I can remember years ago wondering if there was a bush I could hide under to stop the life lessons that were pounding me all at once. Forget bad things come in threes, this was multiple of threes. Most of us have had times in our lives where we want to yell “uncle”. Well throw a divorce into the mix and we must make a conscious decision to sink or swim. At first, we think, I can’t handle this; and then we realize we are stronger than we ever knew.
“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.”
Probably the first challenge we meet are the words “I want a divorce.” Yes, it is harder if you hear those words from another unexpectedly and there is also an emotional hill to climb if you suddenly realize you want to end your marriage. The emotional punch of “I want a divorce” has a predictable course of grieving a loss. The severity of the loss will vary with the length of time of the marriage, the quality or lack thereof, the communication, whether you were able to fight for your marriage, and your emotional history with loss. Unfortunately, ending a marriage cracks open the loss emotional history. When the history has a lot of losses, and/or particularly painful losses, it may take us longer to heal, and we can heal. Rent sad movies, cry until you can’t cry any more, hit pillows, exercise till exhaustion, work out hard, whatever you must do to get to the other side of the grief process stronger. Grief is something we know has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Grief can take a chunk of our soul and we will be stronger when we finally accept our loss.
In most cases of divorce, amicable or not, we are going to visit the emotions of indignation and or anger/rage. I believe if we allow ourselves more indignation, we don’t have to visit anger/rage. We need to set boundaries using our indignation:
“I ask that you don’t speak to me with that tone.”
“I don’t accept your offer.”
“Call to set up a time to meet, do not just show up at my home.”
“Now is not the time or place to discuss this topic.”
“I ask that you keep/honor your agreements.”
“That is a conversation for my lawyer.”
When we teach people how to treat us respectfully, we are less inclined to scream, yell, name call, insult etc. Once we have mastered the art of setting healthy boundaries, we will be stronger. With boundaries, we don’t live in resentment. Resentment is “you owe me” and what we forget is we must make requests so we ask for what we think is owed to us. If I think you will know how to treat me because this is how I act, I am at risk of resentment and feeling used. Hopefully, we will move through the lesson of being everyone’s doormat rapidly. It is so much healthier for everyone when we have healthy boundaries. If we didn’t have healthy boundaries before our divorce, we will be stronger people with them post-divorce.
The ability to forgive ourselves and others builds character and makes us mentally stronger. The ending of a marriage is experienced by all of us as a failure. Something we cared about, built, worked on, suddenly fell apart and is broken. We and the marriage failed. It is important to allow ourselves the emotions of failure and finally to forgive ourselves for this failure. Whether we feel we picked the wrong person, didn’t understand how to work with that person, made bad choices ourselves, there will be a place for forgiveness. We must understand making mistakes is part of being a human being. If we can’t forgive ourselves for our mistakes and others for their mistakes we are at risk for shrinking our lives. We don’t want to fail again so we might want to keep ourselves safe. We won’t get back on the horse. We won’t play in the game of life again. The ability to forgive ourselves and others is a key component to becoming the stronger person we have decided we can be after our divorce.
Remember the first moment you heard the words “I want a divorce”, remember your first emotion of overwhelm and fear, and now think about your divorce journey and how much stronger you are. No one wants to go through a divorce, we don’t want to feel abandoned, we don’t want to lose important people in our lives and we may not have a choice about these life events challenging us. We do have a choice about how we react to these events. We can reach deep down inside and find some hidden resilience we didn’t know we had. We can find the silver lining, wisdom, and realize we are stronger than we ever knew.
“Resilience is knowing you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.” ~Mary Holloway
This article was originally published on Divorceforce: https://www.divorceforce.com/article/resiliency-a-gift-of-divorce-by-dr-anne-brown-rncs