Tag Archives: loneliness after divorce

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.

A friend in need…

I always thought I was a pretty solitary person, and that I didn’t have many friends. How wrong I was. They say ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ and when I was in need, they showed up. I can only hope that in future, I can be such a friend to others.

The following is a letter of thanks I sent to those amazing people who helped me through that first year. I’m posting it here for the following reasons.

  • During that year, there were countless nights (and days) when I was literally on my knees with grief. The pain was so great there were times I dreamed of going to sleep and never waking up. But there were good moments too – more than I realised until I wrote them down – and I survived. And you will too.
  • Friends and family were – and remain – crucial. They will be there for you. Accept their help.
  • An acquaintance read my letter. She had a friend going through something similar, and she said the examples I gave, suggested ways she could help her friend.

Dear Friends:

Tomorrow, August 5th, 2016, is a day I never imagined would, or wanted to, happen. I will be signing the final settlement papers on my divorce.

When I took my wedding vows back in 1977, I meant every word, yet here I find myself, 39 years later, a soon to be divorcee. What the hell happened? If you’ve been told that we ‘drifted apart’ or that our split was a ‘mutual decision’, please know that’s not what happened. His ‘office wife’ demanded – and was given – a promotion.

The last 15 months have been hell. They say grief is the price we pay for love. Trust me, I have paid. Big time. I never realized grief hurts so much, both emotionally and physically, and there is no way I would ever have got through the terrifying sensation of teeteering on a high wire with no safety net below me, or the countless nights that found me curled up in a ball on the carpet sobbing, without the support of YOU – my family and friends. So if I have spoken to you in any form – in real life, by phone, skype or digitally – since that morning he walked out on me, please accept a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This – in no particular order – is just some of what you have done for, and with, me over the past eighteen months: helped me carry 66 heavy packing boxes into my new apartment, refused to allow me to spend ‘trigger days’ alone; hauled me off for the weekend on my birthday; opened your homes to me so I can just ‘be’, cry, sleep and walk your dog; taken me dog-walking in the park at midnight; introduced me to Chinese food I would never have tried on my own; spent endless – endless – hours on skype or telephone calls assuring me I will be okay; accompanied me to legal or financial meetings; walked a labyrinth; tried to teach me to swim; taken me out on the lake in a paddle boat; taken me to the theatre, movies, a home music concert, a folk festival; invited me out for coffee, lunch or dinner; planned the entire itinerary of a holiday so all I had to do was show up; introduced me to live jazz; climbed hills and mountains; ticked a climb to a Highland lochan off my bucket list; written and thrown a message in a bottle into the ocean (no reply yet!); taken me to, and picked me up from, the airport; ordered in pizza and laughed with me at Graham on the Beeb; given me a hug just because I looked like I needed one; given me foot balm to ease my ‘soles’; made me laugh by signing yourself the founding member of FAAC – Frank’s An Arse Club; gone through my settlement line by line, time after time, helping me through the legal morass; stood under the Big Dipper, glittering in an indigo sky, and reminding me we were truly blessed; asked a musician to play my favourite tune for me when I was too shy to ask for myself; cooked for me; allowed me to cook for you; taught me Feelin’ Groovy on the ukulele at 8 in the morning; sat in the sun or round the kitchen table sharing a bottle of wine (or two) or a meal; walked – through fields, glens, parks, ancient historical buildings, city streets, shopping malls, lanes that Mary Queen of Scots once rode down; come with me to the vet when I had to put my beloved golden retriever down; shared a picnic in the park; played guitar and sung in front of an open fire in a Scottish pub; encouraged me to get back to writing; gone second-hand clothes shopping and giggling like teenagers as we mixed and matched outfits in the changing room; made me beautiful handmade Christmas decorations so I can start afresh with new holiday traditions; assured me that I wasn’t going mad – that it’s all part of the process; inspired me by surviving your own later-in-life divorces and showing me there is light at the end of the tunnel; shared the challenges of divorce from a kid’s point of view so I can try and understand what my own kids are going through; been present at the birth of my grandson – (was also present for the birth of both my granddaughters before all this began which was just as incredible); invited me to visit you, no matter which part of the world you live in – I hope you meant it because if I haven’t already, I will turn up on your doorstep (having given you warning and making sure the invitation is real) one day; encouraged me to (successfully) submit a photo to the BBC.

YOU ARE ALL AMAZING – EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. To have you all in my life, to have your support and friendship, I truly am blessed. You know that saying, that when the night is the darkest, the stars sparkle the brightest? Well you have been my stars.

I know I’m not totally through it yet. In fact, the counsel from those of you who have already walked this path is that the sense of loss never – completely – goes away. Not 100%. My heart has been scarred emotionally, in the same way that the heart muscle of someone who has experienced a heart attack is physically scarred. You can’t love someone for 20, 30, 40 years and turn it off, just like that, when they do. There will still be days when it hits me hard, but I am stronger now because you were there when I needed you.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

 

Getting Through The Weekend

I’ve always loved the weekend. The anticipation of that last period on a Friday afternoon in high school, when our French teacher let us read old copies of Paris Match, instead of having to endure learning verbs or vocabulary or translating French to English or vice versa.

And then that drag on the stomach on a Sunday evening, listening to ‘Sing Something Simple’ on the radio, driving back from a day out on the coast, knowing school beckoned the next morning.

Or when the kids were young, and Friday afternoon meant the freedom of the weekend, just hanging out and enjoying being with them, before the Sunday evening routine of making sure homework was done, bags packed and clothes laid out for school next morning.

When it was just my husband and I, Friday evening meant going out for dinner with the weekend ahead to just hang out, sitting out on the deck with a glass of wine, shooting the breeze, going to a movie, visiting the kids, having our granddaughter for a sleepover, having the family round for Sunday brunch or a barbecue. Weekends were… perfect.

And then my world dissolved and everything went topsy-turvy. Now I dreaded Friday afternoon when everyone went home to relax. Friends who’d been available for coffee during the week were now tied up with their own husbands and families.

The weekend now emphasized just how alone I was. If I’d had a job, things might have been easier, but very often at this age we are retired, or have not worked in years. Now I couldn’t wait for Sunday evening when the world went back to ‘normal’ and I could, once again, look forward to meeting with my friends.

Two years in, I don’t dread the weekend any more. I’ve established new routines, but those early months were hard. Very hard. But you’ll get through them. I’m not pretending it will be easy, but you will.

Here are some ideas to help you.

Make Saturday and Sunday your days to do your grocery shopping and clean the house.
Sleep in.
Pay your bills.
Catch up on e-mails.
Go to church.
If you live in a city, buy a book on local urban walks and go exploring.
If you have a bike, pump up the tyres and see where your wheels take you.
Go window-shopping downtown.
Visit a museum.
Wash your car.
Read a book. (Caution, I know of many women – including myself – who were unable to sustain the focus to read a book for more than a year after being abandoned. If reading used to be a passion, it might take a while for your concentration to come back.)
Veg out on the sofa and watch all the shows you’ve recorded from the TV that week.
Work in your garden (if you have one).
Have a sleepover with your grandkids.
Go to a movie with a friend. (Don’t go alone – unless you go midweek – until you feel comfortable doing so.)
Cook (or bake) lots of food and split it up into portions which you can freeze for the upcoming week.
Go for a drive in the country.
Visit a historical site.
Volunteer with your local pet society and walk a dog.
Have a movie night – at home – with another single friend, either at your house or theirs.
Go shopping at thrift stores.
Sewing and craft projects.
Join a fitness centre and take a class.

Friendship is a Lifeboat

Now that the “battle” is over (I have been officially divorced ten months), I have my future in my own hands: I have a life to live, a future to embrace. Right? Well, maybe not exactly quite there yet.

I had thought I was coming to grips with the rejection and grief that official court-signed document had delivered when I first read the words: Certificate of Divorce. Yet more and more I realize I have been withdrawing into myself. Was I depressed? Yes. Was I anxious about this wide-open future? Absolutely terrified, to be honest and still am. I’ve been taking a mild anti-depressant for over a year now and that helped me to stop bursting into tears at little or even no provocation, but the grief over the death of my marriage, the fact that money is a constant worry. No little pill can make any of that go away.

I was drifting further and further into the hinterland of aloneness, staying home, not answering letters, turning down coffee meets with friends, even family. I’d say I was busy, but the truth was I just couldn’t get out of my misery and into the world. I didn’t want to hear one more person tell me that I’m better off without him. I know that but why can’t I get over the stupid, senseless grief?

About one month ago, I caught a shining sliver of light at the end of the dark tunnel.

I sit on the Board of a local writing group and one morning I found myself obligated to attend a Saturday meeting. I guilt-talked myself into going to do my duty as Secretary but in reward, I would leave right afterwards before the monthly workshop began. And worst of all, it was to be some sort of “touchy feely” workshop in which we were all going to–God forbid–discuss and record our writing goals and dreams. Write them down and put them in a homemade “Dream Box.”

I had once wanted to be a writer, but all I’d written for the past four years were lists, emails to lawyers and endless, fruitless job applications. My writing goals and dreams? Vanished into the mist of the past, just like my marriage.

Oh, I was really on a sorry-for-myself roll. I dragged myself around the house to shower, got dressed, drove to the meeting and sat down.

But…just before the meeting began, one of my writing friends commented that I looked tired. “Yes,” I answered, “I am tired today.” (Setting up my exit for after the meeting, you see.) And oh sure, there came the ever-present tears. I WAS so very very tired–all the time tired. This gentle person standing in front of me said something, I’m not really sure exactly what: a simple comment (not pity) about depression, about how the miracle was that one day, unexpected, the heavy cloud will be gone. She understood, didn’t try to “jolly” me out of it, but in a few words let me know that I was not alone, that we are all together in this soup of life.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so lonely. Some of the weight in my heart did miraculously lift.

I stayed after the meeting and I made the flipping dream box complete with someday writing goals that I dredged out of myself. I talked for a long time with a writing friend I have known for more than 20 years. Divorce, loneliness, none of these topics were mentioned directly, but my friends were there, offering their presence to me like a warm soft blanket. Not a cure, but such a comfort to be around people who care…about me, of all people! I think I needed to know that I wasn’t completely rejected, not hopeless, not unloved.

That day my friends picked me up, dusted me off and sent me back out into my new world without seeming to do anything. I want to remember this: how simple words can mean so much, how it isn’t a weakness to reach out but rather just part of being human. And maybe most important of all, not to be afraid to accept love.