Four months. That was how long it took me to tell anyone outside of my immediate family that I was separated. For one-third of an entire year, I carried that burdensome secret and pretended as though nothing was wrong while, on the inside, I was absolutely devastated. It was all I could do to get up in the morning and go to work. At least I had the façade there that all was well. Looking back, I can see that this was comforting on some level; I could forget for a while that my world had fallen apart.
In the meantime, there were outward signs of my inner turmoil. I had lost a great deal of weight and the spark had gone out of my eyes. It was obvious that something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to admit to others that my marriage was over. Most of all, I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself.
However, once I found the courage to admit to myself and accept that my marriage was over, I took the first step towards moving forward. I summoned a great deal more courage to share the news first with my boss and then with coworkers. Once I started to do so, the weight that I had shouldered by concealing this secret began to lift.
It took time for me to really come to grips with my divorce and what it meant for the life I had envisioned for myself. One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a part of that process was dealing with what had held me back from sharing the news with those who cared about me and would have supported me during such a painful time: the Scarlet Letter “D”.
Or perhaps The Scarlett Letter “S” is more accurate: “S” for Shame. I felt a sense of shame because, as the child of divorced parents, I grew up determined that I wasn’t going to get divorced. I thought I had done all the right things to protect my marriage, as though I was investing in an insurance policy, but the dreams I had for my future had died.
Which brings me to The Scarlett Letter “F” for Failure. As I imagine is true for many, the primary reason for shame around my divorce was because I perceived it as a failure on my part. I failed at my marriage. I failed to make it work. I failed because my ex fell out of love with me. I failed because I wasn’t good enough.
As someone who was fairly successful in other areas of my life, and admittedly a perfectionist, failure was a hard pill to swallow. However, what was most destructive was how I began questioning, doubting, and ridiculing myself. Not only was I blaming myself, but I was kicking myself while I was down. I was angry at my ex, but I was equally angry with myself, thinking, “How could this happen to me?”
So, how did I turn it around? How did I manage to release the sense of shame and failure surrounding my divorce? With letters “A” for Acceptance and “F” for Forgiveness.
Acceptance: of my divorce and myself. As long as I clung to the past, replaying scenes from my marriage and its demise in my head, I was never going to be able to move forward. The first step towards acceptance was having the courage to not just admit that it was over, but actually acknowledging out loud that I didn’t want my marriage to be over.
Once I was able to express this painful truth to myself, I was able to start to accept that it really was over. Accepting this reality opened up a new pathway for my future. Rather than remaining bitter, angry, and stuck in the past, I chose to accept so that I could move on and find my happiness.
Forgiveness: of my ex and myself. As much as time had passed, as long as I was holding on to the pain and anger of my divorce, I was never going to be able to truly move forward with my life. If I was completely focused on protecting myself to ensure that this never happened to me again, then I remained stuck in a place of anger.
I had to take a hard look at my core beliefs surrounding my divorce. What did it mean to me? What did it say about me? How was I going to choose to respond to this major event in my life in the present and, more importantly, for my future?
Once I took the time to delve into these core beliefs that were holding me back, I started to feel better about myself and about my ex. From there, and in time, I was able to move forward to a place of forgiveness. Once I did, I was able to shift the energy I had been spending on anger, regret, and pain into more positive actions that benefitted me.
Wherever you are in your divorce process, take some time to consider any limiting beliefs that are keeping you stuck in the past. Perhaps you’ve sworn off love in an effort to protect your heart or perhaps you haven’t truly forgiven your ex. Maybe it’s something as seemingly insignificant as putting on a front to family and friends, acting as though you’ve moved on and are happy, rather than still grieving.
Once you have done so, ask yourself, “How are these beliefs serving me?” Then write down new beliefs that support and propel you forward into a life that you truly love. Place these new core beliefs in a place where you can view them daily and recite them to yourself.
As you embrace new beliefs about yourself, your life, and your future, you will start to feel better emotionally, which will result in choices and actions that bring you into a future filled with new possibilities. It takes courage to create a life different than what you imagined.
Susan is a Certified Professional Life Coach and an expert at helping women find their inner courage to rebuild a life they love after divorce. As Founder of “Unleash Your Inner Courage”, she uses a supportive and compassionate approach to help women release pain and anger so that they can move from pain to possibilities and start living a life they truly love after experiencing the life-altering event of divorce.