Divorce is a very demanding journey often accompanied by expressions such as “devastation”, “bitter”, “failure”, “ruin”, and “grief” without giving us the room to breathe. In addition, the process of transitioning out of it is equally taxing. In order to talk about how you can start the transition process, I have invited a trusted colleague, Mary Owens – an experienced and trusted professional in the social-work and life-transition fields with years of hands on experience – to share her own journey of transitioning from being a bitter, party of one into an independent, free woman.
Shedding the “Bitter, Party of One”
The year following my divorce I spent my time working 70+ hours a week and isolating myself at home with my cats and a bottle of wine. My family became concerned and convinced me to attend a divorce support group. I begrudgingly agreed. There were about 15 people in the group, both men and women of all ages and divorced from 1 – 5 years. I introduced myself and sat back to gain insight from my fellow group members.
For the next 90 minutes, I listened to each person, and I began noticing a pattern, everyone seemed to be focused on how horrible his or her marriage was, how awful his or her ex-spouse behaved, how no one understood them, and how alone they felt. At first, I felt sympathy. With each depressing story, my feelings gave way to frustration and annoyance. I sat in silence for fear of what would come out of my mouth if I started to speak. I could not wait for the group to end and I ran out of the room never to return.
However, what seemed to be a dreadful experience as time goes on, became the BEST 90-minutes in the first year of my newly single life. Their vulnerability helped in getting me on the path to feeling happy and energized.
Listening to the experience of those in the support have taught me valuable these lessons that I am happy to share with you today
I realized that I had spent enough time in a marriage that made feel anxious, alone and unfulfilled. I was DONE feeling angry, depressed and resentful and began thinking about what I wanted to do and things that brought me joy – not what everyone else had told me to do or convinced me were in my best interest. I accepted that I am truly an independent and free woman and began acting like one by taking the responsibility for my own happiness. I stopped apologizing for what I wanted and needed and took action to make it happen.
I was reminded that we create our own experiences. We get the results of our focus. The truth is, the brain does not know the difference between what is actually happening or what you think is happening. It responds as if it is your reality – if you say your life is horrible, your brain accepts that, and you feel hopeless and depressed. Research has shown that by focusing on something positive in the future – something as simple as watching your favorite movie or having dinner with your BFF – the level of endorphins in your brain increases, making you feel happier. I started making plans for my future and stopped making excuses for why I was stuck.
I finally ACCEPTED that I was divorced and that it was OK. My marriage had ended, but my life had not. I was not a failure, and I was not unlovable — I was just divorced. I have goals and dreams for myself and the rest of my life ahead of me, and I was ready to start living enthusiastically again.
Don’t just think about surviving the process but THRIVE after your divorce. It’s your time to shine.
Mary C Owens, MSW, CTACC