Only weeks before my ex officially walked out of our marriage, we were on a family vacation in Florida when I brought up my desire for a fourth child. Having another baby was a possibility we had discussed over the previous few years, but the right time never seemed to present itself.
Unbeknownst to me during this latest conversation, my husband was already involved with another woman and, not surprising to me now, nixed the idea immediately. So it could probably go without saying that finding myself suddenly single shortly afterward ranked as one of the most shocking moments in my life up to that point.
Always a veritable tough girl, I quickly found myself in unfamiliar territory, looking to others for much needed support as my marriage imploded. Thankfully, close family, old friends, and new friends came to my aid, and it is safe to say I would not be in my present position of strength and security had it not been for their dedicated presence in my life. Here are the seven types of people without whom I could not have survived, and whom I believe can bring great comfort to those similarly going through a divorce.
1. The person who loves you most. Whether it is your mother, your father, a sibling, or a best friend, anyone suffering the disappointment of a failed marriage needs the shoulder to cry on of someone who loves him or her unconditionally. When a marriage dissolves, the aggrieved party is often left feeling vulnerable. Someone who cares for you deeply, who can help absorb your pain, and who genuinely has your best interests at heart can provide an invaluable source of strength. Everyone needs to feel loved, and especially at a time when the person who was supposed to love you most has let you down, it is important to remember that there are others who still care for you, and believe in you.
2. The forgiving friend. It is natural to feel a wide range of emotions when experiencing the breakup of a marriage. From sadness to anger to moments of elation, my moods were altogether unpredictable throughout any given day. I could be fine for a while, and then drop off the face of the Earth for days, even weeks, not picking up my phone or visiting with friends. At times, the little strength I could muster would go solely toward taking care of my children. Good friends understood, and when I resurfaced, these friends were still there, welcoming me back with open arms. These are the friends who knew that I was not ignoring them, but healing in my own way and in my own time.
3. The friend who can commiserate. This is the friend who is always up for listening to your latest divorce horror story, and you his or hers. You laugh together, you cry together, and, most of all, you understand exactly what you are both going through in real time. You offer support to one another, not realizing that as you offer support to him or her, you silently grow stronger yourself. A long time friend of mine divorced within weeks of me, and we still offer each other an understanding ear as related issues continue to arise.
4. The bitch slapper. This is the face of reality, the one who listens attentively, offers an unbiased opinion and, if necessary, bitch slaps you for the umpteenth time to pull it all together. Words of wisdom to stop feeling sorry for myself, or reminders that life goes on were frequently imposed upon me. The truth often hurt, but I knew when this friend spoke her mind, it was with love and compassion, and I respected her even more for not being an enabler.
5. The devil’s advocate. This is the individual who always manages to find an angle that no one before has offered, whether it is because others failed to recognize it or were too afraid to say so. The perspective is always different, fresh, and this friend is the one who delicately helps you see an alternate point of view. A close married friend of mine who grew up in a two family home has offered me many insights on infidelity and split parenting that I would have likely failed to appreciate had it not been for her prolific and unabashed guidance.
6. The object of your affection. This is that special someone who seemingly comes out of nowhere, but could not have come at a more perfect time. He or she is a far cry from your estranged spouse, and the one who makes you remember you are still vital and desirable. It is through your interaction with this person you are able to recall the qualities that make you unique—and not merely one half of a bygone couple.
7. The inspiration. This is the person who went through a divorce, and came out on the other side better for it. You remember him or her from before, as the divorced single mom or single dad who had it really tough. You knew he or she was suffering, but did not give their troubles more than a passing thought, as you remained willfully blind and engrossed in your own minutia. Then one day you become that person—single and fighting your way back to independence. Witnessing someone who found happiness and contentment after divorce, who created a new and better future, is perhaps the best remedy for a grieving heart. Everyone needs hope. Look for it whenever you can. It is everywhere, once you know how to recognize it.
During a divorce, it is tempting to wall off from the rest of the world and suffer in silence. But it is important to remember there are those already in your corner, as well as others you will meet on your path to recovery, who are ready, willing, and eager to help you however they can. Welcome them, because it is they who will help you welcome the new life that is now finally within your reach.
This article appeared on the Huffington Post June 9, 2014.