As I was driving my kids to school on a routine Wednesday morning, I caught a segment on the radio where a mum of three, was talking about her fight to stay alive.
Having been diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in January 2017, Krystal was told the following June that the cancer was growing and inoperable. Given only days to live, the young mother’s dying wish was to see her son Lachlan’s, seventh birthday.
On the 24th June 2017, Lachlan turned seven.
Krystal saw her wish fulfilled, but the win was bittersweet. Only six days later, Krystal’s battle with cancer drew to a close.
As a mother myself, it’s so hard to comprehend the devastation and grief, that Krystal and her family must have experienced in her final days. Now the heartache for her family continues, as they move on through life without their most special person by their side.
Together with the fond memories, they carry of Krystal, will also come mourning for a lifetime of moments lost. Moments that they would have shared together – both the exciting and even the mundane. Moments, that each of us, often take for granted.
The truth is, many of us fail to recognize the miracle that is life. Just being here, in this world, breathing, is a gift in itself.
Unfortunately, the moment, it seems, is never good enough. Especially when life feels hard. We forget to step back to see the bigger picture.
For a solo parent, particularly one going through the early phases of divorce, this is often the case. I know this to be true because I went through this challenging transition myself, not so long ago.
On top of trying to sort out the financial, legal, and emotional entanglements of divorce, there were also the endless repetitive tasks of preparing the kids for school; chauffeuring them to extra-curricular activities; putting healthy meals on the table; consoling them when they were upset; disciplining them when they were defiant; encouraging them when they felt that they weren’t good enough etc., etc.
Often, there was little left in the fuel tank for household chores and errands, let alone appreciating life’s moments. Fortunately, in the months that followed my husband’s departure, I discovered that it was possible to experience the pleasures and joys of life – even during separation and divorce.
So, here I share my top 4 tips for moving forward after divorce and embracing, the frequently exhausting role, and responsibilities of solo parenting:
1. Practice Acceptance. In The Power of Now, spiritual author Eckhart Tolle teaches us that bringing acceptance to the way things are, doesn’t mean that we must want or like these moments. But instead of struggling with them or trying to escape from them, we can simply let these moments be as they are.
In other words, rather than spending our time worrying about things that we have no control over, or complaining about the difficulties in our lives, we can choose to see it as, “just the way it is”.
We can then stand in an empowered position and ask ourselves: “What is one small thing I can do to make this moment better?”, “What is one thing I can do to move forward in a positive direction?”
2. Unlearn Automatic Reactions. This means to pause between moments. Create space between the things that happen in our lives and our reactions to them. Where appropriate, we can ask ourselves:
“From the day I was born, to the day I die, how significant is this issue right now?”, “Does it warrant a strong reaction?”, “Do I need to put up a fight, scream or yell, and if so, for what reason?”, “Will my actions serve me?”
This strategy may prove useful for interactions with an ex-spouse, but can also be a valuable tool when negotiating day-to-day parenting moments with our children. When emotions are running high during a divorce, it’s easy to overact to our children’s misbehavior, sometimes in a way that makes a mountain out of a molehill.
Rather than mindlessly reacting, we can elect to bring intentional thought before responding to any person, circumstance, or event. We can make moments better for ourselves and our children, instead of making life feel worse.
3. Bring Mindfulness to Each Moment. Dr. Joe Dispenza, an international lecturer, and author said during one of his events that the average person has around 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Strikingly, around 90% of those thoughts are the same as the day before. He says that if we accept that thoughts create feelings, and feelings drive behavior, then the same thoughts will create the same feelings, thus will generate the same behavior. So, the question is:
“Have your thoughts been beneficial in creating new life-affirming behaviors?”
If the answer is “no”, then mindfulness is for you.
According to the Journal Psychological Science (2016), mindfulness helps us see ourselves, others, situations, and the world around us more clearly. It also prevents us from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, by keeping us focused on the present.
The next time you jump into the shower I challenge you to stay in the present moment, focusing on the task itself. Like many, I believe you will find that your mind jumps off in tangents, thinking about one thing to the next. The job of showering is then left for auto-pilot.
To bring mindfulness to each moment simply requires you to bring your attention back to the present whenever you catch yourself being distracted. Essentially, this will enable you to turn off auto-pilot mode so you can focus on the task at hand.
Mindfulness is most effective during a divorce because it can prevent you from rehashing “old hurts.”
Practicing mindfulness takes willful effort but it’s a valuable habit that will also help you become more attentive and more conscious of how you parent your children. You’d also be in a better mind-frame to make important decisions for yourself and your children moving forward.
4. Remind Yourself of the Impermanence of Life. One way to change your perspective on divorce, from one of doom and gloom to one of resilience and optimism, is to remind yourself of the impermanence of life. Although a tad morbid, taking on this perspective, can change the way you view and experience divorce and sole parenting.
The fact is, we will never know when our time here will come to an end.
Every day we’re alive, is an opportunity to release, change, create or strive towards something different, new, or better. Divorce is not the end. It’s an opportunity for a wonderful new beginning.
Furthermore, by seeing our time with our children as limited, we can fully grasp the preciousness of each fleeting moment.
Personally, by applying the four practices above, I’ve not only been able to embrace sole parenting and move forward, but I’ve also discovered authentic happiness.
My wish is for you to find the same happiness.
Which one of the four practices will you try out today?