Wedding wobbles after divorce

 

ID-100125771.StuartMilesMy second son was recently married. People have asked me whether there were any ‘awkward moments’ due to the divorce. I would be lying if I said, ‘No’. However, I am pleased to say that most of the awkward moments were in my head. I did not let thoughts in my head control my actions. I paused and thought through anything before responding or, more importantly, not responding. I also noticed a difference to what I actually did think and experience compared to what I had been anticipating that I may experience.

When a mutual friend’s daughter married two years ago, I was raw inside. The vows spoken at the church made me cry and cry. As they spoke their vows, I thought about my own wedding and what I felt as the breaking of those vows. This wedding of my son was different. Those same thoughts did not enter my head when my son and his soon-to-be-wife spoke their vows. That same sadness did not surface. When they said their vows, I thought only of them. I thought only of their love for each other and the wonderful life they were to have together.

The ‘awkward’ moments came at different times, prior to the wedding ceremony itself; and afterwards at the reception.

As described in an earlier post, the wedding was six days at a resort on the Cook Islands, so there was six days of togetherness with family and friends, six days of happy times with others. Yet, in those happy times, there was that edge for me of being alone within myself, of not having that soul-mate to look out for me and, although I am beginning to revel in my independence and am quite capable of looking out for myself, seeing the togetherness of other couples looking out for each other stung me a little. My children having to spend separate times with each of us, stung me a little. The speech given by the father of my new daughter-in-law, speaking with pride of his wife and soul-mate of 40 years and their life of sharing and living out their promises to each other, stung me a little.

I had anticipated awkward moments with my ex-husband, even though he had decided to come ‘alone’ which made it easier for all of us.

Due to my mother’s health crisis in the weeks before the wedding, I had not had time to have “the conversation” with him, that of: ‘Please do not come up to me and insist that we should be friends. Please do not hug me in front of other people, as if nothing has happened between us. Please do not ask me to dance with you after the bridal waltz’. 

So the conversation had not happened and the awkward moments did happen and, surprisingly, I did not care. I was able to act with grace and dignity, smile, shrug those moments off, quickly move aside to other people, and put it all behind me.

However, those moments were defining moments for me. They were the first one-on-one, face-to-face contact I had had with him on a personal level in over a year. What I came to understand in those moments was that I have reached a place of emotional detachment from the man who left me. When he came up to me at the wedding, I no longer saw him as the man I had married 40 years ago. For three years I have felt pain whenever I thought of being abandoned by the man I had been married to. In those moments at the wedding, I realized that person no longer exists. He is not the same person as the man who left me. In those moments, I felt no pain regarding being left by the man who my husband had become. I felt no emotion for that man, I felt nothing for him, for the man who left me.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Image:Courtesy[StuartMiles]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Divorce and weddings and families

 

 

ID-10067121.Stuartmiles My second son is to be married. This will be the first major milestone since the break-up. This will be the first time as a family where we will all be together, yet apart; where we will have to face not being a united family; and where my and my ex-husband’s siblings will see each other. I remember my eldest son’s wedding six years ago when we had that coming together of the two families and what a joyous occasion it was. How I so wish for this wedding to also be filled with joy and togetherness.

My son spoke to me by phone about some logistical arrangements for the wedding and I was dying inside as he spoke as I had been blocking those things out. I did not let on how anxious I felt. It was going to be his big day and I needed to put my angst aside. After the call ended I broke down. Everything hit me hard and I felt all mixed-up inside. I felt joy and sadness, fear and wonder, all mixed up together. I felt so alone that I could not share those feelings with my children, those whom I held dearest to my heart. The cruelty of divorce hit me as hard as it had ever hit me before, knowing that we were no longer the strong united happy family that we should have been.

About half an hour later my son rang me back. He had sensed there was something wrong with me. By then, I was in the middle of a puddle of tears. There was nothing to do but tell him how I felt. Out came three years of frustrated loneliness of never being able to talk to him and the other children about how I really felt. I felt that I had to protect them all from the pain of the broken family unit. I told him I felt I was supposed to put on an appearance of a happy united family for his wedding and yet we were broken. I felt that I was supposed to put on an appearance of his father and I being ‘friends’ when I did not feel that way. I felt that if I had to pretend we were that united unit, when we were not; and that his father and I were friends, when we were not; then I would be acting untrue to myself. I explained I wanted his day to be special but I did not want to live a lie. I wanted to stop pretending and hoping for the united family. We were two families now; my family and his father’s family. I could not act like the united family unit when we were not. From now on in my life I wanted to speak my truth. I wanted to act by my true self.

I had never spoken to my son about the break-up in that fashion before. My son assured me that I could always speak the truth with him. I no longer had to pretend. I felt a surge of bonding with my son that was stronger than I had ever felt before. I no longer felt lonely and that I could not share how I felt, with those whom I love. I no longer had to put on a mask. I had found my voice. I had spoken my truth. I was acting by my true self. I felt a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders because I did not have to pretend anymore. I felt free.

*             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *

Now that the suffering weight has lifted, I have six weeks to become strong and work out my self-strategies to ensure my son’s wedding is the joyous occasion it is meant to be.

 

_______________________________________________________________________

ImageCourtesy[StuartMiles]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Grieving for self after divorce

“When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim”. Louise Gallagher

ID-100109150.rattigan

As described in my last post, a grief is a loss of something you cannot get back. The end of a marriage is such a loss. I accepted that and accepted it would take some time to pass through grief and its stages. What I did not expect was to have to go through it twice.

As I mourned the loss of my life companion and marriage there were stages(1) – shock, pain, yearning, bargaining, depression (sadness), which I slid in and out of over time, until final acceptance, that what was lost was gone forever. This was followed by a contented period of living in the joys of today, a feeling of moving on and hope for the future.

Then THUMP! I was down on the floor again.

One day I stopped living in my la-la land of sunny moments, faced the reality of my situation, and did not like what I saw. I fell into another hole of sadness, dread, despair and fear for the future. I remained in this black state of stagnation for months.

When I hit this second grief period, others remarked I might be suffering depression. I feel it unfortunate the same terminology is used to describe both a symptom (or low mood ‘depression’), and an illness (or mental disorder ‘clinical depression’). Depression as a low mood of sadness is one of the grief stages. It is normal, a symptom, the bleeding from the wound of grief. Whilst it is important to recognise the bleeding may become so intense professional help is required (by medication, counselling or other); it is equally as important to recognise it stems from a loss and it will not end until the wound of grief is healed. My dilemma was I thought I had healed.

My first grief – the loss of ‘we’

I had processed my grief, passed through its stages, came to accept my loss (my companion), integrated that loss into my life, and got back to what I considered normal. I had survived. I did not understand why I felt low again.

My second grief – the loss of ‘me’

Then I had an earth-shattering realisation that, with everything else lost in my marriage, I had also lost myself. This came as a huge shock. There is nothing more tragic than feeling a loss of self, a loss of identity and a loss of a sense of purpose. My drive in life had been as a wife and mother. Recovering from my marriage’s end was not a simple matter of “getting on with it”. It was not a simple carrying on as before with one little (him gone) change. It was not one change. Everything had changed. My home-life had altered, my family unit had splintered, my self-esteem was in tatters. I had no stability and no feeling of comfort or security. There was no ‘normal’. It was gone.

I came to realise that after I had processed my first grief I had tried to get back my ‘normal’. That became living our life, my way and striving for the dreams we had had as a couple. However, as there was no longer us, no longer our life, it did not work. I was living in the pain of the past. Moreover, as I was no longer half of us, who was I? Where had I gone? Who had I become? I had lost me and I sank deeper and deeper into the pain and grief of losing me. I wallowed about in self-pity and deep pain for many months.

My epiphany.

One day something stirred. Like a bolt of lightening, I had an epiphany. I looked up to the sky and saw light breaking through from behind storm clouds. It was then I knew. I wanted my life. I wanted me back. I wanted to make my choices. I could choose to transform me.

I resolved to do so, like the Phoenix.

 


(1)Kubler Ross

Image courtesy [rattigan]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My needs # 3. Financial security

houseandmoney

A need is something that you feel anxious about if you do not have it. Once you have it the pain goes away. The gaping hole in my life where my financial security used to be has caused me much gut-wrenching anxiety in the past 18 months.

Yet no-body, including myself, wants to talk about money.

People spend a lot of time talking about what can be bought with money but not the money itself. People will discuss their travel, clothes, gadgets, houses, and cars. However, they do not discuss much about the money itself or where it comes from or how to get it or how much you need. In fact, in some circles a discussion on money is taboo. It is almost as if you are thought less of a person if you discuss money; and that thinking about money, or the lack of it, it is not a prized value to have.

After my separation, I initially spent a long-time focussing on emotional aspects of losing my partner and soul-mate, my fractured family unit, and the pain of the overwhelming grief, sadness and anxiety I felt about my changed life. Then during my recovering phase I spent some time re-evaluating my values, beliefs and attitudes of trust, kindness, compassion, hope, peace, courage etc No where amongst all that was there anything to do with money.

Part of that relates to the guilt of putting any importance on money. In the very beginning after a separation, when you are faced with abandonment, you do not care a toss about any material possession. There is a cathartic realisation that none of that matters. What matters is people and love and care and kindness. So months later when you start becoming very anxious about your changed financial affairs, you remember back that you concluded that money does not matter, and you feel guilty that now you think that maybe it does.

The truth is that even though we all do not want to talk about it, we all do need it in some form or another, and the changed money situation after a divorce can be catastrophic. I am not talking about greed, such as having innumerable world trips or accumulating beautiful things, I am talking about survival. Having adequate funds so that you can pay the bank debt or house mortgage or rent, pay for utilities, afford good medical care, be able to afford to see your family, then maybe having just a little left over for some savings. But above all, there is the need for some reassurance that what you now have will also not be lost, that this ‘less than half of the former estate’ will not somehow disappear by some other catastrophe.

I know that the values of human kindness and compassion are important. I understand that true happiness lies in seeking out long-lasting experiences of savouring pleasant moments, being grateful for what I have, and seeking out human connections. However, I also do crave that one day I will again own my own home debt-free, that I will be able to comfortably pay my bills on time, that I will have no credit card debt, and that I will be able to put away so that I will have adequate retirement savings for me to enjoy a financial-stress-free old age.

Maybe when that time comes, the anxiety at the pit of my stomach will ease.

I have added “Financial Security” to the list of my own fundamental needs.

.
.

Image courtesy [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Last Child.

My daughter had been travelling Europe for six months. My youngest son and I decided to join her for Christmas and spent some time with her in London and Britain.

Over the course of the two weeks together we spoke of many things and inevitably did get on to speaking about “it” (ie: the break-up). In the beginning after the separation, my children had been tremendous emotional support to me and we had leaned on each other through the pain and shock of the abandonment. Then, as I began to heal, I attempted to shield my two younger children from further negative discussion. As much as I could, I tried to put it all behind me and to be the strong one for them, to behave as I would have behaved had the trauma never occurred. To a certain extent we were living a facade as I was far from complete recovery; and they were still very much in grief.

The separation had been hard on them and it is has been difficult for them to find someone that they can talk to. Who best to talk to, but their mother? So on this holiday, knowing that pain and bewilderment is best addressed, when a few comments came out I encouraged my daughter to talk about what was concerning her. I explained that if not worked through, it could eat at her for years. One has to come to a point of accepting what has happened and then let it go. I spoke of how I understood she could view that the abandonment of me by her father was also abandonment of her. I tried to explain that he had not abandoned her. He was still there for her, but he would just now be showing it in a different way.

‘Mum it is not Dad abandoning me that concerns me, it is me abandoning you that concerns me. I am the last child. I am leaving home, leaving the state and now you will be on your own. I feel as if I am abandoning you’.  

I could not change that I was alone, unpartnered, by myself. No matter how strong I behaved I could not change the fact that if my husband had not left me he would have been there with me, we would be together, we would be the rock of support for our children – not the other way round. My daughter would not feel this guilt she felt of abandoning me and the role that she felt someone should take on – that of looking after me.

Of course, I do not feel I need looking after and I told her so. Yet no words of mine could comfort her.   All I can do is to keep aiming for strength and courage, to become a strong independent woman for her, for all my children, to show them by example that I am OK; and to allow them to spread their wings as they would have done, and to be here for them, if they ever need me.

I am ……. as old as I am

I had a cousin who was killed in a car accident on his 21st birthday. He never graduated, never married, never travelled, never had children…….

I had an aunt who died from cancer at age 33 years old. She never had children, never owned her own business, never moved interstate, never wrote a book……

My father died of a stroke at age 49. He never saw his children graduate or marry, he never knew any of his grand-children, he never retired.

From where I am sitting there is still much that I have to face in my life that is difficult ……. being cast aside…….. being alone…. losing my plans for the future …….. having a depleted asset base from which to begin again………

However, being aged 58 years is not added to this list. It is just the age that I am.

Yes, it is difficult coping with the feelings of betrayal at age 58 … but this would be difficult, the hurt would be the same, no matter what the age.

Yes, it is difficult to suddenly be left alone at age 58 …. but no more difficult than a young mother left alone with young children. No more than a child being left by an abandoning parent.

Yes, it is difficult starting afresh with a depleted asset base at age 58 ……. but no more difficult than people who lost money in investment scams… no more than others who have lost money in failed businesses… no more than people who have needed to use their assets to fund a medical condition.

All of these issues are difficult situations for anyone at any age. The truth is that in order to overcome them, they need facing, they need dealing with. Thinking they are more difficult because you are a certain age is just an excuse to put off facing what needs to be faced.

My age has nothing to do with the difficulties that I now face. My age actually benefits me as I have a grounded experience in previous hard times that I have survived. So I know that once difficulties are faced, they cease becoming difficulties and turn into challenges. Challenges are invigorating and give you a reason to get up in the morning. Being the age that I am, I am better able to apply my past experiences to the challenging times ahead. Rather than facing difficulties I now have challenging goals …. embracing aloneness……becoming financially independent ……. of staying true to my values.

Whenever I start to think things are difficult ‘at my age’ …. I stop.
I remember to be grateful for the age that I am.
I remember to be grateful to have come as far as I have come.
I remember those loved ones who did not get this far in their own journey.
I remember to be grateful for the opportunity to continue my own journey into the future.

Week 36 – Recipe for a bigger divorce pie

Week 36 May 28 2012. This week marked us agreeing to a property settlement – not signed, but at least agreed to.

I wrote earlier about the pain I had felt when I began to face the full fall-out of the financial insult that this break-up would bring upon me. Thinking over this predicament in the weeks since then had been a major factor in preventing me from moving forward in my life, of letting go of the life we had, of the future of us that will never be. Trying to accept the financial insult was a second wave of pain coming on top of the emotional pain.

Being together for 40 years and close to retirement years, the sums had been done many times. There was to be a pie with 40 pieces – one piece for each year together – that we had carefully put away. This pie of 40 pieces would have been adequate to provide us with a comfortable lifestyle income of about two pieces of pie per year. The initial shock on separation for me was that there would now only be 20 pieces of pie for me to live on, half of the original providing me with only one piece of pie a year to live on. This was a down-coming but not exactly horrific and being an optimistic person I came to accept this and tried to move on. However, slowly I came to realise that the Maths was all wrong. What struck me in April was the harsh reality of a much more severely depleted pie of only six pieces and only one fifth of our ‘couples’ pie.

Let me explain the Maths.

In the original pie of 40 pieces, 10 were tied up in the family home leaving 30 pieces for investment to provide the annual income of about two pieces of pie. In the post separation pie there is the reality of 8 pieces of pie being taken out for divorce proceedings, leaving 32 pieces to divide – 16 pieces each. From my half, once I take 10 pieces for the family home, I am left with only 6 pieces left to invest and live on – only one fifth of the original investment pie of 30 pieces! The equation is not a simple matter of dividing the total in two. Moreover the cost of living for a single person is more than half of that of a couple – with house and car costs incurred on one’s own. You actually require more than half to live on. Yet I would only be left with six pieces of pie to invest. How could I survive? As I sat working out the figures, turning them over, backwards and forward and upside down; there was also the horrible thought that the only way of getting more pieces of pie for myself was to become a combatant and fight against my husband through the courts, bringing up mud to fling, having to say vile and toxic things against the one person who up until 10 months before I had given my whole life and love to. I did not want to become that person necessary to get more pieces of the pie simply so that I could have a comfortable retirement. However, I was now on my own and I also did not want to have to fight for financial survival throughout my golden years. Financial survival versus soul survival. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. It was this knowledge hitting home to me that had sent me spiralling downwards early April.

Then I worked out a recipe for a bigger pie. There is another way and I created it. Rather than focussing on what we had had and lost, I focussed instead on the income I would require and created a pie that would provide me with enough investment pie to provide the income I would need. This is my recipe for a bigger and better divorce pie:

Ingredients:
Take
1. Your soul
2. Your choices
3. A clear head
4. Determination
5. Respect and
6. Your finances

Method:
1. Stay out of the courts. This gives you back 8 pieces of pie in the savings on litigation costs.
2. Compromise. Even though it seems unfair to give some bits away to the person whose choice it was for this financial mess, is it really worth fighting for two pieces of pie to lose four in the process?
3. Stay out of the courts.
4. Think of your soul. Do you really want to become a bitter toxic person by dragging down the person you gave 40 years to?
5. Think of your children. Save the children the pain of seeing their parents knocking each other over.
6. Stay out of the courts.
7. Compromise on the house – at least in your head. Accept that sometime in the future you will downsize from the family home to a smaller home and release another 4 pieces of pie.
8. Get a hold on your own personal budget, live more frugally, watch discretionary spending and make the pieces of remaining pie work for you.
9. Remember your own divorce code and stick to it.
10. Stay out of the courts.

Here is a comparison of the alternative pies:

Original
Total pieces of pie                  40
Less Litigation costs             – 8
Remaining                              32
Half to me                              16
Less cost of home                -10
Pieces of pie to live on            6
Living costs per year               1.2
Years of income                      5

My recipe
Total pieces of pie                  40
No Litigation                           – 0
Remaining                              40
Half to me                              20
Less cost of home                 -6
Pieces of pie to live on           14
Living costs per year              0.7
Years of income                     20

Voila! This recipe will provide me with four times the financial security of what may have been and has saved my soul and sanity. Moreover, if you look carefully at the figures, by careful budgeting and a revision of my lifestyle – from what had been ‘our’ lifestyle – it actually provides me with more financial security than before separation as there is now no-one I have to compromise with in my careful budgeting to make it all happen.

Full steam ahead now with – my choices – my lifestyle.