Over xmas he was sunning himself in the Maldives (not that we knew that at the time). I had barely eaten or slept in a month. I had also witnessed the murder of my neighbour on my doorstep. I was beyond stressed. I'd no income, no idea what would become of us (my ex assured me that I would keep the house, but it seemed unlikely we could afford this, even before I knew he'd been secretly taking our savings to cover up for the fact that he'd not been earning).
Luckily I'd already bought gifts. There were no stockings by the children's beds that year - I couldn't face waiting up alone for them to fall asleep. And instead of spending evenings wrapping with their dad, I enlisted the kids to wrap each other's gifts. My mum joined us. We put on brave faces. We were in shock.
That was five years ago.
Since then, I've sold our home and moved to one worth less than 20% of its value (my ex squandered everything and still took half of what remained of the equity). After many years as a SAHM, I have a job. It pays far less than the one I left over 20 years ago when our first child was born, and financially things are hard. My ex elects not to pay the maintenance for us that was ordered by the court. The youngest are 18 now and have started uni. So I've been living alone for the first time in about 30 years. To my complete astonishment I rather like it.
In the week I found a job I also signed a contract to write a book. Evenings and weekends were spent on that; the book launched in October. It's called Making Peace with Divorce. Have I made peace with mine? I certainly don't wish we were still together. I would never ever have left my husband, so I am glad he forced the issue, painful as it was. But I regret that we do not have a better relationship, for the sake of our children. It is awkward, and, honestly, if he had behaved with any integrity, we could have been civil, which would have been better for them and us.
My three will be here for Christmas, and I am delighted. Everything is on a smaller scale, but I will enjoy it more than I did. I won't need to feed or put up armies of in-laws, just those I love best in the world. We'll be cozy; we will light a fire and put on some carols and all muck in and I hope we will sing and laugh.
So, for those of you still at the beginning of this hideous journey, I hope you take heart. Five years ago I was here day and night seeking solace and fearing I would never heal or be happy again. Any kind of future seemed impossible and I was deranged with grief. Things are better now, and in many ways, better than they were when I was living in a loveless marriage and not even aware of it. It may not seem like it now, but it does get better. Hold tight!