This too shall pass…

There are times when all the inspirational quotes in the world, all the positive self-talk, all the telling yourself that you should be over this, that you’re moving on, that you’re stronger and better than you were, all the kind supportive comments of friends, family and counsellors just don’t cut it.  Something triggers you and the tears and pain and grief cuts right into your soul leaving you as raw and in such emotional agony as those early days.

There’s nothing – nothing – anyone else can do to help or console you. You know you’re just going to have to go down that dark path by yourself and know you’ll come out the other end into the light.

And when you do emerge into the light, it’ll be bitter-sweet, because you know that somewhere down the line – maybe not for weeks, months or even years – that darkness is waiting for you up ahead, hiding out of sight, waiting to pounce again when you’re feeling vulnerable.

For me, it was a combination of things. I had packed away all the pictures that include my ex-husband – or at least I thought I had.  But last night I came upon a family photo taken of us all a couple of years before he left me. We look happy.  Solid.  I’m looking at the camera with total innocence, his arm around me, no idea that my marriage and family are about to implode.  

Was he planning his departure even then?  Is that photo a lie?

And if it’s not a lie, if we were happy, if we were solid, if he did love me, how could he have stopped loving me so suddenly?

That’s almost worse to deal with.

That started the descent. I’m also jet-lagged, recovering from a bad cold and dealing with a chronic low grade pain in my hip which is currently being investigated, so finding that photo when I was tired and run-down led to the perfect storm.

I cried for about a solid hour  – probably the first time I’ve cried that much for over a year – and I know that, sitting here writing this right now, it wouldn’t take much to start me off again. 

I know it’s going to be better.  I know my life already is better.  I just have to look at the jar of dimes I started at the beginning of the year – two jars, one for bad days, the other for good days. I add a dime to one of them every evening.  There are only 3 dimes currently in the ‘bad day’ jar.  Three out of seventy-two – that’s pretty damn good.

But when you’re in that pain, it doesn’t help.

But… I’m holding on. I know I’ll get through.  I know I’ll come out the other end.

But I’m not the same as I was and I have to accept that.  That happy innocent woman smiling at the camera has gone forever.

On the outside I might appear like I’m moving on, that I have my life in order – and I am.  Trust me, I am. But inside I know that my heart is broken.  It will heal – it is healing – but someone who has had a heart attack is left with a permanent scar on his heart muscle.

It’s the same, I believe, if your heart has been broken emotionally. That scar will always be there.  Most days you’ll be fine, but once and a while you’ll get a reminder of the damage.

And then it will pass again.

Hang in there.

It gets better…

Although my husband left me almost three years ago, I was only officially divorced exactly one year ago today – March 6th, 2017.  One of the saddest days of my life.

In many ways, I feel the end of our marriage was the biggest failure of my life and for so long the pain was excruciating, both physically and emotionally.

I remember people who’d been through the same thing assuring me that things would get better, but in the midst of that agony I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

If you’re in the early stages of this process, I want to let you know that they were right. It does get better.  I know it might not feel like it right now, and you may still have many dark days ahead of you, but it will get better.  You will become stronger.  You will become more resilient.  You will – you will – become happier.  That’s not to say that there won’t be times, like today for me, when you won’t look back with a sense of loss, but it will get better.

This time a few years ago I couldn’t have imagined today.  I spent it with my brother and sister-in-law.  We had a lovely lunch out, then we went for a walk along the Thames, enjoying a chocolate ice cream as we watched ducks paddling furiously against the current, dogs careening around the park, tails battering with joy from side to side, new mothers out walking their babies, adults out walking with their aging parents.

Despite today’s anniversary and the sad loss it represented, it was a good day.  I had a good day yesterday.  I will most likely have good day tomorrow.

And so will you. If not tomorrow, then one day.

Hang in there.  I does get better.  I promise.

It Takes Two To Make a Relationship Work…

… or does it?

Princess Diana famously said, ‘There were three of us in our marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’

And then there’s that old chestnut, “It takes two to destroy a marriage.”

After my ex left me, I wrestled with both those sayings.

If it hadn’t been for my ex’s girlfriend (now wife) giving him an ultimatum, would he have ever left?

And if it takes two for a marriage to break down, then I must share 50% of the blame for the failure of mine. 

I asked my husband, ‘What did I do wrong?’ 

‘Nothing’, he replied.  ‘I just wanted more. I fell out of love with you and in love with her.’

But I continued to berate myself. I must have done something wrong, or there must have been something so wrong with me, that he would give up on our almost 40 year-old marriage without ever telling me he was unhappy. If he was prepared to go to pre-marriage counselling with his girlfriend to prevent them making the ‘mistakes’ we had, couldn’t he have suggested counselling for him and I before he decided to leave me? Maybe that way we could at least have tried to sort out what issues it appears we had?

What was the ‘more’ that I was so lacking?  The mental agony and guilt of wrestling with my ‘failure’ as a wife is, I’m sure, what led to me having a nervous breakdown in 2016.

And then a few months ago, I read this article and it was as if a weight lifted from my shoulders.  The article suggests that it’s not true that it take two for a marriage to fail.  It will fail if only one person is truly in that marriage.

If I’m 100% honest, there are probably some things I could have done that might have saved our marriage, but in the long run, I’m not sure they would have made a difference.  Given my ex later admitted he’d wanted out of our marriage for over 15 years, it means, for 15 years, there was only one of us in our marriage.

And it wasn’t him.

The reality is, we’re now divorced. He’s remarried. I’m rebuilding my life.

But the weight of that burden of guilt I carried has been somewhat eased.

On Being a Single Grandparent

My husband’s job took him away from home, so I spent a lot of time as a single-parent. Particularly when our kids were really young, he was often gone for weeks, months, and one time for over a year, with only two short visits home.

I loved my husband.  I love my kids and grandkids.  As immigrants, with extended family living thousands of miles away, I cherished our tiny family unit. When our kids got married and the first grandchild came along, it was wonderful seeing that family expand.

I loved it when my husband and I spent time with our little granddaughter, babysitting her for a few hours, or having her for a sleepover.  We took her to our local park, out for dinner or breakfast, and once – unsuccessfully – to the movies. Spending time with her, it was like we were getting a chance to make up for all the time we’d spent apart and unable to enjoy our own kids together when they were little.

So when my husband walked out on me, he didn’t just destroy our marriage.  Our family – us, our kids and grandkids – was shattered.

Three years later, I’m starting to find a new normal. But what our first granddaughter got to experience with her grandparents as a unit, no longer exists. And after years of being, at times, a single parent, I now find myself a single grandparent.

That was brought home to me the other day. My daughter and I were walking her son home from day home.  He was a bit fractious, so we played the One, two, three… wheeeeh, game with him.  I’m sure you know it.  The one where you each take one of the child’s hands, count to three, then swing him up for a big jump.  His mood quickly changed and within seconds he was giggling instead of grumpy.  I remember my ex and I doing that with our eldest granddaughter and her loving it, but we’ve never had that chance with our second granddaughter, grandson, or the grandchild on its way. And they’ve never had that chance with us.

And that makes me sad.

For us.

But mostly for them.

Our eldest granddaughter still remembers those days, and our separation both confuses and saddens her.

Needless to say, they do much better for presents nowadays than when my husband and I were together.

But does ‘stuff’ really make up for what they’ve lost?

What we’ve lost?

Handling Money When Navigating the Divorce Process

MoneyWhen I was going through the whole devastating separation/divorce process, I felt like I was drowning in emotional pain and fear about my future – specifically my money future.

I was the typical stay-at-home wife and mother, so when divorce hit at the ripe old age of 64, I hadn’t worked “outside” in any serious capacity for almost 35 years. That meant no recent job experience, no “proof” that I could take on work, and I was well beyond the best by date for anything that paid better than minimum wage. (And I’d be lucky to even get that!) Or did I have to get a job – could I get by without it? How much money did I even need?

Money was and still is a problem for me, but I think I could have handled some things  better and perhaps spared myself a few sleepless nights. So here are a few things I learned that can maybe help you.

Get Financial Help
In the early stages, before anything is settled, find a financial professional who can help discover and organize marital assets, make negotiating plans and strategies, and then later help you plan within your changed financial situation.

This, I think, is vital and something that I didn’t do. Yes, your lawyer (if you’re using one) can offer some advice but that’s not her expertise. I tried to figure things out myself, learning about retirement plans, pension plans, insurances, taxes in the middle of an emotional storm. As a result, I didn’t always make good decisions.

Make and Understand Your Budget
Another thing I didn’t do – at least not at first. I really had no clear idea about how much money went where. How much did I spend a month on groceries? On gifts? On clothing? You need to do this, no matter how scary it might be. Because once you know what you’ve been spending, you have a starting place for what you want from the settlement.

There are several free online budget programs that aren’t difficult to use, such as – one that I’m working with.
Banks, lawyers usually offer budget worksheets for their customers, or make up your own in a notebook.

Money is scary. Not understanding money is terrifying. If you can, get someone close to help you. Face the fear.

Get Your Bank
If you haven’t done so already, you need to open your own bank account, preferably a different bank from the one used in marriage. Make an appointment with the bank’s financial advisor and introduce yourself, explain what you’re going through. If you don’t feel comfortable with this person, be brave and try someone else. It’s important that you have someone you can talk to and feel confident about. Even if you know you aren’t going to have much money, it’s still YOUR money. That was one of the most difficult things for me to truly grasp: I was responsible (and in charge).

Know Your Benefits
As I mentioned, I didn’t work outside the home for many years, so had no pension of my own and no money of my own, but I did qualify for many seniors’ benefits even before I was eligible for Social Security/Old Age Pension. Banks, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, hotels – many offer discounts and specials. Once I started looking, it was quite surprising what is out there. I had to cut back on many expenses, yes, but I found I could also save quite a bit of money if I became aware.

Furthermore, if money is really tight, there are many government and social agencies that are there to help those with low incomes. Take advantage of everything you can, especially as you are finding your way through. Grab hold of every life raft that comes by and keep yourself afloat until you reach shore. There is no shame in surviving.

Don’t make hasty decisions. Try to understand your finances, prospects–what will your new “single” life look like? Maybe staying in your marital home is no longer an option or if it is, is it the right option?

If at all possible, try to look at your situation as you might look at a business, keeping emotional issues out of the picture as much as possible. Easier said than done, believe me, I know this. Just remember: you are not powerless. One step at a time, forward into your new life.