Reclaiming my SENSE OF BELONGING after divorce, death, trauma, retirement, financial catastrophe and other life changes.

ID-10073599. vladoLast year, in the fourth year after my marriage collapse, there was the business sale, loss of my mother, finalization of the marital settlement and my retirement. I am now in the fifth year and finally facing the full impact of the divorce with its financial ramifications, as well as other life changes. Sometimes I feel I am left with the shadow of the world I had five years ago as many people in that world are now gone from my life.

When my marriage collapsed, I felt my whole social network had collapsed with it losing my partner, family unit, friendships, his extended family and community connections. With the business gone, I have lost contact with work colleagues, contractors and advisers. My mother’s death means less contact with siblings, extended family and Mum’s community. Still to come for me will be moving away from this area and its community.

I have thought about those people in my old life and the differing levels of connection I had with them. I am striving to create or reinvent relationships at the same level I have lost in order to provide for me a sense of belonging. These are my losses and gains –

Level One – one on one.

No longer partnered, I have strengthened my relationship with work colleagues, friends, children and siblings on a one-on-one basis. I periodically still see work colleagues. Since the death of my mother, I have connected with extended family members individually. My siblings and I stay in touch. I do not need a ‘partner’ to provide me with deep connections.

Level Two – being in a herd, a close-knit group of three to eight people.

I have had several herds in each phase of my life providing me with strength, a sense of belonging and intellectual stimulation. My herds have been my two nuclear family units (children and siblings), foursome couple friendships, friends to share coffee or a movie, interacting with parents of my children’s friends, and mingling with work colleagues in small discussion groups or meetings.

My herds have either changed or disappeared and it is this loss I am feeling the most. I have adjusted to my changed family unit of me and the children, and I am adapting to having sibling interactions without our mother there. Happy times are still shared.

However –

I am no longer half a couple, working or financially secure. Being retired and alone, my situation is different from friends still working, retirees in a couple relationship or in an easier financial position. My regular contact with accountant, banking adviser, book-keeper and IT expert is gone. I have lost that ‘connection’ with those previous herds that I had.

I am endeavouring to seek out and interact with people in similar situations as myself, for example retired singles. I am developing some hobbies and seeking out people or groups with those same interests. It is early days and changes have been small, yet positive.

Level Three belonging to a tribe, a larger group with a common connection.

My past tribes have been classes at school or university, work-place, extended family, sporting teams, choirs and community groups. Not as intimate as herds, there is nevertheless a sense of belonging to people with a common interest. I am feeling the loss of my work environment, and my mother being the matriarch and ‘glue’ of my extended family. Whilst I am focussing on strengthening my Level One and Two connections, I look forward to seeking out community groups when I move. In the meantime, my blogging world has provided for me a sense of belonging to like-minded people.

Level Four – being part of society at large.

In the early weeks of a crisis we lean on community services – police, hospitals, medical and counselling services. I have also given back at the society level providing a health service business for 35 years. Whilst there is a feeling that I am not currently contributing at the society level, I am at least engaging by using library services, browsing shopping precincts, and chatting with people in that environment daily. I am grateful our society is a free one and I feel safe.

Level Five – belonging to a cause of national or global significance.

I was involved in an environmental cause with my family and that interaction was lost when my marriage ended (although my beliefs still stand). Over the past two years I have found a new ’cause’ and have been directing my energies into research on this. My aim is to eventually contribute to this cause in some way.

It is difficult facing several life changes at once. One step at a time for me is the best solution, becoming stronger as my own self, then gradually branching out at the higher levels of connections.


The Art Of Belonging. Hugh McKay





34 thoughts on “Reclaiming my SENSE OF BELONGING after divorce, death, trauma, retirement, financial catastrophe and other life changes.

  1. I like how you can see there are other groups to belong to, expanding outside the ones you shared with your ex-husband. I believe that 2016, Elizabeth, will hold some special ventures or trials and errors to discover what you truly want to do and become involved in. Hugs and encouragement sent through air waves to you, friend!

  2. Excellent post Elizabeth. I thought you may like to check out a book I read recently. I found it to be very relevant to the course I am running in February. She looks at our relationships, our identity and our purpose.

    Schlossberg, Nancy K. (2009-02-15). Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose. American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

  3. What a fascinating analysis of social interaction, and it really made me think where I fitted in my own life. I’ve realised as a single (divorced) woman with no children, who is self-employed, working from home, that my life is thinner when it comes to both ‘tribe’ and ‘herd’ circles. I’ve been divorced for a long time, but one thing I remember from the early years was the growing – and wonderful – significance of my women friends. That holds true today and my close women friends (though not a ‘tribe’ but separate friendships) are like sisters to me. As we leave behind the closest relationships of our lives – husband/wife, children leaving home, parents no longer with us etc – we still need closeness and the opportunity to share without being judged. And whilst it’s not the same, friendships take up much of the slack. I don’t know where I would be without my close friends and the sense they give me – in the absence of a long-term partner – that I am ‘alright’. Keep going Elizabeth, it all comes together in the end.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful and kind reply, and sharing your story. I agree that friendships formed with other women have become much stronger for me since my divorce and I do not know where I would be without them. I too find that I have two or three that I connect with, although not often together. Even though I do miss the coffees with the ‘girls’ at work, that was often only small talk and I am finding that I get to a much deeper level with the true friends that I now have and these have become golden friendships that in some ways, is much truer than what I ever had with my husband. Thanks again for your reply and I appreciate your (cyber) friendship.

  4. A very interesting stratification of relationships. What comes to me is the last three plus years of posts I’ve enjoyed from you which were focused on the work you have been doing to build a solid platform of Elizabeth, upon which you can now look to add layers of interaction. Maybe that is in fact level one of these layers, in which case you should soar!!

  5. This is great Elizabeth and I think we can all relate to these connections we have with different groups and how they all create a different space in our life. You are really discovering your needs and your purpose here.

  6. I absolutely agree that blogging is a terrific way to contribute and feel part of a larger community, but I don’t think it is enough to fulfill that complete sense of belonging that we all need. It sounds like you have carved out a plan that will work for you when you move to your new surroundings.

    • I found that when I was in a deep introspective period, the blogging world was my lifesaver as I could chime in if and when I needed to or wanted to but no-one could force me if I was having a bad day. Now that I have healed somewhat, I am brave enough to face real people and take what comes at the time ie their moods, my moods and life’s little ups and downs. thanks for your friendship

    • How perceptive of you, as when I was writing this piece I got to thinking that sometimes too much love of the ‘tribe’ can undo the close relationship of the ‘couple’ or ‘herd’.

  7. Great post, Elizabeth. I love the way you are taking care of yourself with connections that feed your soul. And you are so articulate. Have you thought of writing a book along these lines?

    • Hi Barbara. It is great you are having this new edition of ‘awakening’ posts. I am fairly busy this month (it is my ‘awakening’ back to real life :)) Thus, I am not sure whether I can chime in this time but please keep me in mind next time. Best wishes.

  8. The very fact that you’ve broken society down into different subgroups shows how intuitive you are to life’s various situations. Not everyone has the ability to step back and embrace what is available to them. It may not be what it once was but clearly you’re moving forward and I feel you are expanding your horizons (at the risk if sounding cliché)

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