Doesn’t the world feel like such a different place?
Just when I thought that my new post-divorce world couldn’t feel more alien, somehow the unimaginable crept up on us all. I want to begin by sending love and prayers to you all. I feel so deeply sad for those who have suffered so dreadfully through this pandemic and for the loss that so many have endured.
I am so aware that my struggle is a drop in the ocean when you sit back and look at the pain and suffering that people have been experiencing.
Going into lock down, I had all the very normal fears that so many of us felt about the threat we faced. I also continued to have the other layer of worry under the surface, that of trying to recover from the turmoil of the life changer that is divorce. It’s nearly four months on since lockdown started and I felt it important to mull over and share some of the lessons I have learned and my experiences of being newly divorced during this unsettling and unprecedented time.
Lesson Number 1: We are more resilient than we realise
I am astounded at how adaptable and resilient we as humans are.
The day the divorce papers arrived, I remember being dismayed at the thought of living a life without my husband. I couldn’t see how I would go on, function and live. But I did it. My life is totally different now and it’s become that way because I realised that I couldn’t stay in that moment. Whether we realise it or not, we have an innate ability within us to adjust our internal sails when the winds of change abruptly send us in a different direction, even if we never saw it coming. This is a part of our primal instinct to survive.
Lockdown was a huge change of life for everyone. At the beginning, it was difficult to see how we would function, we panicked. Little did we know that in a couple of months we would adjust to being on virtual meetings with 20 other people, talking to loved ones through windows, navigating grocery shopping in a pandemic world. We adapted. We couldn’t stay in that moment of uncertainty and panic, we adjusted our sails.
Lesson Number 2: Being alone and being lonely are two different things
After many years of marriage, divorce can leave a painfully stark reality that you are alone. Experiencing a global crisis only seemed to highlight this even more for me. In the beginning of lockdown all the online videos of families isolating together, having duvet days or making TikTok videos together made me feel as though I was missing something. The memes my friends would send me about how sick of their husband’s they were during lockdown didn’t feel so funny to me. They made me wish I still had someone to be sick of.
At a time when we are meant to be pulling closer to those we love, I found it easy to fall into a sense of longing for my ex-husband. At times, it created a mist around the truth of the situation I am in. I have during this time had to keep reminding myself, what is my reality?
My reality is that I felt far more lonely in the final years of my marriage than I ever have during this time. My reality is I now have a peace that being with my ex-husband could never afford me. The peace of knowing I am not being cheated on, disrespected or treated so cruelly. My reality is that I am actually starting to find happiness again and it doesn’t necessarily come in the form of another love interest but rather in the form of friends, family, art, music, movies, cooking, and writing. It’s fulfilling me so why do I tell myself I am missing something or not whole.
The reality is I am alone, not lonely.
Lesson Number 3: I have to stop letting fear shape my life
Some of my worst fears became reality the day I found that text from the other woman on my husband’s phone. You would think this would have changed the way I deal with fear for the better, made me see I can survive my worst fears. It actually did the opposite, it told me that your fears can become reality, that life can change drastically over-night no matter how secure you think you are. A pandemic cropping up in my lifetime only reiterated this notion, that the unthinkable can happen.
There are certain fears that I have that I am very aware of, now more than ever. One is being completely alone, the other is losing the people I love. This awful pandemic has only raised those fears in me again. Seeing the loss and suffering that others are experiencing has really amplified these fears.
Before the pandemic I was also just starting, after that period of heartbreak and stress, to feel an excitement for life again. I was ready to move out of this place of grief. So during this time I have also felt fearful about whether life would ever feel normal again, despite the fact that I know this experience isn’t going to last forever. I felt myself panicking about the time I was losing, because the divorce has taken up so much of my life already. I started to feel frustrated and powerless.
I know so many have also had financial worries and fears during this time. The pandemic has led to so much uncertainty. I have felt those fears too. I have fought so hard to secure my independence so I have feared that being put in jeopardy during this time.
Fear does two things, it both drives you and leaves you stuck. I felt driven by it, to act, to move on and yet stuck in a feeling of powerlessness in relation to my fear of things changing again. It’s made me realise how much fear shapes my life and the things I do and it’s something I’m really pleased to have become more aware of.
Lesson Number 4: It really is okay to have those bad days and to miss your marriage
This time has made some difficult feelings come to surface that I didn’t expect to feel so strongly. Usually, in my old life, if I was scared or nervous or unsure, I would seek reassurance from my husband. Not having that partnership during this crisis has brought about some new aspects of missing my husband that I have had to work through.
Another difficult thing to navigate is that my ex-husband and I have had nothing to do with each other since the divorce was finalised. We have no children connecting us and no other reason or desire to communicate so I have no idea what is happening in his life anymore. This pandemic has been the first time in a long time that an event has connected us in my mind, purely as I know that this is something that he is experiencing too. We all are. At times, I have fixated on the question of how he is dealing with this situation and I’ve wondered if he has thought of me at all during this time. I have felt frustrated with myself that the old concern I would have felt for him, has crept back at times. Angry that the missing of him has resurfaced. So much has felt out of control during this time, that I have wanted to gain control over this one thing, my feelings.
I also have come to realise that even though this global crisis is happening, it certainly doesn’t pause the pain that I feel. In fact, at times, it can stir it up and amplify it. Rather than battle it, the kinder thing to do for myself is to accept it and understand it. I now see that it really is okay to allow the tears to come, allow the bad days, they are more than okay, they are to be expected and more importantly, they are necessary. The bad days are not a set-back but another important part in my healing journey.
Lesson Number 5: Sometimes we just need to stop.
Prior to lockdown I had become so aware of my reliance on distraction and routine to block out unwelcome thoughts of my ex-husband and what he had done, of those difficult memories and the injustice of it all. I was clinging to the outlets that helped ease the pain; the routine of going to work, going to see my family and friends, going out and indulging in my hobbies and interests. But then suddenly the rules of life changed in a very necessary way and going was replaced with staying… Staying in, staying safe, staying with my thoughts.
On a universal level, in our lives we often crave a feeling of momentum, of things moving forward, moving out of one thing and into another. I often talk about the healing power of time, that this too will pass, moving onto a new chapter. Staying put flies in the face of all of that. But what if staying put is actually a hidden gift that encourages us to finally face what needs to be faced. What if hitting pause and not rushing ahead in the race to heal and pausing the usual day to day of life, means we can maybe allow ourselves to actually hear important thoughts a little louder and clearer, things that might have normally been drowned out.
What if it allows us to step back and see the bigger picture, our patterns of behaviour, our wrong turns? What if it allows us to properly consider what we want next out of life? For me, that is what this unexpected time has offered. Rather than running from some of the things I know I was avoiding, I have actually spent time working them through in my mind. Stepping out of my usual life has allowed me to properly look at my life. I can work on areas that still need healing. I can see the things that I need to balance better, the things I need to change and actively remain aware of.
So, these are just some of the things that I have learned being newly divorced while navigating this uncertain time. If you would like to share any lessons that you have taken from this time please share in the comments. Stay safe and God bless.