Tag Archives: Divorce in later life

Blue Christmas

Christmas can be hard.  I have a friend who was widowed 18 months ago, and she is struggling this year.  Although being widowed after 30+ years is different to being divorced (her husband didn’t choose to leave her) I believe the grief is similar.

‘Just get through the first year,’ people, who had never experienced loss, advised me.  “Get through that first birthday, anniversary, Christmas, whatever, and it will get easier.”

Little do they know.

That first ‘everything’ you are in shock.  It was the second one that my friend – and myself – found the hardest, because now it’s ‘real’.  This is how it’s going to be for the rest of your life.  He’s not coming back.

But let me assure you… with time it does get easier.  The holiday season is always going to be difficult with the memories it conjures up, but over time, things will get easier.

So… I have a project for you to make next Christmas a little better.

  1. Get yourself a large bowl or jar  – decorate it if you wish.
  2. Cut out 52 pieces of paper about one-and-a-half by two inches.
  3. Roll each up into a little scroll and tie it up with ribbon.
  4. Each week in 2020 write down something good that has happened to you that week and put it in the jar.
  5. On either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve 2020 open them up and read these new happy memories.

Wishing you peace this Christmas Season and every good wish for 2020.

The Ghosts of Christmases Past

There are times when I find it hard to believe this will be my fifth Christmas since my husband left me.

Christmas is a special time for every family. As an immigrant family, far from home, parents, siblings and cousins, we created our own traditions over more than thirty years  – everything from the number of trees we put up, to their decorations, to food and presents.

It’s a common belief that the ‘first’ of anything after a divorce (or death) is the hardest, but I’m not sure that’s true.  That first year I remained in total shock as the ‘firsts’ rolled around.  My daughter gave birth to her first child – a wee boy –  two days before that ‘first’ Christmas, so mixed in with all that grief, there was a huge amount of joy.

For me the ‘seconds’ were the hardest, because that’s when it became real.  This was what it was going to be like for the rest of my life.  Also, by two years in, my friends and family felt I should be ‘over’ it so it wasn’t something anyone except friends who had been through similar experiences really understood..

Navigating these past few years, as Christmas has taken on a whole new shape, has been tricky.  While life generally bumps along, it’s at times like this, when society suggests that families should be at their happiest and closest, when those family fractures feel deeper than ever.

But while many of those Christmases over my 37 years of married life have blurred into one, I’ve had a couple of experiences over the past few years that have made these Christmases amongst the most special of my life.

The first came about in November 2015, about 8 months after my husband left me.  I’d gone back to Scotland and was visiting an old friend.  She’s known me (and my ex) forever, and tears were streaming down my face as I told her what had happened. A little while later, she handed me a small parcel.  When I opened it, I discovered it was a handmade cross stitch Merry Christmas Banner. “I want you to have something new, something special this Christmas,” she said.  “Something that has nothing to do with him or your past.”  She’d started making it for me not long after she found out the news of my separation. The work- and thought – that went into each stitch, made me feel so loved and protected.

The second…? Last year my daughter invited me to stay over at her place on Christmas Eve so that I could be there on Christmas morning to see my grandson’s reaction to his presents under the tree.  It was an experience I will never forget and one I would never have had if I’d still been married.  Forget the pile of presents,  his eyes went as wide as saucers when he saw that Santa had ‘drinked the drink’ he had left out for him the night before.

Drinked the drink.

A beautiful innocent phrase born out of pain and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Courage, Persistence and Self-Belief

This video just popped up on my Facebook feed and I felt the need to share it.  The courage, persistence and self-belief of this dog is amazing.

Watching him, blindfolded, stepping out into the unknown brought me back to that first year after my husband left me.  If ever there is a visual metaphor for what it’s like walking, terrified, into a new life, blindsided and blindfolded – this is it.

I felt that dog’s fear in a visceral way.  It’s uncertainty.  But – despite near falls hear and there –  he kept putting one foot in front of the other until he got where he was going.

Just out of shot, you know his owner is there encouraging him – just as family and friends were there for me – but ultimately he was the one on the tightrope, doing it alone.

So, if you’re in the early stages of a divorce, and feel just like this dog, take heart.

In case you couldn’t watch the whole thing – he makes it to the other side.

And so can you.

So WILL you.

 

 

Trigger dates

For the last ten years of my marriage, August 5th, was a date that brought me joy. On  August 5th, 2005, after enduring four years of kidney dialysis, my husband was given the generous gift of a cadaver donor kidney.

I remember that day clearly; the lunchtime phone call from the hospital and their inability to contact my husband.  (Although he had a cell phone, he refused to carry it.)  Even though I was his wife, for reasons of patient confidentiality they couldn’t tell me the reason for their call, but they did answer my question.  “Is it time sensitive?” I asked.

The voice on the other line replied, “Yes’.

“How long does he have?” ”

“Thirty minutes.”

Thirty minutes and they’d give the kidney to someone else.

My son and I swung into action.  I phoned every person and place I could possibly think of where my husband might be. My son jumped into my car and literally cruised the streets downtown, close to his office, looking for him.

Long story short, they got to the hospital in time and he got the kidney.

I remember that night, seeing him post op, unconscious, his body swollen with all the fluid he’d received.  Honestly… he looked so white and awful I was terrified he might die.  But he survived and our lives changed. No longer were any of us – but particularly him – tied to the relentless demands of the dialysis machine.

Ten years later, on August 5th, my daughter discovered that the story my husband had fed all of us – that there was no-one else involved in his decision to break up our marriage – was an outright, and deliberate, lie.

Until that moment, I think I’d carried the illusion that our marriage might still be saved.  After that moment… after almost 40 years of loving him, I felt irrelevant and worthless. I wasn’t worth being told the truth.  What purpose did I have?  What meaning did my life have?  What meaning or purpose had I ever had?

Over the past few years, the sense of worthlessness has eased.  It’s a cliche but true – how someone treats you says nothing about you and everything about them. My meaning and purpose have started to crawl back, but August 5th is never an easy day.

And then, driving to pick up a friend from the airport today, I saw a sign by the side of the road that said, “You matter’.

It turns out it’s one of many signs displayed around our city by the woman depicted in this article. She states, “I believe that someone out there read that sign and it made their day better.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but Ann made my day better. Tomorrow – August 5th – will be much easier.

Thank you, Ann.

 

Should You Meet The Other Woman?

When my husband left me, he insisted there was no-one else… but hoped there might be someone in the future.  And he promised, out of respect for me and our kids, that he wouldn’t even attempt to date for six months.

In my gut I knew there was someone else but I was accused of being paranoid. Hadn’t he promised me there was no one?? But then the truth came out. Yes, there had been another woman all along. Continue reading

What do you need more of in your life?

Photo by Ju Carvalho.

Gumption: the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a given situation, and to do it with energy and determination.

After a six-month break, I’ve started writing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages again.  I’ve struggled for a few days getting even two pages written, far less three, so, to make things a bit easier for myself, this morning I used a journalling prompt I found on Pinterest last night.

“What do you need more of in your life?”

The three pages came quick and fast – oh yes, I need a lot more self-discipline, a good dose of self-belief, and a little male company wouldn’t go wrong – but it wasn’t until about halfway down the last page that I finally figured it out.  What I need – what I really need more of – in my life is ‘gumption’.  Find that, and perhaps the rest will fall into place. Continue reading

Welcome to Life!

A friend sent me this photo off the internet.  I don’t know where she found it, so I am unable to give it a correct attribution, and I also hope I’m not breaching anyone’s copyright, but it illustrates everything I have learned about life since my husband left me.

Times will be hard – often achingly so – but this picture reminds me of a lesson Fred Rogers learned as a child. “When I was a boy,” he said, “and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”

He might have been speaking about major disasters, but divorce is a major disaster in your life. And he is still right. Friends, family, people who support you through this time are your personal helpers. And they will be there.  Treasure them. They will lift you up.

Choose your words carefully.

I’ve been thinking a lot about subtext recently –  when someone says something that doesn’t match up to what they actually think or mean – and it got me thinking about some of the things people said to me in the days, weeks, months, even years, after my husband left me.

“You’re better off without him.”

“Think of it as being released.”

“He was a weight around your neck.”

“I never trusted him.”

“The first time my husband cheated on me would be his last time.”

“You should have walked out years ago.”

I know what my friends and family were trying to do.  They were trying to comfort me.  Support me.  Help me.  Love me.  I know they were, but sometimes those words of ‘support’ cut me to the core.

Because if you really look at those phrases, and how they can be interpreted by someone who is in emotional pain, it’s not hard to read the subtext behind them.  Continue reading

Will you still need me… Will you still feed me…

… when I’m sixty-four?

I loved my birthday. As a summer baby, it happened during the holidays, so there was an added magic to it. I felt so sorry for those classmates who had to go to school on their special day.

As a wife and mother I loved it too. My husband and I would either go out for a meal – usually accompanied by a bottle of Dom Perignon – or we’d have all the kids round at the weekend for a family meal.

And then… suddenly I found myself facing my 60th birthday alone. Continue reading