One year after re-joining the church staff with whom I’d worked prior to staying home with my kids, I lost a dear friend and colleague. She had been part of the fold that had wrapped me up when I returned to Maryland as a newly single parent. Late that summer, on what was my fourteenth wedding anniversary, I was back on the East Coast, estranged from my husband. Wanting to get my mind off of it, Betsy and I took the kids for a swim on the Gunpowder River. Grief could have swallowed me whole that day, but, instead, this dear friend helped make the day beautiful. Driving home as the sun was setting, she shared the play by play of how she met and married her husband. When she told a story, I found myself in it; she was so full of life. The loss of her awakened grief; I was devastated to lose my friend and reminded of all the losses I was still counting.
There is an ebb and flow to the momentum of healing from divorce. One day I feel like I’m on top of the world. I have made it through so very much. The next day, I run smack into a roadblock that catapults me back to what feels like square one. Like many things in life, divorce is full of transitions and changes, firsts that throw me off kilter because they remind me of everything I left behind. My kids now have a second home. My kids will soon have a stepmom. There are first encounters and experiences that I would never have anticipated could stir me as they do.
Then, just as surely as I sink down, however far and for however long, I resurface. Something that up to a certain point has had a hold on me–a belief, a lie, stubborn refusal to accept my lot–is revealed. I break through. With each break-through, I learn about myself and adopt a new perspective on how I look at my past which, in turn, releases me to lean into my future. While each one of us may have our own unique epiphanies, to be able to continue healing, some critical revelations about how we see ourselves, our past, and our future can offer a turning point that helps us move forward.
Over the past few years, I’ve had a few break-through moments when my perspective shifted significantly enough to push me forward in recovering from my divorce. I wish I could say I perfectly grasped each one when it happened; as with most lessons I’ve learned, though, I have to revisit them from time to time. Here are a few important break-throughs I’ve made in what is an ongoing and intentional effort to live well in this next leg of the journey.
Not You or Me But We: Despite however convenient it may be to blame my ex for what happened, it only perpetuates my grief. In the end, I also signed on the dotted line. I resigned myself to forces that were in many ways beyond my control and agreed to let it go. There was no celebration. I felt like I was giving up. To say, however, that it was all him is not quite true. Regardless of the circumstances that brought us to that place, I agreed to a divorce. Together we were not able to resolve the conflict between us. It took two people to be married; it took two people to get a divorce. I take responsibility for my part.
The Limitations of Intuition: Despite however highly I rank on a scale of intuition, I cannot read anyone’s mind. I cannot know what another person does not tell me. I may feel something is off. I may feel like I know something is off. Yet, all of this leads only to conjecture and sophisticated guesswork. When I want to know something, I need to ask more questions. Intuition is like an alarm system; it lets us know when we need to pay attention, but it is not a substitute for the truth.
I Can Do This: Despite however great a deviation from the plan this new reality is for me, I will not be undone. I can do this. I am still here because I am strong. I have good days, bad days and everything-in-between days. I am resourceful and determined, and I still have faith, even if I’m not always so sure.
Letting Go of The Resistance: Despite however deeply I did not want or welcome this event, it still happened. Quite a while back while I was in the early stages of accepting my divorce, I felt as though I was water skiing in the sand. While I was being pulled hard in one direction, my heels were dug in, and I struggled to even move. With all my heart I wanted to change the course that I was on. I acknowledged this lingering tension in myself. I even named it: The Resistance. I am laying it down because it is a losing battle. I am here now, regardless of what has happened in the past.
It’s OK to See a Therapist: Despite however resourceful I am, there are times when I need help. Nearly five years ago, I sat in a therapist’s office, nerves frayed over the seemingly sudden turn in my marriage. Perhaps the best advice anyone gave me, she said, “Your children will be well if you are well.” When I see my kids’ beaming smiles and boundless energy, this is my reward. It is work to heal from divorce, and I’ve given a lot of my heart to that end. I am taking care of them when I take good care of myself.
You Are Your Best Friend: Be kind to yourself. Be gracious to yourself in thought and deed. No one can get inside your mind and change what you think about yourself. Your future begins there. Love yourself truly. You are worth fighting for. Sometimes you will feel it. Sometimes you will just need to do it by taking care of yourself, practicing your faith, exercising, spending time with those who love and care about you. Loving yourself is a responsibility that begins by treating yourself well one gesture at a time.
Whether you’re healing from a divorce or something all together different, what’s holding you back from where you want to be? Are there any thoughts you need to change or a perspective that needs to shift?