I Didn't Properly Grieve My Divorce — Until I Lost My House

I had lost my marriage, and then I had lost my house.

woman with head in hands against wall Sam Wordley / Shutterstock

It had been almost 14 months since my ex-husband and I separated.

You'd think that in over a year's time, I would've fully accepted that not only was I on the road to being divorced but that our daughter would end up being a child of divorce. Yet, I haven't fully, even to this day.

It's not to say that I haven't had months and weeks of time in which I felt confident and sure about our decision (we chose to divorce together — one of us didn't leave the other), but there are still weeks and days in which I think getting a divorce was the wrong thing to do.


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I wonder if I will ever feel "right" about it.

I've read and written a ton of essays on divorce but nothing could've prepared me for how I felt when I lost our marital home.

It was a Thursday night when I got a call from my ex. He told me that to avoid foreclosure on our marital home he'd be signing the deed over the house to the bank.

Financially, for his future, since he was on the deed, I couldn't blame him for his choice. This was a better option than foreclosure by far.

So I understood, although I was in tears realizing I had to find a place to live for my daughter and me — in 70 days and on my budget. I just returned to work full-time and I had been doing my best to get on my feet financially.


I spent the rest of the days leading up to my move frantically searching for a place that would be close enough to my ex, in a decent school district, and affordable. I basically lived on fumes and focus.

All I thought about was, "Where are we going to live?" Everything else just fell by the wayside as I hustled to secure a place.

Finally, I found a place and moved in with the help of my ex and two friends. After everyone had left, it was just my ex and I. My daughter was with his parents and it was getting dark out.

"Well, I better get home to her," he told me.

I nodded, knowing he had to go be Daddy, while I was left to unpack and set myself up.


That's what happens when you're getting a divorce: suddenly, it's always you, and you alone. I reached out to hug him and didn't want to let go.

How could I start over somewhere else in a place that didn't have a trace of him? Sure, the furniture and some of the objects have his "fingerprints," but nowhere in this new home was there a memory of him — not in the bedroom, the bathrooms, my daughter's room, the living room, the kitchen, or the den.

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Nowhere could I recall a moment I had with him in this new place, besides him placing all the boxes and furniture down because he's not living here and never will be.


In my old house, I could feel him everywhere.

When he came to pick up our daughter on his days, he walked in like he still lived there. He adjusted the curtains his way. He put everything back where it belonged because, in so many ways, he still belonged there.

In my place, he doesn't belong and I should have been fine with this. I should have embraced my fresh new start in which everything can be mine and only mine — only my way — all the time.

Except I didn't.

I was too busy grieving the fact that he doesn't belong here, that we don't belong together. That now, I sleep on what used to be his side of the bed, and on my old side, the opposite side, no one sleeps there and I cannot trace him to that spot. That my bedroom closet is full of only Laura's things.


Even years later, there were still sweaters and pants hanging in our marital closet, as if perhaps he might come back to wear them once again. As if we weren't getting divorced but, instead, he was just away on a work trip, a vacation, or a separation that maybe didn't have to be forever.

I thought I was sad that first Christmas when he wasn't with me. I thought I was sad on that first Thanksgiving when we spent it apart.

But nothing, nothing compares to walking away from our old martial house, walking away from our dreams.

We were supposed to move out together into a bigger home, not live apart.

We were supposed to decide together when it was time to say goodbye to the home we brought our daughter home in. My new place was supposed to be our new place as a family and not my new place as a single mom, but that's not how it ended up, is it?


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The upside is I could truly start to move forward and grieve this divorce properly now that I had my own home.

It's not that I hadn't moved on at all or grieved, but that being in the marital home was tying me to such strong memories of our marriage that it was hard to think and process that I was, indeed, alone.

Sure, I was alone with my daughter in the home but all around me was his ghost, and now his ghost is gone. Perhaps this is truly for the best.

How would I bring a new person into my life in a home that still bore my ex's "scent," so to speak? How would I detach and face the fact that our previous dreams were now dead and gone?


The two of us had moved forward while we kept two fingers on each other as if we were both afraid to blow away into the wind if we let go.

It was scary and there was something about the finality that was way sadder than the anticipation leading up to it.

And it was not just him. Losing the house and starting over was hard because I was saying goodbye to the place I called home for so long. All my habits and destinations are now different. My dog is even with my ex. I feel like I've had to say goodbye to everything, not just him.

I thought I would have been elated by the change and not deflated from grief.

Now, though, I can go ahead with my life and it's terrifying and exciting at the same time. Just who will I become and where will I go? How will our relationship as co-parents evolve? What's coming next for him, for our daughter, and for me?


That story isn't written yet but I better start putting pen to paper.

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Laura Lifshitz is a former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, and marriage. Her work has been featured on YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.