Throughout the end stages of my marriage, I was emotionally unwell. Divorce is arguably more devastating than being bereaved, as it’s not only suffering loss, but also the inevitable onslaught on one’s self-esteem. There were many days when I spontaneously started crying. Sometimes they were quiet tears running down my face. Other times I might have sobbed into my pillow at night. Everything I had ever known for ten years had come to an end. Sometimes my emotions might have been triggered at the mere sight of a loving couple walking hand in hand, perhaps they had a baby with them too.
What I deeply needed was support, and alhamdullilah, God sent me support. My friends were like angels, helping me out in various ways, each one offering aid with a unique characteristic they possessed. One friend had no divorce experience and had not much to say to me, but opened her home to me and I spent many hours there, talking, cooking, eating, while our children played. She gave me a home away from home. Another friend who had been through tough times in her marriage and also worked very hard to attain gainful employment, talked and talked and talked, motivating me, encouraging me, assuring me how empowered I will eventually feel once I stand on my own two feet and earn money. We would go for long walks together. On some occasions I’d cry while we walked, and she kept talking. It was perfect. My other friend (and babysitter) was one day helping me weed the front of the house during my ‘iddah. I suddenly became weepy and overwhelmed by the countless weeds and said “How am I going to take care of this house by myself?” Gentle and sweet in nature, she assured me that we would tackle the yard strategically, and it would be manageable. This friend has an extremely peaceful and calm presence, and was often such a blessing to have around as a confidante. Another close friend of mine made time for us to spend time together with our kids, despite her being perpetually so busy. One day when we didn’t have the kids around, she told me we were going to watch a movie. I hadn’t watched a movie at the cinema in perhaps a year, but thought, “Watch a movie? How novel!” and welcomed the mental distraction. She aptly chose Harriet, which was exactly what I needed- a movie about empowerment. Another angel friend of mine who had been through two divorces, with her second marriage having been polygynous, had lots of empathy and conversation to offer. We’d go for walks and hikes, and she always validated my grief and anger.
These people, as well as others, stood by me while I oozed and bled, quietly wiping it all away.
I had some ungracious moments too. What angered me was some others in the community who had heard about my divorce had said, “I’m so sorry, let me know if you need anything”, and when I approached them for help, they declined. Being in a highly emotional space, I perceived their offer as being mere lip service and insincere. In my low state and vulnerability, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Now, so many months later, I hope to overlook their flaws and recognise that even though unable to help, perhaps their intentions were sincere. It serves me better to focus on valuing the people in my life who have offered me something so fundamentally necessary to me during those initial, painful stages of divorce.
Lastly, some people wondered why I did not spend my ‘iddah with my family in my home country. I chose to not do that, as despite my family’s immense love for me, they have always been incapable of offering me emotional support, which was my primary and ardent need at that time. I needed to be able to sit with someone and talk and cry, with no judgement. Secondly, my mother was seething at my ex, and I could not bear to hear her daily complaints and tirades about him. I needed positivity, or mere peaceful silence would suffice. Knowing that I had to manage my anxiety and depression, I chose to keep away from family during that phase.
This entire experience has deepened my own sense of compassion for other divorced women. Previously, I might have been one of those women who superficially offered support to a divorcee. Now, I am capable of so much more. I know how one may look okay on the outside but internally they feel as if they are falling apart entirely. That I have become a more empathetic person through this is a blessing.