Divorce only happens to those who are in abusive relationships or just hopelessly mismatched, right? Or so I thought. I never imagined that this fate would befall me. After all, I thought my marriage was quite strong and functioning fine. But I was given a rude awakening and my Happy was replaced with a huge Hole. I will never forget the first time when the word ‘divorce’ was uttered by my ex-husband. We were out walking and he casually mentioned it as something we both might want to consider. I stopped dead in my tracks. It was as if someone had just poured cement in my shoes. My feet felt like solid blocks of concrete, unable to move….
Surah Baqarah: 216
Eighteen years, four children, three thousand miles and twenty-six cargo boxes later, my life post-divorce was about to enter into new unchartered territory. Despite my desperate attempts to avert this outcome, here I was and there was absolutely nothing I could do to reverse the course of events. The guillotine had come crashing down on my marriage and my head was a constantly spinning top in that debris.
Even now, the pain of those memories resurfaces from time to time. However, slowly, over the months and years, life has surely regained a sense of balance. I have learnt to try take back control of my life and completely remove the negative influences. Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), the harmony which I thought would forever elude me, has gradually found its way back. No doubt, my many private conversations with Allah have helped me in my darkest hours. Whilst He may not speak to me in a way a teacher does with his/her student, I know that the peace I feel within is His way of reassuring me that He is there responding to my call. Nothing escapes His attention.
There is one other huge element of my life which has been pivotal in my recovery. That is my four boys, Alhamdulillah. In any divorce, children are the inadvertent victims and have the unsavoury job of watching the drama unfold and yet have no right to talk. I promised myself that, despite my own inner turmoil, they would be given the right to as normal a life as possible. Their tenacity has been admirable.
In the early days, I had many moments where I had let the façade of normalcy come down and regrettably, my children witnessed moments where I became madly unleashed. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to stop my emotions from peaking. It was difficult enough to be strong for myself let alone four other young people in my care. However, one day I was fortunate to have had a conversation with a friend who had also gone through a divorce years before. She gave me a piece of advice which would hugely impact me. She told me to never let the boys see a mother who is weak as they would be taking their cues in life from me. They were depending on me as their remaining role model. I needed to be strong if not for anything but to pass that baton of strength to my children so that they could deal with the ravages of life for themselves. It was an absolute turning point and I am forever grateful for that advice. At that point, I told myself I was no longer a single mother but a “double parent”. I would compensate the loss of their father.
So, the past few years have brought joy too. The five of us have taken a seemingly tragic situation and, together, turned it around and made something beautiful. Of course, as their mother, I have had a watchful eye on all aspects of their wellbeing – educational, emotional and spiritual. We had always been close but in retrospect, perhaps their father bailing out was the opportunity for us to grow even closer. Together we have ranted, asked questions and even tried to provide answers about how life panned out for us. It’s here that I must pause for a moment.
Many people would argue that I am wrong to give an audience to the rants of my children, claiming it would be encouraging disrespect towards their father etc. I beg to differ. I saw back then, and still do, that allowing my children to grieve and vent their frustrations is both a human need and a cathartic process. We have had countless frank conversations about emotional pain, confusion, anger, sadness and even guilt. More importantly, I wanted my children to know their opinions mattered. Besides, how could I tell them to hold their silence when I myself was bursting to explode? It would have been a complete hypocrisy to expect that from them. Each knew the other was finding their own way to a place of acceptance of loss. As time moved on, we allowed ourselves to reflect on things gone by and not allowed ourselves to be stuck in the quagmire of the past.
My sons have been the best counsellors I could have asked for. They are usually in tune with my emotions as much as I am with theirs. I have endeavoured to make happiness a palpable reality for them and, therefore, for me. Life will not collapse into chaos simply because their father opted out. I refuse to let them suffer the stigma of divorce and be deemed as the pariahs of society. They have every reason to hold their heads high and demand to be counted as fully fledged members of society. Some of the finest men in history have been raised without their fathers. My own personal belief is that is precisely because their mothers have restored within them a greater sense of compassion and humility.
Happiness is not about plying our children with gifts; it is more the lesson that we are grateful for the circumstances we find ourselves in, knowing that many others are worse off than ourselves. In my own case, rather than waste my energies on the many “if only” situations, I resolved to invest in something much more worthwhile – my present reality which includes my sons. I have watched in awe as they mature into young adults with a nuanced perspective on life which so many of their peers do not have. Through adversity they have learnt kindness, humility and patience – and this is where Allah’s wisdom comes together.
It is usually in our most difficult times that we turn to Allah for help. Therefore, I take a very philosophical view to life. Never become too attached to anything be it people, commodities or a given situation….and yes, that includes my own children. Even though they are the focal point of my life and I am heavily invested in them, I am mindful of the fact that they too will one day pursue their own desires. I don’t expect reciprocal affection simply because a mother’s love can never be matched. Happiness has many formulae but, ultimately, it depends on us to find it and make it work. Any adversity we encounter is an added opportunity to recognise Allah as the real focus and demonstrate our reliance upon Him and nobody else.