I’ve not done any proper research, but it strikes me that February is the most depressing month of the year: not only is it generally drab and chilly, it comes after three similarly drab and chilly months. By the time February arrives, we’ve had our fill of leaden skies, damp days and dark mornings.
If the jolliest of us feel depressed in February, it can only be imagined how miserable those embroiled in divorce must feel at this time of year.
Loneliness is one of the most overwhelming emotions experienced by those whose marriages have come apart or are on the brink of collapsing.
If you are already feeling lonely, having to endure yet another depressingly grey month can only add to your mood of despondence and isolation. Your feelings of abandonment are mirrored in the sagginess of your garden, which gives the impression that nothing will ever grow again. One or two plants will persist in flowering despite the absence of the sun, but most are still burrowed beneath the soil awaiting the life-giving warmth and sunlight of spring.
There are many people who feel this way, too. They feel paralysed by grief and loss and can’t imagine ever again being appreciated, wanted or loved.
Experiencing acute loneliness is commonplace among those getting divorced and, just as we are forced to confront the dreariness of February, acknowledging and trying to adjust to feelings of being forsaken is one of the most difficult things anyone has to go through.
From my 25 years as a divorce lawyer, I can proffer these words of, if not comfort, than at least of experience.
Loneliness has to be borne, somehow, in the same way as grief has to be confronted if it is to be overcome. There is no getting round it – it’s a case of staring it in the face and surviving the pain.
Without trying to trivialise such feelings – for they are as potent as they are debilitating – I can offer only this green shoot of hope: just as February finally ends and spring starts to emerge from its winter slumber, so your feelings of desolation can begin to flower, however diffidently.
So, what do you do to make spring emerge in your personal garden of dark loneliness?
You harness all the support – of friends, family and colleagues – you can get; you throw yourself into new leisure activities where possible; you focus on all the things you can now do that you couldn’t do while you were married (even if it’s only surfing the TV channels without getting it in the ear) and luxuriate in, rather than lament, the chance to be yourself.
Most importantly, it’s vital to learn how to be alone without being lonely. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s not impossible. Lots of people imagine themselves to be lonely when, in fact, they’ve simply not learned the art of being happy on their own. Many of my clients were lonely in the early days of the divorce process, but came to understand they were simply alone. And being alone can be good: just gaze upon a single sunflower in the garden and see how majestic, self-assured and utterly beautiful it looks.