I am sharing a story of “Jan”, a woman who overcame much adversity and crisis in her life. Many of us can relate to her story, and I believe it is one that needs to be shared. (I have changed “Jan’s” name due to the private nature of her testimony; however, this is a true story). Jan is a brave woman and a survivor. After 24 years of marriage, she found herself divorced in mid-life and alone. Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, she got back on her feet, put herself through nursing school and came out the other side. Life isn’t perfect – and certainly she still struggles today – but Jan has overcome the difficult obstacles of “starting over” in her life and has accomplished so much. She has endured and persevered despite great turmoil and loss. Jan experienced many emotions along the way: fear, panic, loneliness, sadness, and bitterness, just to name a few.
Although each of our struggles may be different, most of us are no stranger to loss. I hope you will be inspired by Jan’s story that no matter what type of loss or challenge you are facing, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on.
Here is Jan’s story:
I had been a stay at home wife and mother for 24 years. I knew in my gut years before that things were not right in my marriage. Fast forward to 50 years old, and I hear myself say to my sister on the phone, “I’m getting a divorce. What will I do? How will I survive?” It was sheer panic. My sister’s words to me were, “Get your LPN (nursing degree), you will always work.” That was NOT what I had planned on in my life… to always work. I had not been gainfully employed since I was 28 years old and had been out of the workforce for years. This coming from my sister who was married to a doctor with a seemingly perfect life. Fear overwhelmed me. I left my home of 18 years to move in with my elderly mother. God’s timing was perfect. At the time, my wonderful stepfather had Alzheimer’s disease. My mother needed my help and I definitely needed hers. I was in nursing school within two weeks after the conversation when I heard those awful words, “I’ll always have work.”
When I was divorced, I felt so alone. It’s such a scary feeling to realize that there is no one there to help you if you’re sick, or need something picked up from the store, or if my car wouldn’t start – all those simple things we take for granted when we have been in a long term marriage. I held onto my cell phone for dear life for a long time… I still do really. For the first time in my life, I knew I really had no one to rely on but myself. The sadness that hit me when my grandchild was born and it wasn’t what I thought it would be, the supportive fun grandparents.
It’s so difficult to be alone and “pretend” to those around us that everything is fine. It was painful at first to hear my friends talk about what they were doing with their husbands, even if it was just going to the grocery store. I felt jealous. It was a cold, sad reality to know that there was not enough time in my lifetime to ever be able to have a relationship of being together with someone for 20 – 30 years and have a long history together.
Then, of course, there was the bitterness I went through when you find out that most men seem to want the 30 – 35 year olds. I guess that does sound a little bitter, but that has been my experience. Looking back when it first happened, I was going to an Alzheimer’s unit every day to help take care of my stepfather. Being with them made me realize how blessed I was to be able to go out into the world and still live, laugh, talk, and feed myself. All these things that we take for granted daily. I knew my stepdad and the others in the unit would have traded placed with me in a heartbeat!
Back to the start of LPN school. I was the oldest one there. It seemed like everyone was 20 years old. It was a fast paced and difficult curriculum. This was honestly the most stressful time in my life. Those young students retained what was taught to us after reading it only once! I had to read my notes into a tape recorded and listen non-stop to pass my tests! I would make songs up or jingles, whatever it took to memorize stuff for the test. It was a nightmare. Of course, there were a few miracles – non-mentionable things – that occurred along the way – which kept me alive. Looking back, I see how good God was to me. I would come home to my sick elderly mother who was always encouraging. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t appreciate her during those difficult times like I should have. She was a woman of iron! But, I did get my LPN degree and am currently working. My fear is that my sister is right, that I’ll always work!
Even though it’s hard and I often complain, there are many blessings at my job. Having to go to bed at 7:00 p.m. to get up at 3:00 a.m. isn’t one of those blessings – but getting off at 1:30 p.m. every day is!
I love the patients that I work with and the nurses, too. That is another story on its own – it would probably make a good reality TV show – we are a crazy bunch!
Looking back, when my marriage was over, I was certainly very afraid of how I would live. I received no financial support or alimony. I still feel at times that it is just not fair. I was a good faithful wife. I prayed for my marriage. So, I often have my own little “pity party”, but all it takes is to hear stories from patients who have had devastating things happen in their lives and I see how blessed I really am. I have many patients who have stories that make mine sound like a Cinderella story.
I realize now, even in all the chaos, God sent me a boat to deliver me. I was definitely in a sinking ship with a concrete block chained around my neck. Looking back – it was moment by moment. But with God, and wonderful family and friends, I am making it. When all else fails, my motto is “Fake it until you make it!”
Some lessons I have learned:
- Recovery is a Slow Process. I believe I will be working on it forever. You never really get over the fact that your life is not the way you wanted or planned it to be.
- Having The Lord in My Life. I constantly have an ongoing conversation with God. I have to say praying without ceasing is the only way I have survived! Sometimes, I have prayers of tears and sometimes prayers of thanking God for His miracles and believing in His promises.
- Friends By My Side. I am so thankful for the friends who were and are always willing to listen to me and my story, even if I have told it 100 times!
My advice if you are going through this: Pray for yourself and pray that God can use you to help someone else going through this…. Because in helping someone in need, you are truly helping yourself.
All of my answers came from God in the form of multiple miracles, friends, jobs, and hope.
Please remember, it does get easier in time!