Songs in the Key of Divorce

When I was a kid I’d imagine a soundtrack to my life, just like the people in the movies. When Audrey Hepburn goes traipsing through the streets of New York, Henry Mancini‘s haunting melody, Moon River, follows her all the way to Tiffany’s. It’s the same for John Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, only this time it’s Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’.

So why not a soundtrack for me as I jauntily made my way through the streets of Flushing, New York? No such luck.  Henry Mancini wouldn’t give me the time of day. Ditto for Harry Nilsson. And forget John Williams. My Star Wars theme song just wasn’t in the cards.

But then something happened when my divorce was larger than life—consuming every waking moment—and haunting my dead-of-night dreams. Hands down, this was one of the most agonizing, unforgiving chapters of my life.

And so I invented my own soundtrack.  One created out of necessity, to help me cope and find sanity—and a bit of comfort, too. There are many stages in divorce and, lucky me, I didn’t miss a single one. So herewith are the songs that accompanied me during each of these phases:

Phase One: Shock, Denial  – Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You

Whitney Houston’s songs in The Bodyguard soundtrack got me through this stage. I was still having strong feelings for my ex, despite his shameless ways. I was still in denial that my marriage was over and my damn heart wasn’t ready to believe the worst, let alone move on. Perhaps, I needed Cher to yell at me to “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Sans that, Whitney voiced my emotions best.

Phase Two: Mourning – Carly Simon’s Coming Around Again

This was the period when Carly Simon’s songs from the film, Heartburn, became my constant companion. In Heartburn, Meryl’s character is pregnant and married to Jack Nicholson, a louse who cheats on her. Boy, could I relate! I wasn’t pregnant but, at the time, my youngest was still in diapers. A lot of the songs on this album are empowering, including my favorite, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, which is a twist on the childhood ditty. Coming Around Again gave me the kind of hope that springs eternal, representing my “I’m-a-survivor-like-Meryl-Street-in-Heartburn” period. It also showed me that the only solution to my divorce hell was the one that involved leaving my marriage behind, and moving on.

Phase Three: Rebuilding and S-l-o-w-l-y Moving On – Sting’s album, Ten Summoner’s Tales.

Can you believe I never listened to Sting before my divorce? Sure, I was familiar with The Police, but  Sting was already on his own and my marriage was unraveling around the time that this album came out. These songs put me in a different state of mind, making me feel like I was worth something. Sting’s music helped me rebuild my shattered self-esteem. Songs like, She’s Too Good for Me and Fields of Gold.

Phase Four: On My Own – U-2’s Joshua Tree

Pre-divorce, the only Bono I knew of was Sonny. But Bono of U-2 fame became my latest obsession after hearing a duet he sang with Frank Sinatra on, I’ve Got You Under My Skin. And boy, did Bono get under my skin, with his ultra sexy, bedroom voice.  I couldn’t get enough of this guy and then my friend Hellen, told me about U-2 and gave me the Joshua Tree CD. One play and I was smitten. Three songs made all the difference for me:  Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and With or Without You.

Phase Five: The Single Life—or to Hell with Being Married! – Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell II

Some may find this hard to believe, but during this time, I became a Meat Loaf junkie. Bat Out of Hell became my anthem.  Thanks to a gym I belonged to, where they’d play Meat Loaf constantly during some intense step classes, I became a dancing queen, finding new joy in my singleton life.  Best songs on this album include: I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That), Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire, and Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere).

The songs I chose to listen to became a part of my therapy and ultimately contributed to my healing.  So for all of you currently going through your divorces, or just thinking about it, now you have my “Divorce is Hell” playlist to add to your iTunes library.  Consider it my gift to you. Trust me, you’ll feel better.  And, you’ll also owe me one. So, you’re welcome.

22 thoughts on “Songs in the Key of Divorce

  1. Pingback: And I Quote « Monica's Tangled Web

  2. Monica,
    I’m looking through all of your divorce blog posts (and loving every single one of them!) and have to tell you I too made my soundtrack. I won’t bore you with the names of all my songs but have to mention that for my denial phase, the song was “If I can’t have you” by Yvonne Elliman and for the single life phase it was Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive!” 🙂 I’m happy that many years later, I now laugh my ass off every time I hear those songs! hee hee!

    • I just became a member of She Writes and I all I can say is, She Writes rocks! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Divorce can be traumatizing, and has loomed big in my life. I’ll be sure to check out the confession on your site today. Check out my post tomorrow; it’s going to be all about She Writes!

  3. Que interesante, realmente no habia visto la musica como terapia de este tipo de situaciones!. Buen consejo!.

  4. About 6 months ago I went to see Mumford & Sons at the Belly Up, before they “made it big.” I was familiar with some of their songs but not all. It was an amazing show and one song in particular created in me what felt like some type of epiphany, as if they were singing directly and specifically to me. The following lines brought on a feeling of relief and hope that is still a bit indescribable. : ‘and there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there. With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.’

    I’m still getting ‘over’ my hill but as corny as its sounds the song helps the process. Thanks for sharing your list 🙂

  5. When I went through my divorce, sad was not a feeling I was feeling…relief was more like it. I was simply glad that phase of my life was finally over. But a break-up after with a later boyfriend…who I fell madly for, caused me to turn to country music….the worst playlist ever to listen to when going through a break-up! Those songs combined with my own personal misery made me want to hang myself…so depressing! But, I got over my funk and turned to classic rock & roll. Who can feel miserable when Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler are having so much fun?

    Great post and thanks for reminding us exactly how important music is to our lives.

    • You know, I wasn’t really listening to country music then, but I have since. Anyone going through a breakup today can find comfort in many of the songs by Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift and Dixie Chicks without having to go into major funk because of the music. These women of country have great songs that can soothe, empower and not bring you to the brink of suicide. And that’s my two cents. 🙂

  6. I always think of you when I hear “Coming Around Again.” I love this idea of creating a soundtrack for periods of your life. I may do the same.

    • That album is the quintessential divorce survival album. I LOVE it, so I can see why it would remind you of me. I am forever grateful to Carly Simon for making that album just in time for such a critical time in my life.

  7. What I found completely ALARMING during my divorce was how much music really resonated — like at the SOUL level. I hadn’t been a big music lover prior, but it was actually helping. So I listened a lot. And listening to copious amounts of music is actually one of the reasons I started writing so much. I figured that if a silly 3-minute song could seriously lift my spirits or help me feel something that I NEEDED to feel, well then hell, spending a few hours putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) might just heal me overnight.

    That may have been overstatement. But it helped nonetheless.

    While I’m not a fan of any of his other songs, Daughtry’s “Over You” was my divorce anthem. And during my darker days, Abba’s “The Winner Takes it All” always made me weep like a baby…


    • “The Winner Takes it All” is a pitch-perfect, empowering song. You should keep it in mind this coming week as you face the music, if you will, in court. I know you’re going to come out on top, especially knowing that the winner, indeed, does takes it all!

  8. While I am not divorced, I cherish finding out how people cope with adversity. Music is not my things, but give me an hour of decorating or playing with a new art project and I am a recovered, refreshed and renewed woman. Thanks for sharing, Monica

    • Judy, Whatever gets us through tough times, is often the perfect remedy. For me, it was a few things, music being one of them. I also started journaling during this time. The two played a major role in my therapy. I always appreciate you stopping by!

  9. I love Carly Simon (and her ex, James Taylor)! My fiancé loves U2…I’m taking him to see them live this summer in Moncton.

    I listened to a lot of “hurtin’ songs after my marriage broke up in 1997…thankfully, I’m past that now!

    Nice piece, Monica!


    • Hi Wendy, yeah, I’m past that too. And now, when I listen to those songs today I can feel, all over again, a bit of the pain I felt back then. Nothing like a song to take you back.

    • Good one! Of course, I don’t think Pink was around in the early 90’s but if she was, I would’ve been listening to her through my dark period. I just love her music! Thanks for your commenting! 🙂

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