Facing the Worst Year of Your Life...From the Other Side of the Desk.

Photo credit: Nicolaus Wegner 2014
Photo credit: Nicolaus Wegner 2014

By Elizabeth Degi DuBois, MA 

Thirteen months of sturm und drang transpired between my first consultation with a divorce attorney and my decision to throw down a retainer and exit stage left from a marriage that had grown increasingly unbearable. I had sat with the reality of how toxic had marriage had become several weeks before my initial consultation in March 2017, making the appointment only after my closest confidants lovingly told me putting divorce on the table didn’t mean I actually had to move forward.

I hyperventilated in my car for nearly half an hour after that first legal consultation, which consisted of an hour or so of getting an idea of the road ahead, should I wish to move forward. Armed with information about what the process would look like— and cost!— I confronted my husband and told him things had to change.

Fast forward a year and three months. I found myself sitting face to face with Christy Zlatkus, Esquire, recounting details of why I was making the final call to leave. After my word vomit and my tears slowed a bit, she spoke. What she told me gave me freedom, and gave me strength: 

“This is going to be the worst year of your life.”

Hearing Christy honestly reflect back to me that what I was going through was not just rough, but literally the worst thing I’d gone through was so validating. I’d heard “I’m sorry,” “I’m here for you,” “how can I help,” “I’ve been there and it gets better.” All of those things were said in kindness and love, but they didn’t ground me in the present reality, they promised of things to come; be it support or a New Normal in some distant future.

Hearing “This is going to be the worst year of your life,” validated what was happening Right. This. Second. I was raw from the miscarriage, exhausted from years of fighting and wrestling with the decision to stay or go, and treading furiously to keep my head above water emotionally so I could be some semblance of the mother my son deserved. I couldn’t think about anything other than the immediate NOW: Who would we live? How would I pay for it? Were there clean clothes for school tomorrow? Anything beyond the immediate present was overwhelming.

There was freedom in having someone— an attorney I trusted, no less— mirror back to me what I was feeling. I felt like I was going through the hardest thing I’d ever experienced, and lo and behold a professional was sitting across the desk from me, nodding her head and saying, “Yep. This sucks.”

Interestingly, in addition to grounding me in the present, hearing “this is going to be the worst year of your life” gave me freedom to feel a little less scared about the future. Hearing “it gets better” felt like I was supposed to smile and press on, hearted by the fact that one day it would not suck. Knowing that it would indeed suck for quite a bit longer— a year, in fact!— let me just relax into the reality of the situation, rather than mentally be on the lookout for signs that things were looking up.

Now on the other side of The Worst Year, things are indeed looking up. There is no legal battle boiling in the background of the daily routine of packing lunches and kissing boo-boos, no court dates to find a babysitter for. My ex and I have a workable détente that translates into our kiddo having both parents present for his birthday cupcakes at school. The best of our marriage ended long ago; thankfully, so too has the worst of our divorce.