Rationally, I should be happy that he's gone, but it's not that straightforward.
I was 21 years old when I walked down the aisle to him; he was 29 and promised the world to me. Standing at the altar, looking into the eyes of my new husband, I kissed him and whispered into his ear, "forever and ever."
I walked out of the chapel that day with his hand in mine, not totally sure what the future held for us, but certainly optimistic about it
Later that night, after the ceremony had died down and we found ourselves alone, he raped me.
I know what you're thinking: all couples have sex on their wedding night. But this wasn't sex; this was a full-out fight that ended with him satisfied and me bruised, bleeding, and screaming for help.
And just like that, I knew the future I was expecting — the one that had been promised to me and, in turn, had pledged my life to — wasn't the future I was going to get.
Why I stayed with him after that is a long story that's familiar to nearly every domestic violence survivor on the planet, but the short version of it, which involves shame, financial dependence, lack of a support system, and fear for my life, is that I simply wasn't able to "just leave him."
8 years later, after the birth of two children, my husband left the family without warning for a new future — a future that didn't include myself or our children. His final departure took with him the remaining promises that had ever been made to me.
I didn't even know that a heart could withstand so much pain and still manage to beat, especially one that had already suffered years of unthinkable damage. My abusive rapist husband was gone — and I was grieving in a way that no one understood.
"He's gone," people said. "Now you can finally live! He can't hurt you anymore. His leaving was the best thing that could have happened!"
And they were right; it was the best thing that could've happened to me. The horrible life I was leading was over but so was the life that I thought I was going to have when I married him.
My hopes and dreams of a happy life with him had all but washed away on my wedding night but everything that came after was so utterly consuming that there had been no time to grieve what I initially lost; I was too busy fighting not to lose any more.
I was free, but free to do what? Where was I even supposed to go from there? How would I even begin to rebuild a life that felt so irreparably damaged?
This wasn't what I had signed up for.
But now he was gone and the grieving began — grieving for everything that had been lost, taken from me, and never truly given.
Abuse victims are often freed from their abuser just to find themselves stuck between being free from someone who was hurting you and grieving for the person you thought they were. You know you're in a better place, but your heart is so sad for everything that you lost.
I thought I was going to build a life with a person I loved. I wanted a husband who loved me. I was excited for the life I thought I was going to lead. I yearned for a father who loved his children.
But I didn't get that. I didn't get any of that, and it all hurts in ways that are much deeper than just feeling jilted. It's the very real death of the life you thought you were leading.
I'm happy he's gone, but devastated at all the dreams he took with him.