Starting over: Life lessons after divorce


Picking up the pieces after the death of a marriage can turn out to be more rewarding than frightening, as Lina Lewis finds.

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Navigating on open water has its ups and downs. (Image: iStock)

When a marriage reaches an untimely end we are often left in a lurch that, while stressful or troubling, can ultimately give us certain realisations that will make us stronger people in the end. After my own divorce I grappled with several struggles; here are just a few.

The money

If there’s one great lesson I learned from a failed marriage, it’s never to put all my eggs in one basket. From the cost of the divorce process to the cost of fixing a broken sink in the house, financial responsibilities posed particular hardships when I found myself single again.

After 10 years of sharing financial decisions with another person, to be left penniless and forced to start over from square one was daunting. I was overcome with fear, panic and helplessness.

I spoke to financial advisers and friends to get ideas on how to put the financial side of my life in order. I also learned not to put all that I have into a shared account with my partner. I learned the hard way the importance of having my own safety net, keeping my own savings and being financially independent, regardless of my marital status.

The emotions

Admittedly, during the worst moments of my divorce, I searched for sob stories to put my life into perspective. After reading each story of a struggling mother trying to make ends meet, I’d tell myself, “At least I have a job”. After reading an article on someone with a disability doing something great, I’d tell myself, “At least I am able-bodied”.

I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity and grieve for a while. After all, a divorce is the death of a union, and every death deserves a grieving period. I gave myself a time frame, and once I hit the cut-off date I got back up on my feet. It wasn’t easy, of course, but with strong support from my friends and family I pulled myself out of the darkness.

From this I learned that happiness is a choice. I can choose to be emotionally ruined by an unpleasant situation, or rise above it and focus on staying positive.

A return to the nest

Another thing I had trouble with after my divorce was having to move back in with my family. Due to housing policies and my tough financial position, I was left with no choice but to sell off the matrimonial home. Selling my home left me feeling lost. It was as if there was a huge void and I didn’t know how to fill it. I just couldn’t wait to get a place of my own again.

Don’t get me wrong – living with my family was great: getting to see my nephews and nieces every day, having delicious homecooked meals and even having my laundry washed and pressed. But nothing beat having my own place. Missing the privacy and freedom, I soon realised I needed to have my own roof over my head.

So, after I got my finances in order and was sure that I could afford to own my own home, I got to work.

A couple of days ago I put up an offer, and I’m proud to say that I will soon be a homeowner once again.

All the paperwork I have to handle on my own; all the planning and moving I will have to figure out myself – and it’s all worth it. No matter how tiny the flat, it will be all mine, a symbol of my self-achievement.

The new chapter

After my divorce was finalised I met someone special. Our time together brought neither a whirlwind romance nor love at first sight; it had none of the romantic meetings we see in movies.

In fact, I was afraid to get burned again. I was apprehensive, wary, sceptical, paranoid – you name it. Every well-meaning gesture by him made me think he had a hidden agenda. To say I had serious trust issues would be an understatement. But thanks to his patience, I learned to trust again. He taught me that to grow, I had to let go of my past and keep moving forward.

This new chapter we are starting together has been exhilarating so far. Sometimes, things are going so well I actually feel thankful for all that went wrong. Without the great fall, I wouldn’t have grown this aware of myself or learned to be fair to myself.

And the sweetest lesson I’ve learned? To give myself a second chance.

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