Freedom from the past brings freedom to build a future.
Recently, we were celebrating Freedom Day in South Africa, commemorating the transitions our country and its people have gone through over the past 20-odd years, and it made me think about my own divorce and the freedom it brought.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating divorce. I wish every married couple a fairytale happily-ever-after, and every child a secure and loving family to grow up in. However, there are times when divorce is the better or only option, and it actually offers a lot of transitional value.
Here are the ways in which I transitioned to freedom through my divorce:
1. Pain and suffering to happiness and health.
Going through divorce inevitably meant that the last few years in my marriage were not the best. They were marked by heartache and sadness about what could have been, fear of losing my partner and anxiety about the uncertain future that lay ahead. My health suffered as a result of the continuous trauma of my family falling apart and depression gradually set in.
Working through the trauma healed the heartache and cured the sadness, as I learned the power of acceptance. Fear subsided as I regained hope for a new future on my own terms. Getting a grip on my past and embracing the reality of my present allowed me to start building a healthy future.
2. Conflict to peace.
Ever-increasing arguments about issues we simply couldn’t agree on anymore were clouding our daily existence. Shameful screaming matches became the honest substitute for intimate connection, and left me disillusioned in a deep, disgusting trench.
The odds for disagreement were greatly diminished when we separated and each of us owned private space to retreat to for reflection. Feeling less threatened brought new perspective to our problems and enabled me to see mistakes I needed to rectify and offer apologies for.
3. Stress to harmony.
Living with the constant stress of a failing marriage took its toll on me as tension headaches, muscle spasms, and a peptic ulcer became the symptoms of shot nerves, sleepless nights, and exhausting days juggling motherhood, work, and defending myself in battle after battle of the divorce war.
Although my stress factors initially increased with our separation, the new status quo prompted me to evaluate my lifestyle choices and make adjustments to prevent complete breakdown. In my search for solutions, I discovered better ways to manage stress and maintain my personal well-being regardless of life’s ups and downs.
4. Victim to courageous leader.
The countless times I exclaimed, “How did this happen?” or, “What did I do to deserve this?” or, “Why me?” was exasperating. With absolutely no idea how to handle the situation and totally misguided by my legal representation, I became trapped in a cycle of self-pity and regarded myself as the innocent victim of this horrible injustice.
Desperate for a fair divorce, I anticipated my day in court as retribution for all the wrongs I suffered. But instead, all I got was a lawful bloody nose, forcing me to take a long hard look in the mirror. The truth literally hit me in the face when I realised that I was solely responsible for myself and how my life turned out. I mustered the courage to lead myself out of the darkness into the light.
5. Sense of failure to confidence.
None of us get married with the expectation of ever having to go through divorce, so admitting to myself that I had failed to write my own fairytale was painful. I battered myself with introspection, searching for what I did wrong, where I could have done better, why I didn’t see it coming, and how the hell to go forward.
Searching deep within myself, I succeeded, for the first time ever, to discover my real worth, my purpose, and my greatest values. This enabled me to lift my head up again and choose a new path to write the next chapter of my story with confidence.
6. Resentment to forgiveness.
My heart was polluted with resentment toward my (ex) husband who had let me down, my in-laws (who’d never supported our marriage), our friends who chose sides, and my own family who were so quick to say, “I told you so.” Abandoned and humiliated, I nurtured my bitter cynicism.
The impact of my own humble apologies astounded me, as others reciprocated with the same. It gradually became feasible for me to let go of all the negativity and simply forgive myself for the things I wished I never did. From that new vantage point, I became able to gracefully forgive others without apology or restitution.
7. Guilt to relief.
Realising that I could no longer honour the life I was leading or keep the promises I made to sustain it made me feel so guilty. I always felt that it was my responsibility to keep it all together, to make sure everyone was happy, and I was failing miserably. The price my husband and my children would have to pay for me not being the best wife and mother became a tremendous weight on my shoulders.
It was only several years later, when I heard my children’s spontaneous laughter for the first time in ages, that I started believing in the decisions and choices I made. As I looked out the window and felt the relief emerging from my own gut, I knew that it was all for the better, and the guilt slowly started to subside.
8. Shame to pride.
Of all the emotions, feeling ashamed of being divorced was probably the hardest. The shame of a mother letting her children down in the worst possible way by choosing to divorce their father from their daily lives was unbearable at times. Oh, the shame of not being able to hang in there and make it work. Giving up. The number of mistakes, misjudgments, missed opportunities, and misgivings were so shameful, I couldn’t bear to look ahead.
With time however, the shame fertilised my inner growth, re-affirmed the vital importance of honesty, strengthened my compassion for mothers and fathers, made me committed to always strive for better and to chase an authentic, meaningful and mindful life.
My divorce broke down the shackles of captivity from my own heart and mind, and facilitated an overdue transition to true freedom. Freedom to learn, live, and love.
Author: Sinta Ebersohn
Image: Unsplash/Roman Kraft
Editor: Taia Butler