Photo courtesy of Philip Leara
Sometimes what appears to be a devastating life circumstance can actually turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Ending a marriage is one of those life-changing events, and no matter what the particulars, it will be accompanied by a mixed bag of emotions. But there are some effective coping strategies that can help heal your heart and change your entire life for the better.
First, accept the fact that you are going to need time to heal but that you will. You need nurturing, encouragement and support while you restore your well-being, so it is important that you surround yourself with the positive. Seek out your upbeat friends. Listen to the kind of music that makes you want to grab a hairbrush-microphone and sing along. In fact, crank that iPod up during your shower every single morning. And when you go to the movies, see only comedies. Whoever said Laughter is the best medicine was not kidding.
Now, those ideas may seem quaint and obvious. But promising yourself that you will absolutely, consistently treat your own heart with the tenderness you would your best friend’s is necessary. Here is a blueprint for rebuilding, revitalizing, rejuvenating your life after divorce:
Let it out. Talking about your divorce is essential, so find a real support group, preferably with a certified counselor. It’s important to listen to the experiences of others and to share your own. That’s how you learn that things will be all right eventually.
Do something you have always wanted to do but were too afraid to try. Set weekly goals to add something new and exciting to your life. Go skydiving. There are quite inexpensive simulators now, so you don’t even really have to jump out of a plane. Take up belly dancing. Join a book club. Learn to swim. Visit every museum in your area. Almost all museums offer free days each month so that the bounties are available to all. Learn to knit and make scarves for the less fortunate. There are free and low-cost classes at the Y practically everywhere.
Figure out what you truly want in a mate. This may seem strange and frivolous, but fill out a pretend online-dating application. Those things are quite eye-opening. Most dating websites ask dozens of questions that can help you see with clarity exactly what you desire in another person, plus you’ll get a brilliant summary of your own strengths. And you never know: You may even decide to submit the application.
Remember that YOU are the sculptor here. This is very, very important. What if you decide to look at your divorce as a true fresh start? You’ll be well on your way to planning the shape of your future life. There are countless examples of people who’ve been right where you are and who’ve worked through the initial pain and confusion of divorce to discover a brand new career, a stronger relationship with a beloved partner, a simpler existence wrapped in happiness and contentment. I’m one of them. If I hadn’t survived a divorce, I would not have gone back to school for my M.F.A., wouldn’t have become a published writer, would never have found my darling husband. You can fashion your life any way you want. So why not make it better than it has ever been before?
Our guest poster Elane Johnson has had her non-fiction appear in Brevity, Superstition Review, Sonora Review and The IndianapolisStar among other publications. Her award-winning “Aftermath” is featured in creative writing programs across the country. Elane, an adjunct instructor of writing who holds an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction, is married to the writer Stephen Ulrich. She pens an irreverent blog for pure pleasure.