I Lost Everything I Owned After My Divorce — But That's Not What Broke Me

I lost my life savings and home, but that's not what brought me to my knees.

sad depressed woman Pearl PhotoPix / Shutterstock

I’m walking my dogs this morning when tears fill my eyes. It’s been a month. I shouldn’t feel this sadness. I tell myself I’m being silly.

I lost my home in a divorce. I lost 4,500 square feet of belongings. I lost a beach house and a rental property. I lost my life savings and retirement.

And this is what brings me to my knees? This is what makes me cry like a baby? Before I tell you what turned me into an infant, let me explain some background.


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Item after item was carried over the threshold of my front door. I watched the life I built leave piece by piece. I won’t lie. It wasn’t pleasant but I sucked it up.

I did fight emotion as my dining room table escaped into the outdoors. I could feel emotional ghosts released into the air. The communal moments of robust laughter and shared worries. The secrets, dreams, joy, and family bonds that a wooden meeting place absorbed with us.

My tears welled but did not drop.

It happened once more as our coffee table fled with it. A young burly guy wrestled it through the open door. I bid farewell to family nights with chips and soda. Pictures scribbled in crayons, Legos taking on mega forms, and five love-encompassed souls clamored around it.


Before a divorce turned us into four. My tears welled up again but did not drop. 

The day I would cry like a baby would come years later. 

It would catch up with me on this morning's walk. My two labrador retrievers pull at each hand while I struggle to wipe my tears. Phyllis and Hazel are unaware of their momma’s angst.

I had made peace with losing everything I own. They were merely items, things, and belongings.

I was forced to sell them because of the extreme financial abuse inflicted by my husband. It wasn’t enough to take our entire savings and retirement, he ruined our credit and left me with little ability to start over.

I couldn’t afford a storage facility for even precious belongings. I would barely be able to afford my normal living expenses. It wasn’t easy to part with certain items. I struggled as I let go of some of my mother’s things. But I chose to look on the brighter side.


I’m such a sentimental person I would have held onto too much. Maybe this wasn’t as horrific as it felt. It was freeing.

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My boys sat in my bedroom and cried. It wasn’t easy for them. The jarring impact of coming home to see the first few pieces of their childhood home gone. No child should have their life dissected under such duress.

A forced emotional eviction because their mother left their father. A man consumed with getting back into ‘his’ house.

He was in such a hurry I relented and left without a few items. We agreed I could come back and retrieve them. My youngest son and I moved into an apartment with a thousand square feet. Once again, I was forced to purge my belongings.


There wasn’t enough space to contain what I had kept. It wasn’t furniture. That had been easy to get rid of. I left with only eight pieces, two of which belonged to my mom. It was the memorabilia, the school papers, the photo albums, and every sentimental core of raising a beautiful family.

The pieces were once kept in storage rooms and closets of a larger home. I shouldn’t have done what I did next.

I knew better. I knew my ex-husband couldn’t be trusted. But my new beginning was packed to the gills. Instead of immediately retrieving the items I left behind when the house sold they moved with him.

I rationalized it. I needed more time to sift through their paperwork treasures


. I gradually started going through box after box from their elementary school years and then middle school and high school. I pared all of these sentimental school mementos down to make more room in my limited closet space.

I was making room for the valuables I had left behind. I waited too long. It’s my fault.

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I knew better when my ex-husband got engaged. I worried about his next move. I spoke to my son who works with his father. Please make sure those boxes don’t get thrown out. They mean everything to me.

I still couldn’t afford storage. But I should have gone and retrieved them myself. You would think my ex-husband would have called or emailed me. Common sense would say I got rid of everything so what I kept must have been important.


I’m crying again. Right now, just like a baby, and it’s been a month.

They’re gone: The matchbox cars, the dinosaurs, the action guys, baseballs, the stuffed animals, and the books I read to them as babies. All gone. These weren’t the toys they played with as children. They had tons of those.

These were the ones that defined their little beings. The early years when they were announcing who they were. The magical items caught their eye, held their focus, and uncovered a part of their distinct personalities.

Cars were my oldest son’s first word and first obsession. The ball was my middle son’s first word and first obsession. The combination of the two became my youngest son’s obsession because of this love for his older brothers.


The Barneys, Spongebob Squarepants, and Franklin the Turtles. Each is their favorite character.

All gone. I cried like a baby.

My youngest son tried to comfort me. He told me new kids were now enjoying that Rubbermaid of Matchbox cars. Wouldn’t that make me feel better? But it didn’t.


Because those were my babies' belongings. The toys that my three everything’s once held and loved.

I lost everything I owned. I didn’t cry. I was stressed. It was horrible. It was demeaning. It was undignified. It was traumatic. It was an injustice. It was wrong. But I didn’t cry.

They were merely items, things, and belongings. They weren’t valuables

. And here I go, crying like a baby again.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.