When most of us think of the word ‘divorce’, several other words usually pretty swiftly come to mind – fear, anxiety, worry to name three.
When I was a wife, divorce was one of my greatest fears. It was a fear that often woke me at night and saw me flailing blindly in the silence and dark for signs that my husband was still beside me. I can still remember the overwhelming sense of relief I felt on realising that he was there, that he hadn’t suddenly walked out and left me.
I tried to tell myself that I was being irrational – that there was no way he would ever leave me. He loved me and was committed to me – he reassured me of this often. Then one day, seventeen years into our marriage, he did leave. By way of explanation he told me that he needed something different - that he just didn’t want to be married anymore.
I didn’t want to breathe anymore. My worst fear had just been recognised and had it not been for the two little people depending on me to be their mother I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed and putting on clothes and doing all of the other things that needed to be done as a civilised human being.
I know now that I had been nursing a lifelong fear of abandonment – a fear that had started a long time before my husband came into my life, and that ironically took him leaving my life to be recognised and ultimately shattered.
A funny thing happens once your greatest fear has been realised: after a time you begin to realise that you no longer have need to fear it. You learn that the thing you were so afraid of, the thing that kept you awake at night, the thing that you were certain would kill you… actually won’t kill you.
Before my divorce, I was a woman consumed with fear, anxiety and worry. I recognise this now. I was frightened of being alone, frightened of being hurt, frightened to truly love, frightened to live. My divorce forced me to grow up. My divorce WOKE me up. My divorce was a gift.
Here is how my divorce helped shatter my fears and anxieties:
I learned that nothing is ever permanent – and that this is OK
I used to think that all endings signified a failure of sorts. That if something was truly worthwhile, it would literally last forever. The ending of my marriage taught me that nothing in life is ever really permanent – good or bad.
Hard as it’s been, I’ve come to accept that situations and people naturally evolve and change over the course of time, and this acceptance has brought with it a sense of peace. I am no longer paralysed by the thought of change.
I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of life, and the good times as they appear. And when hard times inevitably hit, I have faith that they will pass. My divorce has taught me that ALL things eventually pass.
I learned that I am enough as I am
For me, this was a big one. When I was younger a lot (most) of my identity was wrapped around how I believed others perceived me. I thought that being a good wife, mother, daughter, friend and employee was probably the most important thing I could do with my life.
Disappointing anybody was akin to torture for me. I always made sure that my needs came second or third to everybody else’s. Sound noble? It really wasn’t. This way of being actually stemmed from an inherent lack of self-worth and self-love. Without the love and validation of everybody around me, I didn’t know who I was. Who I was – without the labels of wife, mother, daughter.
And this is how it is for so many of us. So often, how we see ourselves is based on how others see us. We live our lives for everybody else because we are afraid of being true to OURSELVES. We are afraid of disappointing our loved ones and of losing their respect, support and validation. Most of all, we are afraid of losing their love.
When the love of my husband was taken from me, I learned one of the most important lessons of all. I learned that we are ALL enough as we are. I learned that once we truly know how to love ourselves, we no longer need to look to others for a sense of who we are.
I learned that I will be OK whatever comes my way
Pain is hard. Grief hurts. And when we’re in the midst of it all it seems like it will be that way forever. The thought of coming out the other side – much less creating a new and beautiful life for ourselves - seems inconceivable.
But once we do get through it (and we all get through it eventually) we usually find ourselves not just OK, but stronger and wiser for the experience. We may also gain a new appreciation for life… in all of its beautiful and messy glory.
I’ve learned how to be resilient and tolerant in the face of change. I’ve learned the art of patience, of letting things play out, of loosening my grip, of seeing where life wants to take me. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, I will actually be OK.
Has an experience shattered your fears and anxieties? Please, share in the comments!
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