After nearly six years in divorce and legal proceedings (with the case still ongoing), Deborah MacDougall knows the immense change that divorce brings to every part of one’s life.
She decided to find some humour in her situation, and Divorce: A Comic Colouring Book was born. The book offers some therapeutic comic relief to those going through similar experiences.
SDTC: What have you learned about divorce?
DM: It’s the second most traumatic thing that can happen to somebody in their lifetime, short of losing a spouse. We underestimate the impact it has on men and women and the families around them. Before, when a girlfriend was going through a divorce, you’d think she was going through a rough time, but you didn’t realize how rough it was. Sometimes you’re just trying to survive with the kids and working and everything else.
Why are we reluctant to talk about divorce, despite how prevalent it is?
It’s true. About a third of (Canadian) marriages end in divorce. You don’t even want to tell people about it because you feel like you’ve failed at something. I lost my first husband to cancer when my kids were very small, and people would come up to me and say how are you doing? But with divorce, it is more taboo. You’re not sure how to bring it up, and sometimes, if you do, people can start offloading a lot of negative energy. They’re in such a negative place because of what’s happening.
Why a colouring book?
On other divorce blogs, I couldn’t find anything out there that was humorous. The blogs were like, “How To Get Your Juju Back,” and tips for buying lingerie. I thought it would have been nice to open up the mail one day and have a colouring book where you can laugh a little bit. With 1.2 million women going through this every year, everybody had a story that was so awful it was funny. It gives a chance to laugh at things that happen to other people – because we share the same experience but in very different ways.
What’s your favourite page?
My favourite is one where you see this campground on the bottom called Camp Bitterness, and this woman has a huge backpack the size of her. She’s thinking, “This is one trip I never planned on taking.” And her girlfriends are at the top, having wine and drinking and laughing and screaming, “You’ll be fine! you’ll be fine!”
What’s the funniest divorce story you heard?
A woman wrote in – the judge was trying to figure out alimony and who was going to pay the bills. The husband’s lawyer says, “But…you’ve had plastic surgery,” and she said, “Oh yeah, but that was an emergency. One breast deflated.” The unimpressed judge (who’d had a lot of surgery herself) said, “Let’s move on to something more relevant than her deflated breast.”
What would’ve been helpful to you when you were going through your divorce?
Hope. Something funny to make light of the situation, because it is so dark. I looked to other men and women who had gone through it. You’re walking through the grocery store and thinking, “Half the people in here are going to experience this in their lifetime. Are you one of them? Can you give me some helpful hints?”
It was a labour of love to make this funny. What surprised me the most was how many funny stories women had – after they were a little bit through it. When you’re going through it, in the first six months, it’s not funny. It’s kind of dark. You feel very alone. This was a way to help women realize you’re going to make it through.
What was the best thing that came out of your divorce?
When you’re strong enough to say that it’s okay to be alone. There are so many single households and so many single people. You get over that stigma. And that’s what I think you’re the most proud of, when you find a way where it’s okay not to be married and you build a new life. That becomes very exciting rather than scary. When the fear leaves, the excitement starts.