Unmoored: Emotional Free Fall After Divorce

Brock and I watched the movie Gravity several months ago.

Unusually for me, it gave me nightmares. Recurring nightmares.

Several times a month, I would wake up after dreaming of myself in Sandra Bullock’s position – untethered, floating freely through space. Although my body was safely on the bed, my heart would be racing as though I was in mortal danger and it took several minutes for my brain to accept the idea that I was not alone and unmoored.

And that’s really the root of the nightmare, isn’t it?

My fears have nothing at all to do with being lost in space and everything to do with being lost in life.

In those early days, I struggled to find the words to explain how I was feeling. Nothing seemed strong enough. Encompassing enough. But one word kept floating to the surface.

Unmoored.

With the receipt of that text, my ties to most everything in my life had been severed. Those things that defined me, anchored me, were gone and I felt like I was floating uncontrollably away from myself. It was a panicky helpless feeling as my attempts to get back to myself seemed to occur in the dead space of a vacuum. I felt detached with a limited life support system and my oxygen quickly running out.

And in so many ways, that feeling of being unmoored was the scariest of all of the post-divorce emotions.

Because you have to fully let go of what you know in order to grasp on to your future.

I wasn’t free-floating for long. I started to feel anchored once my clothes were placed in the dresser in my friend’s spare bedroom, where I would spend the next year. Another tie came when my mom purchased a gym membership for me and that facility became my home away from my-home-for-a-year. School started up again and even though it was a stressful year due to administration, if felt reassuring to be back in the classroom, even as I answered to a name I no longer identified with. Yoga reconnected body and mind and I learned how to breathe again on a soft carpet on a therapist’s floor. Pen went to paper, and I started to explore the emotions that were within, the anger especially giving me purpose.

I realized only recently that some of the unmoored feeling persisted for quite some time. It was only this past spring, when I tucked plants into the soil in my yard (in an area that feels like home) with a ring again on my finger that I realized I felt anchored again. Not settled, but relaxed into where I want to be with anchors of my choosing.

After divorce, some people find they enjoy the freedom that comes from being unmoored; they design their new life with minimal ties and restraints to allow maximum flexibility. Others crave the feeling that comes from multiple ties to people and places, giving a sense of security and belonging.

Being unmoored alters you. It helps to build your confidence in your ability to survive. It carries a freedom that may frighten or awaken. It confirms who your true friends are and alerts you to the ones that need to be jettisoned. It whispers truths about you and your desires, uncluttered by the wishes of your ex. It’s a moment in time. A flash of clarity with clutter removed.

Because in free fall, you have no limits.

Related: Take Me to the Other Side

Only possibility.

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9 thoughts on “Unmoored: Emotional Free Fall After Divorce

  1. Really fantastic post, Lisa.

    I’ve always thought about it like an unanchored ship at sea. You just float. And some days are calm and beautiful. Others, stormy and terrifying.

    And if you’re strong enough to survive, life will, sooner or later, deliver you to solid ground again. A new world to explore.

    It absolutely was the scariest part of divorce, and even after 20 or so months, it probably still is.

    Good boat, though. Kind of like your’s. Everything’s going to be okay.

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

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