I sent this letter to my client Lucy, this morning. I’m sharing (with her permission). It’s a must-read if you’re stuck during your divorce recovery.
Lucy’s Divorce Recovery Back Story
Lucy and Duane divorced 2 years ago. Him: superstar executive and also a cheater. Her: naïve stay-at-home Mom in McMansion suburbia. What happened? She found him in bed with another woman. ’Nuff said. Big settlement. Done.
There are two adult daughters, 20 and 25. Janice, 20, a stunning model, has been living at home with Lucy since January, and she plans to stay until at least July. Both parents overly indulged Janice during the divorce. Now, she won’t get a job, pouts, sulks, and mocks her mother. Janice has few friends and is flunking community college.
Then, there is this: Lucy was sexually abused from age 0 to 12 by her own alcoholic father. Thirty years in therapy and the wound is still raw. Trust is tough. She continues to work with a sexual abuse specialist.
During the last three years, Lucy has worked with me during her divorce recovery to rise above fear, depression and guilt/shame. Last month, she beamed at her escalating self-confidence. “I’m ready to date!” she declared. Then, three days ago, the landscape changed. Lucy dipped. She barraged me with these emails: “I’m a mess, Kat. I’m feeling anxious and nervous about going out into the world. I wish I was slimmer – men will think I’m not slim enough. I’ve got so many gifts to share. I want to create. I want a career. I want to live. I want to love and be loved so much. It’s just been so hard for me. I’m so scared.”
Here’s my response to Lucy’s Big Divorce Dip:
To Lucy, 59, in Divorce Recovery
Hello Lucy! First, I can assure you that you’re going to be fine despite the dip you’re in.
Your dip is part of the healing process. It’s a critical part of your hero’s journey. You can’t get to healing unless you go through the pain. The only way out is through. I’m so proud of you for admitting your fear, then stepping forward, anyway! Keep going through that valley of loneliness and sadness. One step at a time. Each forward step is one step closer to that new life you envision. Is it easy? Heck no! It’s a miserable, uncomfortable place to be. No one wants that.
If You’re Not Scared, You’re Not Doing It Right
Is it necessary to be scared and miserable for a while? Heck yes! During my own divorce, when I was in tears and scared to death leaving my beloved home, an artist friend held me as I sobbed. He said, “If you’re not scared, you’re not doing it right!” Be scared but keep on going.
There’s No Magic Bullet, but Try These Tricks to Pull out of Your Dip
- A good question to ask is “what would I be doing or saying if I didn’t feel this way or what if this were just a fun adventure?”Then do that! – make yourself act “as if” things were sailing along beautifully. You’ll feel like an imposter, but that’s ok – it’s part of the process.
- Get out of the house, and get fresh perspectives. Also, get into nature and sit by beautiful water of some sort. That helps.
- Look for that inner knowing that you will be ok, and trust that the ambiguity is leading you to a new plane. Learning to trust and live with ambiguity is key.
- Old thoughts will always haunt you. Know that you walk with the best of us when the gloomy thoughts possess you. Regrets? We all have them. Sadness over people who have left us In one way or another? Yep, we all share that too. Beware that the downward spiral of sad thinking is dangerous. The trick is to recognize it and pull yourself out with the tips below.
- Every day do a gratitude list In the morning and at night. 5 items. It makes you think and shift focus.
- Use strong affirmations about your life. Use your own words:
- Re. Janice: “I recognize it’s been hard with Janice here. I fully allow her to own her own challenges. However, my life needs my love and attention right now, to move forward in a new life for me.”
- Re. your body, dating, men: “I love you, body, for all you’ve endured for me. I will listen to you as we (your body and you) help each other dress beautifully- every day, and as I meet and find men I’d like to bring into my life. We put out inviting energy into the world, together. I will keep you from as much stress as I can.”
- Re: your future business: “I’m aware of new possibilities and miracles in front of me every day as I venture into the world.”
- “I love myself. I’m proud of myself. I know the future holds golden opportunities for me. I can start right now.”
- “Nothing and no one will keep me from taking my shot at a new life.” (Lucy loves Hamilton, hence the “shot” reference.)
You’re simply in a slump, Lucy. You’re stuck by the side of the road and you’ve lost your keys. I hope this letter helps you find them. You can do this! You can pull yourself out! And by the way, “fake it ’til you make it” really does work.
Normally, I’d tell you to get up and get out of the house – every day – even if you feel lousy. In these days of social isolation/quarantine, that’s not possible – but that doesn’t mean staying in bed all day, either. Make a bite-sized daily schedule to follow, starting with getting up at the same time every morning. Instead of reading every news article and social media post about Covid-19, learn what you need to do to keep you and your family safe, then spend your time researching your future business and find out what you need to do to get it up and running. Do you need to take a course? Great: find one online and start it today! Make sure you connect – or reconnect – with friends by phone, Skype, Facetime.
Remember that anyone can handle the up times in life: it’s learning to navigate the low valleys that creates growth. It’s darned hard. But definitely doable! Start now. Do it vigorously. No exceptions.
Paste a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that reads:
And don’t look back.
Now go get ’em!
– Kat Forsythe, MSW