I don’t think anyone enters into a relationship anticipating its end. And no one wears the divorced label proudly, like a girl scout with a new badge. We remember our friends growing up who had divorced parents. Perhaps we thought that was a byproduct of that era. Somehow, our generation would learn from the generation of our parents. Somehow we would be able to matchmake for ourselves exceedingly well. Divorce wouldn't happen to us.
I thought that if I approached relationships in a careful, intentional initial way, it’d never happen to me. Especially after having a child.
But, it did.
I separated from my husband when our son was 11 months old. We lived with my sister and her fiance for a few weeks. We found a place to rent, and then just a few months later, our landlord sold the home and we had to move again. We landed with my parents until divorce proceedings were finalized, which was a huge blessing.
All situations are different and some divorces unfold more peacefully than others. My experience was a lengthy legal process. It was emotionally exhausting.
Thankfully, we were supported by so many angelic souls. Friends, family, coworkers. They held us up.
It was always so touching and somehow made me feel calmer, if people remembered when I had a big day coming up. They would send little uplifting messages or check-in to see how things were going. On days when my ex had his parenting time with our son, my anxiety was through the roof. Dinners with friends were food for the soul.
I found that I didn’t want tangible ties to this era of time. But also, wasn’t able to do entire wardrobe redo shopping sprees throughout that year, either. So, swapping perfectly good clothes with friends every few months was the best.
Hair can be such an emblem of identity. Even if you don’t drastically change your style, it can feel good to feel fresh. You'll feel a bit more put-together, even if it’s just externally.
Massage is so crucial for helping calm the sympathetic nervous system. This helps keep the body from switching into its fight/flight/freeze mode. It prevents the body from producing stress markers like cortisol. And, if there was any form of physical abuse in the person’s life, safe gentle touch can be extremely healing.
I remember having this dream one night where I was trapped in a glass mason jar. I was told I couldn’t evacuate the jar until I chose my future. I had 3 choices to choose from, but none of the choices were clearly visible. I decided to create a mini representation of the dream with play dough, string, sticky notes, and a jar. The process was really emotional, actually. The act of removing the little play-dough Monika in a jar felt a little liberating.
In my experience, all I wanted to do when going through the divorce was spend time with my son.
Cooking requires focus. When your world is turning upside down, AND you have a toddler I found cooking to be nearly impossible. Even just making hard-boiled eggs, would result in inedible messes. We ate a lot of humus there for a while.
Along with divorce is usually a little anger, in one form or another. Pulling weeds is a really tangible and satisfying way to channel some of that emotion.
In the woods, in a neighborhood, it doesn’t matter. Movement is medicine.
I know, it sounds crazy. But there’s something about the consistent humming sound and the vibration. I decided to refurbish my childhood desk, (which became a bit of a metaphor as well). It had been pristine, all white, oil-based painted all prior 20 years of my life. The process of stripping it back to its natural wooden state, then turning it into something more complex and mature was exciting.
This was a toughie for me. I’d always been an independent, self-sufficient person. So knowing how and when to ask for help was hard pretty humbling. I literally teared up when a friend said, “What can I do to take a load off your plate this week?”
It can be exhausting to try to gauge when and who to ask for help and if it’s too much. I remember feeling SO thankful when a friend took away a little bit of the decision-making fatigue every once in a while. When they just said, “Hey. I’m going to come over on Tuesday for an hour and watch Ayven so you can have some time for yourself.”.
I also felt karmically overburdened sometimes. I felt like I was receiving too much sometimes and craved nothing more than to pay it forward. So opportunities to help a friend clean out a closet, or do trail maintenance felt nice to shift the focus off yourself for a bit.
About halfway through my yearlong divorce proceedings, I started therapy. At first, I felt a slight fear of starting down unknown territory. But, wow. What a great experience. A local moms group recommended the family and marriage counseling program through Lee University, where grad students do the therapy with a 2-1 model. Two therapists. Two different perspectives.
Divorce is hard on the kiddo, too. Of all ages. Letting them interact with peers is a great way to help them with their emotional and social needs.
For a hand-me-down train of clothes and toys. Divorces can be expensive and every little bit of savings goes a long way.
Again, every little bit of savings helps.
It can be tempting to want to put your life on hold until the divorce is over. But that feeds a not-so-healthy habit of waiting to do self-care activities until “just the right time”. Life is chaotic. When waiting for perfect opportunities, things tend to slide and get pushed further and further back. Something new I tried recently: virtual hang gliding. If it's an option where you live, I highly recommend it!
Humanly, I reflect on why I experienced a divorce. It was a huge opportunity for me to learn and practice having an assertive voice. I learned to advocate for myself. I learned that certain values like commitment and empathy can be unhealthy in some settings. I learned to be vulnerable. To practice accessing my emotions, rather than denying them. All these things better equip me to teach my son about emotional intelligence, self-respect, grace, and the unpredictable nature of life. Am I mad about it? Yes. Is there a positive takeaway that balances every negative experience? No. Will I ever fully understand everything that transpired? Probably not.
And that’s all OK.
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