Lessons from a loser: 4 lessons I learnt from divorce

Man, I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I’ve got so much to talk about, but I also feel so fiercely protective of my life now. This ‘journey’ I have been on has taught me so much, but it’s also heightened my already Everest-level cynicisms about life, love, luck and loss.

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For any newbies to this half-abandoned archive of my PMS emotions, the story is pretty simple: my high-school sweetheart husband and I tried unsuccessfully for 8 years to make a family, attempting au naturel, IVF, and adoption. This deeply affected our marriage and my health, and culminated in said high school sweetheart lying, cheating scumbag having an affair with an 18 year old strumpet (who I had idiotically welcomed into my house and treated like a daughter). I was in hospital with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when I found this out, and subsequently, our 15 year long relationship came to an abrupt and fiery end.

I’ve now been divorced for over a year, and, while I grew up with divorced parents (and therefore thought I knew a thing or two about it), it turns out that there has been some pret-ty major lessons along the way. Some have been surprising refreshing, while others have felt like great and incomparable injustices.

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  1. Divorce time is D I V O R C E time

So you just heard your not-so-close friends Kim K and Kanye are getting a divorce?* Guess what – this most likely means that they are getting a divorce. The truth is, unless you are besties or family with a couple, by the time you find out about relationship problems it is probably unsalvageable. While miracles can and do happen, generally people take that D word super seriously. Marriage is a huge investment and a massive commitment, not many people throw it away lightly (*cough* Kim K *cough*).

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I can’t tell you the amount of people who contacted me once the news broke to plead/beg/pray/demand the restoration of my marriage. Not only was this highly hurtful and insulting as I had absolutely no way of restoring something my ex didn’t want, I obviously had tried with my heart and soul to ‘fix’ things before the horrible reality hit home – it was over and there was nothing I could do about it. By the time divorce news was out in the open, I was well into the long road of acceptance and recovery.

  1. Nobody cares

This was one of those refreshing realisations. When my marriage failed, I felt absolutely and utterly humiliated. I felt as though I had very publically declared to the world that I would stick by this guy until death, and yet, here I was, very, very publically failing at that. I felt disgraced – like my life had been a lie, and I now had to face the world with egg on my face. I felt like people were judging the kind of woman I was, the kind of wife I was, even the kind of human I was to ‘allow’ this to happen.

Thankfully my experience has been different from my diabolically low presumptions. People (well, the ones that matter at least) don’t actually give a damn D word about divorce. They care heaps and heaps about what is going on personally for you, but they, by-and-large, don’t view divorce in judgmental terms.

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  1. You lose, lose, lose, lose

This has been undoubtedly the hardest lesson. No matter whose fault it was, no matter who ended it – everybody loses.

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Of course I was always well aware that divorce would cost me my husband, my house, my lifestyle and half of all my things, but I never realised how much more you actually do lose. On top of the deep connection you have to your spouse and any material assets you have accumulated together, there are plenty of other unavoidable losses, for example:

a. Your legacy

One of the loveliest things about being in a partnership is the witness you bear to each other’s lives. Someone observes your successes and failures, they watch you grow and change, and can remind you of your achievements and goals. They can look back with you, knowing how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. This might not be relevant to everyone, but for me my ex-husband was there when I graduated high school, when I first went overseas, when I first moved out of home, when I graduated uni, when I underwent IVF, when I bought my first house, etc. I find it incredibly strange to enter a world where the people I date haven’t witnessed any of this journey.

b. Your future plans

Leading on from the previous thought, you also lose every notion you had of your future. Even though life (obviously) doesn’t go according to plan, people generally have an idea of what they are working towards. At the very least, I thought I knew where I would be living and who I would be married to. I now have a completely blank canvas, which is in some ways nice, but there is also a grief involved with closing the door on things long hoped and strived for.

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c. Friends

Yep, this one really sucks. In my experience this has been a gradual and prolonged loss. Many of my friends were really there for me when the shit hit the fan, but then slowly withered away as time went on. My understanding is that something like this is just very difficult for people to know how to navigate.

The ex and I spent most of our time with other couples, so to begin with there’s always that awks problem of feeling the need to ‘choose a side’. Then, there’s the relationship dynamics – two couples having dinner, going to the park, watching movies, etc. works really well. A couple with their distraught, single friend bitching and moaning on the couch isn’t an ideal Saturday night for anyone. The invitations dry up very quickly. And finally, some ‘friends’ simply can’t deal with the changes you go through during this hellish process. Thankfully, there are some absolute gemstones who have carried me and loved me throughout it all.

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d. Family

This one tears me in half. I come from a very small family – it’s really just my mum and I who live in the same state. So every year, for fifteen years, we joined together with my ex’s family to celebrate Christmases, Easters, birthdays, graduations, weddings blah blah blah.

And now there is nowhere to go.

For fifteen years I had a large, loud Italian support structure around me. For fifteen years I had in-laws and siblings and grandparents and cousins and aunties, and now they are largely inaccessible to me. Sure, I’m still loved and cared about deeply by them, but I can’t exactly show up at a family BBQ comfortably. This is a loss that seems enormously unfair, and I would be lying if I said I don’t spend a lot of time creepily watching families at the park wishing I had what they’re having.

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e. Innocence

By innocence I mean trust and optimism and faith and hope – God help any of my potential suitors. Being cheated on, and lied to, in such an extreme way, over such a prolonged period of time, has all but destroyed my trust and faith in the opposite sex. I am filled with anxiety and dread that it might happen to me again. And, it’s simply not something I feel that I could survive a second time. If the man in my life so much as goes into the bathroom with his phone, my stomach starts doing backflips – men are now presumed guilty until they prove and prove and prove themselves innocent. This is clearly not a good launchpad for healthy and successful relationships, but it is unfortunately a reality for me now which will take bucket loads of counselling and good fortune to correct.

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  1. You are stronger than you realise.

Obvs I would never recommend divorce to anyone, unless of course you have a penchant for being dragged arse-first through personal annihilation and then pushed unwillingly back into the same body to restart life all pessimistic, fearful, scared, empty and alone… but, having somehow made it out the other side, I can confirm that what doesn’t kill you does indeed make you stronger.

Last year I was in a place where I was sick, I was going through a divorce with 8 years of infertility pain under my belt, I had no job, I had no house and then my car decided to die as well. I had zero hope for the future. But somehow, piece by piece, the jigsaw of my life began to come together again. I just had to push through that most awful part. Life isn’t all sunshine and French bulldog puppies now, but it’s a life I have pushed hard for, and I’m thankful for that.

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Phew… that ended up being a lot longer than I expected! As I said, I’ve got heaps and heaps to share and this one has been bubbling away in my mind for ages. I wish that I could have made my first post back a little more upbeat and positive, but the nature of this blog is to say things as they are, and, believe it or not, divorce is pretty shitty. So, sorry for my absence and sorry for the downer deluge but I still love this site, and all the incredible support and stories I receive on here.

x

*As far as I know Kim K and Kanye are doing juuuust fine.

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What I learnt from grief

Today’s Guest Post is so inspiring and breath taking I wish that I could make the entire world read it. I wish I could swallow it down into my soul and truly embody it, and as the New Year approaches I am determined to meditate on Amy’s thoughts and *try* to apply them to my own life.

Amy and I went to Primary and Secondary School together and we weren’t always the best of friends. In Primary School she hated how I would “show-off” and do the splits everywhere and I thought she was annoying and a “teacher’s pet” – I mean, her mum worked at the school, what was with that?!

Somehow we managed to put these differences aside and maintain a civil relationship through out High School, but it has been in the years since then that I’ve really seen the depth of her beautiful character. Amy is now a Classical Chinese Medicine Doctor who works tirelessly to bring fabulous health and strength to her clients, and she absolutely loves loves loves her work!

You are about to read just a snippet of her journey – prepare to be encouraged, motivated and challenged! Thank you so much for sharing with us Amy!!!

x

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Three years ago I went out to play pool with my brother.

We’re actually not blood related at all, but Pat had been a part of our family since I was in primary school. He had been a weekly fixture at Wednesday night Changing Rooms and Roast Nights at mums since I was 12.

We would sneak off and play pool after dinner to avoid doing the dishes, and he would hang me upside down by my ankles over the slate floor, and then let go of one of my ankles until I giggled myself beetroot red and mum was forced to intervene with a stern “Ah… Patrick… I think it’s time you put her down…”

Pat picking me up in one arm + holding a beer in the other at my sisters wedding. So Much Fun!

Pat picking me up in one arm + holding a beer in the other at my sisters wedding. So Much Fun!

He was the gentle giant that made the whole room giggle, and he broke up the girl-on-girl sister tension with his bold and deeply cheeky ways.

So, three years ago, we went out on the town to play pool.

And two weeks later he was gone.

Because two weeks later it all got too much,

and Pat committed suicide.

He was 31.

I cannot express what it feels like to experience such overwhelming grief and deep sadness in every part of your body,

in every nook

in every cell

right down to your very wounded and fragile soul.

Those weeks are a blur. I didn’t go to work. I remember helping to choose the suit that Pat would be buried in. I remember sitting with my sister and Pat’s beautiful long term previous girlfriend sifting through photos for the funeral. I remember staring blankly at walls.

I wrote a lot. For hours each day I penned streams of subconscious thoughts and feelings.

And I gave myself permission to feel it all.

Deep, full body, heartbreaking pain. Numbness, shock and raw emotion.

I had a godsend of a beautiful counsellor to help support my path.

The big decision I made early on was to sit with each emotion as it arose; to embrace every moment for what it was.

I chose to feel the depth and breadth of it all in each moment because I knew deep down that even though the full experience of grief is so painful it’s almost debilitating, it’s also the only way to heal.

Every day was a big day.

Hard day after hard day.

But at some point, something changed.

The condolence flowers on the desk in my bedroom began to wilt and die in front of my eyes. Something shifted.

‘Don’t we all die at last, and too soon?’

I started wondering how it was that I had programmed myself to believe that I was always entitled to another day.

I owned up to the big elephant in the room…that some day each of us will have our last day.

Boom.

There it was.

The shift.

Instead of contracting, shrinking, blocking and controlling, I expanded and welcomed.

I stretched out on the river of change.

It was painfully refreshing.

Liberating difficult.

I distinctly remember walking around Brunswick and being overcome by a massive, whole body wash of deep gratitude for all that we have in each moment.

I remember not wanting to put my sunglasses on, because I wanted to feel and see the world in all its raw intensity.

The delicious rays of sunlight.

The leaves dancing on the pavement.

All such delightful miracles

And treasures to keep

If we only see it.

It caused a palpable and ever-present shift in my life – and it all comes back to how I changed my perspective on that day, lying curled up in my bed, staring at the red wallpaper of my Brunswick share house.

So what changed?

I am no longer prepared to live a life that is any less than breathtaking, amazing and deeply soul filling.

I am here to live the depth and breadth of all that I can be.

I am so clear about what makes me feel amazing, and knowing that I won’t be here forever somehow gives me the courage make big and bold decisions based on what I am here to do in this crazy beautiful life.

I invite big and scary change. I love them in fact.

I moved states

away from all my family and friends.

I found the love of my life

and created my very own business that I’m so deeply in love with that I can hardly call what I do “going to work”

I designed a life that I love

And I wake up every day with a smile on my face

at this crazy, beautiful life!

I’m no longer willing to compromise or falter when it comes to what truly matters

because I feel big clarity.

I work tirelessly to create a reality that is totally in line with what I crave from my life experience.

I give my brain, my ego, over thinking and over rationalisation a whole lot less credit than I used to. They’re more like backseat drivers to me at this point.

I listen to and act on what my gut/heart/intuition tells me, and I pursue the things that I am deeply passionate about.

I’m careful what and who I surround myself with.

I’m not perfect, but I no longer aspire to be.

I know what I am here for.

I know what matters.

And I am unapologetically myself.

I barely ever wear make up

And I smile when I look in the mirror at just how lovely and true to my deep nature I am becoming.

I am here to feel clear, light, vibrant, deep and whole.

I am here to experience truly amazing health,

to burst out joy and to radiate kindness,

to help others discover their own fabulous health.

I treat my body like it is the most beautiful vehicle for change,

Because I believe that it is.

I want to inspire, create, to live and to love.

So I do.

Every single day.

And boy it feels good!

I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude on an hourly basis.

When I start to sweat the small stuff,

(And I do, because I am human)

I stop. I take time out. I ask myself what I really need.

I resist the urge to get swept up in it.

I ask my partner his honest thoughts.

I surround myself with notes that make me smile,

Peg my goals and desires above my desk.

And meditate each day to check in and realign with that deep clarity.

Because I know I am worth it.

Which is lovely in itself.

I still feel overwhelmingly devastated that the world lost such a cheeky and kind-hearted, beautiful treasure, but the feeling of loss has paved the way for the deepest sense of privilege that I was blessed to share those moments with him at all.

My life would be void of so many beautiful moments, adventures, giggles and fun without his presence.

At the end of the day,

I just want to learn all that I can from the deep experience that I was gifted.

So when it comes,

I welcome the pain.

And I am grateful for it.

Pain is beautiful because it reminds us of all that we have.

And it reminds me of the lasting and deeply beautiful effect you can have on your fellow life travellers.

Little things like walking past a pool table at a pub can beam joy right into the core of my heart, and make me feel giggly, full and grateful.

Other times it can open up a deep fragility.

And occasionally it overcomes me,

But I learnt to let go of judgement long ago.

If tears come,

I don’t mind,

I’m sure as hell not going to hold back anything that my body wants to feel, because that ain’t the path to fabulous health!

I simply respect the feeling, the beauty, the loss, and often I’ll say something in my head or my heart to my brother Pat,

I breathe, I embrace, and I gently move on.

I learn and grow.

Learn and grow.

I stretch out on the river of change.

Gentle tips for finding your way through grief

  1. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Let go of expectations. The most beautiful and useful thing that no one ever tells you about grief is that we all deal with it in our own unique way, and that that’s okay.
  2. Find a brilliant counsellor to guide, support, and hold the space for you as you move through the complex up-and-down of it all.
  3. For all types of transition, my favourite book is ‘Broken Open’ by Elizabeth Lesser. Truly beautiful.

All the best with your beautiful journey. You’re doing a good job.

Amy

Amy O'Brien

Amy O’Brien

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What did I tell you?! I think everyone can take something from this amazing reflection! Thank you so much Amy for giving us an insight into your journey, I’m sure it will speak to many people.

Make sure you check out Amy’s website, Fabulous Health, and ‘like’ her Facebook page, Chinese Medicine + Fabulous Health, where she regularly posts tips to achieving (you guessed it) Fabulous Health!

I am truly so blessed to know so many beautiful ladies like Amy – we can all learn so much from each other! Thank you again Amy! xoxoxo

In Loving Memory of Pharaoh

Lady Breaks was created as a space for women to be real about their struggles and heartbreak, and to use those hardships as fuel to push themselves upward rather than down. Of course this is much easier said than done, and sometimes the valleys are so deep and vast simply choosing to take another step requires more strength than anyone should ever need to muster.

Losing a child is an agony that I cannot even begin to imagine or process; yet devastatingly one in every four parents experiences it. I feel so incredibly honoured to share Bianca’s story with you today. Bianca and I knew each other as teenagers, and reconnected again through the wonder of Facebook. Although our journeys have been extremely different, there is some sort of unspoken solidarity through shared grief.

I can’t really express how much I admire her strength and bravery through this time, it has inspired me to push on and keep sharing my own journey. Thank you Bianca for giving us an insight into your grief, and allowing us the privilege of meeting your son Pharaoh.

x

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A year ago, I would have never pictured my partner and I decorating our first family Christmas tree alone. A time that is meant to be full of joy and excitement is now overcome with emptiness. I had so many visions of what it would be like to have a new baby to spoil on his first Christmas day.

It has been 10 months since Pharaoh passed away, although I am now a lot stronger in my grief it still hurts to know all of my hopes and dreams for this year, and forever, are gone. I know each year I will grow stronger, but the first milestones and celebrations are always the hardest.

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Grief can be a very isolating journey. I know at times I have felt very alone and misunderstood. It can also be quite challenging for loved ones around me to really understand and accept all of the emotions and feelings that come along with it. I understand life has to go on for the world, but my world is only just starting to, very slowly, spin again. I feel I have literally been stuck in time, back with all of my hopes and dreams for our son.

I know to some it may seem like I’m being selfish but I can’t and won’t change my journey through grief. It is such a personal experience so who are others to judge or have false expectations? It is very easy for society to suggest we grieve in a way better suited to them. Unless you have been through what 1 in 4 mothers go through, there is no way they could possibly understand how debilitating it can be. Every experience is different, and people deal with things in their own way, in their own time.

When your baby dies, the world is put into a new perspective. Things that were once important now seem superficial and materialistic. It tests some relationships and makes others stronger. It helped me to be outward with my grief, and I found different ways to express all the emotions I was feeling. I created ‘Pharaoh’s Page‘ for this very purpose and I appreciate anyone who ‘liked’ our page and read an article or two. The page was never created to preach my alternative beliefs, and ways of living. It was a way for me to share the lifestyle I had planned for Pharaoh, and a way for me to still parent him. Every article that was read and acknowledged helped me to keep his memory alive. So I would like to thank each of you who have followed my journey through healing. It is far from over, and I know each day will be a new one.

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It amazes me how much you can grow and learn about yourself, just when you think you’ve got things figured out life hands you another load to deal with. All of these challenges and obstacles make me the person I am today, the person I am still growing to be. Although I wish my son was here more then anything, I am accepting why the universe has made things the way they are. I am different now, I can love, understand and empathise on a whole new level.

My new way of thinking, feeling and seeing the world would not be possible if it weren’t for Pharaoh’s short time with us.

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I just want to take the time to thank the few special people in my life. I know I have been absent this whole year, I’ve missed birthdays, engagements, and dinners. I’ve ignored phone calls and text messages – I’ve pretty much been a bad friend. It takes a lot of empathy to understand that my actions were not a personal attack on you or of my feelings toward you, more a reflection of my grief. I didn’t have the energy to maintain a friendship, and you all held me up by not judging me, and you kept the friendship alive even when it came across like I didn’t care.

So thank you for being so selfless and understanding, to me this was priceless and the best kind of support. I can’t promise I will ever be ‘back to normal’ or spontaneous and social like I used to be, but I am still me and I want you to know that I love you very much.

So even though I will feel the emptiness this Christmas, I will still feel enough joy to celebrate our baby’s life and our new little family. Christmas will be a very sad time for a lot of other families in this world. Instead of celebrating with their children by their side, they will be celebrating with them in their hearts. So please take the time to remember these families, I know they will appreciate your thoughts.

In loving memory of

Pharaoh Ireland Bryar – 26.1.13

Max Baker James – 17.12.07

Taya Joy Delbridge – 11.12.12

All the angel babies

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Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us Bianca.

Please don’t forget to visit and ‘like’ Pharaoh’s Page!

x