I recently wrote a blog entitled, “Your Divorce is Final – 5 Things you need to do”. As a follow-up to that post, I decided to address what you need to know, as well, to achieve happiness in the aftermath of your divorce. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read my previous blog regarding helpful steps to take, once your case is complete. Okay, so now that you have actively let go of anger, mourned the ending of your marriage, have pursued and continue to pursue happiness, have continued to be a role model to your children and others, now what? Obviously, the 5 things you need to do is an ongoing endeavor, without an end date. But having given the matter some thought, let me add the following 5 things you need to know to the list of “Dos” following your split from your spouse:
1. The Pain Will Not Last:
I do not believe the old saying that “time heals all wounds.” However, I do believe that the pain you feel during your divorce, and immediately after it is final, will subside with time. Like many things in life, it takes active work to get to the other side of your pain. I think it is helpful to know that we can achieve tremendous personal growth as a result of living through the most challenging events of our lives. Divorce certainly constitutes just such a challenge. We can’t avoid painful experiences in our lives, but we do have a choice as to how we want to embrace these experiences, when they occur. Think of your divorce as your opportunity to grow and learn. As a result of your divorce, you have been forced to confront yourself and learn how to overcome adversity. Embrace this most difficult of challenges and adopt the attitude that, in order to move past your battle wounds, you must have the courage to face them. Face your pain and tell yourself daily that the pain will not last. Take control of your pain; do not let the pain take control of you. Just as happiness is a choice, in time you can choose not to sit in your pain any longer.
The Gossip Mill Will Move On:
In my prior post I quoted the Buddhist saying that, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I think this quote is so great that it begs repeating here. It is easier to let go of our anger when we remember that most people are wrapped up in their own lives and do not really care, as much as you think, about yours. Another quote I love is from an Elvis Costello song – “Today’s News is tomorrow’s Fish and Chip Papers”. Right? Our pain and suffering might be a brief headliner in your neighborhood at the moment, but the people interested in feeding on your divorce will move on to the next juicy story in the community, as soon as some fresh meat crosses their path.
So remember, your divorce story, no matter how gruesome, will fade. Given this fact, you may not have control over others, but you certainly have control over yourself. This includes control over what you think and feel, which means you can make a conscious choice not to let others bring you down. I promise the gossip mill doesn’t really care as much as you think, so it is really what you think that matters. People engaged in gossip are simply shallow, in my opinion, so who cares what they think? Clearly people who are willing to make your misery sport are pretty unhappy and insecure, themselves, so remember that and let it go. Again, divorce is an excellent weeding tool to learn which people in our lives are keepers and which ones are not.
3. You Get to write the Next Chapter of Your Story:
When we wake up each morning, we actually have a choice regarding how the day will go for us. Before you get out of bed, picture the day ahead. Visualize the various things you will do that day. Now visualize your day, but picture going about your tasks with lightness and joy. Why not? Picture stressful situations being dealt with, free of stress. Again, why not? You have control over how you embrace the various activities that make up your day. If you maintain a positive attitude, regardless of what is thrown in your path, you will not be sorry. “Like” truly does attract “like.” Keep your energy positive at all costs, no matter how hard it is to do so. In time, remaining happy and positive will not be a conscious task; it will be second nature.
In my last blog I talked about the pursuit of happiness. Writing the next chapter of your life, post-divorce should be all about making changes that bring you joy. If you have not already done so, do answer the question: “I am most happy when I ___________”. Always remember happiness is a choice. That choice begins the moment we open our eyes each day.
Certainly let go of the relationships in your life that are not healthy. You are an adult and you get to make the choice to surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Let the other people go, but truly let them go by making a choice to no longer let these folks hurt you. Life is too short for toxic, energy suckers; especially after going through with a divorce. Life is not a dress rehearsal, so make it count.
4. You have much to be grateful for:
Every night before my 9 year old daughter, Indy, goes to bed, I ask her what happened during her day that she was most grateful for. Since we have been maintaining this practice for many years, she actually goes about her day in a state of gratefulness. When she was very little, she was typically most grateful for recess or a trip to the park. But in time, the park was replaced with more meaningful observations, such as the beautiful white owl she saw in our back yard and being able to help a friend on the playground who was being bullied by some older students. Throughout the day, Indy’s practice of identifying things to be grateful for has become second nature.
I have found that pain and sadness are less present in our lives when we maintain an attitude of gratitude. Remaining grateful for the positive things in our lives is something we can focus on every day. Keeping a list of the things that we feel most lucky about in our lives is a wonderful thing to do on a daily basis. This can be done before we rise in the morning or before we close our eyes at night. Much has been written on the importance of remaining grateful. In fact, Oprah Winfrey made the “Grateful Journal” famous in the 1990’s. There are even gratitude journal apps available, as well as tips on how to turn pain into joy by keeping such a journal.
Of course there is no one, right way to maintain a state of gratitude. However, after a divorce, it is useful to create a “grateful list” specifically directed toward things you were grateful for during your divorce, as well as what you are grateful for now that your divorce is final. The list should include all the people that were kind to you during and after the process. And I believe it is important to take this specifically designed grateful list one step further. Take the time to reach out and connect with all the people in your life, to whom you are grateful, that were specifically there for you during and after your break up. I promise this practice will help with your healing process more than you will ever know.
5. Your Kids don’t have to be scarred for life by your split:
Hopefully, you and your ex were able to be role models to your children as you navigated the rough waters of your divorce. No matter how well you and your spouse behaved around your children during the divorce, you no doubt will feel that you let your children down in some way. How could you not feel this way? After all, you got divorced. Feeling guilty will not help you or your children. In fact, it will keep you and possibly your children feeling miserable. Meaningful healing after divorce will not be successful if you remain in a state of guilt over how the split may or may not have affected your children.
Just about half of all marriages end in divorce. That means half the children out there are products of divorce. After 20 years of practice, I can tell you that if you were to remain unhappily married, you would not be doing your children any favors. You and your ex are the role models for your kids. If you teach your children it is okay to remain married and unhappy, that is the model of a marriage you are teaching your children to believe is acceptable. It is not! Two happy, well-adjusted parents living separate lives equal happier children. And I cannot stress this last point enough: your children’s ability to maintain healthy relationships of their own as adults is not dependent upon you staying married; it is dependent upon how you and your spouse treat your children and each other that counts. Remember, your ex is still your family for the rest of your life. His/her role as a family member has just changed, but they remain the co-parent of your children. This fact alone should command dignity and respect from both of you for the good of the entire family.