Those of you who are traveling through a divorce understand that a divorce is not a singular event. A divorce is not defined by the point in time during which legal documents are signed or filed. Instead, divorce is a process, often a long one. You will be faced with many unwanted surprises, and many tears will fall. Most likely you will often feel defeated, deflated, and just plain sad. At times, you will feel hopeless and helpless and very, very angry. An attorney once told me, "Kristy, you married an asshole, and then you had children with him." She then threw up her hands and exclaimed that there was only so much she could do to help me "fix" my situation.
The only clear winners in a divorce are the attorneys. It is unlikely that either spouse or the children involved will walk away from a divorce feeling victorious. In fact, it is rumored that the family court judges aim for both parties to leave their courtroom feeling like they have lost so the couple will be discouraged from ever returning to argue in front of them again.
It is all just so ugly; the breakdown of the relationship, the decision to divorce, the grieving process, the fighting, the custody schedule, new "normal."
So where is the hope? Are we destined to ride the roller coaster from hell forever? Thankfully, I believe the answer to that question is an emphatic "No."
In the words of Gary Zukav, "Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is." In my opinion, the secret to personal success as you travel through a divorce is love. Choosing love as you navigate this process will leave very little room for all of the negative emotions that try to sneak their way into your heart. This choice is a discipline; it takes time to train your body, mind, and soul to choose love over the variety of negative emotions that will well up in your heart. Focusing on loving your children and yourself will automatically breed joy and thankfulness no matter how ugly or impossible your process can seem at times.
The five stages of grief are said to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I don't believe in shortcuts. Be prepared to work through all five steps, only then can surviving your divorce turn to thriving in spite of it.
February marks the seventh anniversary of my separation from the father of my oldest two daughters. I passed the acceptance phase quite some time ago. I have been living in a stage of apathy. Seven years ago I could have never imagined feeling apathy for my ex-spouse. No more sadness, no more anger, he rarely crosses my mind. I couldn’t be more content with my life as it is now. When you find happiness and contentment in your new "normal," you will no longer feel any need, desire or obligation to engage with your ex-spouse, period.
As I look back, I am grateful for my divorce. Second, to my children, releasing me from our marriage is the best gift my ex-husband ever gifted me. Without his decision, I would not be living my life with a devoted, loving partner. I would not have given birth to my third daughter; my older daughters would not have had the life experiences they have been blessed with as a result of our new "normal." Without the divorce, I would not have learned the many tough character lessons that make me who I am today.
The journey has been long and at times very difficult but never lonely. There have been countless self-help books and therapy sessions as well as Mom night outs and the unending support of some very dear girl friends. My girls have always been on the forefront of my mind. Even during the darkest days I would think of them and how I had to be my best for them.
I have more self-confidence and courage and love to give than I ever would have at this point in my life had my ex-husband, and I stayed married. So if you are traveling through a divorce and you are feeling angry, sad, deflated, and defeated, don’t lose hope. Unfortunately, to see how far you’ve come, you have to be able to look back and reflect on the path you have traveled. So continue on your path and one day, I promise you will find ways to be thankful for the journey you have traveled.