t need to forgive myself, because I feel like it was the right side of the line to be on. This was incredibly freeing. I’m SINGLE! I need to start acting like it.
- The next part was to do the same process with how you saw the breakup, and forgive them for their part.
- Next pretend you are the mediator between these two sides. What would you say to them?
This is a helpful process to decide what to do next to disentangle yourself, for instance:
- Who gets to keep the friends in the divorce? This is a tough question. But, clearly there are sides that get taken and I needed to let go of some folks who took the other side and sort of disowned me. Why was I hanging on to them? To emotionally unlatch from some folks, I went through my Facebook friends and unfollowed a lot of them. I didn’t want to unfriend anyone, I still care about them, but I don’t need my feed to be filled with updates from that ministry either. That helped.
I’m working on what it means to be unattached to someone/something after so long. There are some times I’m sure I’ll slip and say, “we.” There are still kids and friends we have in common. But, I’ve taken a good step forward towards “SINGLE!”
How have you unattached yourself from a long-term relationship or organization you needed to leave? Share tips so was can learn from each other.