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Tuesday, 07 August 2012

My Traumatic Experience

By Johna Ferguson

I think for women, unasked for divorce is perhaps the most traumatic experience they must face. One day your husband is there and then next day gone, but not permanently for you might often run into him on an outing.

Death is terrible but at least he’s never going to be around. Perhaps he fell in love with someone else or is looking for someone else to fall in love with.

Whatever, he has suddenly left you and you feel like you have fallen into some dark bottomless pit. You have no idea which way to turn. If your children are young, you must comfort them and if they are older, you must try to confront them as you never know just who they will side with, you or their father.

Where will you live, what will you use for money, how can you manage the day-to-day things that seemed so ordinary before that now loom like a brick wall. So many decisions to make and in your state of mind they all seem too unbearable to deal with. You never wanted a divorce, in fact it wasn’t even a possibility in your mind, yet it has happened.

To make matters worse, perhaps like me you can’t think of one divorced couple. Who can you turn to for advice or help? I couldn’t turn to my mother, just recently widowed and also in rather fragile health.

Luckily I remembered a past neighbor, a woman about seven years older than I who was divorced years before. Her husband left her one day for another woman so she knew the difficult walk I was taking. I called her and we met for lunch; I listened and followed her advice, right or wrong.

She told me to keep an open mind so our children wouldn’t have to take sides. Go along with any reasonable division of your belongings that can be worked out. If he refuses, then hire a lawyer and “take him to the cleaners” but be aware of the consequences: your children may then side with their father.

We were able to find a solution. I got the house and everything in it and he got the business. I got some alimony in exchange for getting half share of his retirement funds. He paid for a lawyer to draw it all up and once I signed the court document, it was a signed and sealed deal.

Well, all except for my emotions. That was something I had to learn to deal with. I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job. I finally felt I had to move out of the city where our paths often crossed. Luckily I had options and chose to move to China. I applied for a job, through a Chinese friend, and there I remained for 27 years, even eventually marrying a Chinese man.

But now we are back in the states. My former husband’s nephew is running for a big state office yet I am never asked to attend any of the affairs. I wasn’t invited to any of my former nieces’ or nephews’ weddings.

I live only blocks from my former sister-in-law, who once was a close sorority sister, and also live in walking distance to my former husband’s condo, but I am banned from all previous family connections. His siblings all ignore me; only his artist brother wrote me.

Seems like the hurt I thought was gone has surfaced again. Perhaps I brought that all on again by moving back into my familiar neighborhood. But yet when my former husband was having health problems last week and my sons were all out of town, one son called me to have my present husband, a doctor, walk down and check on his father. Good thing my ex and present are friendly in an off-handed way.

Now to get bad feelings out of my mind, I have turned to writing, writing about fun or unusual things. It’s amazing what writing can do for one’s body and soul. If you have a problem, try turning to writing and then submitting to Ronni’s wonderful blog. An entire new world may open up for you.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Johnna, it is so interesting that you wrote about this right now. I'm currently experiencing something similar. My daughters and I hadn't heard from their father in 35 years. His son recently contacted my daughters and they med last weekend. All this brought up such hurtful memories for me. I'm happy for my daughters but it is a sad reminder of a hurtful time in my life.

Johna - Nicely told.

I can't relate because divorce is a life experience I have yet to try.

My younger sister's husband ran off with a mutual friend in the late 1980's. After her tragic death in a sailing accident, he was remarried to a much younger bride. By this time, my sister had married a man, 9 years her senior. They, along with her two daughters attended her ex's wedding on an island off the Maine coast. Last winter, my new brother-in-law celebrated his 80th in Key West. Her ex, his new wife and infant daughter, went to the party and stayed for a week!

On the other hand, my oldest sister was divorced childless in the early 1950's. Even today, after 60 years, a new husband, two kids, and three grandchildren, she can't discuss her first husband without breaking down. - Sandy

You write so well Johna and, although I don't know you, feel as though I do.

You're right on about Ronni's blog. Lucky are we to have found it.

Johna, all I can say is "ditto". Sad memories, hard times, both of us survived.

Amen to writing for therapy.
Just be glad something worse doesn't come along. Divorce after 13 yrs, suicide after 13 years and happiness for 26 years ending in cancer death.
Now the first one rarely comes up in my mind.


I've always enjoyed reading your stories and must say that they were interesting and well written but usually not sad.

You made a new life for yourself in an new and exciting country and now,as you pointed out,we are all fortunate enough to be reading each others stories thanks to Ronni sharing her site with us.

I think divorce is much harder to bear than the death of a spouse. In addition to the grief, you feel so betrayed. While your ex goes happily on with life, you are left to deal with the messy part of it all. Your self esteem takes a dive and you feel battered from every side.

I am glad you were strong enough to move away and I am sure that you are strong enough to move back to where you were so bruised.

I agree that writing is therapy. I used to write letters to myself and I am noted for my letters to family members. Divorce is so rampant these days and so sad, especially for small children. I feel like I am going though one now with my son's divorce. I feel so helpless.I started a program a few years ago for Florida with the help of local judges to prevent the trauma to minor children as a result of divorce. It is required by law now for divorcing parents with minor children. Hopefully it prevents parents from forcing their children to take sides.

Johna,I,too, went through a similar trauma many, many years ago. Isn't it great that we came through it stronger and probably a hell of a lot more interesting than we'd been, had it gone as we thought it would.
Thank you for sharing your honest feelings.

I feel the pain in your writing of this painful trauma. However, I am not so sure that I can agree with all. The loss of my precious husband lingers with me these fourteen months later. His family, to whom he was devoted, have behaved much as they did when he was living.... complete dismissal and lack of acknowledgement. So, it can be a trauma either way...death or divorce. Pain is pain, as you surely know. I'm sorry for yours.

Interesting blog post and the comments. Made me think. I am reminded of how someone once told me that when it comes to divorce, the best thing to do is shut the door soundly and have no contact again. I had to do that to someone because of their abusiveness. I'm certain it caused huge hurt on my ex's side both with that family and it was devastating to me as well because I felt like a failure. Yes, I picked up with my current husband and have been hugely happy. (No kids involved, thank goodness) But I think the closed door helped the healing process because it would have been worse had the two of us been bumping into each other all the time. It would have been tougher on my new husband. I do agree with you that divorce is uber-traumatic. Bad, bad, bad. Thank you for making us think today.

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