Shock! Stage 1.

  1. Shock has the ability to paralyse us at the beginning of a divorce. This is where you actually need to make some of the biggest decisions of your life, whether it be about your legal approach to the divorce, your financial situation or your future plans to raise your children, but here’s the catch, this will be when you are least mentally capable and driven, to think logically. This is the stage where you will need all of your support group to kick in and hold you up at either side, when all you want to do is fall to your knees and stay there.
    This is the first stage of grief.

You didn’t see it coming. You didn’t expect it. This is, of course, different for the person who has left their partner than the person who has been left. In most cases of divorce there will be 2 very different experiences of divorce happening simultaneously. I can tell you that I, personally, was in shock for three months.

During those three months, I truly could not make sense of how I had gotten to that point. The day’s rolled into each other, and I’d wake up each morning dreading the day that lay ahead of me.

I’ll never forget the feeling of waking up, my mind completely relaxed only for a few brief seconds before everything came flooding back. It was the worst part of the day. I would remember where I was and what was happening in my life and my anxiety would immediately skyrocket. I would feel my brain instantly shoot signals straight down to my chest, gripping it tightly, without respite. That anxiety would continue down into the pit of my stomach, where it would sit, making itself known all day. I wondered if I would ever again wake up and feel peace.

That stress held my body hostage for about 12 months, but I learned to function. However, each morning I was reminded, if only for a few seconds, how I felt before the divorce. I missed that feeling of peace so much.

While I was in this stage of shock, I was forced to get my driver’s licence. I had survived 31 years without one. I had got a learner’s licence soon after I arrived in Cape Town in 2011, but I now needed a full licence. It was important because I was alone with my kids. I needed to tie up all loose ends to achieve my independence. I was under pressure from all sides to get a full licence. Ah, just what you need when everything is already a big mess, more pressure!

I failed my first two tests because I couldn’t parallel park. (I still hate parallel parking!) I didn’t even make it to the road. I don’t remember those tests. My brain had stayed at home in bed while I was functioning in zombie-mode. I was so distracted.

I failed my third test because my vehicle licence was out of date. I hadn’t even noticed. I felt so defeated, and it seemed I was encountering obstacles at every turn. So, I thought to myself: “Right, fourth time lucky!” Isn’t that the saying? I had to believe it was because hope was all I had left and even that was wearing thin.

By that time, they knew my name at the driving test centre. I walked into the building and they all shouted: “Morgan! Today is the day, hey!” I cringed. Oh, the pressure! I got into the car and somehow, by the grace of God, parked perfectly.

“Right, Morgan, let’s go out on to the road.” Thank goodness. Then, I was halfway through my driving test and I started sobbing like a baby. The pressure was just too much. I wanted that licence so badly. I needed it in order to prove that I still had some control over my life. I needed to feel that I was still capable of accomplishing something, even in my depleted state.

I got it together and drove like a pro, remembering everything I needed to. I passed my test on the 17th of March 2015. St. Patrick’s Day. Back at the driving school, I received high-fives all round. I had overcome my self-doubt and had got my licence on my fourth try. It was my awakening. I had pulled my head out of the water and breathed my first breath again. The shock was over. I had taken the first step towards taking back control. I was about to be divorced. I was already a single mom. My situation lay out in front of me and it was very clear.

On my licence picture, my eyes are puffy, but I’m smiling from ear to ear. That was an important lesson for me right at the beginning of my divorce: Even on days when you just want to run and hide, don’t be embarrassed and don’t play the victim. Never give up. Every step you take in your divorce decides how long you will allow yourself to suffer. The power of your mind will take you the long way, or the short way back to peace.

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