Though it may seem unlikely in the midst of divorce, or in the early days after the legal proceedings are final, it is possible to create a life you love after divorce. In the years since my divorce, I’ve used my own experience and interviews with other divorced moms to create a life I love. In the process I’ve developed some guidelines to help other divorced moms do the same.
The list of seven guidelines in standalone format can be found here. This article expands on those guidelines to show how you might apply them in your own life.
1. See your life as having purpose and meaning; there’s more to life than just getting by.
A redefined purpose might include being the best mom you can be for your kids or becoming healthy and whole in body, mind and spirit for yourself and your family; it might also include seeing your work as a service to your family and others, especially if you are the breadwinner.
2. Let go of the life you thought you would have or any preconceived notions of what that life should look like; this opens you to the possibilities that will unfold.
“Happily ever after” may not include the intact family of your dreams, but dropping the story about staying married to find happiness might allow you to discover opportunities you couldn’t have imagined before divorce (such as a new job or travel).
3. A spiritual foundation is necessary; don’t try to go it alone.
It’s easy after divorce to feel sorry for yourself, carry all your burdens alone, or ask why this is happening to you. Establishing or deepening a spiritual connection lessens the burden and offers a different perspective on your walk through life after divorce. This might be as simple as taking five minutes to sit quietly in the morning or evening or getting outside for a few minutes of fresh air every day to remind yourself of the power of nature.
4. Define a Higher Power that works for you – this Power is available any time you ask, no matter what name you use for the God of your understanding.
To have a spiritual connection you need a “Spirit” – God as you understand God. Deep inside each of us is an awareness of this aspect of ourselves and our world. Find that for yourself and deepen the connection. This might mean reconnecting with a religious tradition of your youth, or it might mean leaving it and exploring other traditions and practices. Or it may mean finding art, music, nature or other ways of experiencing the divine aspect of your life.
5. See the challenges you face as a divorced mom as opportunities for growth and your highest good; solutions are present at the same time that the problems appear if you have eyes to see.
Divorce often looks like a problem – or a catastrophe. Yet over time most divorced moms come to accept, and even appreciate, the freedom and opportunities divorce can bring. If those opportunities are there in the future, they exist even in the present if we begin to look for them. Divorce can be a catalyst for change that ultimately makes for a better life for us.
6. A shift in perspective is all that is required to start turning things around.
In our society it’s common to put conditions on happiness and tell ourselves things will be better when…when we lose the extra weight, when the kids are older, when we find a partner we can truly love, when we have more money, when things settle down after divorce. But it’s not necessary to have all the external circumstances lined up perfectly to be happy. A change in attitude or perspective can allow us to see and appreciate the good in what we have. These “new” eyes usually make it possible for more of the things we want to then show up in our lives and for us to see them when they do.
7. You don’t have to leave the “real world” to be spiritual; walking a spiritual path in the world, rather than escaping from it, is hard but rewarding. There is much joy in parenting, working and the many opportunities available to us today to lead full and rich lives.
If you throw out the idea of a spiritual foundation or walking a spiritual path because you think it means entering a monastery or going on a mission trip overseas, think again. It’s all spiritual, and our paths as divorced moms means we live out our spirituality in relation to our children, former husbands, coworkers, neighbors and others – not in isolation somewhere.
It may not look like we expected. We may not have 30 minutes of silent meditation every morning or a week to build houses in hurricane-stricken areas. But the hard work of parenting, working and caring lovingly for ourselves and our families after divorce is as spiritual a task as any. As the Zen proverb says:
Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.