When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves...
Last Monday was what’s known as Divorce Monday. The day of the year when divorce lawyers receive the most amount of queries. Always the first Monday of January.
It seems obvious; Christmas can feel like a pressure cooker if things are not right; pair that with the bleak reality of January and it can bring things to the boil.
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If you are in the position of thinking that you may be on the brink of suggesting separation; or it has been foisted upon you; or if you’ve mutually decided... whatever your situation, if your marriage is ending and your world has fallen apart, then for what it’s worth, this is a letter to you.
I hope it is of some help.
Dear Divorcee To Be
Right now things may seem almost unbearably bleak and difficult. Or not, maybe you’re welcoming this. Maybe it has been a long time coming, and even though it’s only been brought out into the open, a large part of you has accepted it already.
Either way, however awful things seem right now, know that sometimes the pulling off of the plaster is almost the worst part of it. Facing the unimaginable – that your marriage is over. That your life track is going to be something utterly different from what you thought you had signed up for. That the definites, the givens of life, are no longer so.
There is little harder about this whole thing than that moment.
There may even be a modicum of relief to come, from having admitted things are simply not working. And later down the line, there will be the satisfying knowledge of your own strength, in having faced the worst of fears.
Because you will survive this.
The things that feel like they will always slightly break your heart? They won’t. You can’t force it, it takes time. Some things, like the stuff around your kids (if you have them), will take longer. But the hurt will heal. Someday it won’t kill you to realise how different the life you have is from the one you imagined for yourself, and for your child.
Someday it won’t hurt you at all.
Acceptance is the hardest thing, but it does come. Reality seeps in. Make your reality as nice as possible, and acceptance becomes easier.
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Grief is exhausting. There is no getting around this; some days you need to just give in. Do the absolute minimum until it is bedtime again. This will not last forever. You will regain equilibrium.
Also, the 'waves' thing everyone talks about is true. You think you’re done with grief and then there it is again. A rollercoaster. But the bits in between get longer and longer. And one day it will disappear. Or you will have made peace with it.
Do what it takes, but no more.
See the people who are easy, soothing, uplifting. The wider circle can wait. The gym can wait. Much (although unfortunately not all) of the life-admin can wait.
From the eye of the storm, it is difficult to see just how much of a burden you are carrying. This is not the time to take on a personal trainer and create a new you. This is the time to sit on the couch, with tea and cake.
That said, you need to find ways to deal with the stress. Meditation, yoga, a walk with your best friend. Find something that is easy, rather than another thing on your endless to-do list.
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Anxiety is normal in a life crisis. It doesn’t mean the things you are worried about are really deserving of that level of fear. It is simply that all your defences are down, and you are an easy target for the fear; for there is a huge cloud of fear hovering above you, and it will find a place to land.
I spent a lot of time worrying about how I would now manage the steep wooden stairs in our house come retirement. At the time, this seemed like an entirely rational concern. The fear will find a landing strip. But it will also pass.
Sometimes too much coping is not necessarily a good thing.
Especially if there are children involved, keeping the show on the road is the only option. And this is good. But it’s also good to sometimes say this is too much. I need to stop. To take a breather. Cry. Rage. Get really drunk and go dancing. Whatever. To just stop making it all ok.
Anger is really hard to process but it is unavoidable and inevitable.
Nobody can see their life fall apart and not rage against it. Women aren’t really taught or encouraged to show their anger. What does our anger even look like if it’s not hysterical, out of control? Balls to that.
Learn how to deal with your anger; it's not going away until you acknowledge it. The best advice I got was my counsellor telling me to sit with the anger. "It feels scary," she said. It will rise like the crescendo of music. And then it will pass. That simple.
Plug yourself into the matrix of women.
Comparison is the death of happiness for you right now. But get close to other women and you realise everyone is dealing with stuff. Knowing this will help make you feel less 'other'.
It may not help to hear it now, but suffering makes you a more emotionally intelligent person. It enriches all of your relationships. So while you lost the big one, you will be repaid by all your others deepening.
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Loves of your life don’t always come in the form of a romantic partner. There may be many; best friends, parents, siblings, or your child.
If all this seems too much to take in – too soon – simply know that this too shall pass.
This will get easier. Things will be okay again. Better than okay. Much better.