It’s been 11 years. The journey has been long and hard, with a lot of twists and turns. The journey has been lonely. But I have become whole again.
Mine is not an unusual story as I’ve seen it happen to other people. My marriage of 12 years broke down some 11 years ago. It took a long time for me to make sense of it and truly move on. For the most part, I was alone in that journey pretending that everything was fine when it was not. When I finally started sharing my experience with friends and family a few years back, it proved to be helpful not just to me as a release but to them as well who had some challenges in their own lives.
So maybe, if I share this with the world then the lessons I’ve learned can help more people who may be going thru the same thing.
Here are my 11 tips or lessons:
1. Forgive your ex-husband. Regardless of the reasons why the marriage failed, it could not have been just one-sided. He had his faults and you had yours. But you have to forgive your ex and let go of the betrayal that you feel. For the sake of the kids. For your own sanity.
2. Avoid self-destruction. In the first few days, weeks or even months after the break-up, it is very easy to lose yourself. There’s a tendency to self-destruct – to wallow in pity, or in drinks, or jump to another relationship right away. It’s okay to feel sad, but strengthen your resolve not to self-destruct.
3. Cry. Grieve. It’s okay to cry. There’s a grieving process that you need to go thru. Regardless of the reasons for the failure, you once loved a man with your whole heart and being. And now you’re out it. Or he’s out of you. There’s a loss to be grieved but the tears will eventually dry.
4. Rally your troops. Whether it’s your family or your closest friends, you can’t go thru it alone. Sometimes it's hard to ask for help, but doing it alone will only prolong the agony. You need a support group to cry with, to talk to, or to help out with the daily things until you are able to truly stand on your own. You need this, most specially if you have kids. Some of the most trivial day to day matters can become overwhelming at times. You are after all, not invincible, and even super heroes need their super friends to win the battle.
5. Focus your energies. It’s hard to fix everything right away and thinking about it can be overwhelming. It’s a step by step process so take it in bite size chunks. Smile when you wake up. Live each day. Do the chores. Go to work. Write that report. Talk to your kids. Go to a movie. Every step done is an achievement and celebrate those. Over time, you will get to do more. And before you know it, you're slaying like Beyoncé.
6. Fix your finances. If you have a nest egg, then that’s good. If you don’t, then it’s time to have one. You can hope for a good alimony and help from your ex-husband, but live and save like you don’t have it. Having financial freedom makes you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big one, just start saving more than spending. Think of it as paying yourself for all the efforts.
7. Find your center. When a marriage breaks, it’s like losing half of yourself, and whatever was the center of your marriage is gone. So there’s a need to re-center yourself. Whether you meditate, see friends or seek professional help, pray or go on retreats - have a regular me-time to just be you. You may find it strange at first but part of the process is understanding yourself, as well as liking and loving yourself all over again. It will be a delightful surprise to realize later on that being alone isn't necessarily lonely.
8. Find your mojo. Were there things you wanted to do before but didn't? Did you want to try something new but couldn't? Now's the time! Discover yourself anew - what makes you feel sexy, accomplished, scared but daring? It's not about shopping / retail therapy or dating again - although you can also do that. But it's more about rediscovering what it is that can put a wonderful smile on your face.
9. Smile. Laugh. At some point, you can truly smile and laugh again. You may have to fake it at the start but you will soon feel light again. Just strive to look at the world with wonder again, count blessings and milestones, even the smallest of successes help. Laugh at your mistakes and booboos. It's alright.
10. Forgive. The hardest to forgive is yourself for the mistakes that led to the failure of the marriage. It can at times feel that the world has ended and you're to blame. But just think about this - if you can forgive others, then you should also forgive yourself. You are after all human, capable of making mistakes but with so much more to give the world. You are not defined by the failure, but by how you've risen and became the better you.
11. Heal. When you finally forgive yourself, you can heal. The other tips are but steps in the process, but forgiveness of self is the one that heals. You are battle-scarred and not flawless anymore, but with it are scars of strength and resolve only you can call your own. There is power in forgiveness. There is rebirth in healing. And in your new found strength is a rainbow of possibilities for a much better life.
About this post: Recent conversations with a friend propelled me to write this as I realized how much similar our personal journeys have been.