By Jennifer Butler
There are times in our lives when we face experiences we are simply not prepared to deal with. The loss of a loved one, financial ruin, a natural disaster. When we are faced with such difficult challenges, we do the best we can at the time, with what we know and what we have. We fall into survival mode and do whatever we can think of to get through to the other side. We rely on old patterns of behavior and techniques that we believed worked in the past, hoping and praying they will do the job now. As we do everything we can to move forward, we scramble, we fall, and we make mistakes along the way, all done in our attempt to survive and find our way back to a space of comfort and safety.
Divorce is one of those difficult moments. And when I look back on my divorce, the first word that comes to my mind is devastation. My world seemed to crumble down around me and I had no idea how to handle it. But, like anyone experiencing any sort of disaster in their life, I had no choice but to face it and deal with all the issues that came along with it. In hindsight, I didn’t do a very good job of it at all. It was as though I had two versions of me existing inside, a version that wanted to be led by love and faith, and another version that was simply afraid and unsure. As insecurities, doubts, and fears arose in me, I often times let that hurt and angry part of myself lead the way, which resulted in my learning some difficult lessons in a very painful way.
When we go through challenges, we truly must expect that we will make mistakes. After all, mistakes are a part of the human experience.
But if we are going to allow mistakes in order to learn, divorce should be no different. If we are willing to be accountable for our past, we can take action in ways that allow us to do better going forward. In the words of Maya Angelou “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Now that I have come out on the other side of devastation, I have chosen to be better and to do better in my life by sharing my own life experience with others so that perhaps my own mistakes and difficult life lessons can spare at least one person some pain.
And so, I share with you the biggest mistakes I made after heartbreak.
1. Isolating Myself
While it is definitely important to spend some time alone to grieve and to heal, it is equally as important to surround yourself with those you love. Even though your instinct may be to isolate yourself, going through any sort of traumatic situation should never be done alone. You need to have people providing you with perspective and hard doses of reality so that the crazy thoughts in your head don’t get believed as truth. And you need to laugh!
When I was going through it, I remember being in so much pain when I was around others who were happy and having fun. I felt like nobody understood what I was going through and even began to feel like a burden on my friends. Slowly but surely, I isolated myself until eventually, I wasn’t really speaking to anyone. I had created an island for myself to reside, thinking it would make me feel better, but honestly it only made things worse. Rather than isolating myself, what I really needed to be doing was infusing my world with love!
2. Pretending to be fine
There is truth and value to the statement “fake it till you make it.” In order to succeed at anything, we really do need to have the ability to “live as if” we are already where we desire to be. Sometimes this means putting on a smile when you feel like crying or getting dressed up when you are feeling down on yourself. Sometimes you just really need to give yourself that extra push to get you where you want to be.
I, unfortunately, took this to the next level and allowed my pride to lead the way. I didn’t want to admit that my ex could hurt me and wanted more than anything to prove I was fine without him, that I didn’t need him. I wanted to appear strong and evolved, as though I had some superpower that was allowing me to weather this storm unharmed. On the outside I may have been doing a good job, at least for a while, but eventually the truth of my own pain broke through. I was not fine and I hadn’t given myself permission to be truthful about my feelings. Faking it to this degree did nothing but prolong the grieving and healing process. Before I could have even considered “faking it till I made it,” I needed to allow myself the necessary time and space to grieve and process my truth.
3. Shrinking the size of my world
There is definitely something to be said for not vacationing at the same hotel as where you took your honeymoon, or not watching your family videos on rewind every night. Keeping yourself stuck in the past will make moving forward difficult, therefore giving yourself distance from events and memories is a very helpful part of the healing process.
As I went through my divorce, I noticed that almost everything held some sort of memory for me and the experience of remembering was painful. I began to avoid things, one at a time, thinking it would help me to heal more quickly. I avoided going to certain places, listening to genres of music I had loved, even doing things that had once made me happy. The more I cut things out of my life, the more I found other things that needed to go. I even moved out of the city I was living in and loved because living there was too painful. Making my life small may have felt good in the short term, but in the long term it caused me great pain. Finding ways to incorporate the things I loved, even if it meant having to remember, was a necessary step in healing and moving on.
When we go through challenges, we truly must expect that we will make mistakes. After all, mistakes are a part of the human experience. The absolute best part of those mistakes, though, are the lessons that we learn and the growth that occurs from them. Be kind with yourself as you go through your process, forgive yourself for the mistakes you make, learn from those who have walked before you, and then share your wisdom with others. You are on a powerful journey of transformation.
About the Author
Jennifer Butler is a writer and transformation coach, currently working as a community leader for DivorceForce. Beyond an extensive education, Jennifer also went through a life transformation as a result of her own divorce and has dedicated her work to supporting others. You can connect with Jennifer at JennJoyCoaching and on Instagram.