By Shalisha Smith
“You must go through the process to get to a new beginning
like a Phoenix from the ashes renewed and reborn”
Anyone who has ever been divorced is well acquainted with the multitude of emotions experienced. Confusion, self-doubt, shame, rejection, abandonment and feelings of failure. Whether it was an unwanted separation or a mutual parting of ways the loss felt is painful and life altering. It is often said that going through a divorce is much like the process of grieving the death of a loved one. It is the death of your identity as a wife, the mourning of the future you had envisioned, it is the pain arising from the questions, ” What if I did this…”, or “If only I’d done that, things may have been different…”
December 2015, I packed the last of my ex-husband’s possessions into a box and placed an envelope sealed with my tears on the top. I wanted closure. I wanted a chance for my decision to be fully understood. I poured my soul out into a four-page letter where I spoke of the unfortunate demise of our marriage; through blurry eyes I offered forgiveness for his shortcomings and acknowledged my own. It was an epitaph filled with all the words we utter when a calamity strikes such as, “Everything happens for a reason, Allah is the best of planners”. I wrote those words with my pen, and while on the surface I knew them to be true, the question whispering in my conscience was, did I truly believe them in my heart?
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested”. [Al Ankaboot 29:2]
We all know that belief in the 6th Pillar of faith: Qadar, both the good and the bad of it, is an essential part of being a Muslim. When you face extreme hardship do you find yourself asking, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Do you forget that Allah tests those whom He loves, and each test is given according to what a person can handle? There is no getting away from the anguish divorce brings; however, you do have a choice in how you react to it. Until you are willing to go through the eye of the storm, you will not be able to move forward and come out the other side victorious.
There were 3 main stages of the storm that lead to my new beginning:
First Stage: The Whirlwind
Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings and lean into them. The most difficult part of the process for me, was facing the reality my marriage was over at 29, and that I was once again single. As children we are often told “Don’t cry, be a big girl” Then we grow up and rather than express our sadness, we hide behind our jobs, binge eating and other unhealthy behaviours.
On the outside, I was a tower of strength smiling, getting on with it. Inside every brick of that tower was crumbling to pieces. I woke up for fajr each morning forcing myself out of bed then go to sleep each night with a feeling of emptiness. My faith was so weak that I became lazy in my prayers.
After the pain came the anger. I was tired of wallowing in self-pity. I began to think “three years of my life wasted!” and thus began the blame game: “If he had done such and such things would have been different, why couldn’t he have tried harder..” Just as quickly as the anger came, the guilt followed. “I should have done more, been a better wife”
These are all-natural sentiments- don’t suppress them! Give yourself permission to grieve and feel sorry for yourself. If that means you journal, cry your eyes out or sit in a corner rocking back and forth, do it! You must feel the pain in order to let it go!
The key is, rather than making this situation a means of turning away from Allah and earning his displeasure, turn towards Him in repentance seeking reward through patience and prayer. Ask the Almighty to bestow perseverance upon you. When the Prophet Ayyub peace be upon him, was tested with the loss of his family and wealth he turned to Allah saying:
“Verily, distress has seized me, and you are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy” [Al Anbiyaa 21:83]
Allah responded saying:
“…We removed the distress that was on him, we restored his family to him and the like thereof along with them, as a Mercy from Ourselves and a reminder for all those who worship us” [Al Anbiyaa 21:83]
Second Stage: The Destruction
In order to start afresh, you must destroy what is already standing. Once I had gone through the process of dealing with my turmoil, I then had to deal with the wreckage. The clouds cleared and some days there was even a little sun. I had gone past the point of attributing the failure of our marriage to my ex and began taking accountability for the things I had done or not done within our marriage. I stopped beating myself up with “shoulda, woulda, couldas” and started looking at things as they were, assessing what I could take from the devastation.
It requires two to make a relationship work, one party is no more responsible than the other. We are all flawed human beings, with our own baggage, trying the best we can with the information and experience we have at any given time. In every situation, we must hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make or failed to make. Forgive yourself and your ex for any shortcomings. In circumstances where things did not end on an amicable note, remember at one point you loved this person; do not allow bitterness to overcome the compassion that should remain as one believer to another.
It is a process to forgive someone who has hurt you, or to remove the ill feelings lingering in your heart, yet you must strive to get there -realising forgiveness is more a gift for you than it is for the other person.
“…And let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you?…” [An Nur 24:22]
Third Stage: The Rebuilding
Once you accept what is you can begin to rebuild yourself. This is the stage where I gained clarity. I commenced a journey of rediscovery of my beliefs, my values, what I wanted in a husband and what I had to offer as a wife. I assessed the positive as well as negative ways in which I function in a marriage, which gave me a higher understanding of myself and even my ex-husband. I stepped outside my comfort zone and began to date myself! I took myself to nice restaurants, for walks in the park, I’d go to interesting theatre shows and sisters’ events. I recommitted myself to memorising Quran and learning Arabic.
Turn this tragic event into a lesson, a tool to assist your growth. Take inventory of yourself, your strengths weakness and character traits. The end of a marriage often brings about a loss of your identity – use this opportunity to rebuild your self-worth, self-value and self-love. Before you can expect anyone to love you and want to build a life with you, you first must be clear on who you are and what it is you want.
The storm is over! There are times when I feel lonely and long for a companion, but I can truly say I am at a point where I am grateful for my divorce, and appreciative of my marriage. Everything I wrote in my farewell letter 3 years ago is no longer just an utterance of my lips, but the true testimony of my heart.
Put your trust in Allah, trust the process and you too will rise –
like the Phoenix from the ashes renewed and reborn.
About the author:
Shalisha Smith was born and raised in South London and reverted to Islam in 2009. She has a 13-year career in the NHS, is a self-proclaimed Bibliophile and social introvert; with a passion for learning and sharing her life experiences.
You can find her at: www.malikamai.com