Five years ago, today, I started a new job & moved into my own space.  It has been an eventful 5 years; I am grateful for my progress & for the folks that lighted the path ahead of me. 

Several years ago, a dear friend told me, “Divorce is at least a 3–5-year process”.  I found that hard to grasp!  It took me so much time, energy, & emotion to be brave enough to leave…. surely, I was close to the finish line?!?

My greatest dream was to have a happy & healthy marriage & family.  Not to say I did everything well, but I put a ton of energy into my marriage.  And I worked hard at learning about how to deal with relationship issues not only for the health & wellbeing of my own family but also to help my clients.  I enjoyed couples work as I could see the patterns & places where my clients got stuck & wanted to infuse hope & offer strategies for resolving their stuck points.

However, fear & anticipatory grief kept me in marital ambivalence for years.  I was afraid of hurting everyone if I left, particularly my ex, my son, & myself.  As an adult child of divorce, ending a marriage was the last thing I EVER wanted to do, yet: 

Sacrificing authenticity for attachment never works.

My own family of origin trauma kept me from pulling the trigger.  Over time I increasingly abandoned myself to stay married.  Eventually, the pain became bigger than the fear & I initiated the “talk” about my intentions & plans to leave. 

August 1, 2017, marked the beginning of the “next chapter” of my life.  I was initially relieved to be on my own.  However, I was depleted from major surgery & stress.  My new “heaven sent” job quickly turned into a “trial by fire” marathon.   The legal aspect of the divorce process ended the amicable rapport I had with my ex.  Most of my friends were married or not working, so I found myself more alone than I cared to be.  Freedom was sweet, but as costly as I had predicted. 

My dating journey factored into this as well.  It’s common to hear to “take time” after the divorce before dating but many people like me are excited & eager to get to the reward after the struggle or at least want a distraction.  I was SO ready to experience something & someone different, but the reality is: 

Deprivation is not a good place to make dating relationships choices.

Eventually, I had a period at work that was less chaotic, finally met divorced friends (game changer), & began dating with more openness & fewer expectations.  Life wasn’t perfect but I managed to do more than doggy paddle & felt empowered. 

Throughout this journey, however, grief nipped at my heels & I was tired of feeling it.  Stress was plentiful & I had also weathered a bad break up & the death of my dad.  I reluctantly returned to therapy to work with the tinges of deep grief I sensed but couldn’t fully feel.  My need to keep things together blocked my ability to heal & I was in too much shock to process.  I took a break from therapy during the pandemic, which also afforded some buffering at work & ironically more connection with friends.

However, what you don’t face, will find you.

2021 brought overwhelming stressors of which I had no control & which cost me greatly.  My usual means of “managing” were no longer possible.  My body literally “kept the score” & I was forced to face fear, grief, & uncertainty.  I entered a dark night of the soul & a hero’s journey.  Healing was messy, muddy, & ultimately liberating.  I have come out the other side & continue to heal, grow, & learn. 

I think my friend’s advice was accurate & five years out I can say, it has been a journey.  My fear of uncertainty is lessened.  My confidence is not about how I look, what I do, or who I’m with, but who I am on the inside.  There is more room for all of me, more spaciousness, to have all my feelings & needs.  There is less compulsion to make up for lost time & experiences and instead an openness & excitement about the future.  My fear of being all alone has shifted.  I want connection & yet I’m more than ok to be my myself.  Many years ago, I read the book, “You Are the One You Have Been Waiting For” & I can say the author is so right.  No one gets me quite like me & this is probably true for you too!

Today, I truly celebrate my journey, process, & growth.  My lessons & healing have been hard won & are not due to receiving the outcomes I desired.  It’s been an education I didn’t want yet the lessons cannot be lost or taken away.

Divorce is a multifaceted, top 10, life stressor.  It encompasses an ending, a transition, & a new beginning.  But first it decimates every aspect of your world & then invites you to recover & reclaim.  I hope you embrace the challenge & find the treasure that is you. 

I am forever grateful to the friends, clients, & colleagues that shared their divorce journey with me.  I hope I can help you light your path forward…& help you RESET!

Recommended Resources:

“The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind and Body in The Healing of Trauma” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD., Penguin, 2014.

“When the Body Says No:  Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection” by Gabor Mate, MD., Wiley, 2003.

“You Are the One You Have Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships” by Richard C. Schwartz, Trailheads Publications, 2008.

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