Encouraging Words - Four Inspirational Essays to Help You Cope with Your Divorce

It’s our gift to you on our tenth anniversary: four uplifting essays to help you negotiate this difficult time.

By Russell P. Friedman
June 19, 2006

Gratitude is thought to be the most healing emotion we possess. Musician Gloria Estefan wrote the hit song “Coming Out of the Dark” as an expression of gratitude to those who supported her following her serious car accident in 1990.  She believes that she became stronger through adversity and today is committed to giving back to others. When you take time to extend gratitude to those you love, life can’t help but brighten: your focus will change, and you will feel happier, healthier, and more alive.

Health and Well Being

After many experiences that have tested me throughout my life, I have come to the conclusion that the purpose of adversity is to teach us and make us stronger. If we are never challenged, we cannot grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I’m even thankful for those who have tried to cause me harm because they taught me patience and compassion. I also firmly believe that “thoughts create reality.”  I work very hard to make sure my thoughts are positive and focus on the way I want my life to be rather than simply accepting, on the surface, what appears to be my destiny. The song “Coming Out of the Dark” was written to thank the countless people who loved and supported me through a very difficult time after a bad accident I had in 1990 that left me paralyzed from the waist down. I “felt” people’s prayers as a physical energy surrounding me and used their beautiful intentions in my daily healing process. I truly believe all those incredible vibrations of unconditional love were instrumental in a recovery that my doctors called “no less than miraculous.”  I think as we learn more about the incredible healing capabilities that we all possess, miracles will become more and more commonplace.

To me, “Spirit” is the essence of “All” there is. I believe we are each a “fragment” of what most of us call “God.”  Because of this, we have boundless possibilities and creativity. I like to think of my spirit as a tree made up of roots, trunk, boughs, and leaves. My spirit is the entire tree, whereas this life that I’m living now may be perhaps only a leaf on that tree, living a completely different reality from all the other parts. By going inward, as in meditation, I try to access the entire memory of the tree in all its collective yet different experiences. I try to connect with the higher self that is more in tune to the “Big Picture.”

I think the beauty of music is that it is a combination of different “vibrations.” Since we are all pure energy, we are touched by music almost as if it goes “through” us. It doesn’t really matter what language the lyrics are in, in order for music to make us “feel” something. My lyrics also touch on subjects that unite us rather than divide. They usually deal with emotions that are prevalent in all our different cultures and races.

Creativity is one of the most rewarding ways to connect with our sense of spirit. My most fulfilling moments have come when another person tells me that my song helped them through a crisis or made them feel happy. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that a certain song I wrote stopped someone from committing suicide or helped them re-establish a bond with a loved one. What more could anyone ask than to affect someone’s life without even having met them?  It’s wonderful to know that there are certain things in existence that are here because we are here.

I see the entertainment industry creating something close to “Mass Meditation.” That’s why it’s important that we supervise the violent content that our children are exposed to on a daily basis. These things desensitize us and allow for far more “possibilities” to be acted out. As creative beings, we will create both in the positive and negative spectrums.

I am committed to giving back because it is what fulfills me the most. I am most happy when I can make someone else happy. I try to instill a sense of responsibility in my children as well, so they see how fortunate we are to be able to help others.  I think that the more we become aware that we are all collectively creating the “realities” on this earth, the quicker we will be able to affect positive change. If we realize that we are all connected and never alone, regardless of how things might “look” to us, we will feel more responsible for each other’s happiness. I believe we are here not only to enjoy the wonderful and delicious experiences available to us in this physical world, but also to learn love each other unconditionally. After all, what else is there of any real value?

International superstar Gloria Estefan International superstar Gloria Estefan is one of the most successful crossover artists in the world, with over 70 million albums sold worldwide. Among her many honors, she was the first Hispanic woman to be named BMI songwriter of the year, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is an American Music Award Lifetime Achievement recipient. She was also awarded the  Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor for her philanthropic work. Gloria lives with her son Nayib, daughter Emily, and husband Emilio in  Miami. This essay was excerpted with permission from the book Chorus of Wisdom by permission of Ulysses Press and Estefan Enterprises, Inc.

Getting some perspective on your situation can make all the difference, says life coach and author Cheryl Richardson. As painful and as deeply difficult as divorce can be, if approached in a conscious way, it can also be an extraordinary way for someone to change the course of their life, she says.

Whenever we're going through an emotionally difficult time, one of the first things to go out the window is perspective -- particularly with divorce. It's so easy to get caught up in the emotional drama, to make up stories in our heads about what the other person thinks or what they're doing to us, rather than stay focused on the reality of the situation. Gaining a higher perspective can turn this tendency around.

Things may be lousy right now, but you can also recognize that in the future, you can use this experience to your advantage. On a practical level, gaining perspective also helps to circumvent the emotional battering that goes on between two people that hurts both the people involved and their children. It's in everyone's best interest for you to work on getting a higher, more spiritual perspective.

I believe each person who comes into our life, whether for a brief moment or for years and years, does so for a reason. If you ask yourself some very specific questions, you will begin to experience your divorce through the lens of grace. Ask yourself: "If this person were sent to teach me something, what would he or she be teaching me?" By asking yourself that question (or maybe having a friend do so, to give you a more objective perspective), you will have an opportunity to identify lessons, life skills, or qualities of character that need to be developed as a result of your interaction with this person.

Looking at it from both sides is also really helpful. Let's imagine that you made an agreement with this person before either of you were even born to support each other's development. How are you being challenged to grow? This exercise also puts you in the other person's shoes, which is always a great place to be when you're negotiating -- and you're always negotiating when you re going through divorce, whether it seems like it or not. For example, let's say every time you set a boundary with your ex about when he can come to the house or how he can speak to you, he breaks it. Maybe the lesson he's here to teach you is how to stand up for yourself, how to set realistic boundaries and how to back up those boundaries with action. At the same time, you may be teaching him an important lesson about respecting other people's space, time, and energy. In doing so, you're setting him (and yourself) up to have better relationships in the future.

Another question might be: What life skill is this situation challenging me to develop? Divorce can provide many such life skills, for example, learning to follow something through from beginning to end; not letting your emotional state prevent you from taking actions that are important to your self-care and the care of your family; and patience. The other question I recommend involves imagining yourself ten years from now, looking back on your divorce. What wisdom would you take from that experience? Know that the most powerful learning opportunities often come from our greatest challenges. That's why divorce provides us with such an incredible opportunity for positive growth. While it's often a deeply painful experience, the right perspective helps us make a blessing out of what feels like a curse.

One word of caution: seeing your partner as a positive catalyst for change doesn't mean you don't have a right to feel anger or pain. As a matter of fact, it may be important for you to vent your powerful emotions as they come up before continuing to do any work on gaining a new perspective. Your willingness to honor and express all of your feelings is a vital act of extreme self-care. Here are some other examples:

  • Make sure you have a safe place to vent the full expression of your feelings -- and it cannot be your ex. Find someone who can truly be present and listen to you without offering advice or hooking into the drama -- someone who truly has your best interest at heart and can allow you to just show up and express how you feel as fully as possible. Maybe at the very most, they may mirror back what you're saying and how you feel, but without adding any of their own commentary. This process will allow you to deal with your ex in a less charged way. This person could be a colleague, trusted friend, therapist, or spiritual mentor. The goal is to give yourself a place to express your feelings so you don't incite a lot of problems.

  • Make a list of self-comforting strategies, all those little things you do that make you feel nurtured and comforted and safe. This could be taking a warm bath with essential oils, finding a really good novel to keep by your bed and allowing yourself to just purely escape into it on a regular basis, or renting your favorite movies. It can be helpful to choose a tear-jerker that will let you have a good cry. Crying while watching a movie can be a wonderful release. We tend to shy away from tears, but tears are a good thing. Crying is the soul's way of communicating with us: it helps us move through the healing process in a more efficient, effective way.

  • Get out into nature. The beauty of nature is balm for wounded soul. It's a really important part of the healing process. Find a place in nature that will comfort and soothe you and visit it often.

  • Identify a strong ally who can prop you up and fuel your courage. This is different than the safe-place friend. Choose someone who is less emotional than you -- someone with a great reputation for standing up for him or herself. A lawyer can play this role, or a friend, colleague or someone in a divorce support group. This person can help you see when you need to take a stand for yourself. You need an assertive person who will tell the truth with grace and love.

  • Consult with a therapist. If you're going through a divorce and you've never experienced the benefits of counseling, now might be the time to do just that. A talented and compassionate therapist can be such an incredible gift of self-care. Be sure to interview the therapist beforehand. Ask about their experience in dealing with divorce and how they might support someone like you in working through the process. You want to choose someone you feel excited about working with.

Lastly, take hope: in working with people who have gone through the painful breakup of a relationship, I've seen time and time again that it's ultimately seen as a blessing in disguise, particularly for the person who uses it as an opportunity to grow and evolve as a human being. When you find a higher perspective, you, too, can use this painful experience to your advantage.

Author Cheryl Richardson Cheryl Richardson is the author of the bestselling books Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers and Stand Up for Your Life, and the new book, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials. Her work has been covered widely in major print and television media. For more information about Cheryl and her free online community, visit www.cherylrichardson.com. (To experience comfort and guidance from an uplifting message, click on “Touch of Grace.”)

If you’re going through divorce, ignore worn clichés like “Time heals all wounds,” advises Russell P. Friedman, Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute. Instead, take action to deal with the pain of divorce. Going through your pain, not around it or under it, he says, is a critical part of the healing process.

Intellectual reality indicates that we will all survive our divorces. Emotional reality is that it doesn’t always feel like we will. In a divorce, a great deal of time, energy, and money is devoted to the dissolution of the marriage, along with the splitting of property,custody of children, and sometimes even who gets custody of which friends. The financial and physical details of a divorce can be painful, but it is the loss of trust, the loss of safety, and loss of the dreams about the future that can wreak the most long-term damage to our hearts and souls.

Surviving the tangible elements of a divorce is almost guaranteed. Somehow, by hook or by crook, alone or with the support of friends and family, we manage to stay upright. Yes, there may be some difficult times when we think we’ll wind up on the streets, homeless, depressed, and without hope. And to be realistic, there are some people who do wind up in such desperate situations. That reality gives even more reason to pay attention to this article and others that can point you in a direction to avoid a tragic outcome. Thriving again in the future is the variable that is most affected by how effectively we deal with our emotional reactions to all the intangible losses. And how we deal with these losses affects our ability to reignite our hopes of finding someone with whom we can go off into that sweet sunset.

It might seem odd that we are addressing the future in an article dedicated to dealing with the current realities that affect us when we are in the midst of a divorce. But it is exactly what we do – or don’t do – at this most difficult survival time, that impacts us later. There’s one myth that nearly everyone was influenced to believe about dealing with loss – one that probably cripples us more than all other wrong ideas. The myth is that “time heals all wounds.” It is wonderful poetry, but it’s realistically absurd. Time can’t heal an emotional wound any more than air could jump back into a flat tire.

If you discovered your car had a flat tire, would you pull up a chair, sit down and wait for air to jump back into the tire? That’s silly, isn’t it? In order to get your car back on the road, an action has to be taken. Most of us would call the auto club and ask them to send someone to fix the tire. Some of us might pull out the jack and change the tire for the spare. Either way, an action taken, within time, is what would get the car back on the road.

A broken heart, caused by a divorce, is remarkably like a flat tire. The “get up and go” has got up and went. The energy for living life can seem non-existent, and if you try to do anything while your heart is flat, it’s like riding around on the rims of your heart. That painful image gives a picture to what many people feel like as they try to accommodate the impossible idea that time could somehow heal their broken heart.

As if the myth of time weren’t enough to confuse us, we all carry forward another set of impossible and impractical ideas for dealing with the naturally occurring emotions caused by the end of a romantic relationship. Two myths are encapsulated in a phrase we all heard when we were teens, after our first break-up, and that we still hear now as we flounder in the aftermath of our divorce: “Don’t Feel Bad – There Are Plenty Of Fish In The Sea.”

For many of us, that line is the first notification we had that we’d been dating or married to a fish. Yes, we know, it’s a funny line, but the dual message is crippling. First we are told not to feel bad, which is to suggest that there’s something wrong with us if we feel sad or bad as the result of the end of the hopes and dreams we had for the future. And equally inane is that the “plenty of fish” line tells us to just go out and find another love – or “Replace the Loss.” And we’re supposed to do that without ever dealing with the loss of dreams and the loss of trust and safety caused by the just-ended relationship. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Let’s recap to see that we’ve identified the three myths that will not only not help you survive the emotional onslaught caused by your divorce but will also limit your ability to love again. Time Heals All Wounds – Don’t Feel Bad – Replace The Loss. Add to those myths, the inevitable comment which tells you that you must “Let Go and Move On.” The problem with that line is that it’s not realistic. It begs the questions: Let go of what? Move on to where? And exactly how can I do that?

You need effective actions to deal with the pain of divorce, not just simple platitudes. Don’t short-circuit yourself by believing that those clichés are words of wisdom. Take the time and trouble to seek the kind of guidance that will help you deal directly with your broken heart rather than to try to go around, under, or over the pain caused by your divorce.

Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute, Russell P. FriedmanRussell P. Friedman is the Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute, an internationally recognized authority that provides programs for The Compassionate Friends, The National SIDS Foundation, The National AIDS Network, The University of California at Irvine, Chapman University, among others. He is the co-author with John W. James of The Grief Recovery HandbookThe Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses. Watch for the October release of their new book, Moving On: Dump Your Relationship Baggage and Make Room for the Love of Your Life. For more information about The Grief Recovery Institute, visit www.grief-recovery.com.

Good endings make good beginnings, says author John Gray, Ph.D.a long-time Divorce Magazine contributor. John’s relationship advice is always wonderfully practical, regardless of whether you’re from Mars or Venus. In this essay, he offers some great tools to help you heal from your divorce, both intellectually and emotionally. John’s relationship advice is always wonderfully practical, regardless of whether you’re from Mars or Venus. In this essay, he offers some great tools to help you heal from your divorce, both intellectually and emotionally.

As I was going through my own divorce 25 years ago, I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. It was painful, it was difficult, and I got through it. I became a much better person. In fact, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was able to find the right person for me with whom to have a long-lasting loving relationship. When you’re able to face your feelings and challenge them again and again, they eventually heal, just like a wound will heal. I’m good friends with my ex-wife today. I don’t feel pain about it; I feel love in my heart for her, and I wish her well.  But I’m grateful that the relationship ended and I moved on. The key to it is: good endings make good beginnings.

I developed a series of processes which I write about in my book Mars and Venus Starting Over which assist people in honestly facing their feelings. There are two types of healing: one is intellectual, and one is emotional. The emotions will not heal until you have intellectually healed, until you’ve recognized that the ending of this relationship is a good thing for you. It just cannot be a good thing for you to be in love with a person who is not in love with you. For the person who’s leaving, there’s often guilt, and that’s not a good ending, either. You have to recognize that being with your spouse -- but not being the right one for them -- is keeping them from finding that right person. These points make sense, but you have to mull them over, again and again and again and continue to explore them. You have to recognize that even though you love this person, you recognize that they’re not right for you; therefore it’s best for the relationship to end. You may still love this person, you may still feel hurt, and you may still feel really badly that this happened… this may not be what you wanted to have happen… but it has happened.

It’s the oldest saying in the world, but when one door closes, another door opens. But the door is not closed as long as you’re mad at the other person or feeling hurt about the ending. You need to be able to let go of that person with good feelings, but the good feelings don’t come until you first intellectually recognize that you can’t be mad at someone for making something good happen. This is a gradual process. The first thing is intellectually releasing the guilt and realizing if you’re not right for them, they’re not right for you, and vice versa – then the emotional healing starts to occur. It occurs when you take the time to explore your feelings and be patient with them. Most people want to rush once their mind says, “It’s over.” They want to move on, so they move on in their mind, thinking, “Well, that person ruined my life, but I’ll just move on.”  But you can’t heal the emotions until you first recognize from the mind’s point of view something good has happened.

That’s what a good ending will do… it will teach you how to love yourself and love others -- how to forgive yourself and them for failing. You both started out with high intentions, but you failed. It’s still a good thing, but you failed. Before you move on and enter another relationship, you have to be in a place where you’ve intellectually forgiven someone. It’s much, much easier than emotionally forgiving someone because there is what I call in Mars and Venus: Starting Over “emotional lag-time.”  There’s a delayed reaction. It takes a while for the emotions to resolve because only a small part is about the divorce; a bigger part is about all the other times in yourself when you felt powerless, alone, betrayed. When a big event like divorce comes up, these old wounds will tend to come up and want to be addressed… the mind is dealing with just that one situation but the emotions are dealing with an accumulation of feelings all through your life of being rejected or feeling like a failure. But when those feelings come up and see the light of day, they’re quickly released and resolved. It’s simply a matter of facing them.

Be patient with these processes. If it takes you a month to get through the intellectual resolution, it’s likely going to take three or four times that long to emotionally to work through it -- and maybe a bit longer to completely finalize it. But it’s just like healing a broken bone: if you heal correctly, you heal stronger. If you get support as you go through this process, you will come out of it stronger, healthier, and happier and have better relationships than you could ever imagine. There are many ways to heal an emotional wound. One of the simplest is think about your partner and write them a “feeling letter.” There are five levels to this task. Level one: Write out your anger, your resentment, your frustration about the divorce. Level two: Write out what makes you sad, your disappointments, and your feelings of hurt. Level three: Write out your feelings of worry and fear, your concerns about your life now. When you explore these first three levels, a release starts to take place, and you begin to feel a deep sense of regret. Level four: Express those feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. Level five: Express your positive feelings, trust, gratitude, what it is you wish for or desire. Work through your negative emotions to get to your positive emotions and try to go through this process every time you’re feeling not in a good mood or when old feelings arise. Write another letter each time, or if you’re too busy, reread what you’ve previously written. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion: there will be a wave of negative feelings, then a wave of good feelings. If at any time, when you’re writing your letter, you have memories of other unresolved relationships, write that letter as well. This way you begin becoming aware of the levels of feeling. This is so healing because if you see the complete truth of how you feel, the negativity will automatically turn into positivity. What I’ve found in my 30 years of counseling is if someone is hurt and not “moving through it,” one of those other four feelings is not being felt. Part of healing the heart is facing the pain, and part of it is also taking time to feel good. Every time you do something that makes you feel good, you’re helping to heal the heart, so whatever you can do to feel good, do it.

How will we know when we’re ready to close that door and move on?  When you can think of your partner and remember the love you shared without feeling pain in your heart… when you can be grateful for the loved you shared… you’ll be ready.

Relationship expert Dr. John Gray Relationship expert Dr. John Gray is the creator and author of the best-selling Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus series of books, tapes, and seminars. He is most passionate today about providing opportunities for people to heal emotionally and physically through his wellness seminar for broken hearts and his wellness center in Northern California. For more information about the books, seminars, coaching support, or wellness center, visit www.marsvenus.com.

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June 19, 2006

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Reason for your Divorce

Why did your relationship end? If there's more than one reason, choose the strongest factor.

Money Problems/Arguments
Physical/Emotional Infidelity
Physical/Mental Illness
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