A PERSONAL STORY by Chris Moon-Willems
As I sat on the edge of the bed grappling for my glasses, blood pouring from my nose, I realized the blow to my face signaled the end of my 34 year marriage. I had been unhappy for years, in fact ever since I realized I couldn’t change my husband’s addiction to gambling and lying about his whereabouts. I have since realized that we cannot change others, only ourselves.
At first I stayed for the sake of our two sons but after they had left home it was because I didn’t want to be on my own. I have never been good at DIY tasks, disliked driving and preferred company to being on my own. Besides, where would I live and how would I manage financially as I contributed substantially to joint bills? But now as I felt the throbbing in my nose, somehow my fears about living on my own seemed less important and I filed for divorce.
I soon became aware that buying a property would not be possible. We had a big mortgage as a result of my husband’s gambling and I was told he had a right to half my pension. In order to keep it I had to forgo my share of the property. This meant I could not buy my own home and had to rent somewhere to live for the first time in my life at the age of 54.
I met my husband when I was 14 yrs old and now, in my fifties, I found it hard to adjust to being single for the first time. As well as living in the habit of being married we had been together for many years and living on my own was a completely new experience for me.
I found moving on after divorce was rather like moving to a new country. I had to learn about my new territory and how best to live in it as a single person.
Less than a year later my husband died suddenly. In addition to losing someone I had shared two-thirds of my life with and the father of my children, I NOW lost home ownership. To compound my sadness, my son went through a painful divorce and my beloved granddaughters moved 200 miles away with their mother.
Alone in my head 365 days a year and finding myself at a party for one more often than I would wish I often felt empty and isolated. For a long while I used solitude as my comfort zone and somewhere to escape to when I felt insecure or threatened by something. I also allowed myself to be a victim and spent far too long wallowing in self-pity and apportioning blame for my failed marriage.
Finally I found that divorce differs from other loss because it is a catalyst for change in EVERY area of our life and it therefore offers a fantastic opportunity to reinvent ourselves as successful, independent women.
For me, I did this with the help of a life coach. My coach gave me a safe place to explore what I really wanted for the future in the sort of objective way you can’t always expect when talking to family and friends. With her help, I clarified my goals, re-built my confidence and discovered a brand new lease of life. The most important thing though, is to get the help that feels right for you, whether through the many books available about surviving divorce, via the internet or divorce survival groups. There is really no need to make the journey on your own. Look out for part 2 where I have put together a strategy to help you survive divorce, based on my own experience.
Chris Moon-Willems is the founder of Relative Matters and author of the book Relative Matters – the essential guide to finding your way around the care system for older people (England). A Life Coach, Retirement Success Coach, Master NLP Practitioner and Social Work professional, who specializes in helping women over fifty.