Reflections on Identity

Learning to Cope With All the Midlife Doozies at Once

Divorce, Death, Moving, and Career Change

Laura Friedman Williams
4 min readJun 18, 2021

--

A lone ship in a vast ocean, photographed on vacation in the “before” times

My daughter spent the days following her grandfather’s death making a video montage. It was moving and beautiful, an epic poem of his life from his childhood in Brooklyn to his years in the Peace Corps in Iran to his five children and eleven grandchildren spread over two marriages, the longest one being to my mother for 45 years.

My daughter chose a song to play over the video by the band Train, the first lines rising above the black and white photos of his youth: when it rains it pours and opens doors and floods the floors we thought would always keep us safe and dry.

These words echo through my mind in an endless loop as I seek dry land and try to accept the fact that I will probably be wading through murky water for quite some time. Many therapists identify the biggest life changes as the death of a loved one, divorce, career change, and moving from one home to another. Are there bonus points for enduring them all at the same time or for adding to the list? Did I unwittingly sign up for A Mid-Life Package in which I bought all four of these events simultaneously in the hopes that I could just knock it all out at once?

Three years ago, my decades-long marriage came to a screeching halt when I discovered that my husband’s recent strange behavior was because he was in love with another woman. I took pen to paper as I both grieved my marriage and started to examine what my life as a single woman would look like. I ended up writing a book, the bulk of which I finished while in a quarantine lockdown with my ex and our three kids.

While I was trying to write, giving myself exactly one hour a day to block out the noise of my family whose needs seemed to mushroom with each passing day, I learned that my birth father, who had died when I was five, was not, in fact, my biological father. I wrote long emails to my literary agent explaining that I was reeling, yet again, with this upheaval and didn’t know how to turn my mind back to the memoir with so much rattling around. She was firm with me: finish the book, and deal with this news later. I’m a rule follower, so I did as I was told.

--

--

Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.