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I think divorce has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.  I’ve dealt with the death of my mother at age 7 (she was pregnant and died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism), neglect and abuse in my childhood after that, the death of my younger twin brother (I am an identical twin and I have identical twin half-brothers) at age 25 on the day of his not-yet-born first born son, then later that year the death of my beloved grandfather of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  I’ve been through a lot and it’s because of those challenges that I am the person I am today.  They’ve shaped me in so many positive ways–to be kind, compassionate, empathetic, and strong; to appreciate life and the limited amount of time we have on this earth.

With divorce, your life is torn apart right down the seam (well, mine was).  One second I’m married to this person I thought would be for our entire lives and in the next second my whole world came crashing down around me.  It was like someone pulled the rug out from under me and expected me to stand where I was as I wobbled to catch my balance on a completely new surface.  How could this have happened?  Now what?  Will our kids be okay?  Will I be okay?  I remember my ex telling me not to tell any of my family members or friends–to keep this a secret.  I took my phone and myself down to our local beach and sobbed.  Then called my father–hyperventilating in the way you do when you are so heartbroken, sad, angry, and gut-wrenchingly emotional that your body cannot even process or hold on to what’s going on in your head.

My divorce completely blindsided me.  After that cry, I was literally in shock for two weeks after I found out.  I saw my therapist regularly while she implored me to eat–my interest in food had been stifled; my body had numbed itself to hunger, pain, to life.  I had had so much loss in my life, so much pain–I couldn’t bear it.  I didn’t think I had the strength to continue on.  But I did.  I did it day by day as I learned how to traverse the sticky road of acrimonious divorces.  I learned that even though I should have been the one acting out from the unfairness of it all; the one who feels shame and doesn’t process it will often be the one who acts out to distract themselves from the real issues at hand and from healing.

I learned so much about myself and about my life.  Here are some of the things divorce has taught me:

  • To hold onto hope.  Things really do get better–a lot better!
  • To support the relationships of our children with their father–even if it’s not reciprocated.
  • To separate out my feelings about my ex from my children’s experiences with their father.
  • To realize that love is expansive, it does not have to be ranked–it’s okay if my children love his partner(s) because it means more love in their lives.
  • Not to do things I will regret later in a momentary act of anger.
  • To recognize there’s a choice to responding to nasty emails, texts, or calls–responding perpetuates a difficult and frustrating experience.
  • To choose to respond to emails as I see fit in order to set up clear boundaries about what’s appropriate for respectful communication between co-parents–not as ex-spouses.
  • That I am strong.
  • That I am lovable.
  • That it is never too late to heal from childhood wounds.
  • That I like my company.
  • To never settle in life.
  • That I deserve love in my life again.
  • That I would be okay if I never found love again.
  • It is better we are divorced than together.
  • I’ve learned how to stand up for myself and create strong boundaries.
  • I’ve learned the court system is driven by who have the most money.
  • I’ve learned the court system exacerbates Parental Alienation.
  • I’ve learned that you not only divorce your spouse, but your friends and family members can divorce you too (more loss).
  • I’ve learned that the financial aspect can turn an ex into a monster you don’t even recognize.
  • I’ve learned that when an ex acts out, they are creating a distraction to avoid dealing with their own feelings about loss, divorce, failure, etc.  It keeps you engaged (and distracted too) and them from facing some real painful stuff.
  • Those nasty emails/texts/calls–it’s all about them.  There’s projection, the need for control, and sometimes the need to emotionally abuse you.
  • To parent my kids from a place of love, not from fear (this I often struggle with since we’ve “lost” 2 to PA–even more loss on top of my divorce).  My main fear (and experience) is that when I provide structure like consequences or even a chore chart, that they’ll cry “abuse” and go live at the other parents’ houses.
  • To not care what people think.  The neighbors/community members/other parents/family members–the ones who choose sides or make snap judgments don’t understand nor is it my job to make them understand.  My energy does not need to go toward people who choose not to like me/judge me.
  • To recognize that because I hadn’t healed my childhood wounds, I was recreating the lessons in my adult life through my relationship with my now ex-husband.  If I had worked on my issues before I got married, I would have chosen a different partner.
  • To know that because I have worked hard on myself and my issues, I now have attracted and married a man who, besides being my soulmate, is much better suited to me.

There’s more that I’ve learned, but I’m interested in you and what you’ve learned through your painful experiences in life.  Here’s a great lesson:  You can get stuck in the pain, or you can find your way out of it by searching for the lessons you are supposed to be learning from it.

We all experience challenges–how have they enhanced your life?  How is it better?  How are you better?  How did you do it?