Coming to Terms with Divorce

Some people who’ve been reading my blog from the beginning (about 3 years ago) ask me why I don’t write about my divorce anymore. The honest answer is because my divorce is over and I’m looking to the future. But it doesn’t mean it’s not still emotional. I’m constantly surprised by the moments when my ex-husband and former life pop into my mind, and how those instances sting with fresh pain. I’ve learned to feel that pain, accept it, and then move on. I know this is easier said than done, but I’ve had lots of practice.

I write this today because springtime is often when I get calls or emails from other women wanting to talk about their new split. Statistically, most people file for divorce in January, but maybe spring is when we’re ready to talk.

I never thought of myself as anyone who was qualified to offer any advice (and I won’t here), but when I’ve shared my experience in the past, some people have seen themselves in my story, and that can be helpful. So no sugar-coating—because divorce sucks—but it does get easier.

During the first days, it was awful. I remember the very beginning—the first night, the first few weeks—vividly. You don’t sleep, you can’t eat, you’re in a fog. I remember thinking, “I don’t know how to live.” I realize that sounds extreme, but when your life goes from one path to a completely unchartered one that you never expected, you honestly don’t know how to take the next step. I recall saying to myself, “Remember to breathe.” “It’s time to get out of bed, get up!” I always had to be outside. I felt suffocated otherwise. Sleeping pills helped, but I lost a ton of weight. Not in a good way. I did my best to not let my children see me cry, but there were times they witnessed me in a heap, sobbing on my bathroom floor.

There were a few weeks like this, but then things calmed down. Time does heal, but so does acceptance. I had some hallmark moments in those first few weeks that changed everything. My first one is my “surrender moment.” My surrender moment came when I accepted that he wasn’t coming back. He was in someone else’s bed and never coming home. Knowing, understanding, and accepting this was healing. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

My next hallmark moment was my “grace moment.” I still remind myself of it almost daily. It happened after a blowout fight with my ex on our driveway that our kids witnessed. (To our credit, that was the only time the children witnessed real yelling between us. I regret it, but hey, I’m not perfect.) After that fight, I only thought of my kids. I told myself that when I look back on how I handled this divorce, I want to believe I handled it with class. I wanted to be proud of how I dealt with the crappy blow life dealt me/us, and I wanted to teach resilience and grace. From then on, I took the high road. With custody, with money, with flexibility, everything. It was often hard, but it felt good after, and it helped me heal. I couldn’t control what happened, but I could control how I handled it. Grace was my mantra.

I had many “Divorce Coaches” along the way. Not actual coaches—mostly men I slept with (there weren’t too many, but sex was healing). They all shared their stories, and I cherry-picked what worked for them and how to make it work for me. I said before that I try not to give advice, but here’s the one thing I do offer: Choose your divorce coaches wisely. Some people I turned to were too bitter and angry about their own divorce (or mine) to offer wisdom, and some (including family and friends) gave terrible advice. “Take him for all he’s worth!” “Never let him see the kids.” People actually said stuff like this to me, and it was awful advice. My advice: Stay away from the negative, angry, energy vampires who offer these words.

This morning, my ex-husband stopped by to drop off our oldest’s phone (which she left at his house). I’m in an old robe and curlers. I met him at the door, we both smiled and laughed and simultaneously said, “Thanks, have a great day.”

It really does get better. I promise.

This week, I hope you know you always have choices— I hope you always choose grace.