I wish there was a recipe for healing after the demise of a marriage – add these ingredients, sift out these elements, let the concoction rest for a specified period of time and then apply heat to set it in place. But divorce is not so simple. Not only do cooking times vary, but the ingredients are as diverse as the stories.
So, don’t look at this as a specified and exacting recipe that has to be followed to the letter to create a favorable outcome. Rather, consider these suggestions and feel free to add, subtract or manipulate ingredients to suit your taste and your resources.
These are the steps and strategies I used to find peace with my past, happiness in my present and excitement for my future:
I Believed I Would Be Okay
The reality hit like a cannonball to the gut. My body slid to the floor as my brain attempted to make sense of it all. Even in those early moments, when I had to face the truth that the man I adored had been systematically destroying everything I loved, I believed I would be okay again. I had no idea how I would get there; the future was one big question mark after another, but I held fast to the idea that there would be an “other side” of the hell I was thrust into.
I Asked For and Accepted Help
I was beyond fortunate that my dad was with me when I received the news and that the rest of the family soon rallied to render aid. I composed an email to them that let them know how best they could help. I set aside my stubborn independence to move in with a friend when she offered her spare room. After declaring that I did not want medication, I listened when others advised it was needed. I went from a leader at school to the cared-for one. And I accepted every offer of help.
I Surrounded Myself With the Right People
Until I experienced it, I was unaware that sudden spousal abandonment was even a thing. In the early days, I desperately turned to Google for answers and to assure myself that I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon message boards where shocked and grieving spouses shared their stories of the awful and traumatic ends. After posting my own story, I logged off for good. Although I felt comfort at knowing this had happened to others besides me, I didn’t want to focus on the pain. Instead, I intentionally surrounded myself with the right people – compassionate even though they didn’t understand and positive even though they would bitch along with me.
I Wrote, Posted and Tracked Goals
There was so much I could not control. I couldn’t go back in time and change my choices. I could not alter my ex’s actions. I couldn’t speed up or steer the legal process. So I grabbed on to what I could influence. I wrote and posted twelve goals for the year ahead: everything from running a race (my first) to making two new friends. Some of the goals were multi-faceted and overwhelming (find a new job), whereas others were simple and direct (learn to cook one gluten free meal to excellence). Those goals were all written with healing in mind; they were my stepping stones to happiness and gave me some much-needed control when everything else was insanity.
I Embraced Black Humor
I started making jokes about the situation mere days after it happened. It wasn’t funny. Not really. But it was absurd. And whenever I could choose between laughter and tears, I opted for the former. Of course, they often commingled. Humor was an outlet to vent that was more uplifting than simply complaining or bemoaning. It served as a unifying factor as others joined in on the jokes. Perhaps most importantly, humor was a reminder that you cannot always change a situation, but you can always change the lens you view it through.
I Used Anger as Repellent and Propellent
The primary emotion I felt in those months was rage. I harnessed that anger and used it as fuel. I allowed the anger towards my ex to help me disengage from the man I had entrusted half my life to. I filled the void he left with wrath and I used that anger to keep me moving forward. The anger was ugly, yet without it, I still would have been a crumpled mess on the floor. Eventually, I had to learn how to release the anger once its purpose had been served. That was the difficult part.
I Accepted Responsibility For My Own Well-Being
In the beginning, I wanted my ex to accept the responsibility for his actions and for the fallout. He never did. And eventually I realized that it didn’t matter. I could wait around forever for him to change, or I could take my own happiness by the reigns and accept the responsibility for my own well-being. I shifted my focus from what happened to what I was going to do with it. The abandonment and betrayal were not my fault, but it was my responsibility to ensure that they didn’t capsize me.
I Did What Felt Right Rather Than What I Was “Supposed” to Do
Join a support group. Swear off of men for a year. Move back home. I heard it all. But I did what felt right to me at the time. My decisions may not have always been the best; there are a lot of missteps as you’re learning to navigate a new world, but they were steps of my own choosing. Part of the reason I ended up in that situation was from not listening to my gut. I was determined to not make that mistake again. So I followed my instincts even when they went against the conventional wisdom.
I Replaced Pity With Purpose
It was easy to feel sorry for myself. Easy, but useless. Much like people who have found lasting sobriety through AA, I used writing and sharing to create purpose from the pain. I needed to find a way to balance out the bad with the good. I see it like taken the molten remains and channeling them into a mold to create something new. It didn’t relieve the pain, but it kept it from drowning me.
I Made Fun a Priority
I said “yes” to every invitation. I sought out new experiences. I pared down my “have-tos” to give more precedence to the “want tos.” I filled my calendar with scheduled smiles, intentionally book-ending every upcoming “bad” day with fun days. I didn’t always feel like having fun; I would cry on the way there, but I would rarely cry on the way home. The fun took me out of my head for a few blessed hours. It was a needed reminder that life goes on and that I didn’t have to wait until I was healed to enjoy it.
I Experimented Until I Found the Tools That Worked For Me
I identified my needs – namely, reducing anxiety, finding acceptance and limiting overthinking, and tried different strategies until I found ones that worked for me. After some trial and error, I settled on running for reducing the anxious energy, journaling for processing, meditation for getting out of my head and yoga for finding acceptance. As my needs changed, the tools changes as well.
I Learned to See the Good
At first glance, there was nothing good about the ordeal. So I looked again. And again until I could see the benefits. And then I embraced them. To the point where I am now happy that my life didn’t go as planned.
I Approached Healing With Laser Focus
I looked at finding peace, acceptance and happiness as the most important job I would ever have. I knew that if I didn’t find a way to heal, not only would it limit me, but the negative energy would also seep into those around me. I set my sights on where I wanted to be and worked to align every thought and action with that goal.
It starts with hope. And it happens with baby steps towards that intention.