We went to a beautiful and powerful Good Friday service tonight. And on our chairs was a card about death and beginnings. We were invited to fill it out and as I did, I realized how appropriate the same message was about divorce. After I completed it, my card read (and I am slightly editing it to suit our “divorce” purpose):
I, Lizzy Smith, died on January 2, 2012, the day I had my husband removed from the home by police, leaving behind a hurt, angry, sick and confused woman. In that process, I gained a new life, freedom, peace and love.
If you’re considering a split, or are recently separated or divorced, here are a few things you should know:
- Life will never be the same again
- You will never look at love, commitment, marriage and family the same way again either. You will realize that dreams die and nothing is forever
- It will hurt really bad
- There will be days that you will want to lie down in the fetal position and never move again
- You will want to stick pins in a voodoo doll that looks just like your ex
- Sometimes, you’ll want to stick pins in a different voodoo doll that looks just like your attorney
- You will look at your children’s pain and it will be horrific. The guilt and sadness will be overpowering and there is not a whole lot you can do to erase it
- You will get very cranky
- Physically, you might change a lot. Some women go wild with a new hair color and radically different wardrobe. Some won’t be able to eat and will drop loads of weight; others will work their way through eating everything in the refrigerator. There are usually new bags around the eyes and a “blank look” when someone is talking to and you can’t comprehend a thing
- Financially, it will be painful. You will look at your attorney’s new car and realize that you paid for it
And when you’re in the midst of such turmoil, you should…
- Be really nice and forgiving of yourself. There is nothing more traumatic than divorce, save death
- Feel free to tell others that you are going through a really tough time and you’re not functioning at full capacity
- Tell others when you need help. Be specific because no one is a mind reader
- Explain to your employer what is going on at home. She should know that you might not be capable of taking on a Big Huge New Project
- You owe no one explanations about why your marriage broke up. That said, feel free to share with anyone you wish (just be careful you don’t share intimate details at, say, work, so be careful)
- You should seek help, whether it be from a therapist, support group, ecclesiastical leader, or a pile of self help books
- Perhaps ask a doctor for anti-depressants if things get really bad
- Take this opportunity to really try to eat healthy, get lots of exercise, and shower and put yourself together almost every day. Pity parties are allowed. Cry fests are normal. And spending a day (or three) in pajamas eating ice cream and watching sappy movies is to be expected. But it really helps emotionally to look and feel decent and to get out of the house. It is a crucial part of your healing process
That age-old saying that “time heals all wounds” is true. There will come a day when you will wake up and realize that you are ok, that you have survived, and you are ready to move forward. And from the ashes of divorce, it is possible to craft a better life for yourself and your children. And that is when your “new normal” will emerge– a different life, a different you.
Several days ago, I picked up a friend and fellow cancer survivor and we went to get facials. “Mia” is really struggling. Her treatments were really hard on her physically and mentally. She is starting to heal and she is making progress, but it is taking a lot longer than she wants. She is tired. Because I was diagnosed a few years prior and am farther ahead in that recovery process, there were a few tips I shared with her and they are nearly identical for the divorce survivor:
- It’s not easy
- It gets better
- Be patient
- …But LIVE. Get OUT and MOVE. Breathe fresh air and do things far outside your comfort zone. It offers an amazing distraction and is an important reminder that it is possible to feel joy, have fun, and even experience exhilaration
Just a few weeks ago, I was at Iguazu Falls, Argentina, which is the world’s largest waterfalls in the world and one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I’ve been to a lot of places and this is one of the most amazing, breathtaking and beautiful I’ve ever been. One afternoon, I got on a boat with other tourists and we went under those falls without any kind of overhead protection– just wearing lifejackets and a desire to experience something exciting and unique. For the several minutes that we felt the full brunt of strong water pounding on our bodies, I felt sheer exhilaration– an emotional I had not felt in far too long. Talk about living in the moment. I forgot that I was a cancer survivor and had loads of medications I needed to take that night, or more doctor appointments when I returned home, or, well, anything.
The more that we can look forward and LIVE, the better we can enjoy the NOW, heal, and begin our new life. In the cancer world, we call this our “new normal.” We may have scars, but those scars can be beautiful.