By Bernadette M. Smith, MCC
Going through a divorce is hard, but that doesn’t mean life after divorce has to be difficult too. In fact, life after divorce can be filled with joy, peace, and personal fulfillment.
Here are four empowering ideas you should keep in mind as you begin building a new life for yourself after divorce.
Whatever “it” is for you – pain, anger, humiliation, disappointment – decide to let it go. Make a conscious choice to tame whatever emotions are keeping you stuck in the past and preventing you from seeing a happier future. Yes, for better or worse, divorce is now a part of your personal history, but that doesn’t mean it has to define who you are. Don’t be tricked into believing divorce is a shameful stain you’ll have to carry around for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, being divorced is just another way of being single. And, as a single, you now have a wonderful opportunity to reclaim your life, reconnect with who you were before you were married, and grow in ways that might have been impossible with your former partner.
Understandably many of my clients, especially women who suddenly find themselves divorced after decades of marriage, struggle to make this paradigm shift. If, like them, you find yourself struggling to get to forgiveness, responsibility, and gratitude after your divorce, I highly recommend reading Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic. It’s an unforgettable 28-day journey that has helped many women I know.
We’re often asked by others to describe who we are and what we do. When faced with these questions, most divorced people will begin by saying something along the lines of “Well, I’m a divorced man/woman/father/mother” and so on.
Don’t fall into this trap!
Yes, you’re divorced; but you have other, more important, traits as well! It’s critical you make the effort to describe yourself in terms of these traits and let divorce recede into the background as just another part of your past. This doesn’t mean hiding the truth. It’s simply about putting the truth in its proper place. Divorce is something that happened to you, the outcome of complex circumstances, chance, and other people’s choices. Divorce is not something you are, anymore than you “are” the high school you graduated from, the town where you grew up, or the family
you happened to be born into.
Again, many of my clients understandably struggle with this idea. They find it challenging to think of themselves as an individual after many years of being one-half of a marriage. If you’re struggling too, I recommend reading Iyanla Vanzant’s In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love You Want. This is a great book that will help “reintroduce” you to yourself!
We all want to be a totally healed, healthy, happy, post-divorce person today, but some things take time. In fact, most worthwhile things in our lives are the result of us making small but steady efforts, day in and day out, to grow and build. And, of course, some things in life simply can’t be rushed.
Trust that each day after your divorce is an opportunity to do better, feel better, and plan better. While it’s certainly true reclaiming your life after divorce is a process, your actions and mindset enormously influence that process’s timeline. One month from now you’ll still be divorced. There’s nothing you can do about that. But that doesn’t mean one month from now you can’t be a happier, healthier, stronger person. There’s quite a bit you can do about that!
My colleague Debbie Ford has written a spectacular book on this subject, Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life. After my own divorce, I found this book to be a blessing. I was skeptical at first, but Debbie was absolutely right: once you know how to approach divorce, it truly is a catalyst for a happier life!
If you have the time and money, you should absolutely consider taking a solo vacation. Not only is this a perfect way to celebrate your new beginning, spending time alone is a wonderful way to expand your sense of self and savor your newfound freedom as a divorcee. Just make sure, wherever you go, it’s someplace new. Avoid travelling anywhere you went while married! In fact, avoid travelling anywhere you’ve already been.
Be sure to bring along a blank journal or notebook so you can jot down whatever thoughts, feelings, and insights come to you during your trip. This is an opportunity for you to take a beat and really reflect on where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go. As you explore your new surroundings, ask yourself: what do I need to make a clean and healthy break with my past? What do I need to mindfully move myself and my new life forward? Don’t worry about coming with the “right answers”. Just hold the questions in your mind and let the thoughts and feelings come. Don’t be surprised if breaking out of your day-to-day routine and spending time in an unfamiliar place helps you imagine new and exciting possibilities or inspires you to look at things in a different light.
Of course, you don’t want to spend the entire trip reflecting on your recent divorce. Give yourself permission to have some fun! Get out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before but always wanted to do. After my divorce, I decided to spend a weekend at the Blue Max Inn, a seaside bed-and-breakfast in Chesapeake City, MD. Chesapeake City was (and still is) a quaint and tranquil walking town filled with fun things for a recently single woman to do. There were delicious comfort food eateries, boutique gift shops, a homemade ice cream stand, and plenty of places to enjoy a relaxing riverside cocktail at the end of the day. The Blue Max’s grounds were peaceful and quiet too: a great place to relax in a hammock, sip a cup of piping hot tea, or get lost in a good book.
Whatever you decide to do remember: you get to write the next chapter of your life after divorce. Let your hopes, not your hurts, lead the way!
Wishing You All The Best In Life & Love,
Bernadette M. Smith, MCC
Founder, Compatible Connections