Divorce and Stress: Where Are You Going?

Family Law|July 31st 2009

Do you ever have days when you are so low, you feel like you have hit the floor? Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences, ranked alongside bereavement and debt. As a family lawyer I have noticed that the clients who find it easiest to move on are those who are able to concentrate on the future, rather than the past.

Like every other human being, I have my bad days too. I have had some major life changes this year and some of these have been tough to accept. I try not to wallow in negative thoughts, and it helps that my work keeps me busy. Occasionally I come across something in a case that doesn’t seem right – an unjust decision, perhaps, which needs to be corrected – and the fight is on.

Whenever I need to gain a little extra strength, to reassure myself that what I am doing is right, and that I am right to care so much about a given client, case or situation, I find inspiration and courage in a tiny, peaceful churchyard in Oxfordshire.

It stands some distance from the magnificent Blenheim Palace at Woodstock. This stately home was built in the reign of Queen Anne and presented by a grateful nation to the first Duke of Marlborough for his valiant services saving the nation from the French at the Battle of Blenheim. It is hard to think of a more romantic building, set as it is amidst stunning parkland and lakes. Blenheim Palace is dominated by the 40 metre “Column of Victory”, on top of which stands the Duke’s statue. It can be seen for miles around. I have used that statue as a makeshift compass when running in the stunning Blenheim parklands, which were designed by Capability Brown. It looks as though His Grace is pointing towards the little church of St. Martin at Bladon in the distance.

The churchyard is as inspiring as it is humble. Buried in a modest grave there is one of the Duke of Marlborough’s descendants: Sir Winston Churchill. The statesman was born at Blenheim Palace but, at his own request, his final resting place is far more modest.

St. Martin’s churchyard stands at the top of a hill, reached by a small windy path from the road. Every time I have visited, it has been raining!  Churchill’s tombstone is surrounded by the tombstones of other members of his family.

He is often regarded as the 20th century’s greatest Briton and the Quintessential English Bulldog (although he was half-American). When you consider his triumphs and achievements, in the face of adversity and daunting odds, he is also a great inspiration.

This is a man who fought depression – which he called his “Black Dog” – throughout his life. But he did not let it defeat him; nor did he let it pull him away from his ambitions. Instead he devoted himself day after day, year after year, to the preservation of Great Britain and the free world against tyranny.

Whenever I walk through that windswept churchyard, my head clears. It is all too easy to become mired in difficult situations, but life sets challenges for all of us. What matters most is not what those challenges are, but how we face them.  Churchill said, “We will never surrender”.  He meant it – in more ways than one.

I am interested to learn what others think. If you draw inspiration from a particular place or person when you are feeling low, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Author: Marilyn Stowe

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

Comments(2)

  1. Lenny says:

    “I am interested to learn what others think. If you draw inspiration from a particular place or person when you are feeling low, please share your thoughts in the comments.”

    There are several schools of thought and approaches to modelling the human psyche. One which I believe is used quite widely in addressing marital and family issues is Transactional analysis.

    At its most basic it proposes the notion that all of us, adults and children, have three Ego-States, Parent, Adult, and Child, and in which we interact constantly with the rest of the world. “The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy.”, so when we’re feeling low it seems to make sense to try to give expression to, and draw inspiration from the Child. Some artists, such as David Hockney, seem to refresh their creativity continually in that way.

    As a quick fix for mental turmoil I always find reading poetry for a few minutes has a very calming effect. It can be anything, provided it’s not angst-ridden, because it seems to be the act of focusing, rather like deep breathing, that has the effect. For a quick mood lifter, visualisation works quite well. I usually visualise two teams of baby elephants and rhinos playing football.

    In terms of places, the edge of the sea, or in it, seems to have a cleansing and refreshing effect on the mind, probably to do with the idea of all the tensions simply flowing into the vastness, or the idea expressed in Arthur Hugh Clough’s poem.

  2. Marilyn Stowe says:

    Thanks. I also enjoyed the Turner/Rothko exhibition at the Tate National last week. Fabulous.

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