My first husband and I were together four years before officially throwing in the proverbial towel. It came after a lot of thought and consideration, realizing we shouldn't have married right out of high school and that, maybe, we'd be happier apart. Turns out, it was the best decision we ever made as a couple. While it took some time for the divorce to finalize, we didn't see one another from then on and until he showed up at my Gram's funeral viewing. Of all the things I felt when I saw my ex-husband after 11 years apart, regret wasn't one of them. I know, now more than ever, that initial decision was the right one.
The day of the viewing, I wasn't sure he'd be there. Honestly, though, I'm glad he came. A huge part of my life — our lives together — revolved around living with Gram. Before I had children, or really even grew up, he was close to her and cared for her, too, so to see this face from my past felt less like a ghost and more like a much needed comfort at a time when I was on my knees and feeling broken. At the time, my current husband (whom I've been with since 2004) and my son were at my side. I introduced them and while awkward for a moment, the overall feelings I had were pleasant. In the end, it was a validation in every decision I've made since that relationship ended.
It's never ideal to have a relationship end, but I can honestly say I wish my ex-husband the best and hope he finds love again. With that, here are some things I felt the moment I saw his face on a night I was anything but prepared to feel all the feelings (aside from grief).
Initially, when my ex-husband walked into that funeral home, it caught me off guard. Already swirling in grief, it was difficult to deal with much of anything and he was the last person I'd expected to see. Days beforehand, he'd messaged me online, asking if it'd be OK, but I didn't think he'd actually show up. My brain couldn't process this man I once loved so much, whom I hand't seen in over a decade, standing mere feet away.
Considering I was in the thick of missing my Gram, it's probably a normal reaction.
Who would've thought seeing someone from your past could manifest so violently with cold sweats, shaking hands, and dry mouth? My ex-husband and I left things on good terms and even still, just seeing him standing there felt more stressful than anything I could've anticipated. Maybe it was combined with the shock, maybe it brought up memories — some not so great, like actually reaching the decision to divorce — but either way, I momentarily was a wreck. Thankfully, my current husband was there to remind me it would be OK.
Once I settled, my feelings turned to confusion. At the root, I understood why he was there — to say goodbye to a woman who'd been part of his life — but beyond that, there were lingering questions. Why wait 10 years, after she'd passed, to see her? It shouldn't have bothered me, but for as much as he claimed to care, divorce or not, he should've been part of her life more, and not just her death.
Of course I also wondered all the usual things. I wanted to know what he'd been up to, if he'd re-married, how he's doing.
For a long time, he was the center of my universe. When our love failed to evolve and we accepted our fate, the feelings didn't just disappear. As a re-married woman and mother of two now, I'll always have a small part of me that cares for that man in some general form. Especially being together through our teen years, there's a lot we went through together and those memories can't be replicated. At the end of it, I just wanted to know he was happy. It matters.
Through the course of an hour or so, I became increasingly grateful that my ex-husband came to pay his respects. The more I thought about it, the more I realized we hadn't been part of each other's lives for so long, he didn't have to acknowledge this loss. He showed up with the understanding my Gram was the most important person throughout my entire life and that, without her, I'd need all the comfort and compassion available.
Regardless of those divorce papers or 10+ years, he showed up. That's what I remember most he showed up.
I have to admit, being surrounded by both my ex and current husband was really weird but, in a messed-up way, I was comforted by it. Two different men from different periods of my life with one common thread — their love for me. When I got the news my Gram passed, I was devastated and felt all alone in my pain. See either one of them to each side of me made those feelings a little less.
By the time my ex-husband and I said our goodbyes, I watched the back of him fade beyond the funeral home's double doors and felt a slight pang in my chest. We were so young when we said "I do," it felt like a lifetime ago. Watching him go was strange, though. It wasn't that I missed being married to him (I didn't, and I don't) or wished we'd stuck it out (I'm glad we didn't), but that him being there solidified our choice to live different lives.
We're not friends but we're friendly; we're not lovers but there's love. Mostly, there's no regrets, only gratitude, for the time we shared — good and bad — because he helped mold me into who I am today. For that, I'm infinitely thankful.