I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness recently. Christmas and New Year are a good time for that. It’s so easy to fall into some kind of envy that makes you feel that your life is less than everyone else’s and separates you even from yourself.
I imagine like many of you reading this, I have suffered from bouts of loneliness throughout my life. For me loneliness isn’t just one feeling. Sometimes it’s like a dark heaviness that creeps into my heart and stays there, brooding. Sometimes it can be so intense that it paralyses any sense of self. At other times the feeling of separation can be so unbearable it can make me wish I wasn’t here at all.
I’ve thought a lot about forgiveness since my husband left me last year. It wasn’t the fact that he went. It was the manner in which it was done. I felt as if my soul was being stamped on with concrete boots.
To begin with I was in such a state of shock that it was all I could do to survive. It’s only recently, as the first anniversary of him leaving passes by, that I have begun to feel normal again (whatever normal is, by the way). But after any profound grief and loss, life cannot be and will never be the same again.
My attitude to life has certainly changed, and continues to do so, as I face up to what the experience has taught me.
The first lesson I learnt was that, even though I was in bits, this crisis was not going to kill me. Life continued regardless. The second was how amazingly supportive my friends were, and still are. It was as if I needed this experience to deepen my relationships and to find out what friendship really means. If that was the only gift I gained, I would have been very happy.
But, it wasn’t.
Last year my husband walked out of our marriage. We had been together for thirteen years. At the age of sixty, overnight I lost my partner, my beloved home, financial security, and the prospect of growing older as part of a couple.
Sadly, I am not alone. Research shows that divorce rates for those over fifty have doubled in the past twenty years. The fallout has massive preoccupations not just emotionally but also financially. In 2012, The Telegraph published a disturbing article stating that I in 6 of the babyboomer generation are facing health issues associated with financial hardship, a large proportion of which lies squarely at the door of these later-life divorces.