Finally. It’s quiet. Bright orange leaves are blowing off the trees as I look out the large windows of my living room. There’s a chill in the air. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s November or because he just moved out.
No matter the reason, I needed to warm my space. After lighting the logs in the fireplace, I sat on the couch with my arms wrapped around my knees, resting my chin, pulling the afghan over me. I closed my eyes and let warm tears roll down my cheeks. I’m feeling relief—and sad at the same time. It’s like I can breathe freely for the first time in a long time—and I’m scared, too. I’m safe at last. And I’m alone.
As the two cats snuggle closely, they seem to sense that things have changed. The tension in the air is gone. The silence feels peaceful rather than strained with unsaid, hurtful words. There is emptiness, yet we’re relaxed in it—for now.
Once the tears subside, I start pondering what it’s going to be like this time around. What did I learn from my previous divorce that I can use this time to make my recovery easier?
The first thought that occurred was: Divorce is not my failure—it does not define me.
So, how could I start defining the new me? By taking care of myself, for a change.
I learned that self-care is not self-ish. In fact, it is essential that I am at my best so I can give my best to those I care about. No one can take better care of me than I can. It’s my new commitment to me.
5 Tips for Self-care during Divorce Recovery
- Trust that your emotions are normal. Whether you’re feeling grief, sadness, loneliness, anger or fear—allow yourself to feel the feeling. The emotions are evidence of your healing. You have to feel them to heal them.I reached out—I had a coach and talked to other women who were going through the same thing. They created a safe space for me to experience the feelings, talk about them and learn how to control them, so they didn’t crop up at inopportune times. I knew I wasn’t alone.
- Trust that you can control your emotions. It takes time and practice to learn to control your emotions. But once you do, it’s okay to take off the mask that declares “I’m just fine!”—because you are. You are becoming stronger and you’re beginning to relax—it shows on your face. I tested the waters at work, where I most wanted to be in control of my emotions. I kept my mask handy just in case I needed it—soon it was collecting dust in the corner. That’s when I knew I could choose when and where to let my emotions out.
- Trust the positive affirmations of others. When you’re still raw, it’s easy to be hard on yourself. Rely on those around you to let you know that you’re doing okay. Believe them when they say, “you’re doing great” or “you’re making remarkable progress” or “you’re an inspiration to others.” Take to heart what they tell you. You will see it yourself—and believe it—soon enough. When I learned to surround myself with people who lifted my spirits and told me the truth, I knew I could believe what they told me.
- Trust that you are capable. When you’re alone, things feel overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done them before or for a long time. Taking care of finances or fixing things around your home or making new friends may feel daunting at first. Trust yourself. Know that you can do it; you can learn it and you can practice it till it comes naturally. Fixing mechanical things was my biggest challenge. After he left, it seemed like everything broke! I learned how to reach out for help to someone who was a mechanical wizard—and happy to help me.
- Trust that the people who leave your life are meant to. Often our friends divorce us when the marriage breaks up. Sometimes our long-time friends don’t understand how our life is changing and can’t support us in the ways we need. Life happens. People drift. It’s okay to let them go. I believe this: people come into my life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When I recognize that the reason or the season has ended, it’s easier for me to bless and release them. It creates a beautiful space in my life for new people who lift me up and delight me with the support I need the most. It’s a blessing.