Life dishes out painful experiences. You don’t reach sixty-five without weathering tough stuff. In my life, no experience has been more excruciating than divorce.

I never intended to end my marriage. I took vows to stay in it for a lifetime. I begged my therapist, Robin, to teach me skills that would keep me mentally healthy in an environment that was toxic for me.

Then one sad, lonely night I finally decided I’d endured enough. I gathered up my flip flops, the clothes on my back, my slim check book, climbed into the car and took off.

I left on Memorial Day, 2002. I gave myself three months to watch, consider, see if there was genuine commitment to change and growth. And I prayed. Prayers were answered. In the fall I hired an attorney.

I felt enormous guilt. How do you end a twenty-eight-year marriage without feeling remorse? My decision dropped a boulder into the pond of three other lives. I created a tsunami.

My poor kids.

I’d followed them around when they were toddlers, my arms on either side of them so they wouldn’t bump into sharp corners. Now I was making a choice that would affect them in the most horrific way possible.

Every single speck of life as I knew it shattered. Friendships were torn asunder. People who had been family members for the better part of a lifetime no longer were. And that ugly word, the one uttered only in a whisper by my mother because it was so shameful, became the description of myself.  Divorcee.

Several years later a friend called me to ask the name and phone number of my lawyer. She was considering leaving her marriage. I advised, “Kate, think this through long and hard. Ending a marriage, in my experience, is more painful than the death of a family member.” She stayed. I see her on Facebook. It’s nice to know her family is intact.

As for me, I don’t regret pulling the plug. I now live in a consistent environment. My husband of twelve years is steady, gentle, and unfailingly kind. I know without a doubt there will never be another divorce in my future.