Read Mary’s blogs on themes connected with those explored in her novel. New blogs will appear regularly.
Sometimes in life we suddenly see something and realise that until that moment we have not understood it at all. I had one of those moments when someone described the rollercoaster of grief – because that is what the pain of separation can feel like. This image describes the emotional journey people take through grief - starting with denial and shock, fear and confusion, through anger and blame, shame and anxiety to the depression and helplessness of the low point of it all.
Love Lose Live: the Divorce Rollercoaster, was launched at the Law Society on 4 February 2016. The response to the story has been overwhelming. The book seems to have struck a real chord with many people who have been divorced and interestingly whose parents were divorced when they were growing up. The scenes in which I give the children's perspective of what is happening to their family and how they cope (or don't) and their thoughts and feelings are very powerful and change the view-point from which family break-down is normally understood.
Blame, it's not your fault, but one day it won't matter any more . . . On the grieving cycle following death, loss or divorce, after the first shock and denial, people become angry and blaming, they may get depressed as they gradually detach from the other person and old life. Only then are they ready to move to dialogue and bargaining to sort everything out. Finally they will reach acceptance of the new life and be able to move on.
Focus mediators help separating couples every day. We have observed that many separating people are angry. Very angry, 'incandescent' is a word often used by their nearly ex, who may also be very angry. In this frame of mind humans are programmed to fight. It's what you do when you're angry. Saying something really nasty or hurtful temporarily gives some relief, even if it does increase the fighting levels. The reason for the anger is it is the second stage of grief, the grief of loss, loss of the relationship, that life together, even if you wanted it to end.
With the statistics for family breakdown soaring, most people will experience the effects of separation or divorce in some way. If they are unlucky, it will be them. If not, it will be other family members or friends. No one is immune.
The end of a relationship is a sad time, following on from the sad times that caused it to end in the first place. Couples and their children, whatever their age, may well experience anger, blame, denial, crying and fighting as they grieve for the family life they have lost. Once people start to move out of the grief cycle they feel better, more in control and able to plan their future and live it.
Something rather peculiar happens when you start to think that other people are doing you down and scheming to do better for themselves at your expense. It may not matter that you are or were very good friends, once that suspicion is there it won't let you, or them, go. It can happen at work if you’re competing for a promotion, a coveted role or just the first two weeks of the summer holiday off with your family.
The end of a marital relationship or cohabitation inevitably involves change. Change can be good or bad, welcome or unwelcome, but it is usually accompanied by stress. In the 1960s two psychologists researched the effect of certain major and not so major life events and changes and evaluated the effects of them on people, which has become known as the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory or Scale.
Once upon a time a beautiful princess met a handsome prince and after all sorts of adventures they rode off together into the sunset and lived happily ever after. At least that is what was supposed to happen. But after the story ended they found themselves in a difficult place called Real Life. They were not very good at negotiating and were even worse at communicating.
We should all remember – children don't get divorced. They don't marry or cohabit. They simply want to live with their parents until they grow up. Or most of them do, violent and dysfunctional parents excepted. So when couples divorce, the build-up may have been long and painful or it may have been non-existent. Either way, usually there is some element of control, of choice, or of self-determination at the very least on the part of one, if not both parents.
Christmas and other important celebrations, such as Eid, Diwali and Passover, are family affairs. People usually go home if they're living away and it’s a special time for children. This makes it all the more agonising for families with children where the parents have separated or divorced in the past year. Should they try and recreate their old family celebrations for the sake of the children? This may land them in trouble, as familiar rituals may cause parents to revert to old boundaries and habits that are no longer appropriate.
Modern family life is hard. It normally takes two incomes to rear a family, with one income paying for the housing and the other paying for everything else.
Childcare costs for more than one child often exceed the hourly rate that can be earned by the working parent, so parents often have to work fewer hours to care for children and so earn less money just at the time when they need rather more of it.
Courtship is a magical time in every relationship. Getting to know each other, falling in love, spending time doing special things, going out to dinner, going on holiday.
Reality may not feature greatly. If the couple marry, there may be an extraordinary build up to a fairy-tale wedding that takes just one day, often with little thought being given to cost or the daily life that awaits after the celebrations.