Tag Archives: Grey Divorce

The Cruellest Month

T.S Eliot’s poem claims that ‘April is the cruellest month’, but when it comes to marital break-ups, that title belongs to January.  In fact, Family Lawyers refer to January as ‘Divorce Month’ as it’s the busiest month of the year for divorce filings.

Why?  Because many spouses hold off for Xmas to be over before they drop the bombshell.  And although my husband didn’t leave me until – ironically enough – April, I can now look back and say with certainty that December 27th, 2014 was the day he checked out of our marriage both mentally and emotionally.

With the divorce rate now being 40% in Canada, it’s possible you have found yourself in this situation over what is supposed to be the happiest season of the year.

They say only fools give or accept advice, so what I’m going to offer here is an observation from someone who is almost 5 years down the path in which you might have suddenly found yourself.

Bear with me.

I went out for a New Year’s walk along the river path this afternoon, and what I saw was a perfect metaphor for where you might have unwillingly found yourself.  Along with several other spectators, I stood on a bridge and watched as some chunks of ice  floated along the river, before smashing into an ice jam.  There they lay, stuck, for some time, until one or two broke free and slid under an ice bridge.

We watched.  Would they reappear… or would they be trapped under the ice until spring came along to release them?

But no… first one, then another emerged from the ice and continued on their journey.

It still wasn’t smooth sailing.  There were more ice jams, more ice bridges to navigate. Sometimes they got caught once more… but they finally broke free and continued down the river.

And that’s what the journey through divorce feels like.  Especially in the early stages.  You get battered from place to place until there are times when you feel like you are drowning.  But then you re-emerge and continue down your path.  It’s still not going to be plain sailing, and there’ll be another ice jam.  Once again you may get stuck… but once again you WILL break free.

As I headed towards the second bridge which would bring me back across the river, I found it closed off to the public. Structural problems, apparently! So I had to make a detour to a smaller bridge about 100 yards away.  This one was decorated in roses, the flowers of summer.  And as I made my way across it, I spied 2 pieces of ice floating quite happily down the river.  But what they didn’t know, was they were approaching some small rapids.  They were in for a bumpy time.

And that made me think about this post-divorce  journey. In the beginning, it’s rough, so rough that you feel like you’re drowning in the pain and anger and loss and grief.  But, over time, it starts to ease. You go through a smooth patch… and then it gets rocky again.  Smooth for longer this time… then you hit some rapids… but then it eases and you float along.

And so it goes.

If you’re on this painful journey, trust me, you’ve got it, girl.  You can do it.

This year, you will discover that you are stronger than you ever believed possible.

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.

 

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

Check your Will. Now!!

If you had a will written in the year after your husband left you, I suggest you go and look at it now.  And I mean NOW!

I had one professionally drawn up within that time period, brought it home, tucked it away safely in my firesafe and have never looked at it since.

Until yesterday, when,  due to certain new circumstances in my life, I had a reason to look at it again.

And I was horrified.

I was in the middle of a nervous breakdown when I drew up the will.  I clearly wasn’t thinking straight.  And although the responsibility for its contents ultimately lies on my shoulders, how on earth did my lawyer allow me to draw up a document like that?!

In short, when it came to bequests, I had put in dollar amounts rather than percentages.  It means that if I died today – two years after the final divorce settlement and monies came through – then two of my friends would get more than three times the money left to my kids.

And that is NOT what I want to happen.

So here’s my advice for this weekend.

Haul out your will and read through it.  Does it still match your wishes and circumstances?

If it does, that’s great. 

If not, get yourself to a lawyer asap and get it changed.

Be very – very – careful of the wording if you are leaving amounts of money in dollar amounts rather than percentages. 

Review your will once a year to ensure it matches your current circumstances.

Meet The Day

A video came through on my Facebook feed today –  an old interview with the actor Pierce Brosnan where he talked about the grief he experienced when his first wife died.  How did he cope?  His response – With young children to care for, he just had to get up and Meet the Day.

I remember my mum asking one of her friends, whose husband died when their children were young, how she had coped. Her friend replied that she just had to get on with it.  She had young children to feed, clothe, house and bring up.  And, she admitted, in some ways it was perhaps easier than if he she had been left alone later in life. She had no choice. She just had to get on with it – for the children’s sake. Despite everything, she had a purpose. A vitally important purpose.

One of the challenges of senior divorce is that we are usually left with only having one person to look after.  Ourselves.  And as wives and mothers, we’ve always put ourselves at the bottom of the pecking order behind husbands and children.  With our children probably grown with families of their own by now, it can be hard to suddenly switch focus from being a wife and mother to being… ourselves.

And there are times when it’s all too easy to wonder if the fight is worth it.

But it is.  Truly it is.  If you are at the beginning of this journey, please trust me. When it first happened to me, others who had been down the same path assured me it would get better/easier – and they were right. It will take time, and there may be a few missteps along the way, but it won’t always hurt this much and YOU are worth it.

Pierce’s advice is good advice  Get up and Meet The Day.

Set your alarm. Get out of bed when it rings, and make your bed before you can be tempted to climb back under the covers and sleep away the day.  Have a shower.  Put your clothes on – nice ones, not your ratty t-shirt and jeans. Meet that day face on.

If the day looms empty before you – weekends can be the worst –  make a plan of attack the night before.
For example:
– Arrange to meet a friend for coffee.
– If you need to go back to work, work on your resume and contact the library to see if they offer any free workshops to help you update your skills.
– Get outside if you can and go for a walk.  Or a bike ride. Go swimming. Volunteer at your local dog rescue centre to become a dog walker.
– Do something creative – write, draw, paint, sew, play the piano, redecorate your room, bake a cake.
– Keep a gratitude journal – find 5 things to be grateful for that day.
– If you have to meet with your lawyer and find it overwhelming, ask a friend to go with you.
– If you find Morning Pages useful/helpful, start your day by writing in your journal

It’s hard.  Painfully hard – especially those first weeks, months, year – but you can do it.

You are stronger than you think.

Meet.  The.  Day.

 

 

What’s in a name?

Deciding to change your name is a very personal decision. Although I loved being a wife and (love being) a mother, my feeling was that if my ex didn’t want me, I no longer wanted to carry his name. Embarking on my own Shirley Valentine quest to try and rediscover the me I used to be, I would do it with my ‘own’ name.

One reaction I got from someone who had only ever known me by my married name was very inspiring.  They claimed my own name sounded like a character from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and told me to, “Go out and be the heroine of your own story.”

So what does changing your name actually involve?  When I married in the late 70s it was easy.  I had one bank account, a driver’s licence and a passport.  Done and dusted.

Now, 40 years later, it’s more complicated.  Some of it is costly, some of it’s not.  So how do you go about it?

No matter where you live, the most important thing to start with is to collect ALL of your ORIGINAL documents; birth certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate.  (Some people are tempted to dispose of the latter.  Don’t!)

After that, it will depend where you live.  I live in Canada, so this is how I proceeded.

  1. Driver’s Licence.  I took along all 3 certificates and got my new driver’s licence at my local AMA office. (Free)
  2. Once I had my driver’s licence for ID, I was able to change my provincial Health Care Card.  I also did that at the AMA office.  (Free)
  3. I then visited the bank with my new ID and all three original certificates and changed all my account info including credit cards etc.  (Free.)  I also have a bank account in the UK, so I needed to visit the bank with all three ORIGINAL certificates to have that changed.  (Free – except for the cost of getting there!)  This applied to my bank, it may not be the same with others, so check out what you need with your branch.
  4. Social Insurance Number.  This is where original documents are so important, especially if you were born or married overseas.  This was done at my local government office. (Free) They assured me the change would automatically be transferred over to the Taxation Agency, but it’s a good idea to…
  5. … contact your Taxation Agency and confirm that has been done.  Especially before you file your annual taxes. (Free)
  6. Passport.  Ironically I needed less ID for my passport than my Social Insurance Number – they didn’t need my marriage certificate.  Fortunately my passport was up for renewal anyway, so it only cost me the normal amount.
  7. House title.  I’ve still to do that, so I’m not sure what the cost will be.
  8. Then come other important considerations:  car ownership, car insurance, house insurance etc.  These were all free and done at my local AMA office.
  9. Then the minor things – library cards, loyalty reward cards, membership cards. Most of these will be free.
  10. Time share property.  I co-own an overseas timeshare property with my daughter – who is also my executor.  They need original documents AND it will cost approximately $300 to change my name on our joint title.  I will do that on our next visit to the property.

There are probably other things which I haven’t factored in, but I believe these are the most common.  In general, it’s not an expensive undertaking, but it is time-consuming, and here I am, two years after beginning the process, still catching things every so often.

Was it worth it?  I have friends who kept their married names and are perfectly happy about their decisions.  But for me, changing my name has helped me move forward.

One of the last scenes in Shirley Valentine is when her husband passes her on the beach.  She calls out his name and he stops, surprised.
“I didn’t recognise you,” he says.
“I know,” she replies. “I used to be The Mother.  I used to be The Wife.  Now I’m Shirley Valentine again.”

 

Trigger Dates

Version 2

I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning – kind of dizzy and lightheaded. When I looked in the mirror I thought I looked a bit pale. I brushed it off, putting it down to leaving the island on the first boat today and not sleeping terribly well last night.

We were on the ferry when my daughter said Continue reading