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Embrace Turbulent Times: Survive the Suck of Divorce

By Lisa Brick

This post offers strategies drawn from the natural world that, when utilized, will allow you to survive divorce by keeping your head above water until you can reach solid ground during the emotional and financial upheaval of divorce and it’s aftermath. At the initial stages of coaching it is common for our clients to describe feelings of sinking into an abyss of painful emotions including fear that they will not survive. The image that comes to mind is being stuck and drowning in quicksand. The more they struggle the deeper they feel they are sinking. Using a tongue and cheek approach embedded with practical lessons and potential strategies to utilize, here are my research findings for surviving quicksand and surviving the suck of divorce while navigating to solid ground upon which you might just begin to see a glimmer of possibility that you could grow and perhaps even thrive at some point in the future...

Quicksand, the dreaded Hollywood horror, stuck and sinking in a grainy muck that appeared solid, beyond the reach of anything on which to grab – the ultimate nightmare situation. Wait a second…doesn’t this describe aspects of what it can feel like to be in the divorce process? What looked like solid ground turned out “not”! What you held onto as security has slipped past your grasp. Meanwhile, there’s a myriad of emotions you are carrying around depressing your vitality and weighing you down, down, down, like a backpack from Hell. You begin to wonder, “Will I survive?”

There is something to be learned from the experience of being stuck in quicksand that can translate to divorce. Happily, we can dispense with the Hollywood myth of the individual who is running blindly through the jungle, stumbles into a pit of quicksand and within seconds is sucked under leaving behind no trace. Quicksand, while dangerous, is rarely deadly. Quicksand does not suck people down. People’s thrashing around creates the suction and even then, it takes quite a while and the lowest they are likely to sink is waist deep, which is an issue if their head is not above the surface! Here’s the basic advice for quicksand:

  • Accept that you are in quicksand.
  • Stop panicking and start relaxing so you can think clearly. Panicking is one of the few ways to turn a dangerous situation into one that is deadly.
  • Breathe deeply. Quicksand is much denser than water. The air in your lungs will ensure you stay atop the muck.
  •  If you are carrying a heavy load, say a backpack, and feel it pushing you down, detach it from your body immediately.
  • Look around. Assess your environment. Where is the closest solid ground or anything that you can grab on to?
  • Assuming there is nothing solid and secure within your reach to grab onto, slowly lean back in the quicksand, which may seem scary, but don’t worry. You’ll float significantly better in quicksand than water.
  • Keep all movements deliberate and slow.
  • Once you are on your back, slowly, with great patience, use your buoyancy and persistence to get your legs and midsection up and floating on the surface.
  • Ever so gently use your hands to very slowly paddle your way towards the edge using very short slow strokes. Keep a part of your arms above the muck to ensure they will stay functional.
  • Be patient. Anticipate it taking several hours to paddle yourself out depending on how far in you got yourself into the quicksand. .
  • Take breaks if you get tired, enjoy the view of the sky, and contemplate the kick-butt anecdote you’ll have out of this to tell others in the future.

Here’s the issue with panicking. Thrashing around has been shown to cause the sediment and water to separate somewhat. When this happens, the person in the quicksand sinks deeper and deeper, to the point where they’re almost completely submersed; then the thrashing, due to a suctioning effects, can pull them completely under. Not what you want.

So how does this advice on how to extricate yourself from quicksand apply to getting out of the muck of the divorce process?

  • By accepting your situation and stopping your struggle against it you stop the suction pulling you down. Your struggling, not the situation, is sucking you down.
  • By relaxing into the situation you can begin to think and assess it more clearly. You are where you are. Struggling against what’s so does not make it not so. It simply exhausts you. Relaxation and clear thinking come together. There is a strategy that will get you out which you will begin to discover as you relax.
  • By breathing deeply you can be and remain buoyant, floating atop the situation.
  • By detaching from that heavy backpack of anger, resentment, and judgment that you are carrying, at least for now, you gain even more buoyancy. Its weight is pulling you down. Whose fault it is that you find yourself in the quicksand of divorce is irrelevant if your interest is in getting out and moving on.
  • By assessing the environment you find yourself in with a cool head you can identity where the closest and most easily reached resources are and you can begin to strategize which in which direction you will head.
  • By leaning back in the situation and letting it embrace you, you will begin to float. You need every bit of available energy to begin moving towards the resources you’ve identified.
  • Once you are floating, you can begin to slowly and patiently move in the direction of the first resource that you identified. Once you reach it you will have better leverage to move towards the next, and the next, and the next. Fast moves are dangerous moves.
  • By keeping vital parts of yourself free of the muck you can navigate in the direction of your choosing. While some of you might be caught in total uncertainty, keep a focus on what you want and how to love and support yourself and your children. It is this focus that remains free of the muck and will allow you to navigate towards what you want.
  • Finally, by being patient and allowing yourself the rest and revitalization necessary to keep you moving in the direction of your choosing, you’ll have the personal resources to get there. This process requires an investment of your time and energy. The only way out is through. When you are out, you will have learned mindfulness and the skills that will change who you are and what you understand yourself to be capable of…wonders and joyous relationships.

Divorce isn’t quicksand, yet the way out of both have a lot in common. By knowing that strategies for survival exist and learning to apply them during your divorce process you will survive and possibly, if it is your objective, come out cleaner, leaner, clearer, and stronger than before. We know this is possible. We’ve experienced it ourselves and watched our clients experience it. You can too.


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