Some women are stronger after a divorce; they’re so relieved to be released from catastrophic marriages that they rise up from the ashes like a phoenix. And then there are those women like me who feel the loss and disruption so keenly that they move into a funk so dark, it rubs them so raw they feel blistered on the inside. As a coach, the one thing I emphasize to those women who struggle through divorce, the one thing it took me awhile to learn, is to forego those swirling, incendiary thoughts of guilt and shame that flit around you like annoying gnats, whispering over and over: you’re a loser, a failure, you won’t succeed, you’ll be alone forever, your kids will be totally lost without a father, your married friends will all forsake you, your family will disapprove, you’re too old to date . . . . and on and on . . . an endless cacophony of gloom and doom.
Divorce, like marriage and child-rearing, unfortunately doesn’t come with a fail-safe manual. And, due to the complexity and diversity of 21st century divorce scenarios, there’s no “one size fits all” rule that applies to everyone. And, again, there’s always those tricky little feelings that manage to step right into the middle of everything and gum up the works no matter how much progress you seem to be making.
While there are no steadfast rules, there are, however, beneficial suggestions I discovered as I climbed out of my own canyon of despair.
1. It’s ok to cry for awhile. It’s ok to sniff, snot, boo-hoo, scream, lose control (in the privacy of your own home), throw a tantrum, kick furniture, pull out a few strands of hair, walk around unwashed and stinky . . . for awhile. However, if said behavior lasts more than a few weeks and you find yourself wallowing in self-pity, loathing, despair and anxiety too, too often, by all means, please seek help. There are a proliferation of helpful organizations that stand by waiting to hear from people who are going through what you’re going through.
2. The world loves you, only as much as you love you. If you’re awash in self-confidence, you will have found that the world generally holds the same opinion of you, as that you hold of yourself. If, on the other hand, you’ve decided that without Bob or Sam or Joe, you’re nobody, then trust me, the world will begin to view you the same way you view yourself. The old adage, You’re nobody til somebody loves you, is a crock. You were born somebody, and you’ll always be somebody, with or without somebody by your side. Your challenge is to recognize that fact and step into it.
3. You, and you alone, decide your future. I’m more than a firm believer in consciousness. I probably qualify for a Ph.D. in it. The moment you decide your future can and will work, is the moment your future begins to take on a positive shape; it gathers force, it gathers momentum. The key is taking all thoughts of your future and positively molding them into the future you envision . . . NOT allowing others to dictate what your future will be without someone.
4. Fake it til you make it. When my ex-husband left me alone with two small children, I was on the verge of a nervous break-down. My mother gave me the wisest advice anyone’s every given: “People get tired of seeing you moan and groan continually. You’d be surprised how many people will help when they see you trying to make it.” She was absolutely right. From that day forth, I stopped crying at the drop of a hat. I stopped being a victim. I determined that I’d have a smile on my face no matter how I felt inside (and I felt like crap). Low and behold, I began receiving help and encouragement from people I never imagined would help me.
5. Celebrate you. If you do nothing else after your divorce, learn how to celebrate you. Learn how to love and appreciate everything about you, from the way your hair curls (or not), to the way your eyes crinkle when you laugh. My arms are chubby, but they’re soft as pillows, and there were times when I would just marvel at them. I’d stroke them, appreciating and loving the fact that I had arms to stroke. I began seeing my glass half-full instead of half-empty. I began knowing my life was worthy and worthwhile. Life is an adventure, full of amazing, frightening, exciting, scary, tantalizing stuff. It’s all that and more. It can be a roll-a-coaster at times. Our job is to learn how to navigate the ups and downs and starts and stops. Divorce is one speed bump on the journey and it can be life-lesson worth every bit of the pain.