By Audrey Cade
Some old friends are so deeply connected to our hearts that we can go for long periods of time without seeing one another, yet pick up right where we left off when we’re reunited again. Such is the case with my friend Jenny. Back in our carefree days before children, we used to share many sun-drenched afternoons on her patio sipping sangria and listening to music. We laughed and talked about everything! Those moments will always hold a special place in my heart.
Blame it on life. The years have passed, and we both became so caught up in the demands of family and our careers, that our time for one another grew less and less. The phone calls decreased to fewer and farther between. Regular dinner dates became holiday cards exchanged by mail. Tears and laughs in confidence became “likes” on social media.
I was thrilled to run into Jenny the other day! My immediate reaction was guilt and regret for my part in allowing our connection to dwindle over the years; but, sorrow quickly turned to joy in seeing my lovely friend again! She was as sweet and beautiful as ever, but something had changed. The usual dancing light in her eyes was replaced by the solemn wisdom that only a person who has been through difficult times could know. She revealed that she and her husband divorced four months ago. Oh, Jenny!
There are so many things that I want my Jenny and all the other women now standing in her shoes to know about the life that faces them as they cross the threshold from married to divorced life. I want to collectively wrap all of them up in my arms to hug away the fear, grief, and emptiness that they now feel, and reassure them all that this hollow and lost feeling will go away! My hugs possess no magic healing powers; but, perhaps, I can offer some words of inspiration to ease the transition:
Dear Jenny (and all other newly-divorced ladies)
Take your time
You’ve just been through the personal equivalent of war or natural disaster. Your entire existence has been turned on its head, dismantled, and left as unrecognizable rubble. There’s no question that you will feel disoriented, shell-shocked, and uncertain of what to do next!
As in any disaster we might face, if you find yourself still standing after the event has concluded, then you are counted as a survivor! The wounds and the memories are there; but, every moment moving forward will take you further away from that life-altering event, and closer and closer toward wholeness and healing.
Take your time. There’s no rush! Don’t remain with the rubble and become part of it. Instead, start taking tiny steps to separate yourself from it. But, do so at your own pace, and allow yourself to feel everything that comes next. Divorce is a mixed bag of emotions, and it seems that we need to give each feeling its turn to overcome the experience.
A common thread of pain runs through all divorces; otherwise, no two divorce stories are exactly alike, nor can we expect any two divorced women to think and feel the same way about the event. You will have to do what feels right for you, and on your own timeline. True healing takes however long it’s going to take, no matter whether we try to rush it or savor each step. This is the time to be true to yourself, follow your instincts, and nurture yourself!
Find your joy
Everything you need to be happy is already within! No relationship, ring, or title are among the necessary ingredients to achieve peace and fulfillment. Divorce will challenge our belief in the possibility of happiness. But, after the dust settles, we have a new opportunity before us to re-discover whatever it is that brings us joy!
For some of us, the key to happiness is right where we left it: with a favorite hobby or interest from the past. Others of us will need to take time to become acquainted with the woman we’ve become over the years, and learn to tap into strengths, gifts, and passions that bring meaning to our lives. Whatever our personal happiness is, the time is now to grasp onto it and begin living it!
Although it is easy to be distracted by the negative aspects of divorce, life will always deliver reasons to celebrate. Find even the tiniest of good things going on around you and revel in its beauty! Is it a particularly beautiful spring day? Did you manage to change the furnace filter for the first time without his help? Did your daughter draw you a sweet picture? Is it Taco Tuesday? There’s no shortage of reasons to smile, pat yourself on the back, or put on some happy tunes if you allow yourself to embrace optimism!
Life is like monkey bars, we can’t move forward until we let go and grab onto what’s ahead! The weight and gloom of divorce will continue to persist as long as you hold on tight to shame, guilt, and regret. The past can be like a boulder pinning us down, preventing us from moving, and making it uncomfortable to breathe.
What’s done is done. There are lessons we can learn from our mistakes and bad situations that we’ve been through; but, we’re meant to gain strength and knowledge from life so that we can apply what we learn to always growing and improving, not suffer indefinitely!
Forgive yourself for everything from poor judgment to trusting too much. Forgive your ex for his role, as well. The gift of forgiveness is for you to allow yourself to be free from the control of your ex and the divorce. It doesn’t mean you condone what happened, it just means that you will no longer be oppressed by the past!
Forward movement also requires lightening the load of baggage associated with shame you might have about your divorced status. Many of us cling to feelings of disappointment or embarrassment. We feel we’ve let our families, children, and even God down because our marriage didn’t last. We feel this way because the marriage meant something to us and we took our commitment seriously.
What you will eventually come to learn is that you can’t worry about what others think about your divorce. You live for yourself, not them. You have to stand by the choices you know are best for yourself, and take comfort in knowing you did what you could to make things work! We can’t control what other people think, but we are the primary force when it comes to deciding to make the best out of an otherwise negative situation and proving the naysayers wrong!
To my friend Jenny, and all others on her same path: divorce is an intimidating event to encounter. Any of us are fearful about how to proceed into a situation that is so foreign (and often unwanted), such as divorce. Always know that you’re not alone! There is a whole sisterhood of women who have survived, and then thrived, after becoming divorced!
Like any other new chapter of life, it will take time to get your bearings, process all the events and feelings, and learn to conquer the circumstances. You will find your way to a place of peace, things will make sense again, and you will find many new opportunities for joy!
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.